Posts Tagged 'Pasta'



Spaghetti alla Amatriciana Bianco

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Simple pasta dinners are a staple in our household (it should really be apartment-hold but I don’t think that’s a real word). The main reason is that we frequently can’t figure out what to actually eat for dinner and we usually get to the point where either I need to make something very fast or we go out to dinner (and, given both of us have an innate frugality, eating out is seldom an option).

This is the point where I usually reach for a simple pasta recipe. This was the situation last night. To complicate matters further, we had spaghetti al pomodoro earlier in the week so a tomato sauce is out.

We eat traditional Bucatini alla Amatriciana relatively regularly (as regularly as anything we eat) so the same dish just without the tomatoes sounded like it could be a winner. And it was quite good. It’s very similar to Spaghetti Alio e Olio, just with panchetta added (and how could that be a bad thing?). The dish is extremely fast: the critical path is the cooking of the pasta. The sauce cooks in about 4 to 5 minutes. The only key is to not put in any more butter or olive oil than specified; if you do, it will end up too oily.

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In other news, we didn’t clean up from the pork chops the other night and we think our cats absconded with the leftovers. Oops. I’m just hoping they didn’t hide it somewhere and we’ll find it in several weeks. Our cats eating pork always makes me imagine the two of them stalking and attacking a pig.

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Spaghetti alla Amatriciana Bianco
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking

1/2 lbs. spaghetti or bucattini
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 oz. panchetta, diced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Italian parsley, diced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving

  1. In boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 1 minute less than indicated on the packaging. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the panchetta and red pepper flakes and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked past, the reserved cooking water, the parsley, and parmesan cheese. Stir and scrap up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute more. Serve with extra grated parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 2.

Spaghetti al Pomodoro (Spaghetti with Tomatoes)

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Sometimes the simplest things are the best. And I think that spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce is one of them. Just the taste of pure, ripe tomatoes. Not overcooked and not overly complicated.

Recently, there was a book published (which I haven’t read) regarding the choice of last meals for chefs (apparently that discussion is popular among chefs). Apparently, the most common selections are simple, classic foods (with Mario Batali a notable exception). I would like to think that spaghetti al pomodoro would be a similar meal. Would it be my choice for a least meal? I don’t know. I don’t particularly relish the idea of devising a last meal.

In any case, I do like simple tomato sauces on pasta. There’s something both comforting and tasty about it. I’ve tried a number of different techniques and, while I still like a complicated ragú based on my grandmother’s, I think I’ve found a good option for a simple and fresh version.

This recipe really depends on the freshness of the tomatoes. I really don’t think it would nearly as well with canned tomatoes (even San Marzano). When we went to the Santa Monica Farmer’s market, I found several smallish tomatoes that were advertised as being especially for sauce. Given that I only ever really use tomatoes for sauces, I figured they’d be a good choice.

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This is fundamentally a simple recipe. The hardest part is making the pasta but that could be easily replaced by factory pasta.

My technique for pasta making comes mainly from experimentation. I have found that a ratio of 1 cup of King Arthur all purpose flour to 1 extra-large egg (the size of the egg is important). This is not the ratio recommended in any cookbook I’ve ever found (most recommend using large eggs but extra-large eggs are cheapest atTrader Joe’s). I don’t know how important the brand of flour is. I always make my pasta by the well method as it doesn’t seem worth dirtying my mixer bowl.

I wouldn’t recommend rolling the pasta by hand. I tried once (before I had a pasta maker) and it was a disaster. Without a pasta maker, use factory made pasta.

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Spaghetti al Pomodoro (Spaghetti with Tomatoes)
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 lbs. tomatoes
1/4 large onion, skin removed
2 1/2 tbsp butter
Fresh pasta made with 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs
2 basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Slice the tomatoes in half vertically and place them in a skillet. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and run them through a food mill (alternately, skin the tomatoes and then dice them).
  3. Return the tomatoes to the skillet and add the onion and butter. Slowly simmer over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Slightly undercook the pasta in salted boiling water (taste the pasta for doneness). Discard the onion and add the pasta to the skillet and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Serve the pasta with slivers of basil leaf and parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 2 or 3.

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Fresh Pasta

1 egg per cup of flour

  1. Place the flour on a board and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well.
  2. Using a fork, mix the eggs together. Slowly, add flour from the edges of the well. Eventually, the mixture will be too mixed to use a fork. Switch to your hands and mix the eggs and flour together.
  3. Once the mixture becomes somewhat homogeneous, start kneading the dough. Knead for several minutes after it has come together.
  4. Divide the dough into fourths. Feed each through the pasta maker individually. Start on the largest setting, feed the dough through, then fold in half, and feed through again. Repeat until the dough has become uniform.
  5. Feed the dough through the pasta maker at smaller settings until reaching the desired thickness (on the Kitchenaid Pasta Maker this is 6 for spaghetti for me). It should go through at least four settings on the pasta maker in total. Sprinkle flour on each piece of dough so it doesn’t stick.  And remember, when determining thickness, the pasta will approximately double in width when it’s cooked.
  6. Cut the dough into the desired shape (I use the larger pasta cutter for the spaghetti al pomodoro).
  7. Coil the pasta together and sprinkle with flour so it doesn’t stick.
  8. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. It will be done about 2 to 3 minutes after it floats to the top.

Serves 1 per egg/cup of flour.

Penne con Fiori di Zucchine (Penne with Zucchini Blossoms)

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Last weekend, we went to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, because the Long Beach Farmers’ Market was closed because of the marathon. While there, I found some zucchini blossoms which aren’t usually sold in Long Beach (we have options for which vendor to buy something from but there isn’t a whole lot of variety in types of produce). I spent most of the week trying to make something with them but we kept getting side tracked with other options for dinner (we, uh, mostly ate out this week).

I had never actually eaten zucchini blossoms before but they always looked good on television (I have a confession to make: I watch way too much of Molto Mario). So I had no idea if I’d like them or what the best way to prepare them was. So I just picked something that looked reasonably good. I also needed something where the pickier eater in the family would have something to eat (it bothers me when she makes instant macaroni & cheese or a microwavable pizza when I’m at home) no matter what.

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So I ended up making pasta because at worst we could eat the pasta. And the pasta was quite good. It was good enough that this dish would be good without the zucchini blossoms. Angela described it as being both light and heavy at the same time and I’d have to agree. It had body but it wasn’t overly heavy and filling. It was really just a nice pasta dish.

I did like the zucchini blossoms but the blossoms themselves seem to get lost in the sauce of this dish. I believe they add flavor but I’m not sure if this is the best use of the zucchini blossoms themselves (next time I find them I may try stuffing and frying them).

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Penne con Fiori di Zucchine (Penne with Zucchini Blossoms)
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking

6 small zucchini flowers with small zucchini attached
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz. panchetta, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and black pepper
1/2 pound penne
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

  1. Separate the flowers from the zucchini. Remove the stamen (the part inside the flower) and any remaining stem from the flowers and zucchini. Rinse the flowers and zucchini under cold water and dry with paper towels. Cut the flowers into quarters lengthwise. Slice the zucchini thinly.
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 1 minute less than specified by the directions.
  3. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the panchetta and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, flowers, and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the wine and stir, scrapping any brown bits, until the wine is almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the broth and the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the sauce is thickened about 4 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked pasta and cook for one minute more, stirring regularly.
  7. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Serves 2.

Pasta with Corn, Pancetta, and Sage

Pasta with Corn, Pancetta, and SageAs a big fan of corn, pancetta, and pasta, one would think that combining them would be a no brainer. However, I never thought of it. And why would you? Pasta is Italian and corn is American. And Italian-American food has been relegated to cheap restaurants that those in the know would never eat at (apparently I am not in the know and I’m pretty happy there).

This recipe comes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook which was helpfully provided to me by our local library (as I’m too poor to purchase it for myself right now). This dish is basically creamed corn with pancetta and a bit of sage mixed with pasta. The sage flavor is not particularly pronounced so increase the amount if you, unlike my wife, like sage a lot. The original recipe called for 5 to 6 small ears of corn but, given that I buy corn priced by the ear, I used 3 large ears instead. There may be a flavor difference but as long as I don’t try it, I’ll be happy with the cheaper version (that was, until recently, my theory with sushi; as long as I don’t know what I’m missing, I’m okay).

Pasta with Corn, Pancetta, and Sage
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

2 1/2 cups fresh corn (about 3 large ears)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3 oz pancetta, cubed
6 sage leaves, diced
1 lb. fresh egg pasta, preferably linguine
salt and pepper
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese

  1. Using a knife, slice the corn kernels off of the ear into a bowl. Then, run the back of the knife at a 45 degree angle to the ear to force out all the starchy liquid. Combine the liquid and the corn.
  2. Boil waiter for the pasta and cook until slightly underdone. Reserve pasta water.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the pancetta and saute until lightly browned.
  4. Turn off heat, add sage and 1 tablespoon butter. Allow the sage to seep for 1 minute.
  5. Add 6 tablespoons of butter and turn heat to medium. When the butter is melted, add the corn and liquid. Cook until warmed through and the liquid in the pan thickens slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add cooked pasta to the corn and toss. Finish cooking the pasta with the corn.
  7. Off heat, add Parmesan cheese and retaste for seasoning.

Serves 4.


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