Posts Tagged 'Pasta Recipes'

Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

You know how the simplest things are often the best things?  Today’s recipe – Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce from the March 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those things.  You take four core ingredients (bacon, red onion, canned tomatoes, pasta), mix them with a few pantry staples and seasonings, and end up with a dish that’s out-of-this-world delicious.  Plus, it’s ready in just 30 minutes, which makes it perfect for weeknights.

First, I had to cook the bacon.  In a medium saucepan, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  I added 4 slices of bacon (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) and cooked until it was browned and almost crisp (about 4 minutes).  Next, I added 1 medium red onion (halved and thinly sliced) and cooked until it was softened (again, about 4 minutes).  I added 2 minced garlic cloves (I’ll admit I almost always use the jarred stuff, so about 2 teaspoons) and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and stirred until the mixture was fragrant (about 1 minute).  Finally, I added 1 can (28 ounces) of whole peeled tomatoes, broke them up in the pan with a wooden spoon, and seasoned with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  I brought the sauce to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and cooked until it was slightly reduced (15 minutes).  (Give the sauce a quick taste at this point to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.)

Meanwhile, I cooked 1 pound of orecchiette (use another short pasta if you can’t find it) in a large pot of salted water.  The recipe said to stop cooking it one minute before the recommended cooking time; since I’m at a higher altitude and pasta always takes longer, I used the full recommended cooking time.  I drained the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water, and put it back in the pot.

I poured the sauce and the pasta water over the pasta in the pot and returned it to the stove top; I cooked the mixture over medium-high heat until the sauce thickened and coated the pasta (2 minutes).  To serve, I topped each portion of pasta with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

This pasta is so simple but so delicious.  The orecchiette was cooked perfectly, and there was just the right amount of sauce with just the right thickness.  In terms of flavor, there was a hint of smokiness from the bacon and from the charred bits of onion, sweetness from the tomatoes, and a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. The Parmesan and parsley brought everything together nicely.  I would absolutely make this one again.

In the interest of full disclosure, one of the main reasons I even tried this dish was because the leftovers formed the base for another dish: Pasta and Cheese Frittata.  I wish we had just enjoyed the leftovers as is, unfortunately, because the frittata was a disappointment.  I started by following the instructions precisely.  When things started to smell pretty browned (at the 3-minute mark!), I turned the heat down a notch.  When things started to smell borderline burned at the 5-minute mark, I turned the heat down another notch.  I finished out the recommended 6 minutes of stove top time and put the frittata in the oven for 4 minutes to brown the top.  I was hoping against hope that the underside of the frittata would be fine, but I knew better; when I inverted it, it was pretty much burned.  I should have looked more closely at the photograph included with the recipe…  You know if a food stylist sets up a photo with an item that is practically charred, your results probably aren’t going to be better.  I’m not sure, though, that I could have turned down the heat from the beginning and ended up with a fully-cooked frittata.  Beyond being burned, the frittata itself wasn’t really great in terms of flavor or texture, so I don’t plan to try it again using a different technique.  Oh, well!

TIPS:  If I perceive that a recipe has more oil or butter than necessary, I typically cut it down a bit.  For this recipe, I took about a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat out of the pan before I added the onion.  There was still plenty of oil for cooking, but I managed to cut about 110 calories and 12 grams of fat from the dish.

Recipe link: Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

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Pasta with Zucchini and Toasted Almonds

Slowly but surely, I’m working my way back into an (almost) daily cooking routine. 🙂

My friend Christopher often has a sense of what I need even when I don’t.  One of his recent gifts was a subscription to Cooking Light, which has served me well in two ways.  One, it provides endless options for healthy cooking; two, it helps me break out of my Everyday Food rut.  (It’s an often fabulous and tasty rut, but a rut nonetheless.)  I’ve really enjoyed having the magazines around because I feel like the recipes are generally pretty safe, nutritionally; I don’t have to do a bunch of calculating to make sure we’re on track with our Kauai goals (eight weeks and counting!).

My most recent Cooking Light attempt was a fabulous find – Pasta with Zucchini and Toasted Almonds.  It sounds like a strange combo (I’m used to toasted almonds on my oatmeal and in salads – not so much in my pasta), but the flavors were divine.

The recipe is basically a three-part process: combining ingredients to create a room-temperature tomato mixture, cooking a batch of fresh pasta, and sauteeing some zucchini with garlic.  I started with the tomato mixture.  In a medium bowl, I combined 2 cups of cherry tomatoes (halved), 2 tablespoons of minced shallots, 1 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme, 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon of kosher (coarse) salt, 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.  I added 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil, tossed everything to coat, and set the mixture aside.

Next, I cooked 1 package (9 ounces) of refrigerated linguine according to package directions.  While I waited for the water to boil, I coarsely chopped 1 pound of zucchini and 3 tablespoons of fresh mint.  Once I had my pasta going, I sauteed the zucchini with 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  After 3 minutes, I added 3/4 cup of chicken broth and brought the mixture to a simmer.  (This happened almost immediately.)  I stirred in the cooked linguine and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chopped mint, tossing well.

I transferred the pasta-zucchini mixture to a large bowl, added the tomato mixture, and tossed well again.  Each serving was 1 1/2 cups of the pasta mixture topped with a quarter of the remaining mint, 4 teaspoons of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and 2 teaspoons of toasted almonds.

Pasta with Zucchini and Toasted Almonds

Man, was this ever good.  The flavor was *so* fresh.  It was veggie heavy, but it still had an indulgent pasta feel, mostly because of the way the Pecorino Romano clung to the chicken broth-moistened linguine.  It was heavenly.  I thought the almonds would be weird, but I really enjoyed the added texture.  I *definitely* plan on making this one again…  It just tastes like summer!

TIPS:  My only beef with this recipe is that it was kind of difficult to toss together…  The tomatoes and zucchini didn’t seem to want to incorporate evenly with the pasta.  I just made a special effort to make sure each serving had a proportionate amount of “good stuff” when I dished it up.

Recipe link: Pasta with Zucchini and Toasted Almonds

Gemelli with Yellow Squash, Peas, and Basil

Are you ready for a delicious, fast, and ridiculously easy recipe? Gemelli with Yellow Squash, Peas, and Basil from the July/August 2008 issue of Everyday Food is it. I mentioned last week that I’m trying to work through my pantry items and frozen food in anticipation of our move; this was a “frozen pea” project (and you don’t even have to thaw them!).

I put a large pot of water on to boil while I prepped my ingredients. I quartered 3 medium yellow squash lengthwise and thinly sliced the quarters. I also cut 4 tablespoons of butter into small cubes, squeezed half a lemon to yield 1 tablespoon of juice, grated 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and tore 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves.

When the water reached a boil, I added 8 ounces (about half of a standard box) of gemelli pasta. Two minutes before the pasta finished cooking, I added the squash and peas to the pot. After the final 2 minutes of cooking time had passed, I drained the pasta and vegetables, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

I put the pasta and vegetables back in the pot (but off the heat) and added the cubed butter, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of pasta water. I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and tossed it to combine. I added a little more water to make the pasta a bit saucier, stirred in the torn basil, and then sprinkled the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan over the pasta to serve.

This was so simple and so delicious. Dr. O and I really thought the flavors worked well together. (It’s hard to bring a dish down when it has butter and Parmesan going for it!) I also really liked the texture of the squash; it was crisp-tender and not in the least bit soggy. Add the fact that it can all be thrown together in one pot, and we have a winner!

TIPS: I am the queen of forgetting to reserve pasta water when a recipe calls for it, so I’ve started placing a heatproof bowl in the sink before I even start cooking. That way, the bowl catches most of the pasta water and I can just use a measuring cup to portion out what I need.

Also, since this recipe *is* so simple, it’s another one where seasoning is really important. I think I went through three rounds of adding salt and pepper before I got the flavor I wanted. Go easy… Remember that you can always add more, but it’s pretty hard to get salt out of a dish once you’ve added it.

Recipe link: Gemelli with Yellow Squash, Peas, and Basil

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

I’ve mentioned my “foodie crush” on Giada di Laurentiis, but I’m also really into Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) these days. She just lives to hostess… It seems like every recipe is about creating fun and good feelings, whether she’s cooking for just her husband or a whole table full of guests. That’s one of the reasons I love to cook so much, so I can really relate to her.

I had a ton of arugula left over after the Rolled Chicken Sandwiches with Arugula and Parsley Aioli, so I decided to give Ina’s Lemon Fusilli with Arugula recipe a try. I wasn’t sure what to make of a lemon cream sauce, but the pasta just looked gorgeous… Thankfully, the results were great!

To make the sauce, I started by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. I added 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (2 cloves) and cooked for 30 seconds. Next, I added 2 cups of half-and-half (the original recipe called for heavy cream, but I just couldn’t do it!), the zest from 2 small lemons, the juice from those 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. I brought the sauce to a boil, lowered the heat, and let it simmer until it was thickened (20 minutes).

Meanwhile, I cooked the pasta and the broccoli. The original recipe called for separate pots for each, but I didn’t see the sense in dirtying *3 pots* for one recipe. So, I brought a large pot of salted water to a boil, cooked 1 pound of fusilli (rotini) according to package directions, and then added the florets from 1 head of broccoli during the last 4 minutes of the pasta cooking time.

I drained the broccoli and pasta in a colander and returned it to the pot. I immediately poured the lemon cream sauce over the mixture and cooked it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce had been absorbed by the pasta. I poured the pasta mixture into a large bowl and added 5 ounces of arugula (the original recipe called for 8 ounces, but I thought this was plenty), 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 cups of halved grape tomatoes. (I grated the Parmesan and halved the tomatoes while the sauce was simmering and the pasta was cooking.) I cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, sliced it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and added it to the pasta. I tossed the mixture well and seasoned with salt and pepper to serve.

This was surprisingly good! The lemon cream sauce was light and summery, and it really complemented the sweetness of the tomatoes and the peppery flavor of the arugula. A word of caution, though… This makes a HUGE portion and it doesn’t reheat very well. Next time, I’ll probably just make a half recipe for Dr. O and me.

TIPS: Be sure to use small lemons instead of those jumbo ones you sometimes see at the grocery store. A few reviewers on FoodNetwork.com thought the lemon taste was overwhelming, but I thought it was terrific. Large lemons definitely would have put it over the top, though.

Recipe link: Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

Penne with Vodka Sauce

This one’s for you, Alicia!

I often make Italian food when Dr. O and I have guests for dinner. If we have more than 6 people at the table, I usually make a baked dish and a stove top dish, one with meat and one without. Penne with Vodka Sauce from the May 2004 issue of Everyday Food is one of my favorite stove top pastas… It’s quick, flavorful, and it makes a great accompaniment to a variety of Italian dishes. Plus, the bulk of the cooking time is spent boiling the pasta and letting the sauce simmer. Easy peasy.

This is another one that isn’t posted on the Everyday Food Web site, so here’s the ingredient list:

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup vodka
Coarse salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne or other short tubular pasta
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

I put a large pot of water on to boil first so the pasta and sauce would end up cooking at the same time. To start the sauce, I heated the olive oil in a medium saucepan and added the garlic and red pepper flakes. I cooked the mixture until it was fragrant (30 seconds) and then added the tomatoes and their juice, breaking the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon.

I stirred in the tomato paste, sugar, vodka and 3/4 cup of water and then seasoned with salt. I simmered the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it was thickened (25 minutes). I stirred in the cream and cooked just until the sauce was heated through. (It’s essential not the boil the sauce once the cream has been added.)

Meanwhile, I cooked the penne according to package directions. When both the sauce and the pasta were finished, I tossed them together in a large bowl. I sprinkled the pasta with grated Parmesan to serve.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

I just *love* this pasta, seriously. The vodka (which actually evaporates during cooking) really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, and I adore the hint of red pepper flakes. Parmesan makes everything better too, doesn’t it?

I made this dish for a party once and got so caught up in the whirl of getting the meal on the table that I completely forgot to add the heavy cream. Guess what? It was still absolutely delicious. If you want to keep things light (or dairy free), cut the cream in half or omit it altogether.

TIPS: I felt like such a smart and efficient cook when added the tomato paste to the sauce; this is the first time I used the individual portions of tomato paste I froze when I made Smothered Chicken. I added the tomato paste straight from the freezer and just stirred the sauce every minute or two until I knew it was incorporated. It was so nice to avoid throwing out yet another half-used can.

Bow Ties with Peas and Ham

Bow Ties with Peas and Ham from the September 2003 issue of Everyday Food is an old favorite recipe of mine. It’s quick (20 minutes), it has a relatively short ingredient list, and it’s tasty. It also makes 6 servings, so it’s great for leftovers.

I started by cooking 1 pound of bow tie pasta according to package directions. While that cooked, I handled the rest of the recipe.

Prep work is minimal – I just diced an onion and sliced 1/2 pound of cooked ham into strips. I heated 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and added the onion. I cooked that for 4 minutes before adding 2 cups of frozen peas and 1 cup of half-and-half. I seasoned that with salt and pepper and simmered it until thickened, about 6 minutes. Then I added the ham to the sauce and cooked everything until it was heated through, about 2 minutes. I tossed the sauce with the pasta, plated it, and sprinkled it with freshly grated Parmesan. Easy peasy!

bow_ties_with_peas_and_ham.jpg

TIPS: You don’t have to thaw the frozen peas before you use them in this recipe. Just throw ’em in.

This is another time when you would want to ask for an extra thick slice of ham at the deli for cubing. (See All-American Baked Potatoes.)

Recipe link: Bow Ties with Peas and Ham




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