Archive for Summer Pasta

Rigatoni With Lentil Ragu

When my friend Deb. Mele posted a recipe for Lentil Bolognese I have to say, it got my attention!  As I am always on the lookout for interesting pasta sauces, for vegetarian meals and lastly but by no means least, I’m that woman who stuffs Castelluccio lentils into her luggage when packing to come home from Italy. Castelluccio lentils are grown in Umbria and are tiny, brownish jewels with a delicate flavor and a wonderfully tender texture. And like Lentil du Puy, they don’t disintegrate in cooking, which makes them ideal for salads.  This is my version of Deb’s. recipe!  You may not be able to get your hands on Castelluccio lentils, if not, substitute other Italian lentils.  There are some nice ones from Puglia available.

Makes Enough Ragu for 1 lb. Rigatoni

Precook the Lentils:

1 cup Castelluccio lentils, picked over for any debris or stones, or other Italian lentils
1/3 cup finely diced carrots
1/3 cup finely diced celery

Make the Sauce:

1/3 cup finely diced onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
5 Tbsp. EVO
¼ – ½ tsp. peperoncino (aka chili flakes)
½ cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups tinned Italian plum tomatoes, diced & crushed with your hands
1 Tbsp. tomato paste.
1 – 2 tsp. sea salt or Kosher salt

1 lb. Rigatoni or other tubular shaped pasta

To Finish Dressing the Pasta:

5 – 6 leaves of fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
½ – 1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Place the picked through & rinsed lentils in a medium sized pot with the carrots, celery, bay leaves & 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil; turn the heat down, cover & sinner 15 – 25 minutes or just until tender.

Meanwhile, heat 5 Tbsp. EVO in a large saute pan. Saute 1/3 cup of the onion & the garlic slices until softened & slightly golden but not browned. Clear a spot in the pan & add the tomato paste, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the chili flakes (peperoncino) to the pan, stir for 30 seconds. Add the white wine & reduce by 1/3rd. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer; cook until slightly thickened. Drain the lentils, reserving the liquid & add the lentils to the pan with the tomatoes, season with salt, keeping in mind that the sauce will reduce somewhat. Simmer this mixture uncovered for approximately 25 minutes of until it’s a good consistency to dressing the pasta. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with some of the lentil cooking water. Keep sauce warm.

Cook the rigatoni until al dente. Check it approximately 2 minutes before the suggested time on the package. Scoop out some of the cooking water & set aside, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan containing the warm sauce tossing to combine, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water to reach the desired consistency if necessary. Tear up and add the basil leaves & parsley, tossing to combine. Remove from the heat, add the Pecorino, toss to combine.

Place the pasta in a warm serving bowl & drizzle with the remaining EVO, sprinkle with a bit more Pecorino & serve immediately.

Eggplant Timballo

When it’s eggplant season…they are so gorgeous, well you just have to cook something with them…so there’s Timballo, Parmigiana, Pasta alla Norma (delish), or even cubed up, sautéed and tossed on to a pizza…and that’s only my Italian favs. Middle Eastern eggplant preparations ring all my bells too!

Makes About 6 Servings

I find that I require 2 – 3 large eggplants, so I do 3 cause I hate running out when lining the mold or if any of the slices don’t quite measure up after cooking…either breaking or whatever. And…the good news is if there’s leftover cooked eggplant…rollatini the next day! Or a quick Parmigiana!

For the Timballo:

2 – 3 large long eggplants
EVO for brushing the eggplant slices
4 cups of either your favourite homemade tomato-basil sauce or meat sauce on the thicker side & the addition of peperoncino is always a must here @ #5
½ cup finely grated cheese (either Parmigiano, Pecorino or I’ve used Provolone Piccante as well)
10 oz. ziti or penne pasta, cooked quite al dente, perhaps 2-3 minutes less than stated on package

Make the Timballo:

To begin you will need an 8” springform pan, buttered & coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs; set aside.

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/8” thick slices, layering in a colander, sprinkling with coarse sea salt between the layers as you go. Set the colander over a bowl & allow to drain for 45 minutes to 1 hr. Rinse well with cold water, drain & place on a large towel. Blot the eggplant slices dry. Place them onto rimmed baking sheets & brush with EVO on both sides. Heat the broiler & broil the slices approximately 4” from the element for anywhere from 2 – 4 minutes per side until golden & not too brown. As the eggplant is broiled, remove from the oven, placing the slices onto paper-towel lined baking sheets & allow to cool.

Arrange the cooked eggplant slices in the prepared springform pan so that there is a minimum of a 2” overhang to be folded over once the pasta is added, overlapping the slices as you go. I usually have to arrange eggplant slices in the bottom of the pan afterwards tucking those slices under the ones already in the pan to fill in the middle.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Cook the pasta until very al dente. Drain well & place in a large bowl. Add 2 ½ cups of the sauce & the cheese to the bowl. If you are using tomato basil sauce you can add some fresh basil leaves to the bowl. If you are using a meat sauce it is probably well seasoned enough with herbs & spices.

Pour the dressed pasta into the eggplant lined springform pan, folding the 2” overhang over the pasta.
Place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven shelf below where you intend to bake the timballo & place the timballo on the shelf over it. Bake for approximately 25 – 30 minutes…the eggplant will slilghtly shrink away from the sides of the springform.

Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Place a warmed serving plate over the top, invert onto the plate, undo the buckle on the springform, cut Timballo into wedges, serving them with the rewarmed leftover sauce on the side.

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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Cauliflower Italian Sausage Strozzapreti or Casarecce, Da Leo

I was inspired to create this pasta after tasting my husband’s 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.

Makes 4 Servings

1 small cauliflower_DSC1989 nx2 2016
¼ cup EVOO (you can use up to 1/3 cup of oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/8 – ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
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. Strozzapreti or Casarecce pasta (or any short pasta shape)

Place a serving bowl in a the oven at it’s lowest setting 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, brink a large pot of water to the boil.  Add the pasta & cook the 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

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

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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