Pasta


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There’s nothing like native asparagus in the spring! Its growing season is short, so now is the time to celebrate what’s fresh and local with a twist on traditional carbonara.

ASPARAGUS CARBONARA
1 pound asparagus
1/4 – 1/3 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 4-5 pieces per strip
1 pound ribbon-like fresh pasta of choice–I love DiFiore’s mafalda; today I used their fettucine
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 cup dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
2 eggs, 1 yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 cup reserved pasta water
Olive oil to make one round of the bottom of a large saute pan–about a tablespoon
Fresh torn basil or parsley to garnish
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Whisk together the two eggs/one yolk with grated Pecorino Romano, lemon juice and zest; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Tip: place a measuring cup in the colander as a reminder to save some pasta water.

As the water comes to a boil, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard. Then, take a handful of the thicker spears–four or so–and use a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons. Cut the rest on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces–about 1 1/2 inches.

Now that the prep work’s complete, we’re going to multitask!

Simultaneous step A: Cook the pasta and the asparagus
Cook the pasta just al dente, following package instructions. During the last minute of cooking time, add the asparagus. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Temper the pasta water by whisking it into the egg/lemon/cheese mixture.

Simultaneous step B: Sauté the garlic, add the prosciutto and wine
As soon as you add the pasta to the pot and decrease the heat (to avoid boiling over), have a large skillet ready. Coat with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Sauté the pressed garlic for just a minute, then toss in the prosciutto, stirring to coat and warm through. If you’d like to add a bit of heat, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper. Then add 1/3 cup white wine and reduce heat to medium-low.

Combine the steps
Fresh pasta is key here as it cooks faster–and by the time the pasta is cooked, it will be time to drain it, return it to the skillet with the prosciutto, garlic and wine. Toss immediately with the lemon/egg/cheese to coat and thicken for just a minute or two. We’re done! Time to eat!

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Serve with fresh parsley and/or basil. Enjoy! And enjoy your spring or summer or whatever this season is going to be next! 😛

 

 

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You don’t need me to tell you we can make pesto out of herbs other than basil. But I’m here to share because I like how this came out and, selfishly, I’d like to document it so I can do it again.

I bought a rather large container of baby arugula to use for other things earlier this week, so it seemed the right time to change up the pesto game. It’s so easy! Here we go.

ARUGULA PESTO
2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
juice of one lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste

Add nuts to a small skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes or so, shaking the pan constantly. Set pan aside to cool a bit.

Add nuts and garlic to food processor; process till minced.

Add arugula, oil, salt and pepper; process until blended, scraping sides as needed. Add lemon and cheese; process until smooth.

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Toss with pasta of your choice–we had gemelli. Be sure to save a bit of your pasta water (or don’t drain the pasta all the way) to blend with the pesto when you initially toss the pasta and pesto together to coat. What you see on top is pure pesto, though.

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Oh, hey--since you’re already here, would you like a bonus round with this easy recipe? It’s called “what to do with a bag of spinach when you thought you were going to make stuffed mushrooms and only had four mushrooms left.” OOPS!

CREAMY SPINACH AND MUSHROOMS
an accidental side dish

1 9-oz. bag fresh spinach
4 mushrooms sliced (more would have been better, then we could’ve stuffed them, but this isn’t science, so, by all means, use more if you have them!)
1 clove garlic, pressed
butter to coat the bottom of a large saute pan
1 oz. cream cheese
dash of salt

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. When those have cooked down and browned a bit, add the garlic and stir for just a minute. Add spinach. Cover so it steams down to the point you can stir it all together–this happens pretty quickly.

Add an ounce of cream cheese and a dash of salt. When the cream cheese has melted in to form a creamy sauce, it’s ready to serve.

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Let’s hear it for Yankee ingenuity! And Yankee thrift, too, I suppose. Cheers to that!

 

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Whaddya get when you cross American chop suey with pasta e fagioli? Italian-American chop suey! No ground beef here, we’re talking sausage with San Marzanos,  a bell pepper plus some Italian long hots for heat, white beans, rosemary, thyme, red wine and a dollop of ricotta on top to make it nice-nice. ’tis the season for something warming, so andiamo–let’s go!

ITALIAN-AMERICAN CHOP SUEY

2 cans cannellini beans (small white beans are also fine), rinsed and drained
1/2 pound pasta (I love Sclafani double elbows a.k.a. cellentani)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian sausage (’round here, I love Longhini)
1 red bell pepper
2 Italian long hot peppers
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (Cento is my brand of choice–buy whole ones and crush them between your fingers like the skulls of your enemies, HA HA HA!)
1/2 the 28 oz. can water, 1/4 can red wine
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (such as Tuttorosso)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
a handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
whole milk ricotta to dollop on top of each bowl you serve

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme till onions are golden. Add garlic. Add sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. *While you’ve got this going, bring a separate pot of water to a boil to cook your pasta.* Add peppers as the sausage is cooking. When sausage is completely cooked, crush each tomato between your fingers and add all the liquid from the can. Fill this can halfway with water and another quarter of the way with red wine. Add to pot along with the small can of tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Add beans to warm, then add cooked pasta. Serve with a generous spoonful of ricotta and Pecorino Romano, if you like. Fresh parsley is always nice, too.

Found a cure for the colder weather right heah, amici–I promise this! Stay toasty!

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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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