30 Minute Dinners: Asparagus Carbonara

Easy Carbonara Pasta with Asparagus
Just do it – in a skillet: Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus.

My favorite cooking vessel is my cast iron skillet: it’s one stop shopping in the kitchen equipment department. Not only is a cast iron skillet handy on the stovetop, you can use it in the oven and even on the grill. Last night I used my skillet to make this simple carbonara pasta dish.

Carbonara is the Italian version of chicken soup – a comforting dish for all ages – which consists of pasta and cured pork (guanciale) or bacon, whisked in a slick sauce of eggs and gads of grated Pecorino cheese. The method is quick. It relies on the heat from the freshly cooked pasta to sufficiently cook the eggs and melt the cheese, while the sauce is vigorously stirred to prevent the eggs from scrambling. From start to finish, this dish can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes.

I often mix in vegetables to my carbonara, which add extra oomph to the dish and allows me to call it a one-dish family meal, replete with the nutrients from the veggies. Peas are a year-round contender, since frozen peas can easily be added to the mix. In the springtime, though, I like to add fresh asparagus.

Asparagus Carbonara

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves 4

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound orecchiette
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon in batches in a large skillet over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
2. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until blended and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette and cook according to the package instructions until al dente; drain.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the asparagus, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Sauté over medium heat until the asparagus are bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add the bacon to the skillet and stir once more. Serve immediately and garnish with additional grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Simple Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Breadcrumbs

You won’t regret buying out of season tomatoes with this fresh and easy pasta recipe. Hint: a little roasting will do the trick.

Easy Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

If you’re like me and can’t resist buying hothouse grape tomatoes in the middle of the winter – even when we know better – this recipe will address any buyer’s remorse. It’s not the fault of the tomatoes, of course. They do look irresistible, but looks can be deceiving with these plump and oh-so-red tomatoes, which often disappoint in the flavor department when they are out of season. Not to worry – this recipe allows for a little off-season tomato indulgence with no regrets. Thanks to slow roasting, they will deflate from their impossible pertness to a more relaxed version of themselves, and any hibernating juices and natural sugars will be released. Along with a little simple seasoning to give them some oomph, and you will have a sunny and versatile condiment to beat the winter blues.

Add roasted tomatoes to sauces and salads, use as a topping on pizza and crostini, or toss with pasta. In this recipe, I take advantage of the sludgy sheen of olive oil and tomato juice left behind in the pan after roasting. To sop up the flavorful oil, I sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the pan to absorb the juices and toast the crumbs in the oven until golden. They are a delicious extra touch and garnish to this light and fresh pasta dish.

Gemelli with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

1 pound grape tomatoes
3 garlic whole cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound gemelli or fusilli
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and discard the thyme sprigs. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a large serving bowl.

2. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet and stir to coat in the residual olive oil. Return the baking pan to the oven and cook 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 stop them from cooking. Cool for 5 minutes and then stir in the 2 tablespoons cheese.

3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup cooking water and then drain the pasta.

4. Add the pasta, arugula, half of the breadcrumbs, and the 1/3 cup cheese to the tomatoes and toss to combine. If the pasta is a little dry, add some of the reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until moistened to your preference. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately

30 minute Baked Pasta with Chorizo, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Easy one pot pasta dinner in 30 minutes

Who doesn’t like a steaming creamy mac ‘n cheese, coated in bechamel, rippling with cheese and crowned with crispy breadcrumbs? I would never throw shade at this comforting classic – and goodness knows we can all do with a little comfort these days – but I will say that you can have your baked pasta and cheese, and riff a little, too. What you get out of the deal is variety, an excuse to use up any lingering vegetables in your fridge, and an opportunity to add some extra goodies, like sausage if you’re so inclined. Simply mound them into a baking dish along with the al dente pasta and gads of cheese, bake until melty and golden,  and no one, I dare say, will dream of objecting.

I make dishes like this when I am looking for a quick solution for an easy dinner. It can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and it’s likely to be devoured in half that time. It’s lighter than mac ‘n cheese, and loaded with veggies. To moisten the pasta (there’s no bechamel sauce, after all) I toss the pasta with some of the pasta cooking water and add fresh mozzarella for creaminess.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4

12 ounces pasta, such as gemelli or farfalle
Salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces chorizo or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 bunch lacinato kale leaves, tough ribs discarded, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1 (8-ounce) fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or part Parmesan)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until 1 to 2 minutes short of al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup water, then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil to prevent sticking.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown the slices on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel and pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet.
3. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and sauté until they release their juices and soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until the leaves soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved water and stir to combine. If the pasta seems too dry, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the pasta is moist but not wet. Stir in the mozzarella and 1 cup Pecorino.
4. Sprinkle the remaining Pecorino over the top of the pasta and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the top begins to color and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Tomato Pasta Plate x

Are you looking for an easy and healthy weeknight meal? Here is a light and fresh pasta dinner that is guaranteed to please everyone. I make this recipe when I have gads of cherry tomatoes on hand. Slow roasting coaxes out their natural juices and sugars and intensifies the tomato flavor. Fresh arugula is tossed into the mix, slightly wilting from the heat of the cooked pasta. The final touch is a shower of toasted olive oil breadcrumbs, which adds comfort and a rich crunchy texture to the dish.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

Roasted Tomatoes:
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs

Olive Oil Breadcrumbs:
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs (or panko)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Pasta:
1 pound gemelli or fusilli pasta
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the tomatoes:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and any pan juices to a large serving bowl.

Toast the breadcrumbs:
Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet. Add the oil and stir to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and toast the breadcrumbs until 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 5 minutes, then stir in the cheese.

Make the pasta:
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. Add the arugula, cheese, and oil. Toss to combine and slightly wilt the arugula. Add half of the breadcrumbs and stir once or twice to blend. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

30 minute Dinners: Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

broccoli shrimp tastefood

This light and lovely dish is healthy, low maintenance, and delicious. A series of quick cooking steps ensures that each component is perfectly cooked before tossing together to serve. Tender broccolini spears and sweet shrimp are independently sautéed with chili flakes and olive oil just long enough to brighten in color and coax out their natural flavors without overcooking. A simple tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes and garlic has a short simmer just long enough to blend while still tasting fresh. Then all of the elements come together in a big serving bowl with a shower of fresh basil leaves which release their aroma in the warmth of the dish. This recipe is a keeper and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It’s perfect for easy family dinners and simple cooking on a warm summer day.

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 into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a plate and lightly season with salt.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the same skillet.
Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to another plate and lightly season with salt.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon.
5. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp, broccolini, and basil to the spaghetti and gently stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately.

 

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus Carbonara TasteFood

Just grill it – in a skillet. My favorite cooking vessel is my cast iron skillet. Not only is it versatile in the kitchen, it’s handy on the grill. When it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen, I move outdoors and use my grill as an oven and a stovetop, and my cast iron skillet becomes a grill pan. Last night I made a simple carbonara pasta dish on the grill. Carbonara is the Italian version of chicken soup – a supremely comforting meal for all ages – consisting of pasta and bacon whisked with a slick sauce of eggs and cheese. It’s a family favorite year round, which I like to lighten up with seasonal vegetables.

If you use a gas grill, prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. The pasta may be boiled on the grill in a grill-proof pot (most are), and the bacon and asparagus may be prepared in a cast iron skillet. Alternatively, use your stove!

Asparagus Carbonara
Serves 4

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

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound orecchiette

3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon in batches in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
2. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente; drain.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the asparagus, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute over medium heat until the asparagus are bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orecchiette and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add the bacon to the skillet and stir once more.
5. Serve immediately garnished with black pepper and grated cheese.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce tf

If you are like me and enjoy homemade tomato sauce year round, this recipe will do the trick. While summer tomatoes are ideal for any tomato sauce, you can still manage a decent sauce with your supermarket variety. Start by roasting the tomatoes to coax out and concentrate their flavor – and don’t hold back on the seasoning. In this recipe I roasted an armful of plum tomatoes and added a roasted red pepper for extra sweetness and bold color. If decent plum tomatoes are nowhere to be found (it is March, after all), you can make the sauce with the ubiquitous grape tomatoes readily found in most shops. The key is to taste, taste, taste. Add a spoonful of sugar for the extra sweetness you miss.  Crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper add dimension to the sauce with a nice kick. And don’t be bashful when it comes to the salt. Keep on tasting, then let the sauce rest for a few moments to allow the flavors to meld. You will be pleased with the results: This no nonsense, faux summer sauce is a bright and fresh condiment to splash on pasta, smear on pizza, or layer into gratins any time of year.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Grape tomatoes may be substituted for the plum tomatoes. Note that you will not be able to remove their skins, which will yield a more chunky sauce.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds plum (roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush the tomatoes and peppers with oil and season with salt. Arrange in a rimmed baking pan, cut side down. Roast until  softened, beginning to shrivel and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch, then remove the skins. Combine the red bell pepper and tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent without coloring, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.