Category Archives: Pasta

Guacamole Pasta Salad

Guacamole Pasta Salad (still waiting for the avocado)

Guacamole Pasta Salad (still waiting for the avocado)

Our posting has been much less frequent than last year but we have still been busy in the kitchen. This summer has been all about canning for me and I have been making batch after batch of jams, relishes, and pickles.  Of course I took a couple of breaks from canning to do some party cooking.  With both Thing 1 and Thing 2 having late summer birthdays there has been lots of cake and also this delicious pasta salad.

Dressing ingredients

Dressing ingredients

The nice thing about this salad is that it comes together quickly and makes enough to serve an army.  Also, it tastes really yummy.  The lime-y dressing is addictive and I find it hard to make it in advance because it ends up poured over everything from steamed vegetables to grilled chicken (which leaves nothing left for the salad).  The dressing volume may seem like a lot but I found the pasta absorbs a lot more than one would think.

Tomatoes ready for roasting

Tomatoes ready for roasting

This dish was inspired by our love of guacamole and the desire to make a pasta salad that was light and fresh tasting, not heavy with mayo.  The avocado gives it a creamy taste that is contrasted nicely by the lime dressing and the bite of the red onion.  The sweet tomatoes finish it off.  So grab a few of the last tomatoes we are likely to see for a while here in the northeast (*sniffle*) and whip this up for one last summer party.

Hello cilantro

Hello cilantro

Guacamole Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

For the dressing

juice and zest of 3 limes (about 3/4 cup of juice)

1/4 cup mild vinegar such as white wine or champagne

3 shallots, chopped

2 tbls Dijon mustard

3 cups of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

For the salad

16 oz rotini or penne pasta

2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes*

3 ripe avocados

1/2 cup minced red onion

1 large bunch fresh cilantro

To Make:

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  In a blender combine the lime juice and zest, vinegar, shallots, and mustard.  Blend until smooth.  With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil until a smooth, emulsified dressing forms.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour 2 cups of the dressing over the still-warm pasta and toss until well combined.

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and fold, along with the onions, into the pasta.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  This can be made a day or two in advance.

Just before serving chop the avocados and fold them into the pasta.  Top with additional dressing as desired (we found we needed quite a bit because the warm pasta absorbed a lot of the dressing) and lots of chopped cilantro.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve immediately.

To Serve:

Serve this salad cold or room temperature.  Because there is no mayonnaise it can safely sit out at a picnic or party for a while.  The avocado will start to turn brown eventually so make sure not to add it until just before serving.  This recipe serves a bunch but it can easily be halved to make a smaller amount.

* The first time I made this salad tomatoes weren’t in season and all I had was a couple of containers of bland-tasting tomatoes from the grocery store.  To up their flavor I drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them on a sheet pan for a couple of hours in a 250 degree oven until they were shriveled and concentrated.  You can do this with in-season tomatoes too.  The flavor is extra delicious.

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Filed under Dairy-free, Pasta, Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Corn Pesto

Corn Pesto

Corn Pesto

Can I share a fear with you?  I am afraid that corn and tomato season is almost over.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall with its cool weather, pretty displays of nature, and pumpkins.  But corn and tomato season sends my heart aflutter and makes me do things like eat tomatoes at every meal and make enough corn and black bean salsa to fill a 5-gallon bucket.

Corn off the cob

Corn off the cob

So while there is still corn left, please make this pesto.  It is a revelation, and I don’t use that word lightly.  Gently cooked corn is pureed and mixed with pine nuts, parmesan, and topped with chopped bacon and basil.  It is so thick and creamy that I contemplated eating it with a spoon like pudding (okay, maybe I actually did that).  The corn is super sweet, the bacon and cheese are salty, and tomatoes add just enough acid to balance the whole dish.

Bacon and tomatoes

Bacon and tomatoes

While we served this over pasta as the recipe suggested, it would also be excellent spread on crusty bread, or eaten with a spoon for breakfast.  Seriously, it is that good.

Smooth and creamy

Smooth and creamy

Corn Pesto

Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped

4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces spaghetti

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely torn

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quarters if very large)

To Make:

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring often. Transfer to paper towels to drain and roughly chop.  Pour off all but 1 tbls bacon drippings from skillet.  Add corn, garlic, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups corn kernels in small bowl and put the remaining corn mixture into a food processor or blender.  Add grated Parmesan and pine nuts and pulse to combine.  Add olive oil through feed tube in a thin stream with machine running and blend until pesto is almost smooth, set aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and the basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency.  This definitely made a very thick pesto that needed some thinning.  Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the bacon.  Divide the cherry tomatoes among each serving.

To Serve:

Serve hot, with additional grated Parmesan as desired.  Serves 6 as a main course.

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Filed under Dinner, Gluten-Free, Meat, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables

Pasta Con Zucchini e Basil

Pasta with zucchini and basil

Pasta Con Zucchini e Basil

Clearly, it has been a while since our last post.  We apologize.  We have nothing to offer except that life has been Busy (with a capital B).  But talking about how busy things are is boring.  Let’s move on to a topic that is more interesting. 

Sliced zucchini

Sliced zucchini

Today I picked my very first sun gold cherry tomato from one of my tomato plants.  It was delicious, though a little tart.  I suspect I picked it a bit early but I don’t care.  I am just happy I got it before the darn chipmunks who have been cheekily plucking my small green tomatoes, eating half of them, and leaving the remaining half to rest forlornly on the driveway.  I am not amused.

Zucchini and onions, hanging out

Zucchini and onions, hanging out

So while it is still a little early here in New England for the late summer glut of tomatoes, we do have lots of zucchini, and lots of basil too.  This dish makes use of both, and is quick enough to make even on the busiest night.  Light and simple, this dish is best made with super fresh ingredients so the individual flavors really shine through.

Tossing the pasta, dinner time!

Tossing the pasta, dinner time!

Pasta Con Zucchini and Basil

Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey

Ingredients:

2 small-medium zucchini

2 tbls butter

2 tbls olive oil

1/2 medium onion, sliced into thin half rings

About 15 basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley

1/2 pound pasta such as rigatoni or penne

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

To Make:

Cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted water until al dente according to package directions.  Drain, reserving a half cup or so of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.  Cut halves crosswise into half moons.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter and oil.  Once the skillet is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft fragrant.  Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 10 minutes).  Chop the herbs and stir them into the zucchini and onion mixture. 

Pour the hot pasta into the skillet, top with grated parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste, and toss it all together.  Add the pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time to moisten the pasta. 

To Serve:

Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese.  Serves 4.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Scallops in Lemon-Basil Cream Sauce

Scallops in Lemon-Basil Cream Sauce

Did you make your preserved lemons yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?  If you had started your preserved lemons a month or two ago, you could make this for dinner tonight!

As the weather turns nicer and the sights and smells of spring are all around, my thoughts turn to lighter fare like seafood, fresh herbs, and pasta dishes.  Don’t let the “cream” in the title fool you, this sauce is lovely and light with the salty-sour taste of preserved lemon mixing with fresh basil.  It is fast and easy to put together, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner.  We used small Maine bay scallops in this recipe but it would be equally lovely with larger scallops.  Please just make sure to source your ingredients carefully.  Don’t go buying farmed seafood from Asia… there aren’t a lot of regulations and lord only knows what kind of stuff might end up in your scallops.

Seared Scallops

P.S., if you don’t have preserved lemon but want to make this anyway, use the zest of a regular lemon instead.  It won’t have quite the same flavor but is will still be fresh and tasty.

P.P.S., if you don’t have any basil laying around, you could substitute fresh thyme or dill for a different, but still lovely taste

Fresh ingredients

Scallops in Lemon-Basil Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

8 oz spaghetti, cooked and drained

8 oz bay scallops

4 tbls butter, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

lemon peel from 1/2 a preserved lemon, finely diced

2 tbls cornstarch

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

To Make:

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter just begins to brown, add the scollops.  Cook for 1 minute, turn over and cook for another minute.  Remove from pan and set aside.

To prepare the preserved lemon, remove it from the jar and rinse well.  Scrape out the pulp and white pith and discard.  Finely chop the peel and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet that you cooked the scallops in.  Using that pan, melt remaining two tbls butter over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sautee until just starting to brown, about 30 seconds.  Add the half-and-half, chicken stock, and preserved lemon.  Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch.  Pour into the sauce and cook for about 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Add the scallops and cooked and drained spaghetti.  Add a small amount of pasta water as needed to thin the sauce.  Stir in the basil just prior to serving.  Top with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

To Serve:

Serve immediately.  Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are.

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Filed under Dinner, Fish, Pasta, Recipes

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

Alex, I’ll take Bacon for $1,000. 

A:  Bacon is a key component to this traditional Roman spaghetti-based meal. 

Q:  What is Spaghetti Carbonara? 

Tonight's starting lineup

I have this very simple cookbook that my Mother gave me when I moved out of the house.  It’s great really; straight forward recipes, nothing complicated, and basic enough that typically I have all the ingredients that I need on hand.  Also, it’s short and focused enough that I can lazily flip through a section to see what strikes my fancy and then make it for dinner that night.  I came across this Spaghetti Cabonara and it struck my fancy.  I had been saving my CSA bacon for something special and this was it.  The best part is that the whole meal comes together quickly with minimal fuss.  Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

Stirring the eggs while piping hot

Spaghetti Carbonara

Adapted from Clueless In the Kitchen by Evelyn Raab 

Ingredients:

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti 

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk 

4 oz pecorino cheese, finely shredded 

6 slices bacon 

To Make: 

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil to cook the pasta. 

While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the bacon until crisp in a large skillet.  Remove the bacon and chop up into crumbles.  Set aside.  Drain all but about 2 tbls of the bacon fat from the skillet 

Beat the egg and the egg yolk and grate cheese.  Set aside 

When the spaghetti is fully cooked, drain, do not rinse it, and pour it into the skillet where the bacon was cooked. 

Immediately add in the cooked bacon and pour in the raw beaten eggs with the shredded cheese to the skillet with the piping hot spaghetti.  Stir to even coat the spaghetti.  The hot spaghetti will cook the raw eggs and transform the mixture into a rich and creamy sauce.

To Serve: 

Best eaten right away!  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with any fresh herbs that suit your fancy.  Serves two as a main course or four as a side dish.

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Filed under CSA Talk, Dinner, Eggs, Meat, Pasta, Recipes

Baked Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese

How do you like your maccaroni and cheese?  Do you like it baked with a crunchy bread crumb layer and stiff enough to slice?  How about from the stove top with a creamy cheese sauce?  Or even (gasp) from the box?  Regardless of how you like it, I highly recommend you give this version a try. 

Spices and onions

This mac and cheese is extra cheesy and has a crunchy panko bread crumb topping.  Whole wheat elbows adds a light nutty flavor (and some extra fiber).  This is the ultimate in comfort food and is ripe for modifications.  I could see additions of bacon or some wilted spinach.  Alternatively, you could throw in some blue or goat cheese for an interesting flavor option.

Making the cheese sauce

This is great right out of the oven or eaten cold out of the fridge the next day.  The perfect dinner for a cold winter Sunday night.

30 minutes to heaven

Baked Mac & Cheese

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking 

Ingredients:

8 oz whole wheat elbow pasta

5 oz mild cheddar, shredded

4 oz Monterey jack, shredded

1 small onion, diced

3 tbls tablespoons butter, divided

2 tbls flour

1 1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp paprika

1 bay leaf

 2 cups milk (2%)

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

To Make:

Shred the cheeses and set aside. 

Fill a large stock pot with water and cook the pasta until just tender, according to the packaged instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and preheat the oven to 350F.

Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 tbls of butter.  Add the diced onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add in the flour, dry mustard, and paprika and whisk to combine.  Cook for 2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out.  Slowly stream the milk into the pot, whisking constantly to incorporate.  Add the bay leaf.  Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.

Remove the cheese sauce from the heat and stir in about two-thirds of the shredded cheese until melted.  Stir in the maccaroni.  Empty about half of the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Layer with half of the remaining cheese.  Empty the rest of the mac into the baking dish. 

In a small skillet, melt 1 tbls of butter.  Add the bread crumbs and stir until lightly browned.  Top the mac and cheese with the remaining cheese and finally the toasted bread crumbs. 

Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

To Serve:

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 6 as a main course.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian

Winter Squash Lasagna

Winter Squash Lasagna

 When we blog, we post recipes that we make that are yummy.  Obviously, we don’t post everything we make, we look for dishes that have something interesting or special about them.  This dish is very, very special.  After dinner tonight, we both agreed that this twist on the classic lasagna is one of the most delicious things we have made in quite a while.

Squash ready for roasting

We got the idea for this dish while browsing through one of our Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks.  The author shared a recipe for a pumpkin and sage lasagna that sounded tasty, but was pretty fussy and complicated.  It called for frying sage leaves and for thickly slicing a seeded and peeled pumpkin and sauteing it before making the lasagna.  With two small children in the house, we don’t really have time for that kind of work.

Mashed squash and ricotta

So we decided to go rogue with the recipe and make it our way.  Our way includes a roasted winter squash whose flesh is folded with whole milk ricotta and flavored with dried sage.  Things get simplified with no-bake lasagna noodles.  It also adds mozzarella cheese to the mix and tops the whole dish with a creamy bechamel sauce that is flavored with bay, thyme, parsley, and black pepper.  Once baked, the lasagna is rich and creamy with balanced sweetness from the squash and savory from the cheeses and herbs. 

Construction

Middle layers

         

Ready for the oven

Fresh out of the oven

         

 

 

 We recommend that you head immediately to your nearest market and purchase one of the many delicious in-season winter squashes currently available and make this dish tonight.  I think I might have to go look for leftovers.

Winter Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:

2lbs winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut (do not use spaghetti squash), cut in half and seeded

1 lb ricotta cheese

2 tsp dried sage

2 tsp kosher salt

3 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

6 whole peppercorns

3 tbls butter

1 large clove of garlic, minced

3 tbls flour

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 package no-boil lasagna noodles

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

To Make:

Roast the winter squash in a 400 degree until tender, about 50-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash).  Remove and let cool.  Meanwhile, pour 3 cups of milk in a saucepan.  Cut a square of cheesecloth (about 8 inches) and place the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley inside.  Gather up the corners to make a packet and tie tightly with twine.  Add the herb packet to the milk and heat over medium heat until gently simmering.  Simmer for 2 minutes (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large bowl.  Mash the squash with a potato masher.  Add the ricotta cheese, sage, 1 tsp of salt, and ground pepper to taste.  Fold the mixture together and set aside. 

To make the bechamel sauce, use a 3-4 quart saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute until just beginning to brown (about 2 minutes) stirring constantly.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about another 2 minutes.  Remove the herb packet from the milk (discard it).  Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly.  Once all the milk has been added, continue to whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with remaining tsp of salt and ground nutmeg.

To Assemble:

In a 9×13 casserole, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Place three lasagna noodles crosswise on top of the sauce.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture and 2 ounces of the mozzarella.  Place three more noodles in the dish.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture, 2 ounces of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.  Repeat the second layer (noodles, the remaining squash, mozzarella).  Top with remaining three noodles, the rest of the bechamel sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the grated parmesan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes and the top is browned and bubbly.

To Serve:

Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves with desired.  Serves 8.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian