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Pasta With Basil Pesto And Zucchini

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Zucchini

 Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe?
Just when you’d like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If
you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in
time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks.
Don’t cut off all the basil leaves however – just trim back to a
juncture above a pair of leaves.
If
you don’t prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start
to flower), the basil will go to seed and you’ll lose the opportunity
for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they’re aren’t fresh tomatoes for a salad?
That’s easy. Make pesto!
I’ve written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.
Since
I recently had some zucchini from the farmer’s market looking for a
home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If
you’re a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto
with a mortar and pestle – the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of
my cousins.

Not up for so much elbow grease? No problem. It’s a snap to make in a food processor.

You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Buon Appetito!
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Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
These amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil
into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course,
your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1
pound pasta – trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with
this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice
too.
Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.
Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.
If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and
place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small
amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until
it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it
falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
 Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze
it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are
ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried
basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to
help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a
little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and
add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience
and time.
After
the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding
onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the
sauce when you’re mixing the pesto into the pasta.

Mix
the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss
everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the
sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

It’s anybody’s guess whether this dish is really Italian or not. Some claim the dish was invented at Dante’s, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. Luigi Franzese, a chef at New York’s Orsini restaurant in the 1970s is also sometimes credited. But other sources relate that a certain James Doty, a graduate of Colombia University, was the originator.
While its origins are murky, the flavor is not.
I’ve never seen it on a menu in Italy, but it’s certainly ubiquitous here in the states and for good reason — it tastes delicious.
It’s also perfect for the home cook owing to its ease of preparation. The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.
It’s also perfect for those of you thinking of meatless dishes to prepare for Lent.
So what are you waiting for?
Pour yourself a Bloody Mary, but set aside a little of that vodka for Penne Alla Vodka.

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Penne Alla Vodka
printable recipe here1 lb. penne pasta

2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic
4 cups tomato sauce (1 lb. 13 oz. can)
1/2 cup vodka
salt, pepper
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cream
fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table.Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until wilted. Add the tomato sauce, vodka, salt, pepper and a little of the basil, saving some whole leaves to decorate with at the end.
Cook the sauce over high heat until it starts to “sputter,” then lower immediately to a simmer for about 15 minutes to a half hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, adding salt. Dump the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, stir the cream into the sauce at low heat. When the pasta is al dente, drain it from the water and add it to the pot with the sauce. (I like to take out a little sauce from the pot in case it is too much sauce for the pasta. I don’t like my pasta to be “swimming” in sauce – just dressed lightly. You can always add it back in if it’s not enough).
Stir the pasta into the sauce while you have it over a simmer, until the sauce is permeated through the pasta. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Serve with more grated cheese at the table.

Christmas Snowflake Pasta

Christmas Snowflake Pasta

 During a recent visit to Williams-Sonoma, I spotted bags filled with this snowflake (fiochi di neve) pasta and knew it would be perfect for this holiday season.

  I have a weakness for pasta shapes, and there are always at least five or six different kinds in my cabinet.
There are umpteen ways you could dress this pasta, but I thought it deserved a festive red and green treatment with Christmas just around the corner. Using just what I had in the fridge and freezer (part of a red pepper, half a bag of peas, some ricotta and parmesan cheese), dinner was on the table in the time it took to boil the pasta.
Of course, you can make this recipe with any pasta shape, but the snowflakes are just so apropos for this time of year. If you do use this snowflake pasta, with this recipe or any other (click here to buy it) take a photo and email it to me. I’d love to see your creation.
Buon Natale!

Christmas Snowflake Pasta
printable recipe here
makes two very generous portions

8 ounces (half a bag) snowflake pasta (available from Williams Sonoma)
1/2 to 3/4 of a red pepper (about 1/2 cup), diced
about 3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt, pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)
pasta water
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
minced parsley

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until almost done. It will cook a little longer in the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Sauté the onion and pepper at low to medium heat in the olive oil until softened. Add the frozen peas and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Using a slotted spoon or “spider” tool, drain the pasta right into the pan with the peas and red peppers. It’s ok if some of the pasta water gets into the pan too. In fact, you’ll need to reserve about a cup of the pasta water for this recipe. You may not use all the water – maybe only half of it – but it’s good to have it on hand.
After draining the pasta into the red peppers and peas mixture, add spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese and some of the reserved pasta water. Stir and blend everything together. You want it to be moist, not dry, and you may need to add more pasta water as the pasta continues to absorb it. Keep stirring in the rest of the ricotta and pasta water (at low heat)  until you have the desired consistency – not soupy, but not dry either). Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, leaving some to serve at the table. Sprinkle with a little minced parsley and serve.

Corzetti With Pine Nut Sauce

Corzetti with Pine Nut Sauce

 One of the true joys of traveling is discovering people who are maintaining culinary traditions that might otherwise be lost. One of these is undoubtedly Pietro Picetti, who seems to have almost single-handedly breathed new life into the centuries-old tradition of making pasta using a corzetti stamp, sometimes spelled crozetti, corzeti, crosetti, or cruxettu. 

 
 However you spell it, corzetti are delicious, and were traditionally served with a meat sauce, Mr. Picetti said, but now are more likely to be served with a basil pesto or a pine nut sauce.
A banker for 35 years, Mr. Picetti has been hand-carving these beautiful pasta tools for the last 20 years, resurrecting a lost art and a form of pasta that was almost relegated to history.
Three hundred years ago, he said, every family had its own stamp, and noble families had theirs imprinted with the family coat of arms.
The pasta shape is older than that however, since documents in the archives in Genoa attest to the presence of corzetti at a banquet held for the king of Morocco in 1362. But through the centuries, the custom was lost, even in Mr. Picetti’s home town of Varese Ligure, where the local people had nearly forgotten what corzetti were,  he said.
Mr. Picetti owns several corzetti stamps that hail back to past generations of his family, including his great grandfather’s. He even owns one dating back to 1700.
The wood used is either pear, chestnut or beech and the designs are as varied as Mr. Picetti’s imagination. Some are traditional, but others spring from his mind and hands as he’s working the wood.
His customers come from around the globe, including Kazakhstan, Australia, and Korea – at least 50 countries around the world.
Some are special requests, such as restaurants who have a personal emblem, or companies that want their logo imprinted on the stamp. He’s had requests for logo designs of international companies like Alfa Romeo and Trussardi.
I asked Mr. Picetti to make one using my blog name, and this is what arrived in the mail three weeks after I visited his workshop:
Mr. Picetti doesn’t own business cards. Instead, he said, his business card is his corzetti stamp, with his signature printed on the underside of the cutting edge. By the way, never wash the stamp with water, he advised, but just wipe clean with a dishtowel.
I’ve already put my newly purchased stamp to work a couple of times since I got back from Italy less than 10 days ago.  After you cut out the circles with the sharper edge, take one of the pasta disks and place it between the imprinting sections, then press hard. The dough needs to be soft, but covered with a light dusting of flour so it won’t stick to the wood.
Another day, I took the stamp to my dad’s, (and I gave him one of his own too) and we set to work making the recipe included with the stamp. It’s an unusual recipe, to me at least, because when I make pasta, I use only flour and eggs, or only flour and water, but never flour, water and eggs, as Mr. Picetti’s recipe calls for. But I followed the recipe and the dough came out perfectly. (However his lack of measurement in the recipe that includes “a glass of water” left me wondering exactly how big that glass would be.)
The recipe made a lot, and I forgot to count the total amount, but I’m sure it was at least 100 corzetti. We were serving six people at my dad’s house and had plenty.
In the photo below, you can see the imprint of “Ciao Chow Linda” and the fancy design on the other side of my corzetti stamp.
We made two kinds of sauces for our pasta last week — one platter with basil pesto, and the other with pine nuts, parmigiana and butter, just like I ate in Varese Ligure. I think it’s become my new favorite pasta dressing.
Click on the video below and listen to Mr. Picetti speak about corzetti.
For more about corzetti, visit Adri Barr Crocetti’s terrific food blog. She’s written extensively about them and is a great source on all things corzetti. Click here to view one of her posts on corzetti.
And if you can’t get to Mr. Picetti’s workshop, you can order a corzetti stamp from Artisanal Pasta Tools in California. Click here for their website.
And finally, a big thank you to Pamela Sheldon Johns, for sharing lunch with me in Liguria, and for leading me to Pietro Picetti. Click here for more information on her B&B in Tuscany and here for her culinary tours in Italy.



Printable recipe here
Corzetti Dough (Mr. Picetti’s recipe – he says it’s enough for four people, but that would have to be four very hungry people because it makes at least 100 corzetti)
600 grams flour (about 4 cups)
3 eggs
1 glass of salted water (about 8 oz., but don’t dump it all in at once)

Mix the flour eggs and half of the water in a food processor. Turn on the processor and slowly add enough water until you get a soft dough. Remove it from the processor and knead it on the counter until it feels smooth. Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand by putting the flour into a bowl or on a kitchen counter. Create a “well” and crack the eggs into the center, beating them with a fork and blending them into the flour, adding the water, a bit at a time. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth, then let it rest for about 20 minutes).
Run the dough through a pasta machine (or roll by hand) until the dough is thin, but not so thin that it falls apart when pressed on the stamp. Cut out circles using the sharpest edge of the stamp, then place the circle of dough on the stamp and press down.
Cook the corzetti in boiling salted water for about six or seven minutes, and top with sauce and parmigiano cheese.


Pine Nut Sauce  (adapted from Mr. Picetti’s recipe – enough for four people)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic (optional)
a couple of sprigs of fresh marjoram or fresh oregano
4 T. butter
a few tablespoons of milk, if necessary
parmesan cheese

Place the pine nuts, garlic and marjoram into a small chopper or food processor. Blend until crushed. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the pine nut mixture. If necessary, thin it out with some milk.
Toss with the pasta, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Busiati With Pesto Trapanese

Busiati with Pesto Trapanese

  The tomato love continues — Here’s yet another way to use up some of those tomatoes ripening by the bushel in your garden. For those of you without your own vegetable gardens, get yourself to a farmer’s market or roadside stand to buy some, because this recipe is not only delicious, but fast and easy to prepare. A food processor is all you need – no cooking required, except for dropping the pasta into boiling water (and when Italians are ready to boil the pasta, they say “butta la pasta” which literally means “throw the pasta”).

In this case, I used busiati, a long, twisty, corkscrew-like pasta, but if you can’t find it, use fusilli.

Busiati is the traditional pasta shape that’s used with pesto Trapanese, a sauce that hails from Trapani, a city on the western coast of Sicily. The origins of the dish are unclear. Some say it was inspired by pesto Genovese, from Ligurian sailors who were stopping off at Trapani’s port. Others claim it’s derived from Liguria’s agliata, a pasta dish using only olive oil, garlic, walnuts and tomatoes.

Whatever its origin, it’s now become part of my summertime repertoire when tomatoes are plentiful and at their peak.
Here are the cast of characters for this dish: cherry tomatoes (you can use plum or heirloom or any type, really), extra virgin olive oil, whole almonds, garlic, salt, basil, and red hot pepper flakes. I used parmesan cheese but you could also use pecorino cheese.
Keep some of that hot pasta water handy in case you want to thin out the sauce.
My favorite way to eat this dish is hot, although it tastes good lukewarm or cold too.
Everything gets thrown into a blender and whirred until it’s creamy. It may not be the most attractive looking pesto, but it sure tastes great.

 

The sauce is also delicious on broiled or baked chicken or fish, or vegetables, or even as a spread on sandwiches.

But first try it on pasta. I’ll bet it becomes one of your favorite summer meals.



Ciao Chow Linda is also on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to connect with me on Facebook, here for my Pinterest page, and here for my Instagram page to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me this Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer’s Market, when I’ll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.



Pesto Trapanese
From Lidia’s Italy
printable recipe here
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 leaves fresh basil
⅓ cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the pasta al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

My Big Fat Raviolo

My Big Fat Raviolo

When San Domenico restaurant was still on New York City’s Central Park South, I ordered its signature dish – a plate-sized, single raviolo filled with ricotta cheese and a egg yolk that oozed decadently onto your plate when you broke through the pasta. Combine that with a parmesan cheese and sage sauce and you’ve got a celestial forkful of goodness. The only thing that could elevate it to truly divine status would be a shaving of truffles on top. I’ve been thinking about that dish ever since I first ate it years ago and wanting to recreate it at home. This was the year I finally did, for our Thanksgiving first course. It was just as special as I remembered it. Although my pocketbook didn’t allow for the truffle indulgence, this dish still has such a wonderful taste and mouth feel, that you won’t miss it.  I urge you to try it for your next special event. It’s a bit tricky to make in large quantities, only because of the size of the pots needed, so I caution you to make this only when your group is eight or less.

I started out by making some fresh pasta, but if you want to take the easy route, buy some fresh pasta sheets. A few pasta makers, like Rana, for instance, sell fresh pasta sheets for lasagna, and they’d work just fine. If they’re a little on the thick side, just roll them thinner with a rolling pin.
After rolling out the dough, I cut out disks using a plastic container from the deli as a guide. It was about four inches in diameter. This pasta recipe makes enough for about sixteen of these disks, which is what you’ll need for eight servings.

Just work with a third of the dough at a time, leaving the rest covered under a bowl or in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

Top it with a mixture of ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and spinach (or in my case, wild broccoli rape I foraged and froze.) I forgot to add an egg to the ricotta mixture itself and it was fine, but I might try adding it the next time I make this. Create a little “nest” with the ricotta mixture and drop in a medium size egg yolk.
Wet the outside edge with some water and place another disk of pasta on top, securing all around the edge with the tines of a fork.
Drop the disks in a pot of boiling water only long enough to cook to the “al dente” stage. This could take as little as two to three minutes.You don’t want to cook it so much that the egg yolk hardens. Then, remove the disks from the water, and in another large, shallow pan, add butter, some of the pasta water and sage. Sprinkle heavily with freshly ground black pepper.

Place each raviolo in individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some of the sauce from the pan.

A lovely and delicious surprise is waiting for you when you cut into it.

Here comes the sun! This might seem like a difficult dish to make, but it’s not. The important thing is to use quality fresh ingredients and not to prepare too far ahead of time. I assembled these about one hour before cooking them. I wouldn’t do it more than two or three hours ahead of time, because I’d be afraid that the dough would absorb too much of the liquid from the ricotta mixture, even though I’d drained it overnight.

Here’s a little video of me assembling the ravioli. I hope it inspires you to try it at home.

Big Fat Raviolo

printable recipe here

dough (enough to make eight large ravioli or sixteen disks)

3/4  cup semolina flour (I used a mixture of semolina flour and Italian “double zero” flour, which makes for a more “toothy” dough, but next time I might use all “double zero” flour, or unbleached white flour for a “softer bite,” since I was concerned that the egg yolk would harden in the time it took to cook the pasta through. It didn’t, but using a softer flour would insure a quicker cooking time for the pasta.)
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2 large eggs

 

 

Place most of the semolina and regular flour into a food processor bowl. Keep about 1/4 cup of the flour or semolina aside. Add the eggs, then pulse the ingredients until a ball starts to form. Add more flour or semolina if it seems too sticky. Put on a board and knead, adding more flour as needed. Let it rest under a bowl, or covered with plastic wrap, for at least a half hour. Work the dough through a pasta machine per instructions with the machine. Make sure to flour the dough as you make each pass through the rollers, so it won’t stick.
Cut out the disks using a small plate, or a plastic deli container as a pattern.
Filling
 
2 cups ricotta cheese, drained overnight
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 large egg
a grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup of chopped spinach, squeezed really dry  (I used foraged broccoli rape but not everyone has that option)
8 medium size eggs
Mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Place some of the filling on each of the disks, and create a little “nest” by indenting the center of the ricotta filling. With the medium eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and save the whites for another recipe. Drop a yolk into the center of each ricotta “nest” then wet the rim of the pasta disk with water. Place another pasta disk on top and pressing gently from the center, seal the edges with your fingers. Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the disk a little more securely.
Sauce
8 T. butter
pasta water
fresh sage leaves (at least eight to 12, depending on size)
freshly cracked black pepper
parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Boil the ravioli in a pot of water for about two to four minutes. A lot will depend on the type of flour you used and the thickness of your raviolo. In a separate large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sage, then remove each cooked raviolo from the pasta pot and add to the butter sauce. Add water from the pasta pot to keep the ravioli from sticking and to create a slight “sauce.” Serve each raviolo in a single bowl, topped with parmesan cheese and a sage leaf that’s been cooking in the sauce.
Lemon Spaghetti With Swiss Chard

Lemon Spaghetti with Swiss Chard

  I don’t live in a warm place like California or Florida or Arizona (or the Amalfi coast-sigh), where people are lucky enough to pluck fresh lemons from backyard trees. I have to rely on the supermarket variety. But with a box of pasta and organic lemons from a high quality grocery store, you can still serve a flavorful and easy-to-make pasta dish that will earn you raves. Add some Swiss chard to the mix and you’ll also garner a few kudos for the extra nutrition factor.

In support of the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative (PSGC), a wonderful group that fosters garden and food-based education in our local schools and community, I’m posting this recipe with chard for their “Garden State on Your Plate” program. Chard will debut in chef-led tastings at the Princeton elementary schools this fall, with more farm products to follow. PSGC has its own website (http://www.psgcoop.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/psgcoop.org), Twitter (https://twitter.com/psgcooporg) and Instagram account (psgcoop), so hop on over and cheer them on.
But don’t forget to give this recipe a try. It comes together in practically the time it takes to boil pasta, and the fresh flavors will have you and your family asking for seconds. Maybe even planning a trip to Sorrento!

Lemon Spaghetti with Swiss Chard
printable recipe here

1/4 cup minced sweet onion (like Vidalia)
6 – 10 large Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper

grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti or linguini
1 1/2 cups – 2 cups of pasta water
more parmesan cheese for serving
fresh basil, optional

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until limp, then add the Swiss chard and sauté for a few minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Grate the zest of three lemons and squeeze the juice from them, discarding the seeds.
Bring the water to boil in a large pot and add a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta al dente, especially since you’ll add it back into the pot for a few minutes with the sauce. Drain the pasta, but reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water.
Set aside the pasta while you make the sauce.
It takes only a few minutes so don’t worry about the pasta getting cold.
Use the same pot in which you boiled the pasta and put in the lemon zest, olive oil, heavy cream and about 1 cup of the pasta water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the pasta to the pot and lower the heat to medium, all the while stirring everything together. Add the lemon juice, the parmesan cheese, and the cooked Swiss chard and stir vigorously. Keep adding more pasta water until there is enough sauce. Some people like the sauce to be very loose, so if you’re one of them, add more of the pasta water and keep stirring. Taste and season with more salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with additional parmesan cheese. If you have fresh basil, add a generous sprinkling of that at the end too.

Mezzi Rigatoni With Sausage And Butternut Squash Sauce

Mezzi Rigatoni With Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce

 When I was designated a “blogger ambassador” for  La Cucina Italiana magazine a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what that entailed, but I soon found out when I received a package of goodies with several boxes of Del Verde pasta and a bottle of Lucini olive oil too.  Along with these products came an invitation to participate in a promotion called “Dish Your Blog with Delverde Pasta.” I was already familiar with Delverde’s pasta, which to me is one of the best commercial brands on the market.

A couple of years ago, I traveled to Fara San Martino, in Abruzzo, where DelVerde is located, although I never got to see the inside of DelVerde’s manufacturing plant. The Maiella mountains dominate the landscape at this spot in the Appenines and the Verde river, whose waters are used to make this world-famous pasta, runs through here.
 Del Verde’s pasta has long been a favorite with me, so it was a pleasure to concoct a recipe for the contest.
I used the mezzi rigatoni variety, which to me cries out for a lusty sauce and hearty accompaniments. Sausage just seemed to fit the bill here, and butternut squash too, one of my favorite fall vegetables. The dish needed something to counter the sweetness of the squash, so I added some wild greens I had picked earlier this spring and tucked away in the freezer. Broccoli rape or Tuscan kale would work well here too.
Roast the squash in the oven for about an hour until it’s soft enough to scoop out with a spoon. Depending on the size of the squash, you may need to use only half of it – or more, or less.
Sauté shallots and garlic, plus some sage leaves in a bit of olive oil. You’ll later purée this in a blender or food processor with the squash and some chicken broth.
The greens were cooked in water, then drained and sautéed with garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. The sausage was cut into small pieces, then browned and drained of grease.
Then comes the fun part – mixing it all together (well, actually eating it is more fun). Sprinkle it with grated parmesan cheese and dig in.



Disclosure: “This recipe is posted as an entry in the Delverde DISH YOUR BLOG recipe contest. The winner receives a trip to NYC and the opportunity to prepare the dish at a GE Showroom in midtown, Manhattan. I received free sample products in addition to the opportunity to compete for the prize.”


Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce
Printable Recipe Here

2 shallots or 1 medium onion, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sage leaves

1 butternut squash
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 lb. sausage, cut into small pieces
1 cup greens (wild greens, broccoli rape, swiss chard or kale)
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for sautéeing the greens
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

1 lb. mezzi rigatoni or other sturdy-shaped pasta

grated parmesan cheese.

Cut the butternut squash in half and smear the cut ends with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the flesh is soft enough to scoop. You will need about 2 cups of the butternut squash. Depending on the size of the squash, it may be half of the squash, or more, or less.

Sauté the shallots and garlic in the olive oil until limp. Add the sage leaves and cook for another minute or two. Remove three of the sage leaves, but leave one of them with the shallots.

Place the shallots mixture (and one of the sage leaves) and the 2 cups squash to a blender or food processor. Pour in the chicken broth and blend everything until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté the sausage pieces until browned, then drain any grease.

Cook the greens in water until wilted. Drain, then sauté the garlic in the olive oil until softened, add the greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then mix with the sausage, the greens and the butternut squash sauce. (If the butternut squash sauce has thickened too much, add some hot water or chicken broth to thin it a bit. If it has cooled while you’ve been preparing the other ingredients, then place it in the microwave to reheat before mixing it with the pasta.)

Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Grilled Shrimp With Pesto Pasta

Grilled Shrimp with Pesto Pasta

 My last post was long. Very long. But there was a lot to tell — sorry if you tuned out.  If I l lost some of you on that you, you’ll be glad to see this one is blessedly short. And it’s about basil, everyone’s favorite summer herb, and shrimp too.

 If you’re growing basil, you’ve probably already had to cut it back at least once or twice and have made pesto a few times too. Here’s another way to enjoy that pesto. It’s not rocket science, but maybe you’ve never thought of putting the combo together. Just grill a few shrimp and you’ve transformed that ubiquitous pasta sauce into something a little special.
Don’t forget to put some of that pesto away in the freezer for the cold winter months ahead. You don’t have to use it only as a sauce for pasta (although that will be a nice reminder of summer when the January snows fall.) A tablespoon or two makes a wonderful addition to soups and stews too.
Grilled Shrimp with Pesto Pasta.
For two servings:
10 large shrimp (or however many you like)
4 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
springs of fresh thyme
salt, pepper
1 large plum tomato, peeled and deseeded and cut into strips (optional)
1/2 pound pasta (I used trofie, a classic shape for pesto)
about 1/2 cup of freshly made pesto alla genovese – directions below.
Grilled Shrimp
Buy large uncooked shrimp. Peel off the shells and devein the shrimp. Put the shrimp in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, some salt, pepper and fresh herbs. I used thyme, but oregano would work too. If you want the shrimp to have a little kick, add some dried red pepper flakes. Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.
Get the grill good and hot and rub the grates with a paper towel that’s been coated with vegetable oil. This will help the shrimp not to stick to the grates.
Grill the shrimp for a couple of minutes on each side and add to the pasta that’s been already mixed with the pesto.
For each portion, I also added strips of one large plum tomato that I had peeled and deseeded. (To peel easily, drop the tomato into a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes.)
 
Pesto Recipe – Get the full instructions with photos here
Pesto Alla Genovese
The amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course, your taste buds.

4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup Italian pine nuts, toasted, or pistachios (salted or unsalted), or toasted almonds or walnuts
extra virgin olive oil – as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto.
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (or pecorino if desired)

If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are ready to serve.

If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience and time.
Eggplant And Pasta Timballo

Eggplant and Pasta Timballo

  Looking for a way to use up some of that late summer eggplant in a show-stopping presentation? This eggplant timballo fits the bill, and it’s much easier to make that you’d think. Imagine the surprise on your guests’ faces when you slice into this, unveiling the pasta interior. Some of my blogger friends – Rowena and Marie – have also posted similar recipes and I always find inspiration from them.


 

For this timballo, I used a one-quart souffle dish that was lightly oiled. I grilled just one large eggplant, spreading a little olive oil on each slice before placing on the grill. Place the pieces with the prettiest grill marks facing the dish, not on the inside since it will be filled with pasta.

 

 

I cooked the pasta – anelli (little rings) in this case – then added some cooked sausage, peas and tomato sauce.

 

 

Throw in some parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. I had only about 2 ounces of mozzarella in the fridge, but I recommend using more. It helps to “glue” everything together.

 

 Blend it all together.
And stuff the dish to the brim.
Fold the eggplant slices over the pasta and bake.
Let it rest at least 15 minutes before flipping and serving – with extra sauce on the side.
Here’s a timballo I made last year using a much larger pot. You can see I ran out of eggplants, even though I used three. I baked it this way anyway.


 

It held together well enough and everyone loved it just the same.

 

Even though it uses only one pound of pasta, it served a lot of people. That’s why I went with the smaller one-quart container you see in the first photo this time, that used only 1/2 pound of pasta. But if you’ve got a crowd of a dozen people coming, the larger timballo will serve that many people comfortably.

Eggplant Timballo
(for a one-quart souffle dish or similar vessel)
This will serve at least six people easily.
printable recipe here

1 large eggplant, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound anelli pasta, or other pasta to your taste
1 pound sausage
1/2 cup peas, cooked
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups tomato sauce

Smear the eggplant slices with oil and grill until cooked through. Oil a one-quart souffle dish or similar vessel and arrange the cooked eggplant slices inside, leaving enough hanging over the side to fold over the pasta when the dish is full.

Remove the casing from the sausage, break into bits and cook in a pan. Boil water and cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and place into a bowl with the cooked sausage, and the rest of the ingredients, using as much tomato sauce as necessary to coat well. Reserve some of the sauce for later. Fill the dish with the pasta, then fold the eggplant slices over, covering the top of the pasta completely. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, and serve with the extra sauce.