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I love a simple dinner that tastes rich and luxurious. Ever since I bookmarked the kitchn‘s list of great date night meals, it’s been one of my favorite go-to lists for those nights when I want to feel like I’m spoiling us a bit, without going overboard. I love this open faced ravioli recipe. The egg makes a rich sauce for the greens and the lemon really brightens the dish and balances the flavor. Also, this is the recipe that taught me how to poach eggs without ruining them, or turning them into egg soup. I feel like patting myself on the back every time I poach one successfully.

Open-Faced Ravioli with Poached Egg, Wilted Greens and Brown Butter-Lemon Sauce
via the kitchn

2 lasagna noodles
2-4 eggs, depending on how hungry you feel and what else is being served
1 bunch (about 10 ounces) swiss chard, washed, stems removed, and sliced into ribbons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper

Fill a mixing bowl with hot tap water and set it next to the stove.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon or two of salt and the lasagna noodles. Cook about 8 minutes, until the noodles are al dente. Remove the noodles with a strainer or slotted spoon and transfer them to the bowl of water.
Drain half the water from the pot, leaving about four inches in the bottom. Let it come back to a simmer. Crack the eggs into individual measuring cups and slip them into the simmering water. Poach the eggs for 4 minutes for runny yolks or 5 minutes for yolks that are barely set. Transfer them to the bowl of warm water with the lasagna noodles until ready to plate your dishes.
While the noodles and eggs are cooking, you can begin wilting the greens. Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the greens and a three-fingered pinch of salt, and saute until the chard wilts, turns bright green, and becomes tender to taste, about three minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chard to a separate plate.
With the skillet back over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook it, swirling the butter occasionally in the pan, until the butter darkens and begins to smell nutty. Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. The lemon juice will make the butter sizzle up and sputter before cooling down.
To Plate the Ravioli: Remove the lasagna noodles from the water and pat them dry. Slice them into squares and layer half of them in the bottom of two pasta bowls. Remove the poached eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and lay them on the noodles. Top with the remaining ravioli squares. Arrange the wilted chard around and over the plates, and drizzle everything with butter-lemon sauce. Serve immediately.

I’ve been on a bit of a pasta kick lately. With work in high gear, it’s usually the easiest meal. And always so good. What is it about pasta that always hits the spot? I actually made a double batch of this one, since arugula is a particular favorite of husband and mine, and I knew we’d be happy to eat the leftovers all week long. Delicious!

Lemon Ricotta Spaghetti with Arugula
via food52

1/2 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise as thinly as possible
2 tablespoons lemon zest, from 1-2 lemons
juice from 1 lemon
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh ricotta, homemade or best quality
4-6 tablespoons leftover ricotta whey or leftover pasta boiling water
4 cups lightly packed arugula
kosher salt

Bring a pot of well salted water to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, slice the garlic and put a small saute over low heat. Add the olive oil, the garlic, and a nice pinch of salt. Let the oil and garlic slowly heat up. You don’t want the garlic to brown. You are just warming the oil and letting garlic infuse it. While the oil and garlic are doing their thing, zest the lemon and wash and dry the arugula.
Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and reserve some pasta water if you don’t have any ricotta whey. While the pasta is boiling, turn the heat under the saute pan to as low as it goes and add the ricotta, lemon zest, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. You just want it all to warm it up while the pasta is cooking.
Once you drain the pasta, add it to the saute pan and toss well. Add 1/4 cup of whey or cooking water and the arugula and toss again to coat and wilt the arugula. If you feel it is too dry, add up to 2 more TB of whey or cooking water. Taste for salt and add the juice from 1/2 a lemon and toss once more. Serve, topping each bowl with a few sprinkles of coarse salt and a few drops of lemon juice.

We’re off to the Ballard Seafood Fest today and in honor of the day (and really because I had fish on the brain), I moved a bit outside our comfort zone last night and cooked with sardines – and they were delicious! This pasta dish is super simple, and the flavors are clean and fresh. A great addition to our easy summer meals rotation.

Linguine with Sardines, Fennel & Tomato
via food52

Kosher or sea salt
1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (about 4 ¼ oz.)
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
1 small or ½ large bulb fennel, fronds reserved
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste
1 cup canned peeled tomatoes with their juice, gently crushed
2 ounces white (dry) vermouth
1 medium lemon, juice and zest
1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
3/4 pounds dry linguine

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Open the sardine tin and drain a tablespoon or so of the oil into a wide skillet (the amount of oil in the tin will vary by brand, so add additional extra virgin olive oil if necessary to make up a tablespoon). Warm the oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic, cooking until fragrant (just a minute or two). Trim the fennel and slice the bulb very thinly (a mandoline works great here, but I just used my knife). Add to the skillet with a sprinkle of salt, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the fennel is soft and beginning to caramelize.
Add the chile flakes and let them sizzle for a minute, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes with their juice. Cook until the liquid is reduced, then add the vermouth and let that reduce slightly. Add the sardines to the skillet with the tomato and fennel mixture, breaking up slightly but leaving some chunks. Zest the lemon and combine a tablespoon or so of zest with the toasted breadcrumbs, then set aside. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
Add the linguine to the boiling salted water, cooking it until it is just short of al dente. Using tongs, transfer the linguine to the sauce to finish cooking, adding a little bit of the starchy pasta water and tossing gently to combine. (You’ll want to leave this a little wet, as the breadcrumbs will soak up the sauce and dry the pasta out a bit once you’ve added them.)
Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large warmed serving bowl (or individual pasta bowls), add a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumb-lemon zest mixture, and garnish with picked small fennel fronds and the remaining lemon zest.

I don’t know why I ever had doubts about the flavors in this dish, but it ended up being delicious beyond imagining. It’s not often that I use sultanas/golden raisins in anything I cook, but they added the perfect balance to this light, bright medley of flavors. This might replace my mother’s classic pasta salad as my favorite side dish to bring to any summer event. Fantastic!

Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios and Mint
via food52

1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon honey
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/4 cup veggie stock
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup diced yellow squash
1/2 cup diced zucchini
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup sultanas/golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and let them steep for about 30 minutes.
Next, bring the veggie stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the couscous, cover, and turn off the heat; allow the couscous to sit for about 5 minutes, or until it absorbs all the liquid. Toss the couscous with a fork so the grains don’t start clumping together, pour into a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
In a skillet over medium high heat, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then, add the chopped squash and zucchini, shallot, sultanas, pistachios and a pinch or two of salt. Only cook for about a minute or two — you still want the squash and zucchini to be al dente. This just ensures they aren’t too al dente, and all the flavors can marry before they hit the couscous. Set aside until everything reaches room temperature.
Once the veggies have reached room temperature, add them to the bowl with the couscous and combine. Then, remove and discard the cloves of garlic from the dressing, and toss it with the couscous (add the dressing gradually, as you may not need it all). Fold in the mint, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve at room temperature.

I was once told by a self proclaimed nutrition guru from Mother’s in Portland that asparagus is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on earth, next to the pit of an avocado. (no joke! he said to grate it into health shakes… I have yet to try it.) And thus my love of asparagus was forever justified.

Penne, Roasted Asparagus & Balsamic Butter
via stephanie’s cooking

1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound penne
1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Heat the oven to 400°. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.
Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

It’s been a long week – we went to San Francisco and ate ourselves silly. And we came home wanting something filling, but fresh and that wouldn’t weigh us down. I reached into my oldest recipes for one of my summer favorites. Unfortunately, I’ve had this recipe saved in such a random spot for so long, its origin is now unknown to me, so if you know it, let me know! We’ve served it over pasta, rice and eaten it alone, but I think that poured over a bit of al dente penne is best.

One Pan Ratatouille

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
8 ounces Asian eggplant, diced
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers, diced
8 ounces zucchini, diced
8 ounces yellow summer squash, diced
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a 5- to 6-quart pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and stir frequently until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), eggplant, salt,  pepper, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is soft when pierced, about 10 minutes. Stir in bell peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash. Return to a simmer, cover, and cook until squash is tender when pierced, 8 to 10 minutes longer. Stir in basil and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

image via real food nw

Ah! It had been too long. Over a week since I’ve cooked? Terrible! So, I’m starting out simple. A little indulgent, but sooooo delicious. I love stuffed shells. Oh, the cheesy goodness. And this recipe is particularly lovely with the additional of lemon zest. It adds a brightness that really lightens the dish up. And since our chives had gone a little soft over the long weekend, I mixed it up with a bit of parsley and basil instead. Really, just about any fresh herbs would work well.

Stuffed Shells
via 101 cookbooks

zest of one lemon
25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells

Sauce:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes

Filling:
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 bunch of chives, minced (basil, parsley or a blend)

Oil a 13 x 9-inch / 33 x 23-cm baking pan, or equivalent, and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle.
To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Now stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste. If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.
To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.
Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands.
Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.

I have a new favorite! This is the perfect weeknight meal. Delicious, super quick and healthy too! While being a huge pesto fan, I hardly get around to making it for myself. And although pesto is incredibly tasty, it’s not exactly the most healthy sauce on earth. Enter creamy avocado sauce.
The avocado replaces most of the olive oil, and other than that it’s packed with greens and a just bit of jalapeño for bite. It’s rich, creamy and feels incredibly indulgent, but it’s not! You could even omit the parmesan at the end to really keep it healthy. With this level of taste, you don’t need it.

Creamy Avocado Pasta
via bliss blog

1 medium ripe avocado
1/2 lime
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small jalapeño, finely diced
1/4 cup packed basil, chopped
1 cup spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional)
12 oz. spaghetti

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Put the cup of spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl and place the spaghetti on top for a few minutes to wilt the spinach.
While the pasta is cooking make the avocado sauce. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the avocado and place in a food processor. Add the basil, juice from the 1/2 lime, garlic, jalapeño, salt and wilted spinach. Blend until smooth.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss everything together, adding a little cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed. Top with the grated parmesan and serve.

One the things I’ve been trying to start up again this year is cutting back on meat and dairy.
I lived an entire year of my life without them and had the most energy I’ve ever had. If you
haven’t perused my Recipes tab yet, then you may have missed my absolute favorite for
go-to weeknight dinners, and the new star of my start to a healthier diet. Not only does it
feature my favorite ingredient of all time, mushrooms, it’s the most flavorful meal I’ve ever
put together in less than an hour. And it’s been flawless every time.

Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourguignon
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (vegetable broth to make it vegetarian; it works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven
or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and
sprinkle with chives or parsley.

So… we’ve had this mostly empty bottle of vodka in the freezer for months. Shocking? I know.
We’re generally wine and beer people – the liquor is usually just for friends or special occasions.
This past weekend I opened the freezer, hoping a carton of ice cream would materialize, and I spotted the vodka. We make pasta at least once a week and try to always keep a little on hand, when  suddenly it came to me. Vodka Sauce. I checked out a few different recipes and we had pretty much everything needed. Just picked up a can of crushed tomatoes and some fresh basil and we were good to go! Some of the recipes called for half a cup of vodka, and some for a whole cup. I figured I  would just wing it anyway. As I poured it into the measuring cup, voila! Exactly one cup. Perfect.


i
mage via maggie’s meals

Vodka Pasta
A mixture of a handful of recipes, serves at least 4
(you can exchange the chicken stock for a bit of pasta water to make it vegetarian) 

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons shredded fresh basil, plus additional for serving
1 pound pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat, add olive oil and butter. Saute the onion about 5 to 6 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more. Pour in the vodka and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Simmer 15 minutes.
While the sauce simmer, cook the pasta to al dente.
Stir the cream and red pepper flakes into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Return the sauce to a bubble, then remove from heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce and basil leaves. Garnish with more cheese, as needed.