Posts Tagged 'Pasta'

Fettucini with Ramps and Asparagus

Fettucini with Asparagus and Ramps

If you’ve read this blog before, it becomes readily apparent that I’m not a vegetable-centric cook.  But after a long winter where the only vegetables at the farmer’s market were lettuces and carrots, the arrival of asparagus, ramps, and tomatoes yesterday really got me excited.  The sign at Westmoreland Berry Farm’s stand announcing that there would be strawberries in two weeks didn’t hurt.

While running errands later in the day, all I could think about was what exactly I’d do with my vegetable bounty. I settled pretty quickly on pasta but the details were still a mystery. I contemplated using pancetta or bacon. Then I wondered if I should add cream or cheese.

In the end, I went for the route of simple.  No pork products.  No cream.  No cheese.  Just saute the vegetables in butter and use the pasta water as a sauce.

It’s amazing what such a simple sauce can provide in flavor.  In a word, it tasted like spring.  The pasta absorbed the flavor of the asparagus and ramps and tasted nearly perfect.  The flavor was mild such that anything richer or heavier, like bacon or cream, would’ve over powered it.

Ramps and Asparagus

Fettucini with Ramps and Asparagus

6 large stalks of asparagus
8 oz. ramps
3 tbsp of butter, divided
salt and pepper
1 large shallot, diced
fresh pasta made with 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs

  1. Break the bottom off the asparagus and discard the bottom.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin on the bottom portion of the asparagus.  Cut the asparagus into 1″ pieces.
  2. Clean the ramps.  Separate the leaves from the white parts of the ramps.  Tear the leaves into 1″ pieces.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the asparagus and white part of the ramps.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring regularly, until the asparagus and ramps begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the shallots and cook for a minute more.
  5. Add the ramp leaves, season with salt, and cook until the ramp leaves are wilted.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until slightly undercooked.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.
  7. Add the pasta to the skillet.  Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the pasta water is mostly absorbed and the rest is thickened.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp of butter.  Stir until the butter is incorporated into the pasta.
  9. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

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Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Angela and I have gone out to a restaurant for dinner on Valentine’s Day exactly once.  From the crowded restaurant to the subpar, but expensive food, it was an experience that we didn’t want to repeat.  So last year we went to our favorite pizza place. Given that Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, I decided that I would make a special dinner for Angela. I decided on Tagliatelle alla Bolognese as it is one of Angela’s favorite foods. I made some bread and crème brûlée.

And then I went and ruined it by spilling hot chicken stock on my toe.  I had taken advantage of the fact that I had to stay home to watch the sauce to make a large batch of chicken stock.  All was going well until I was about to strain it.  I cook the chicken stock in a stock pot with all the solids inside a pasta strainer.  To get as much liquid out of the solids as possible, I had picked up the strainer and was trying to push any remaining liquid out.  This is when tragedy struck.  The strainer slipped out of my hands, sending chicken stock flying.  Some of it flew up and landed on my sock-clad foot.  I got the sock off as quickly as possible but the damage was already done.

My foot is finally starting to heal, a week and a half later.  I’ve been forced to wear sandals and socks to work since then.  It did, however, take my manager until yesterday to realize that I was wearing them and duly make fun of me.  Apparently wearing orange toed socks makes it more conspicuous.

Luckily, I only ruined the romantic mood on Valentine’s Day and not the food itself.  The bread and crème brûlée were done.  All that was left was to make the fresh pasta and it helped take my mind off the pain.  Angela can comment on the funny dance I did to distract myself further.

Bolognese sauce is deservedly one of the most classic Italian pasta sauces.  The long cooking in milk and wine helps mellow the beef to almost be reminiscient of veal.  It also helps mellow the normally acidic bite of tomato sauces.  In many ways, however, it almost seems to be the anti-Italian pasta.  It’s one of the few times in Italian cooking where the sauce is the star and the pasta merely the sideshow.

Despite my mishap, this was still the right choice for Valentine’s Day.  It’s a special meal, taking a good bit of time.  But that time and effort pays off in a dish that can only really be described in superlatives.

Homemade Bread

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 lbs ground pork
salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk
nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs. fresh tagliatelle (made with 3 eggs and 3 cups of flour)
grated parmigiano-reggiano

  1. Put the oil, 3 tbsp butter, and the onion in a large dutch oven and place over medium heat.  Cook the onion, stirring occassionally, until it has become transluscent.
  2. Add the celery and the carrot and cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the ground beef and ground pork.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring the meat, until it loses its pink color.
  4. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.  Cook at a low simmer until the milk has completely cooked away, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Add a pinch of nutmeg.
  6. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.  Cook at a low simmer until the wine has completely cooked away, 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Cook at the barest of simmers for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  If the sauce dries out, add 1/2 cup of water, whenever necessary.
  8. Cook the fresh pasta and toss it with the sauce, adding the final tablespoon of butter.
  9. Serve immediately with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Serves 6.

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)

Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes

When I announced to Angela what I was making for dinner last night, she was distinctly less than excited.  In her defense, my motive for choosing this recipe was mainly that I had a zucchini that had been sitting in the fridge long enough that I had started to worry whether or not it had turned into a home for something else.  Luckily for us it had not.

I say luckily as both Angela and I enjoyed it immensely.  This pasta was significantly better than it had any right to be given its ingredients.  It’s very simple and I always appreciate simple food but, looking at the recipe alone, I didn’t see anything that would differentiate it from the mass of other pasta recipes that have a base of tomatoes.

However, the distinct flavor of the fried zucchini slices makes the dish truly compelling.  It provides a nice counterpoint to the acidity of the tomatoes.  The peas are nice but mainly from a color and nutritional perspective.

But what will really keep me coming back to this recipe is how quick it is to make.  The longest part of the preparation is waiting for the water to boil and then cooking the pasta.  The sauce can be made entirely in the time that the pasta cooks.  It also reheats the next day fairly well.

Zucchini Frying

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking: More than 200 authentic recipes from Italy’s family-style restaurants

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely diced
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp butter
1 lbs penne
1 cup grated Parmigiano Regiano

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne for one minute less than the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini and cook until both sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add the garlic and stir briefly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over high heat until most of the tomato juice has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the peas and the butter and cook over low heat until the peas are warmed through, about 1 minute.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for one minute over medium heat, stirring regularly.  If the pasta is dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the parmigiano.
  8. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parmigiano.

Serves 4.

Sliced Zucchini

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo

Baked Orecchiete with Pork Sugo

The lack of posts on here is due to the fact that I had to travel to the east coast for work (but I did update my flickr account).  I wanted to make something special for Angela for Sunday dinner but instead I ended up making something that I wanted to (oops).

This recipe appealed to me immediately upon reading it.  Combining pork and pasta, two of my favorite foods, it was like it was written for me.  I had initially hoped to remember to make the recipe sometime in the future when baked things would be desirable but the weather has cooperated and it’s been cool the past several days (or at least since I got back).

This is not something to make on a weekday. In fact, it’s not something to make on an average weekend. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort. And, me being me, I had to find a way to make it more difficult. Replacing canned tomatoes with fresh isn’t that much effort when the tomatoes are readily available but replacing store bought orecchiette with homemade is a bit more serious investment in time and effort. Which was really unintentional but the only orecchiette I could find were $6 for half a pound which is more than I was willing to pay. And I’m not going to figure out exactly what my hourly rate is making homemade orecchiette.

But, luckily for all that effort, this is good.  It’s very good.  It’s good enough that I’m looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch tomorrow (and that’s rare for me even with the best leftovers).  Angela thought it tasted a bit like pot roast (but with pork obviously).  It reminded me a bit of carnitas with pasta.

The pork and pasta marry well together.  The red pepper flakes give just enough heat.  It is very well balanced.  It’s also unlike any other baked pasta dish I’ve had.

Most baked pasta is relatively heavy of cheese and sauce.  The cheese is almost an after thought with this recipe.  The sauce is just the cooking liquid from the braise.  It’s as light as most baked pasta is heavy.  It’s pleasant simply remembering dinner.

And, luckily for me, Angela wasn’t upset that I picked this so I don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight.

Preparing to braise the pork

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo
Adapted from Ethan Stowell via Food & Wine October 2008

3 1/4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/4″ dice
1 large onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
4 tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced, juice reserved
1 1/2 cups red wine
4 sprigs of thyme
5 cups pork or chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs. orecchiette
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Dry the pork on paper towels thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the olive oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until just before smoking.  Brown the pork in the olive oil on all sides, about 12 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the juices and bring to a simmer.
  5. Deglaze the dutch oven with the red wine and add the thyme.  Boil the red wine until it is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the stock, season to taste with salt, and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a food processor, discarding the sprigs of thyme.  Pulse the food processor several times until the pork is shredded.  Return the pork and vegetables to the dutch oven.
  9. Stir the parsley, oregano, and red pepper into the dutch oven.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Cook the orecchiette in boiling, salted water until they float.  Drain the orecchiete and stir into the dutch oven.
  11. Place the pork-pasta mixture in a large baking dish.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mixture evenly.
  12. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes, then serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Homemade Orecchiette


Homemade Orecchiette
Adapted from
Epicurious

2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm water
salt

  1. In a bowl, mix together the two flours (don’t do this on a work surface, I tried and the water runs all over the place).
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water and salt.  Using a fork, slowly incorporate the water into the flour.
  3. Once the flour and water are mostly incorporated, pour the bowl contents onto a work surface.  Knead the dough until it comes together and then need for several minutes more.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 even pieces.
  5. For each piece of dough, roll it into a cylinder with a 1/2″ diameter.  Cut the cylinder into pieces 1/2″ wide.  Toss the various pieces with semolina flour then place it in the palm of your hand and press down on it with the thumb of your other hand and twist slightly.  Place the orecchietta on a baking sheet dusted with semolina.

Makes 1 1/2 lbs.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Bucattini with Sausage and Peas

If you haven’t been paying attention, I tend to post a lot of pasta recipes. Here’s one more to enhance my collection.

This recipe actually comes from Sting’s personal chef (or so it was stated in Food & Wine).  Appropriately, when I started to make this and turned on the radio, a Police song came on.  I considered that a good omen.

There’s nothing complicated or special about this recipe.  It is simple but in its simplicity there is taste and quality.  It is a pasta should be.

The dominant flavor in the pasta is the sausage; the sausage ends up providing most of the seasoning to the sauce.  The tomato sauce and the peas merely compliment the sausage.  There’s no need to use actual bucatini; any spagheti-like pasta will do.

When I made this, Angela was out of town.  I made a full recipe any way and ate it for the next two days for lunch. It reheated well and made a good lunch (as long as I remember to bring along some cookies for dessert).

Parcooking Tomatoes

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas
Adapted from Food and Wine September 2007

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lbs. Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 1/2 cups tomato purée
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
salt
1 lbs. bucatini or spaghetti
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the olive oil is hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until the sausage is well browned, about 8 minutes.
  2. Pour out the excess oil and discard. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, at a low simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the peas and heavy cream and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add half the parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, cook the bucattini in boiling salted water for 1 minute less than the manufacturer recommends.
  6. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook at a simmer for 1 minute more.
  7. Serve immediately topped with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)

Fettucine with Gorgonzola Sauce

Angela left me to my own devices this past week as she was out of town attending a wedding.  Some may look at this as a tragedy; I merely look at it as an opportunity to eat things she doesn’t like.

In college, I independently developed something similar to this recipe.  It developed as an elaboration of a fettucine alfredo recipe I found in a Betty Crocker cookbook that was owned by my roommate.  I no longer make that recipe as I’ve moved on to better and (to my thinking at least) more authentic recipes.

However, there’s a bit of a story to that fettucine alfredo recipe.  It was one of the first things I ever cooked from a published recipe.  But, more importantly to me at least, was that it was the first thing I ever cooked for Angela.

As documented in the about page, this was an effort to impress here. And apparently it worked.

But that has very little to do with this recipe as Angela doesn’t like Gorgonzola cheese (or really any blue cheese) which is why I made this recipe when she was gone. It’s a rather simple recipe. The most time was taken up in making the pasta.

My pasta making technique has been modified a bit now.  I tend to add a little bit of olive oil and salt to the dough.  I’m not sure if I can taste a difference or not but it’s been working for me.  I also use large eggs now as I’ve started buying the dark yolk eggs from Trader Joe’s.  If anything, the dough has been easier to work with with large eggs as opposed to extra large eggs.

The Gorgonzola sauce is quite good if fattening.  The flavor of the Gorgonzola definitely ripens as it is allowed to sit at room temperature but the sauce itself is very well balanced.  It went well, for me, with a 2005 Palmina Dolcetto.

Homemade Pasta

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1/4 lbs. Gorgonzola, left at room temperature for at least 6 hours
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tbsp butter
salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 lbs. fresh fettuccine (preferably homemade)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan, place the gorgonzola, milk, and butter over low heat.  Stir with a wood spoon, breaking up the gorgonzola.  Cook for a minute or two or until the butter melts.
  2. Add the heavy cream and increase the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the heavy cream has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until slightly undercooked.  Add the pasta to the sauce.
  4. Cook the sauce for 1 minute more, stirring in the pasta.
  5. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 4.

Rigatoni con Prosciutto, Pomodoro, Panna e Peperoncino (Rigatoni with Prosciutto, Tomato, Cream and Hot Chile Pepper)

CRW_1368

One can not have too many simple pasta recipes.

I’m certain that will one day be a universal truth. I find few things more satisfying than pasta. Doublely so when it’s uncomplicated.

I subscribe to the Italian idea that when eating pasta, it’s all about the pasta and not about the sauce. The sauce merely accents the natural flavor of the pasta, not overpowers it.

This recipe is almost too simple. The prosciutto is cooked slightly in butter to release its flavor into the sauce. Then, tomatoes and a bit of cream are added to make the actual sauce. It’s cooked quickly so that the fresh flavor of the tomatoes shows through. A little bit of red pepper gives it a little bit of bite. And it’s served with enough cheese for it to be noticed but not so much that it’s feature attraction.

I love recipes like this partially because they’re simple and fast but more so because the flavors meld together well. It’s balance and perfection.

CRW_1358

Rigatoni con Prosciutto, Pomodoro, Panna e Peperoncino (Rigatoni with Prosciutto, Tomato, Cream and Hot Chile Pepper)
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking: More than 200 authentic recipes from Italy’s family-style restaurants

4 tbsp butter
2 oz. prosciutto, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
28 oz. canned tomatoes run through a food mill
1/3 cup heavy cream
salt
1 lbs. rigatoni
1/2 cup grated parmesan

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 to 40 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cream to the skillet. Season with salt to taste. Cook uncovered at a low simmer for 7 to 8 minutes or until the sauce has a medium-thick consistency.
  3. Cook the rigatoni in boiling water for 1 minute less than the instructions list.
  4. Drain the rigatoni and place in the skillet. Simmer for 1 minute stirring to coat the rigatoni completely.
  5. Serve immediately with the cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 4.