Friday, May 6, 2011

pasta palooza: assorted spaghetti

If you know anything about the way I cook, you know that I make a lot of pasta. Basically, if I don't know what to make for dinner, I will just throw whatever is in the fridge on top of spaghetti and call it a day. In addition to improvised dishes, I'm also always on the lookout for new pasta recipes. As I once said in my facebook status: "there is no such thing as too much pasta. am I right or am I right?"

Anyway, after my dearth of blog entries the past few months, I have quite a backlog of pasta dishes to tell you about. Rather than giving you a week's worth of spaghetti entries, I am going to lump a bunch of them together, linking you to the recipes that inspired me, or giving a basic description of my on the fly dishes.

First up, I have for you this recipe for spaghetti with anchovies and walnuts that ran in The New York Times last year. It appealed to me not only because it was described as a traditional part of the Italian Christmas Eve fish dinner, but also because it was actually part of their "Recipes for Health" feature. God knows we could all stand to eat healthier, and if that comes with in the form of spaghetti, chopped parsley, toasted walnuts and melted anchovies with garlic, sign me up! This was definitely yummy, undeniably easy and unexpectedly different dish. The crunchy nuts were a pleasant and very unusual touch for a pasta dish, and it was great to make since the ingredients were all things I always have on hand.

This dish was a recipe from a really trendy Brooklyn/LES restaurant called Frankie Sputino that I am kind of dying to go to. In the mean time, I've settled for a weak facsimile of their homemade cavatelli with brown butter fried sage and sausage coins.

As you can see, I did not get around to making my own cavatelli, but instead settled on small store bought shells. This made this a really easy dish. I simmered the sausage in a pan of water, and then sliced them into thin rounds which I cooked until golden brown and crispy on both sides. The sauce was really just butter, which I browned in the sausage pan to incorporate all those little brown bits that were left behind. As the pasta cooked, I fried up the sage leaves, which were ultimately tossed with the sausage, shells and brown butter sauce. Excellent, with lots of sagey goodness.

This dish was one of my own creation based, as you might guess, on what I had lying around. In this case that was onions, lemons, and fontina cheese. I slowly caramelized the onions. As the pasta was cooking, I added some of the pasta water to the onions, and squeezed in some lemon juice. Adding liquid to the pan not only created the basis for a pasta sauce, but also had the added benefit of speeding up the cooking time on my onions, which normally take a notoriously long time to caramelize. To finish the sauce, I stirred in some sliced fontina cheese, which melted nicely. With plenty of cracked black pepper, this was pretty tasty. I liked the lemony onions, and the melted fontina added a lot of flavor to the sauce.

All in all I thought that this came out pretty good. The caramelized onions were mild and delicious, and their sweetness was nicely countered by the lemon, pepper and salty cheese. A successful pasta experiment!

And here we have perhaps the best of them all: Pappardelle with Stewed Tomatoes and Pancetta. Nathan and Tenli made this last time she visited. I can take credit for finding the recipe, but not for how impressively delicious it turned out to be.

The pancetta was diced and pan fried with crushed red pepper in butter, and then a can of chopped tomatoes was added. You squeeze out all the tomato juice first though, so this turns into a nice thick sauce. From there, this dish is a total snap: add a little cream, cook a little longer, and then toss with your pappardelle, adding a little pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce.

This was incredibly rich tasting, probably from the fatty pancetta, but you know what that really means: extra delicious! Yeah, this is the kind of stick to your ribs rustic food that I just can't resist.

Here we have another kind of crazy fridge improv: basically just red cabbage + onions + grated cheese. Yeah, it was pretty straightforward, the product of a spare refrigerator.

I sliced up the onions and cabbage nice and thinly, and then cooked them in olive oil over low heat. When I mixed in the romano cheese, this made a pretty solid sauce. Though this wasn't exactly an innovation by any stretch of the imagination, it was way prettier than your average pasta dish. Purple pasta! Yay!

This last dish was probably my least favorite of all. The problem, to be honest, lay not with the pasta, which I dressed in a light lemony sauce that I will try to recreate in more detail for you later. Instead, what bothered me was the Whole Food sausage that I used, which had some appetite-killing bits of bone and cartilage hiding in there. Totally gross. Sausage should NOT be crunchy.

Basically, I used bow tie pasta, sauteed spinach and chopped up sausage, and made the sauce from lemon juice, olive oil and grated romano cheese. I did feel that it was kind of a bland sauce, but I think that I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more if it were not for the sausage. Very, very unappealing.

Overall though, I'd have to say that I've had some very successful pasta dishes as of late.

1 comment:

  1. I've made the pappardelle several times since that visit, and it has not disappointed. I used the tomatoes I put up last summer, and the flavor is bright and cheerful. One time I used fresh whole wheat pappardelle from the Temescal Farmer's Market. In general, I find whole wheat pasta to be an acquired taste; the fresh pasta from this purveyor is outstanding. They also make a killer olive bread and some macaroons that will make you swoon.