Pasta


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Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

Dressing
good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!

 

 

 

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PASTA IN A LEMON CREAM SAUCE WITH HOT CAPICOLA, MUSHROOMS AND MICROGREENS
adapted liberally (how else?!) from The New York Times

12 oz. fettucine (I chose fresh spinach & whole wheat fettucine from DiFiore’s Ravioli Shop)
zest of 2 lemons (use a microplane)
juice of 2 lemons (keep separate from zest)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
4 mushrooms (I used baby bellas/cremini), sliced a bit thin
1/4 pound Fiorucci hot capicola , sliced thin, then cut in ribbons (found locally at Price Chopper)
1.5 oz. spicy blend microgreens
Pecorino Romano to serve at the table

Have you played with microgreens? I picked these up at Whole Foods. As you can see, they’re SUPER nutritious! And SUPER delicious! It says so right on the packaging. 🙂

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Rinse microgreens and set aside. Zest lemon with a microplane.

In a small frying pan, melt a pat of butter on medium to medium-high heat, sauté mushrooms till browned on both sides. When mushrooms are cooked most of the way through, add ribbons of hot capicola to warm them through, then remove from heat.

Meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fettucine till tender. Drain, then return to the pot.

About 5 minutes before fettucine is done, in a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, cream, thyme (if using), salt to taste (I only added a touch at the table) and black pepper.  Cook on medium heat for two minutes or until cream comes to a boil.

Pour cream mixture over drained fettucine into large pasta pot. Add lemon juice. Stir to coat pasta evenly; add mushrooms and capicola. Cook over medium heat, stirring till most of the liquid is absorbed, 1-2 minutes. Toss in most of the microgreens, saving some to garnish the top of each dish.

Happy spring! That’s exactly what this dish tastes like.

 

 

 

 

 

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The cooler weather had me craving pasta. So, I put together a new twist on an old favorite–vodka sauce. Rather than just roasted tomatoes for the sauce, I added a pepper, a handful of mushrooms and some sweet onion.

When I’m making a special sauce, I love to head up to DiFiore Ravioli Shop for fresh pasta. Now that they’re in Rocky Hill as well as Hartford, they’re even closer to home. For my new recipe, I tried their fresh black pepper fettucine.

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The black pepper bite adds an extra kick to a dish that’s already kickin’. Enough talk–let’s get this recipe into action!

ROASTED VEGETABLE VODKA SAUCE WITH HOT CHICKEN SAUSAGE

For the vegetables
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 small bell pepper*
1/2 a sweet onion, sliced and halved
4 mushrooms (I chose cremini a.k.a. baby bella–whatever little shrooms you like)
2-3 garlic cloves
olive oil to coat the bottom of your baking dish
1 teaspoon kosher salt

*I found the world’s most adorable pepper at Price Chopper yesterday–the Enjoya (why yes, thank you, I will) striped pepper.

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For the vodka sauce
1/2 pound hot chicken sausage, cooked/crumbled
1/3 cup vodka
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon

First, roast the vegetables!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ baking dish. Toss all the vegetables in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife–or use a garlic press–and add to baking dish. Make sure everything’s in an even layer.

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Let ‘em roast for 10 minutes, give ’em a shake, then 15 more minutes of roasting and it’s time to take them out of the oven.

Add 1/3 cup vodka directly to the hot roasting pan. You’ll hear it sizzle. Squeeze half the lemon and add the zest. Now, very carefully, use a potato masher to give the tomatoes a gentle squeeze right in the baking dish. Take it easy so they don’t squirt you.

While the tomatoes are roasting…
Now’s a good time to get a BIG pasta pot boiling so you can cook up the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks in about three minutes. If you use boxed pasta, just remember to allow more time for it to cook. For two people, I cooked just a half pound of pasta, but there’s definitely enough sauce for one or two more servings, depending how hungry you are.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and cook the sausage—squeeze it from the casings and break into small pieces. Once you’ve completely cooked and crumbled the sausage, keep the pan on a low heat, just to simmer. Add the tomatoes, garlic and all the liquid from the baking dish to the sausage. Then add the cream. As it all simmers, the sauce will thicken just a bit.

Spoon over pasta; garnish with fresh parsley and serve with pecorino Romano at the table. Why go out for pasta when you can create your own deliciousness right at home?

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Clams casino is a regional favorite in this neck of the woods. What is not to love about any dish made with bacon, peppers and wine? But why should clams be the only ones invited to the casino? Chicken is a delicious casino variation and tastes oh-so-fine over capellini. So, all you clam haters, this one’s for you!

CHICKEN CASINO CAPPELLINI ALLA SPERANZA

3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, chopped
6 pieces of bacon
3/4 pound chicken breast, cut in chunks
fresh parsley, coarsely chopped (a generous handful)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine (I like Meridian Chardonnay)
extra-virgin olive oil
½ fresh lemon, squeezed
1 red bell pepper cut into matchstick pieces and roasted
1 tablespoon capers

Before you get started, roast the peppers in the oven. Try about 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Take a peek around the 10-minute mark to make sure everything’s on track and then set your timer for 5-10 more minutes.

Now, cook the bacon. Set aside on paper towels, cool, then chop or crumble finely. Don’t get rid of all the bacon drippings! Reserve enough to barely coat bottom of skillet.

This would be a fine time to set a large pot of salted water to boil for your capellini.

Meanwhile, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add chicken and cook till no longer pink.

Remove chicken and sauté the garlic and shallot. You know the drill—don’t brown it!

Add chicken broth, white wine and lemon. Add capers and roasted peppers just to get them warmed up and incorporated.

Serve in deep soup bowls over capellini. Sprinkle bacon on top and garnish with fresh parsley

And for those of you who are clam fans, check out the original clams casino capellini alla Speranza!

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For as long as I can remember, my mom made broccoli and pasta–something she learned when she moved to my hometown, the sister city of Melilli, Sicily. I point this out as my Nanny wasn’t a nonna, so my mom learned Italian cooking from her neighbor, Mrs. Adorno. Then my mom passed what she learned on to me over time.

Though I wasn’t quite so fond of trees (you know, kid code for broccoli) back then, somehow, the magic of garlic and pasta with “sprinkle cheese”–always Pecorino Romano in our house–even made trees taste good. And now that I make this on my own, I’ve adapted the original recipe to include hot sausage, white beans, lemon juice and lemon zest. It’s versatile. You can add and subtract as you like. So, let’s get cookin’!

BROCCOLI ‘N PASTA WITH HOT SAUSAGE AND WHITE BEANS

1 pound broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, chopped
Olive oil
1 pound hot sausage (I love Longhini, out of  New Haven–you can buy locally at Xpect Discounts in Cromwell)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (cannelini, navy beans or small white beans)
1 tablespoon or so of butter (optional)
1/2 pound pasta–try bite-sized rigatoni or double elbows (a.k.a. cellentani or cavatappi)
Note: save 1/2 cup of pasta water before you drain. Tip: put a 1/2 cup measure in your colander as a reminder!

Steam your broccoli till it’s tender, but still bright green. Timing? Oh, I don’t know. Set the timer for 5 minutes or so after it boils and stick a fork in it to check after that.

Meantime, boil a pot of water, add salt, cook pasta according to package instructions. Save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain it.

Sautee garlic and shallot in a skillet. You know the drill: don’t let it brown! Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. Once the sausage is no longer pink, add the beans to warm them up. Then add the lemon zest and juice along with the broccoli and pasta. Let the butter melt in as you toss. Add however much pasta water you like to make a bit of a sauce. You may find you like it with more or less–it’s up to you.

Serve with grated Pecorino Romano and crushed red hot pepper flakes. And a nice glass of wine, if you like. This reheats beautifully with a spin in the microwave.

So, what will be your pasta shape of choice for this dish? Back in the day, it seems ziti was a popular pick overall. For this broccoli dish, it was often elbows. For vodka sauce, penne. And for sauce in general, spaghetti or perhaps the occasional screws (rotini). Screws is a funny word, anyway. Especially because in its singular form, it was a verb in my family: “Oh, really? Well, screw that!”

Hot summer days scream for meals you can pull together quickly without heating the house too much. So I share with you (ta-da!): tapenade pasta. I serve it warm, but you can eat it cold as suggested in the original video recipe I found on ItalianFoodNet.com. How can you not love their site for its tagline alone: “Italians do eat better.” We sure do. So can you.

KATTY’S TAPENADE PASTA
inspired by Chef Alessandro of ItalianFoodNet.com

Serves 4

1 pound pasta*
1 pint grape tomatoes—leave half whole, cut remainder in half
4 oz. Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (please trust me–you won’t taste a hint of fish in this dish!)
1 clove garlic
basil (handful of leaves)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon (organic is nice if you can find)—juice and zest

*I made it with penne rigate, but also love it with Sclafani’s double elbows (a.k.a “bouble elbows”). Typos are fun. 🙂

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, put half of the tomatoes (the whole ones) in your food processor along with the basil, Kalamatas, anchovy paste, garlic, capers and lemon juice.

Chop/grind, then blend in add olive oil.


Drain pasta; transfer to a large bowl (or pot), add the olive dressing, remaining tomatoes and lemon zest and toss well. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish, top with fresh basil leaves and Pecorino Romano.“It’sa so delish, everybody come capisce…”

Buon appetito, amici!


Remember the roasted grape tomatoes we made last summer? Well, though winter has felt more like spring of late, this is a much more practical time to make and enjoy them–not to mention they’re about the only tomatoes of tastiness this time of year…and they get even tastier when vodka joins the party. CENT’ANNI!

Here in the Land of Steady Habits, grape tomatoes keep popping up buy one/get one free, so no time like the present! Let’s heat things up in the kitchen!

ROASTED TOMATO VODKA SAUCE WITH HOT CHICKEN SAUSAGE

For the tomatoes
2 pints grape tomatoes
3 large (or 6 small) garlic cloves
olive oil to coat the bottom of your baking dish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

For the vodka sauce
1 pound hot chicken sausage, cooked/crumbled (I love Stew Leonard’s–try it if you’re local and like it hot!)
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup half-and-half (equal parts milk and cream)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon
extra ½ teaspoon Kosher salt

First, get the tomatoes going!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ glass baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife–or use a garlic press–and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer.

Let ‘em roast for 10 minutes, give ’em a shake, then 10 more minutes of roasting and you’re done! Here’s a Yankee housewarming tip: when you’re finished, leave the oven door open and enjoy the extra warmth. Ma, this one’s for you for all the times you have reminded me to do this–now EVERYBODY knows! HA HA!

While the tomatoes are roasting…
Now’s a good time to get a BIG pasta pot boiling so you can make a pound of penne. Or rigatoni. Penne rigate is my pasta of choice.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and cook the sausage—squeeze it from the casings and break into small pieces. Once you’ve completely cooked and crumbled the sausage, drain the excess oil and leave the sausage in the pan.

Once the tomatoes are done…
Use a potato masher to give the tomatoes a squeeze right in the baking dish. Be careful–they’re hot little devils and have a tendency to squirt where you don’t want them to go. Add 1/3 cup vodka. You’ll hear it sizzle. Sizzling is good! Squeeze half the lemon.

Now back to the pan with the sausage in it. Keep the pan on a low heat, just to simmer. Add the tomatoes, garlic and all the liquid from the baking dish to the sausage. Add the half-and-half. As it all simmers, the sauce will thicken just a bit. You’ll see. Don’t forget to add the lemon zest.

Magically–or at least when I’ve made it–by the time the penne were ready to drain, the vodka sauce was ready. Toss the drained pasta with the sauce. You should have no trouble getting six servings out of this recipe. I like to sprinkle Pecorino Romano over mine. Hope you LOVE!

Update: went to sleep in spring and woke up in winter. Take a look!

The Queen is bird-watching from the safety of her snow shelter!

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