Tag Archives: pasta

Weeknight Dinners: Spaghetti Bolognese


Spaghetti Bolognese – Posted by Lynda Balslev

Things are a little busy around here – more on that later. For now, I share with you a favorite recipe that’s perfect for the fall. It’s also perfect for busy schedules, when you can make a big batch of the sauce and keep it on hand for weeknight dinners. If you don’t have a recipe like this in your weeknight repertoire, then you should. We refer to it as Spaghetti Bolognese in our house, and before someone writes to inform me that this is not an authentic bolognese sauce, I’ll save you the time and announce it right here: This is not an authentic bolognese sauce – but it’s our version, and somewhere along the way it was assigned the name “bolognese” (probably my fault) and since then it’s stuck. More importantly, my entire family loves this sauce, and we’ve become quite attached to it’s name, so we’re are standing by it.

Since we are on the topic of authentic vs. unauthentic Bolognese, let me explain:

Bolognese sauce is a meat ragu, often containing 2 to 3 kinds of meat (beef, pork, veal). My sauce calls for ground beef since it’s most readily available in organic, sustainable form in all of the markets I shop. If you wish, feel free to add pork, pancetta or veal to the mix.

Bolognese is typically not a tomato-rich sauce. The meat is the principal component, which is why it’s a ragu. My version is generous with the tomatoes, because, well, we like tomatoes, and we are happy to call our sauce a sauce.

Bolognese spices are minimal: salt, pepper, bay leaf, nutmeg – and no garlic (gasp). You can be sure there will be garlic in my sauce, along with a handful of my garden’s herbs, such as oregano and thyme.

Bolognese includes white wine and milk – yes milk.  Neither are in this sauce  – otherwise, at least one young family member would have rebelled years ago due to a mystifying bias against dairy. Instead, I add red wine, because it deepens flavor and acidity to meaty sauces, and (for some reason) there’s always red wine in our house.

Finally, bolognese is a hearty ragu, often served with thick hearty-type pasta such as pappardelle. We love pappardelle, but, unlike red wine, there’s rarely pappardelle in our house, so spaghetti is the go-to staple of choice.

The point here is this is a flexible sauce that tastes great no matter it’s name or its origin. More importantly, it’s a family staple that’s hugely popular, may be prepared in large quantities, easily frozen, and is unfussy in its use: Ladle it over pasta, between lasagna sheets or even call it a base for chili. It may be prepared within an hour for easy weeknight dining and tastes even better the next day.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This recipe may be doubled. Freeze the extras for later use.
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, finely diced
1/2 sweet red pepper, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup heavy-bodied red wine
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste

1 pound pasta – cooked al dente
Fresh parsley
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (they don’t do that in Bologna either) cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until brown, about 3 minutes. Drain the beef in a colander. Return the pot to the stove and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, stirring up any brown bits, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, red pepper, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables soften and brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any brown bits. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Return the beef to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and breaking up any of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add the sugar if necessary. Serve ladled over cooked pasta, such as spaghetti, pappardelle, or rigatoni. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with grated cheese.

 

 

Gemelli with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula and Breadcrumbs

Tomato Pasta Plate x

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Are you looking for an easy and healthy weeknight meal? Here is a fresh, family friendly recipe that may be prepared in 30 minutes with rewarding results. I make this recipe frequently, especially when I have tomatoes on hand – which at this time of year is all the time. This pasta dish makes use of the plethora of end-of-season grape and cherry tomatoes that I can’t help but collect at each market visit. (It’s a weakness.) A little slow roasting heightens their flavor, coaxing out natural juices and sugars, while deflating the impossibly pert tomatoes to a more relaxed version of themselves. It also gives me an excuse to purchase more.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula
Serves 4.

1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of thyme sprigs
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound pasta, such as gemelli or fusilli
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups

Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes. Roast in the oven until tomatoes are softened, about 25 minutes. Remove and reduce oven heat to 350°F. Discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a large serving bowl.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet and stir to coat in any remaining olive oil. Return the baking sheet to the oven and briefly bake until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (They will brown quickly so watch them carefully.) Remove and immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to prevent further cooking. Cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the 2 tablespoons cheese.

While the tomatoes are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Add the pasta to the tomatoes, along with the arugula and 1/3 cup cheese. Toss to combine. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired. Season with black pepper and taste for salt. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the pasta. Serve immediately.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, Pecorino and Lemon

fregola tastefood

Have you ever tried Fregola Sarda? You should. Fregola is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. What distinguishes fregola is its shape and flavor. The pasta are rolled balls which are sun-dried and toasted, similar to pearl or Israeli couscous. Their unique shape and texture lend well to soups and salads. I find their nuttiness so addictive and satisfying, I like to keep my preparations simple to allow their toasty flavor to shine through. This dish is light and bright, inspired by the fresh asparagus and lemons in season now at the farmers markets.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, Pecorino and Lemon
Serves 4

1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or per package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces while keeping the tips intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus stalks and tips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute until asparagus brightens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add to the fregola. Add the Pecorino and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm with additional black pepper.

Carbonara

carbonara tastefood

~ Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas ~

If there is an Italian equivalent to the classic Jewish chicken soup, then I think it would be Pasta Carbonara. You can’t get more comforting than a deep bowl of noodles slicked with an egg-rich cheesy sauce redolent of bacon. The optional addition of sweet peas to carbonara is essential in my opinion. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic and red pepper flakes  and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Pasta with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pasta tf

Are you looking for ways to get your family to eat brussels sprouts? This recipe may do the trick – with a little help from bacon. Fresh yet hearty, full of healthy crucifers and dotted with crispy bacon, this simple dinner is perfect for an autumn weeknight.

Pasta with Bacon and Brussel Sprouts

Cauliflower or broccoli may be substituted for the brussels sprouts.

Serves 4.

1 pound orrechiette or conchiglie pasta

1/2 pound bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound brussels sprouts, halved (quartered if large)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from skillet. Add the brussels sprouts and saute until they are crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the chicken stock. Continue to cook until the brussels sprouts are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until thickened to a sauce consistency, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper and check for seasoning.
Add the brussels sprouts, bacon and cheese to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve with extra cheese on the side.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Grape Tomato Ragout

sausage ragout pates
I  know it’s summer, but sometimes a nice meaty pasta dish just hits the spot. I’ve lightened up this ragout by adding fresh grape tomatoes to the sauce. As the sauce simmers, the tomatoes will begin to break down adding garden-fresh brightness to this satisfying dinner.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Tomato Ragout
Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut in 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup medium-bodied red wine
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, optional

1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano cheese
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until golden. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pan. Add tomatoes,  red pepper, garlic, oregano and chili flakes. Sauté 2 minutes. Add the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the plum tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add sugar.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain. Serve hot with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with cheese and parsley.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
Shrimp Puttanesca
Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Pasta

Sausage Kale Pasta TasteFood~ Sauasage, Cannellini, Kale, Tomato, Parmigiano, Gemelli Pasta ~

It’s always a shock to our family food supply when school is out and the kids are suddenly home for 3 meals a day. Add to that one freshly minted 18 year-old performing landscape construction as a summer day job who actually requires 6 meals a day.

Faced with the prospect of whipping up a satisfying and filling dinner last week when our fridge was beyond bare to begin with (all the good stuff had gone to our annual beach BBQ feast) I had to think creatively and fast.  There was one overlooked packet of sausages that had escaped the BBQ unscathed, so I decided to prepare a sturdy meaty pasta dish, embellished with  the pantry’s cannellini beans and a few lone plum tomatoes rolling around on the kitchen counter. Luckily there was a bunch of curly kale in the fridge, and while tempted to make a salad just for me, I checked myself and dumped the whole lot into the pasta bowl. If this wouldn’t fill ‘em up nothing would.

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Pasta
Serves 4

1 small bunch curly kale, tough ribs removed, torn in bite size pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt

1 pound pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, farfalle

8 ounces Italian sausages, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
3 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese, divided
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

Place the kale, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Toss the kale with your hands while rubbing the oil into the leaves. This will help to soften them. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on both sides, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, and black pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the pasta, kale, half of the cheese and the parsley. Toss to combine. Add more cheese to taste and serve any extra with the pasta.

If you like this, you might enjoy these easy pasta recipes from TasteFood:
Gemelli with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula
Spaghetti with Broccolini, Breadcrumbs and Chili Flakes
Orecchiette with Bacon and Brussel Sprouts

Broccolini Sausage Pasta

broccoli sausage pasta tastefood

~ Italian Sausage, Broccolini, Plum Tomatoes, Pecorino, Basil ~

This little pot of pasta is a quick and healthy weeknight dinner you can whip up in 30 minutes. It’s a great option when you want something fresh and substantial with minimal effort that relies on the pantry and freezer for ingredients. I had fresh broccolini spears waiting for use in my fridge and dipped into my stash of sausages I keep on hand in my freezer, because, well, one should always have a stash of sausages in the freezer. A can of Italian plum tomatoes and a box of pasta later, voila, we had a meal for 4.

Spicy Sausage, Broccolini and Tomato Pasta
Serves 4

1 pound pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, penne
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup basil leaves, loosely packed, torn in half if large
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4-inch pieces.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the same skillet and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add broccolini and sauté over medium heat until bright green but still crisp, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Return sausages to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook until thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and pour over the pasta. Add basil and cheese and toss to combine. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese.

Spring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

pea shoots pasta tastefoodSpring Peas and Shoots with Pancetta and Orecchiette

I hope you like peas, because I have a few pea recipes coming your way. The first is this pasta recipe which I like to make when English peas first appear in the market in March. It’s the essence of early spring, a season which brings a mixed message of cool rain and gentle sunshine. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add earthy fragility, an early hint of the garden awakening from its winter slumber. No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And for that matter, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peas, then frozen are just fine, too.

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

If you are using defrosted frozen peas, add to the sauce in the end to warm through. Serves 4.

1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Sauté until colored and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add fresh peas (if using), garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Return pancetta to the pan. Add cream, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until cream is slightly reduced and thickened, and peas are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If using defrosted frozen peas, add to the cream after it is reduced and thickened and simmer until peas are heated through). Remove from heat and add the orecchiette to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the pea shoots, half of the cheese and mint and stir again. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.

If you like this you might enjoy these recipes:
Quinoa and Pea Spice Croquettes from Cook Republic
Potato Gnocchi with Minty Pea Sauce from Chez Us
Grilled English Peas from Simply Recipes

Shrimp, Broccolini and Tomato Pasta

broccoli shrimp pasta tastefood

~ Shrimp, Broccolini, Plum Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic, Chili, Spaghetti ~

Nothing beats a fresh and bright bowl of pasta, whipped up in less than 30 minutes, for an easy weeknight dinner. This dish has it all: Crisp tender broccolini and sauteed shrimp tossed in a simple tomato sauce flavored with basil, garlic and chili.  It’s elegant, light and utterly delicious. Happy Monday!

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Salt
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28 ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole basil leaves
Grated Parmigiano cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet. Add broccolini and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until bright in color and crisp tender. Transfer broccolini to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to same skillet.
Add shrimp in one layer, in batches if necessary. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to another plate.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Taste for seasoning and add a teaspoon of sugar if needed. Add shrimp, broccolini and tomatoes to the spaghetti. Toss to combine. Add basil and toss again. Divide among serving plates. Grind more pepper over the pasta and sprinkle with cheese if using.