Category Archives: Pasta

Mom was very, very right.

Standard
Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Photography by Sam Armocido

When Mom said we were having a vegetable for dinner – say zucchini or green beans – it was, typically, just that. They were steamed, seasoned with salt and pepper, and possibly tossed with fresh herbs, usually parsley or basil from the garden. If Mom felt the rest of the meal was sufficiently healthy, she would add a small pat of butter. This, it turns out, is a fabulous way to serve almost any vegetable.

We should have been less surprised then, I suppose, by the overwhelming success of a recent attempt at zucchini pasta. I think it was the “pasta” that misled us. I mean, I have trouble thinking that sautéed strips of squash are in any way going to deliver the deep satisfaction of semolina spaghetti. I was wrong. (And, because I would never hear the end of it from my husband, let’s keep that little admission just between us.)

The long strips we quickly shaved with a vegetable peeler resembled wide pappardelle noodles. Cooked over low heat to keep the flavor light, we tossed in garlic and a splash of lemon juice, fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese. We then made another batch, arguing that we should probably try adding fresh tomato.

Our third panful confirmed it was actually fine without the tomato, and the fourth we needed for a photograph. We are currently planning future batches to serve under chicken piccata and shrimp scampi.

You know, just to be on the safe side, I going to retract any admission that I was wrong. Let’s simply say my Mom was very, very right.

Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!*
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1-2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*We use Sapore’s Frantoio, a light, buttery Italian oil. (Which you can order online.)

Directions:

  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat in a 12” skillet. Add zucchini and sauté, turning often with tongs, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes longer.
  • In skillet, toss in parsley, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Advertisements

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Standard

It’s been a dry summer in Southern Virginia on the Chesapeake. Irrigation ponds are down four feet or more and many farmers have  let row crops slide to take care of their livestocks’ drinking needs. on a personal – and  far lesssignificant – level, this means that Ellis and Paul won’t be picking up crates of late season tomatoes on their Sunday drives home from the Northern Neck.

My husband Jason has mixed emotions about this. On one hand, it means no frantic Tuesday nights spend blanching, peeling and seeding a couple hundred tomatoes before they go bad. On the other, it threatens a winter freezer free of quart after quart of tomato sauce, preserving the fresh, bright taste of late summer tomatoes and licorice-y basil.

I blame Jason’s conflicted feelings on Andrew Carmellini. His cookbook, Urban Italian, contains a fresh sauce recipe so perfect that we haven’t changed a thing. It may be the one recipe I have never tweaked, not even a little. Lots of fresh tomatoes, cooked quickly and seasoned with basil and garlic-infused olive oil create a bright, sweet and spicy sauce, as easy and non-complex on your palate as it is to cook in 45 minutes per batch.

In Ellis and Paul’s stead, I’m reaching out to Dan at Agora Farms, who can hook me up with the best tomatoes grown in Lancaster County, PA. Dan, we’re going to be needing tomatoes. And lots of them!

Summer Fresh Tomato Sauce

You can use plum tomatoes, like Romas or San Marzanos, for a richer sauce. I don’t even bother to peel and seed them. They will release a lot less water, so take less out and keep a close eye on them. 

Peeled tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh beefsteak type tomatoes*
  • 1 head garlic, top chopped to expose cloves
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil – the good stuff!**

*Three fresh tomatoes and a pound of pasta will make a hearty meal for four people. Don’t worry about being too exact on the infused oil proportions, just make a little less and add it to taste.

**I’ll be using the spicy Sicilian oil from Sapore.

 

Sauce on the stove

Directions:

  • To peel tomatoes, cut an “X” in the skin at the base and blanch them in boiling water until the skin wrinkles and cracks – 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shock the tomatoes in ice water. The skins will slide off easily. Return the water to a boil between batches.
  • To seed tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze them over the sink, watch for seed explosions that will cover the walls of your kitchen. Laugh richly and keep going.
  • Chop tomatoes roughly and place in a large, shallow stock pot over medium heat. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt.
  • Cook tomatoes until soft and bright red, about 45 minutes.
  • Remove liquid while cooking. A total of about 2-3 cups. You want the sauce to remain wet and liquid, but not soupy. Save some of the tomato water in case you take too much out early on.
  • While tomatoes cook, place garlic, basil, pepper flakes and olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until basil begins to crackle and pop. Reemove from heat and let the flavors infuse the oil for twenty-ish minutes.
  • Strain oil into tomatoes. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Blend with masher or immersion blender.
  • Will freeze through the winter. (If you don’t eat it all immediately!)

Alice Waters, this combination is divine.

Standard

Corn and Zucchini Pasta’s inclusion in Chez Panisse Vegetables is more of a concept than a recipe. Alice provides ingredients and technique leaving the vagaries of measurements and time to the individual cook. This is recipe trading grandmother style. “What do you mean measurements? You can just feel when you’ve got it right.”

It’s a gift. You learn more in the making than you ever could in rote execution. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Practice your knife skills. Cut the zucchini down into a 1/4″ dice, approximately the same size as the corn kernels.
  • Fresh pasta isn’t just un-dried. Fresh pasta is traditionally made with eggs and soft wheat “00” flour while dried pasta is made with just hard durum wheat and water. An easy rule of thumb is to use fresh pasta for light dishes and cream sauces. Dried pasta is your choice for heartier sauces like Bolognese and Carbonara.
  • Large pasta is tough to mix with small ingredients. When tossing the corn and zucchini with the fresh fettucini that Alice recommends, you end up with all the veggies in the bottom of the bowl. Orzo is easier to mix through.
  • Butter is a condiment. Add it at the end. Don’t even think of leaving it out. It adds a necessary richness.

Corn And Zucchini Pasta

This tastes just as good hot as it does as a cold pasta salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large candy sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 cups zucchini, finely diced (about 1-2 medium)
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 cup Orzo, uncooked
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2-3 tbs chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Champagne Mimosa or Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • Bring a 4 qt pot of water to a boil and salt heavily, 2 tbs.
  • Heat olive oil in a 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
  • Add garlic and jalapeño and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Turn up heat to medium high and add zucchini.
  • When you add the zucchini to the pan, add the pasta to boiling water.
  • When zucchini is softened but firm add corn and cook 1 minute.
  • When pasta is still undercooked – firm in the center, strain it, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta and liquid to vegetables. Cook until water has evaporated.
  • Add cilantro and butter. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.

Without exception.

Standard

Absolutes are rare in cooking. Once you learn the basics of technique and flavor you can experiment freely – recognizing you’re going to bomb every once in a while and that every truly great dish has been practiced and refined over time. While researching broccoli rabe last week, I discovered an exception to this rule. Every single recipe I read began with blanching and included garlic and red pepper flakes.

Now, I’m sure there’s an exception out there somewhere, but once I spent some time getting to know broccoli rabe, it all made sense. Though it looks like broccoli, broccoli rate is closer in relation to the turnip, another member of the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and kale. It has a sharp bitterness to it which is abated by blanching. The heat of the pepper flakes and richness of lightly browned garlic reveal subtler flavors in the rabe.

While there is no sauce in this pasta, I used a common Italian technique of adding the pasta cooking liquid to the sauté pan, along with slightly undercooked pasta, and letting the dish come together while the liquid is absorbed or evaporates. This leaves the pasta almost as flavorful as the greens.

Broccoli Rabe with Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems cleaned and peeled, and damaged leaves removed*
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs chopped oregano
  • More olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 1 pound dried penne or farfalle
  • Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*Chop off the bottom 1/2″ of the stems, then peel them. If your rabe is very leafy, remove the leaves, blanch them separately, and add them about 2 minutes after adding the stems so that they do not become over-cooked.

Directions:

  • Blanch broccoli rabe for 1 minute in salted, boiling water and remove to ice bath. When cool, drain.
  • Chop broccoli rabe into 1” pieces.
  • Boil water and start cooking pasta.
  • Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and cook until starting to light brown. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add pepper flakes, cook for 30 sec.
  • Add broccoli rabe and cook 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.
  • When pasta is almost ready, drain, reserving two cups of liquid.
  • Add pasta and liquid to broccoli rabe. Cook until liquid reduces to coat pasta.
  • Toss with oregano, additional olive oil, cheese, pepper and salt.

These are not pictures of arugula walnut pesto.

Standard

The pictures shown here are of a wonderful sage, brown butter sauce served over penne with sharp asiago and rich, earthy walnuts. However, I don’t have any pictures to go with this delicious pesto recipe so they’ll have to do. Thank you for your understanding…

Marvin Ogburn from Long Meadow Farm emailed me one Friday morning. “I have A LOT of arugula this week. What can you do with it?” We headed to the kitchen that night and worked on an arugula pesto. Out of several variations we learned that blanching the leaves first removes too much of the arugula flavor, chopping the walnuts before lightly toasting them eliminates the raws taste without burning the outsides, and salt carefully – the cheese already adds a lot. We tested the recipe over pasta, but it was wonderful the next morning, at Eastern Market, over boiled and sliced fingerling potatoes.

*Did you have a copy of Free Stuff for Kids when you were young? It was a list of free things you could send away for. Often they required so many boxtops or SASE’s that no one but a bored child would ever actually send away for them. I remember at least one or two required some small change, usually a couple quarters, to pay for printing of the edifying pamphlet describing banana spiders or the geography of Arkansas that you would receive in return. The instructions always admonished that the coins needed to be securely taped to your request letter. I assumed that not doing so would shame my elders.

While this comment seems totally random, I am going somewhere with it. I really think you should try this recipe in a mortar and pestle. It’s a little more work, but the texture and control over the final product is well worth it. As an incentive, if you give it a try, send me an email at jonathan.bardzik@gmail.com. I will send you a letter of congratulations and two quarters. I’ll make sure they are securely taped.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese*
  • 2 cups arugula (not packed)
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil – the good stuff

* Grate the parmesan on the middle side of a box grater. This gives you a nice bite of cheese and doesn’t get too gummy when pounded.

Directions:

This can be made either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.

By hand:

  • Add garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Pound garlic into a paste.
  • Toast walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Watch carefully, nuts burn quickly. they are ready when golden and lightly fragrant.
  • Add walnuts to garlic paste and pound until it looks like thick, chunky peanut butter.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and pound until incorporated.
  • Add the arugula a handful at a time and pound away. Add more when you have room in your mortar.
  • Add cracked pepper to taste. Start with 5-6 grinds and go from there.
  • Add olive oil to thin and bind. Start with a table spoon. You shouldn’t need more than two.

Note: If your paste gets too thick during pounding, you can add a little olive oil to thin it out.

In a food processor:

  • Add garlic, walnuts and cheese to a food processor. Pulse until chopped together. About 4-6 times.
  • Add arugula and process until coarsely blended. Keep it rustic as opposed to pureed.
  • Remove pesto to a bowl. Stir in pepper, salt and olive oil.