Archive for Summer Pasta

Fettuccine Alfredo As It Was Meant To Be

Some time ago I read how Fettuccine Alfredo was first created, using only butter and cheese.  So you can imagine my delight when one day I saw Italian butter at our favourite cheese shop, Les Amis du Fromage!  Wow, I could hardly wait to get home and make some Alfredo.  Of course, there’s no question but Alfredo demands fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle.  The Italian butter really rocks this dish! We have been able to get our hands on New Zealand grass-fed butter that worked out very well.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

1 lb. fresh, fettuccine/tagliatelle noodles**3 egg pasta dough
4 oz. Italian butter, unsalted and very soft (if you can’t find it…cultured, unsalted butter also works quite well)
2 – 3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated + extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pasta serving bowl in an 180 F oven.

Cook the fettuccine noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water for about two or three minutes, test for doneness after two minutes. At the same time, mix the softened butter in a bowl with the grated cheese until the cheese almost dissolves, forming a smooth cream. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta leaving just a small amount of water and toss the noodles with the Alfredo sauce in a heated serving bowl, adding pasta cooking water as necessary to create a creamy sauce; adding more cheese as necessary.  Season with freshly ground black pepper & serve immediately.

A creamy, cheesy dish of goodness enjoyed occasionally @#5.

To see how to make your own pasta, click Food Processor or Stand Mixer Pasta Dough.

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Basil Ricotta “Cavatelli” With Tomato Sausage Sauce

When the garden puts forth wonderful basil each summer, there are so many delicious choices of things to be made!  This version of cavatelli has ricotta cheese in the dough is not quite as soft as potato gnocchi.  This “pasta” is another end of summer, last of the basil, dinner in our house!  If you have some “OO” flour in the cupboard, you might like to try using it in combination with unbleached flour.  If you have a cavatelli maker, feel free to use it, making sure the dough is floured enough so it won’t stick when going through the machine.  When I am feeling lazy, I simply cut the raw sausages into 1″ pieces, brown in the EVOO and then continue with the sauce.  You could even grill the sausages on the barbecue, cool then cut them up into pieces and reheat in the sauce.

DSC_1088 nx2Makes 3 – 4 Servings

For the Cavetelli

2 eggs
10 fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese (not skim or low-fat)
2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
1 to 1 1/2 cups flour (approximate), I use Italian “00” flour & unbleached flour

In a food processor, with the motor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube. Scrape down bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs, torn basil leaves, & pepper to the bowl; process until mixed; add the ricotta & cheese; process until blended. Add ½ cup of flour at a time, process using on/off turns, just until incorporated, before adding more flour, until the mixture forms a soft, slightly dough. It will be sticky but you don’t want to add too much flour. Remove from the processor onto a flour dusted surface & gently shape into a ball. Place on a flour dusted shallow bowl, cover & chill for 1 ½ hrs.

To shape the Cavetelli:

Remove dough from the fridge & divide into 4 pieces. On a very lightly floured surface, roll each into a long tube, approximately 1/2” in diameter. Continue rolling the other 3 pieces of dough. With a sharp knife, cut the ropes into ½” pieces.

Place the cut cavatelli onto a lightly floured rimmed baking pan, cover & place in the fridge until ready to cook them.

Make the Tomato-Sausage Sauce:

2 – 4 Tbsp. EVOO
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) tin Italian tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped or 1 tsp. dried oregano
3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
2 or 3  (6” long) Italian sausages, either with fennel or not (or Italian turkey sausages)

(opt.) pepperoncino (chili flakes) to taste
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium skillet, brown the sausages on all sides. Remove & reserve. Heat the EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat & cook the garlic in the oil for a minute or so without the garlic taking on any colour; add the chili flakes & dried oregano (if using); add the tomatoes & bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the sausages into chunks & add to the sauce. Reduce the  heat & simmer the sauce about 25 minutes (until thickened), add the fresh oregano, basil & parsley, simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper, keep warm.

While the sauce is simmering, remove the cavatelli from the fridge & bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 Tbsp. salt. Place the cavatelli onto a flat tray in one layer, leaving behind any excess flour & slide them into the boiling water. Give them a stir& in a minute or so they will begin to float to the surface. Cook the cavatelli for a total of approximately 7 – 8 minutes. Have ready a warm serving bowl. With a slotted spoon remove the cooked cavatelli to the bowl; ladle the sauce over &  gently give them a stir using a spatula. Serve hot, passing either Pecorino or Parmigiano!

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Pasta with Cauliflower Da Leo

My interpretation of the pasta my husband had for lunch at Trattoria Da Leo in Lucca, Italy.  It’s not exactly the same but it’s still damned good. I like to use cauliflower when it’s in season because I think it’s sweeter, but this can be made anytime and will still be a great dish of pasta. I’m in love with the look of Romanesco cauliflower and think it would be fantastic in this sauce!

Makes 4 Servings

1 small cauliflower_DSC1989 nx2 2016
¼ cup EVOO (you can use up to 1/2 cup of oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/8 – ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ lb. Italian sweet sausage, skin removed & crumbled
½ cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Passata or 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded & coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or 3 – 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
12 oz. to 16 oz. Casarecce pasta (or any short type pasta)

Place a serving bowl in a 180 F oven to warm.

Wash & trim the cauliflower; separate into small flowerets. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1-2 Tbsp. salt.

Meanwhile, heat EVOO on medium heat in a large sauté pan & cook the onion until soft; add the sausage, breaking up lumps with a fork until no longer pink & just lightly browned  Add the garlic, parsley & red pepper flakes; sauté for a minute then add the chopped sage. Stir in the wine & reduce by half & add the tomatoes; continue cooking for a few minutes, reducing  longer if using fresh tomatoes. Add the cauliflower; cover the pan & continue cooking over low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Add the cream & cook for a few minutes more. In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water; drain the pasta.  Add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower sauce & toss for a minute or so to coat with sauce, adding pasta cooking water if it appears too dry.  Remove from the heat & add freshly grated Parmigiano. Place the pasta in a large heated bowl & serve.

 To see how to prepare the tomatoes, click Peeling & Seeding Tomatoes.

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Cacio e Pepe

This is the best version of Cacio e Pepe I have made so far, although in Rome, where the dish originates, we found that they used tonnarelli, a  thick spaghetti, instead of regular spaghetti.   I would recommend the Spaghetti alla Chitarra pasta made by either GiGi or La Molisana. I use it as a substitute for the tonnarelli which,  I have since discovered is the Roman version of alla Chitarra!  You could also use di Gragnano brand spaghetti or other better quality brands. We enjoyed a great version at Ristorante Maccheroni in Rome, if you happen to be going to Rome!

_DSC1596 resizeMakes 2 Servings

6 oz. pasta
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper (or to taste)
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano cheese
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Stagionato cheese or Pecorino Romano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta & cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender.  Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water; drain pasta.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper & cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet & bring to a simmer. Add pasta & remaining butter. Reduce heat to low & add Grana Padano, stirring & tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring & tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta & pasta is al dente. Add more pasta cooking water if sauce seems dry.

Transfer to a large warm serving bowl. Serve immediately.

To find Pecorino Stagionato cheese, please go to My Source List.

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Turkey and Eggplant Pastitsio

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When we get a craving for Greek food in the fall and winter, there’s only one thing to be done, either Pastitsio (sort of a Greek macaroni and cheese) or moussaka …this is the macaroni and cheese favourite. The sauce can easily be made a day or two ahead and that’s what I do. I adapted the recipe from an old “Gourmet” magazine. You can use lamb, beef or veal but I wanted to “lighten” things up!

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

DSC_1715 nx2For the Turkey Sauce:

1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. EVOO
1 lb. ground turkey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. pepperoncino (chili flakes)
¼ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. eggplant, cut into ½” cubes
28 – 32 oz. tin crushed tomatoes

For the Cheese Sauce:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. unbleached flour
2 cups homogenized milk
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
1 whole garlic clove
½ lb. Greek feta cheese, crumbled, preferably Dodonis
¼ to ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten

For the Pasta:

10 oz. penne or ziti

Butter or spray with non-cooking spray a 3 quart baking dish & set aside.

Place the cubes of eggplant into a colander & salt with approximately 2 tsp. salt. Set the colander over a bowl to catch any drips & allow to stand up to 1 hour.

Heat approximately ¼ cup EVOO in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. In the meantime rinse the eggplant with cold water & drain on a large kitchen towel, pressing out any water. When the oil is hot/shimmering but not smoking, saute half the eggplant. When it is golden/lightly browned, remove to a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with a few layers of paper towels. Remove the eggplant from the pan onto the paper towels with a spider or slotted spoon & saute the remaining eggplant in the same way. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Wipe clean when cool and use to make the turkey sauce.

Make the Turkey Sauce:

Saute the onion in EVOO over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes or so. Raise the heat to medium-high & dd the turkey, saute, stirring & breaking up lumps until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, saute a minute or so add the peperoncino stir for 30 seconds then add the salt, oregano, cinnamon, sugar & pepper & saute, stirring for 2 minutes. Stir in the eggplant & tomatoes & gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Remove lid & simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes longer; season with salt & pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Make the Cheese Sauce & Cook the Pasta:

While turkey sauce is simmering, make cheese sauce & cook the pasta.

If turkey sauce has been done ahead, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 – 2 Tbsp. salt then the pasta and cook until al dente or a couple of minutes less than when it is fully cooked. Drain & set aside.

Make the cheese sauce by melting butter in a 2 qt. heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then stir in flour & cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, add the garlic & the clove & bring to a boil, still over moderate heat. Reduce heat & simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes OR…see my microwave method for doing this bit.

Remove the garlic & the clove; add the feta, salt & pepper & cook, whisking well, until cheese is well incorporated. Gradually whisk the cheese sauce into the eggs by tablespoonfuls.

Toss half the pasta with the turkey sauce & the remaining half of the pasta with the cheese sauce.

Assemble the Pastitsio:

Pour the pasta with turkey sauce into the prepared baking dish. Spoon the pasta with cheese sauce over top, spreading evenly.

Bake pastitsio, uncovered, in middle of preheated oven until bubbling & top is golden, 25 – 30 minutes. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

**To see how do make the base for the cheese sauce in the microwave, click here.

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Fresh Tomato and Roasted Almond Spaghettini

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This is the kind of pasta we enjoy on a hot day! Make the sauce a couple of hours ahead of time, cover and allow to stand to meld the flavours. The spaghettini is perfect as a first course with barbecued leg of lamb or chicken or fish. So quick and easy allowing you to lay back and read a good book! You can easily double the recipe too!

DSC_1956 nx22Makes 4 “Primi” (First Course) Servings

6 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted**
½ cup chopped peeled plum tomatoes,** (in-season, not hothouse)
1/3 cup EVOO (use the best you have)
2 Tbsp. capers, packed in salt, rinsed well
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp. salt
½ lb. spaghettini or Angel Hair pasta
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano

**Click here to see how to toast the almonds.

**Click here to see how to peel the tomatoes.

When the almonds are cool, mash the garlic together with the salt; combine the almonds, garlic-salt mixture, tomatoes, EVOO, capers & lemon juice. Set aside until you are ready to make the spaghettini.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 – 2 Tbsp. salt, then add the spaghettini & cook until it is al dente, checking for doneness about 2 minutes before the package says; drain & toss the hot spaghettini with the tomato-almond mixture, add the parsley & cheese; toss & serve immediately.

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A Favourite Mac ‘N Cheese

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Kid food, childhood memories, bubbly and golden mac ‘n cheese with tomatoes…what’s not to love? Because I adore tomatoes, this is right up my alley and I hope yours too! I like to make this with tomatoes that are available locally right up to the early fall; they are so sweet, juicy & delicious!

DSC_4398 nx2Makes 6 – 8 Servings

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup breadcrumbs made from crusty bread**
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. elbow macaroni or other short tubular pasta
4 cups milk (not skimmed)
5 Tbsp. unbleached flour
½ cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 – ¼ tsp. Tabasco or to taste
4 cups grated cheese (a combination of 2 cups old cheddar, 1 cup each Gruyere & Parmesan or Fontina)
1 lb. red & yellow tomatoes, cut into 1” pieces, or for small tomatoes, cut in half

Combine the breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp. of the butter that has been melted, along with 1 tsp. of the chopped thyme 1/8 tsp. salt & ¼ tsp. of the pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray, a 3 quart casserole or 9 x 13” baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 1 Tbsp. salt then add the macaroni, stirring for a minute to keep from sticking. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes (it will not be fully cooked), drain, rinse & set aside.

Make the Cheese Sauce:

**I like to do this in the microwave but you can do it in a pot on top of the stove.

In a very large glass, microwavable bowl, melt the 5 Tbsp. butter on medium (level 5) heat; remove & add the onions; return to the microwave & cook on level 5, in 2 minute increments, until the onions are softened (approximately 8 – 10 minutes. One minute before the onions are done add the garlic & microwave one minute more. Whisk in the flour; return to the microwave for 2 minutes, level 5, until it bubbles a bit; very slowly whisk in the milk; add the nutmeg & return to the microwave & microwave on high for 2 minutes; whisk & continue cooking, in 2 minute increments, until the sauce comes to a boil & thickens. (If you don’t have a large enough bowl; do this step twice, otherwise it could overflow. Once the sauce is done, combine the two, then add the cheeses & seasonings.) Remove from the microwave; add the cheese, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, remaining 2 tsp. chopped thyme & Tabasco, whisking until the cheese is melted.

Stir the macaroni & tomatoes into the sauce. Pour into the greased casserole; sprinkle with the buttered breadcrumbs; bake until bubbling & golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes or so before serving.

**To make the breadcrumbs, please see How To Make Breadcrumbs.

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Farfalle With Zucchini

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Everyone in Italy, I’m sure, has their own recipe for this pasta! I may not live there but I am growing the Romanesco zucchini. Here’s my take…it’s quick and simple but very tasty.

DSC_4495 mx2Makes 2 – 3 Servings

8 oz. farfalle pasta (bowties)
2 oz. pancetta, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1/8 tsp. red chili flakes, or to taste
3 medium sized zucchini, sliced 1/8” thick
½ cup basil, shredded or just tear up the leaves
¼ cup EVOO +
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pasta to the pot & cook until al dente (this will take between 8 – 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat; add the EVO & heat until hot but not smoking. Add the diced pancetta & cook until it just begins to colour; add the slices of garlic & the zucchini; sauté for 4 minutes; stir in the chili flakes. When the pasta is cooked, reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the pasta. Add ¼ cup of the reserved water, the basil & half the Parmigiano to the pancetta, garlic, zucchini mixture & stir, then add the farfalle to the pan; tossing to combine; adding more of the reserved pasta water if it appears too dry. The sauce should coat the farfalle & not be “saucy”.

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Orzo With Feta And Cherry Tomatoes

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A warm pasta salad that would go well with lamb, chicken or fish; it’s light, easy to make and fits the bill on a warm evening. Or you could simply serve as a main course!

DSC_4371 nx2Makes 4 Servings (2 For a Main Course)

½ lb. orzo
1 ½ Tbsp. EVO
1/3 cup pine nuts** (see below)
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped** (see below)
6 oz. cherry tomatoes
¼ lb. feta cheese (I recommend Dodonis)
1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

** In my opinion, the Mediterranean pine nuts are the best ones to use, however they are a bit pricey & I am reading that the crops are becoming scarce, so feel free to substitute slivered almonds.

**If you like you can substitute some fresh basil or oregano for some of the parsley.

Fill a large pasta pot with water & bring to a boil.

While the water is coming to the boil, heat 1 ½ tsp. EVO in a small pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking & sauté the nuts with salt to taste, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to paper towels to drain & set aside to cool.

Add 1 Tbsp. salt to the boiling water, then add the orzo & cook until al dente; stirring occasionally.

Quarter the tomatoes & coarsely crumble the feta. In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, parsley, vinegar & remaining tablespoon of EVO; season with salt & pepper to taste; add the tomatoes & feta & gently toss to combine.

When the orzo is cooked drain in a large sieve & rinse slightly with warm water. Drain orzo well & add to the tomato mixture, tossing until just combined. Either scatter the nuts on top before serving or lightly fold them in. Serve immediately while still warm.

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Tagliatelle With Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

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August, local tomatoes, homemade pasta (if possible), fresh basil, definitely a summer pasta, yum! If making your own pasta, make the dough with 4 eggs. If you wish, you can add 2 oz. julienned prosciutto but I prefer just the tomatoes, just because! For a different taste, you can change the white wine to red and add some fresh oregano along with the fresh basil.

DSC_4205 nx2Makes 4 Main Course Servings

2 Tbsp. each butter & EVO
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. chili flakes (pepperoncino)
1 ½ lbs. fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped**
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
1 lb. fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Place a large serving platter in a preheated 180 F oven.

Heat the oil & butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Gently sauté the garlic & chili flakes for a minute, then add the tomatoes.

Simmer the tomatoes until they soften; then add the wine & cream. Simmer 5 – 10 minutes until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream. Add the chopped basil & simmer a further 2 – 3 minutes; season to taste with salt & pepper & keep on low heat.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 – 2 Tbsp. salt, then add the pasta & cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Fresh pasta will be softer than dried so cook until just before done. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water; then drain the pasta in a colander. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan & toss; if it appears dry, add some of the reserved pasta water; a handful of the cheese & toss. Place the pasta into the warmed serving bowl, sprinkle with the chopped parsley & served immediately, passing extra Parmigiano Reggiano.

**If you would like to make your own pasta, please see Food Processor/Stand Mixer Pasta Dough.

**To see about peeling & seeding the tomatoes, please see How To Peel & Seed Tomatoes.

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