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PENNE with HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, BASIL, GREEN BEANS and FETA

I haven’t posted a recipe in quite a while, but tonight’s dinner was so damn good, I really want to share it with you.  It was an easy dish to prepare, with a little earlier in the day prep.

Before I post the recipe I just have to extoll the virtues of using fresh ingredients;  Spending some summer time at the Jersey Shore affords me with an unbelievable assortment and supply of fresh vegetables and herbs.  I don’t have a garden in my yard because I’m not here consistently to keep it watered and weeded.  NO PROBLEM!  I have my own basil plants and peppermint and my neighbor who is growing oregano, thyme and rosemary has told me to help myself any time, any day.  And for the vegetables themselves, I love going to Matt’s Farm Stand.  We have been feasting on the corn so sweet, it’s like sugar on a stick, tomatoes so sweet and juicy that adding basil, is like gilding the lily.  Matt grows a lot of his own vegetables and obtains the rest from farmers around the Garden State.

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Penne with Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, Green Beans and Feta Cheese **

That’s enough about that, here is the recipe.

2 Cups chopped fresh tomatoes (I used regular tomatoes)

6-8 oz. green beans, trimmed, strings removed and cut in half if they are long

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 plump garlic clove, minced

2 TBS slivered basil

Sea salt and ground pepper

3/4 # penne

2 oz. crumbled Feta cheese

Combine olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Let sit for up to 4 hours or less (I put it together and went to the beach for a couple of hours).

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the string beans and boil for about 5 minutes.   Prepare a bowl of ice water.  Remove the string beans with a slotted spoon and put into the ice water.  Once cool, drain and put aside.

Bring the water back to a boil, cook the pasta till al dente per package instructions;  A minute or so before the pasta is done, drop the string beans into the pot with the pasta.

Drain and toss with the tomato mixture, add the Feta, toss to mix and serve either hot or at room temperature.

Easy, delicious, vegetarian, perfect for a summer supper!

** The photo is from the NY Times recipe.  I strongly advise using plump juicy red tomatoes instead of Heirloom which are not as juicy.  I also chopped my tomatoes much smaller so I would get a more sauce-like consistency. I cut the beans in half and slivered the basil.  This photo looks like Food photography and not at all like mine looked.

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Photo by Peggy Lampan

Photo by Peggy Lampan

I’ve been posting pretty much what I would call modern pasta recipes – not necessarily Italian.  Of course I’ve thrown in the classics like a Sunday Sauce or a Marzano tomato sauce but I haven’t put much up in the way of what I call old country recipes.  These recipes are simple family fare, not restaurant cooking, and a lot of fresh ingredients.  Often the ingredients themselves need prepping so I’m pretty sure the woman preparing them did not have a job outside the home.  I have a few cookbooks that celebrate the foods of the ordinary folk of another era.  And when I read some of these recipes I am always reminded of my Grandfather Louie who told me how poor they were in Italy and how you were lucky if there was meat in the macaroni gravy on Sunday. This recipe is in the Syracuse style – I don’t know if it’s from the island of Syracuse or if it is a Sicilian recipe born in Syracusa. It is, however, definitely similar to a Puttanesca Sauce. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb spaghetti

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

6 large ripe fresh tomatoes cut into pieces ( I think you could use canned plum tomatoes)

1 small eggplant diced

2 roasted green peppers sliced * (perhaps you could use bought roasted red)

10 Sicilian olives, pitted (these are large bright green olives)

1 TBS capers

1 TBS minced fresh basil

3 anchovy filets cut into small pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

4 qts boiling water

3 tsp salt

* Roast bell pepper on rack of a gas burner over moderately high heat, turning with tongs, until skin is blackened, about 5 minutes. (Or broil pepper on a broiler pan about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.) 

DIRECTIONS:

Place oil in large frying pan, add garlic and brown  Remove garlic from oil.  Add tomatoes and eggplant to oil and cook 30 minutes or until eggplant is done.  Add peppers, olives, capers, basil anchovies, salt and pepper.  Cover pan and cook 10 minutes longer, add a little water if needed.

In large pot of boiling water, add 3 tsp salt and spaghetti and cook per package directions.  Drain pasta, put on large platter and ladle sauce over it.

Recipe from The Talisman Italian Cook Book by Ada Boni*

* The cookbook was sponsored by the Ronzoni Macaroni Company – Remember their slogan, “Ronzoni sono buoni”

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Aglio e Olio - Photo by Shutterstock.com

Aglio e Olio – Photo by Shutterstock.com

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that on Fridays when I was growing up, we had one of three standard dinners;  Pasta Fagiole, Spaghetti Marinara or Spaghetti Aglio e Olio – that’s the way it was in an Italian Catholic household.   We had meatless meals every Friday until the mid-1960’s when the no-meat-on-Friday ban was lifted.  Of course Lenten Fridays still require this abstinence.  So it’s fitting that on this Friday during Lent, that I share this tried and trued and extremely simple recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb spaghetti

5 TBS olive oil

10 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

1 1/2 cup pasta water

DIRECTIONS:

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water till al dente according to package directions.

Meanwhile heat 3 TBS of oil in a large skillet or braising pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of pasta water into the sauce.  Add the parsley, the remaining 2 TBS of olive oil and salt to taste.

Using a pasta spoon,* scoop out the spaghetti and add it to the braising pan.  Toss to coat pasta and cook for about one minute.  Add the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper and add more red pepper flakes if desired.

Recipe adapted from Lydia’s Italy

*

Spaghetti spoon - Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond $6.99

spaghetti spoon – Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond $6.99

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Spaghetti with Prawns and Arugula - photo from foodily.com

Spaghetti with Prawns and Arugula – photo from foodily.com

Before we begin, how about a brief lesson in the etymology of the word, arugula?  Lately I’ve been using a lot of arugula and although I don’t necessarily think of it as a winter green, it keeps popping up in my recipes or salads.  I think maybe it’s that in the summer and especially in The Garden State, your options for locally grown red and green leaf lettuce are there for the picking.  And there is a heartiness to this densely dark, peppery green that is so perfect for my fav winter salad of arugula, sliced oranges, sweet onion rings, a couple of cherry tomatoes and nicoise olives all drizzled with the best EV olive oil in the house.  Sprinkle some coarse salt, basil and oregano on the top and there you have a great salad perfect for these cold and gray days – think citrus!

OK now for the origin of the word:  What we refer to as Arugula is known as Rocket in England and among many Italian-Americans, ruccola.  The Calabresan word for this green leaf is arucola and since so many of Italian-Americans can trace their roots to southern Italy, it seems likely we have Americanized it into Arugula.  Across the sea, in northern Italy it’s known as ruchetta which eventually worked its way over the Alps into France and became ruquette and once it crossed the English Channel, it became rocket!

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb spaghetti

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

EV olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 dried red chillis, crumbled

1 lb of peeled raw prawns

1 small wineglass of white wine

2 heaping TBS of tomato puree or 6 sun-dried tomatoes blitzed in a blender

juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 handfuls of rocket, roughly chopped

** a lug is a pour of olive oil; when the bottle makes the first glug sound, that’s a lug.

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to directions

Meanwhile heat 3 good lugs** of olive oil in a large braising pan or skillet and toss in the garlic and the chillis. As the garlic begins to color, add the prawns and sauté them for a minute.  Add the white wine and tomato purée and simmer for a couple of minutes.

When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, add half the chopped rocket, adding a little of the reserved pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning.  Divide between 4 plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the rocket leaves.

Recipe from Jamie Oliver.com

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The Macaroni Marathon takes a quick step today with one of the easiest and healthy pasta dishes I know.  I made this last night and served it to a guest.  I was able to prep it before my company arrived and all I had to do when we were through with cocktails was to cook the pasta.

I had bought a large bag of asparagus at Costco and knew when I purchased it that one of the dishes I would make would be this favorite of mine.

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 TBS EV olive oil

Fresh asparagus  ( 1 bunch) cut into 2″ pieces

15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

3 TBS pine nuts (optional)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb linguine or penne

Grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese

Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in large braising pan over Medium heat.  Add garlic and asparagus to pan and lightly sauté.  Add cannellini beans  and pine nuts (if using) and cook another 4-5 minutes.  Add broth and simmer for a few minutes.  Add pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile in large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta per directions to al dente. 

Add drained pasta to pan with asparagus and beans, add pasta water as needed and toss pasta to coat with a think sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.

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Sunday sauce

Sunday sauce (Photo credit: letouj)

This past weekend, I decided to make Sunday Sauce.  It is so tasty, so delicious and even though it takes a long time to cook down, it is well worth it.  Pick an afternoon you’ll be home and soon your home will be filled with the aroma of simmering tomato sauce.  I thought I could make it in my crock pot BUT my crock pot was not big enough.  Using a crock pot would make the whole process easier since you could just let it simmer away for hours.

I started with a large stockpot but then thought, “Oh why not use the crock pot?”   I filled the crock pot and still had a lot of sauce in the braising pan so now I had to make a decision;  I took half of the meat out of the crock pot and put it in the braising pan and cooked the sauce in both.  I tell you all this so you won’t make the same mistakes I made which made a fairly simple recipe into a complicated process.  Mangia!

SUNDAY SAUCE

(but you can call it Gravy!)

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1.5 lb of boneless country spare ribs ( I used bone-in)

6 links of Hot Italian Pork Sausage (I used Hot Poultry Sausage)

2 cups (16 oz) chopped onions

8 TBSP of minced garlic (from jar) OR 20 cloves minced

2 cans of tomato paste

4 cups of water

6 cans of coarsely ground Italian tomatoes

4 TBSP dried basil (I used 2 TBS and basil from my yard)

16 meatballs (cooked)

Salt and Pepper to taste

You’ll need a large braising pan and a 16 Qt stockpot

Heat olive oil in large braising pan on MEDIUM HIGH; add ribs and sausage.  Cook, turning 2-5 min, until meats are browned on all sides.  Transfer meats to stockpot.

Reduce heat to LOW.  Add onions and garlic to braising pan; cook, stirring, 10 minutes, until veggies are translucent.

Raise heat to MEDIUM; add tomato paste.  Cook, stirring, 3-4 minutes, until paste just begins to brown.  Add water, stirring to loosen browned bits on bottom of pan.  Bring to simmer.

Transfer tomato paste/water mixture to stockpot. Stir in canned tomatoes and basil.  Bring to simmer on MEDIUM.  Reduce heat to LOW.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 hours.  Add cooked meatballs.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.

Carefully transfer meats to serving platter; cut meats into manageable pieces. Transfer sauce to serving bowl.

** Cutting the ingredients in half would make this sauce much more manageable to prepare.

Recipe from Wegman’s MENU magazine

I originally posted this blog in November 2013 but am giving it an encore performance because it is truly a STAR recipe and deserves the spotlight it was given back in the good old days when Sunday dinner was a heart-warming affair often at Nonni’s!!  Tradition!!!!

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Let me start out by saying YES this was a very tasty meal, I am so proud of myself for making this dish.  Of course many people are probably thinking, “piece of cake” but for me there was something about making the sauce with fresh cockles intimidated me.  I was determined to try and there right near the front of my favorite supermarket, Wegman’s was a big iced display of fresh mussels and clams.  And there was Gus;  Gus is the chef in residence at the Wegman’s store in Ocean, NJ.  He has a station near the front and next to the vegetables and it’s his job to cook tasty bites for customers using Wegman’s ingredients.  He ALWAYS has a great recipe for me so I headed straight to him to get his take on white clam sauce.  He happened to be cooking zucchini squash in a ginger soy sauce – very good!  Gus gave me his recipe and I took some notes, but knew that I was going to tweak this recipe myself.

A photo of clams

Fettucine with White Clam Sauce

Here’s what I did:

Olive oil to cover the bottom of a braising pan

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 to 1 whole Vidalia onion ( I happened to have a half in the fridge)

red pepper flakes 

1 small container of Wegman’s Garlic Cheese Butter

2 cups of chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you are vegetarian) I never thought to use broth, added great flavor,

1/2 cup of white wine

1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1-2 TBS fresh oregano

1 bag of fresh clams

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Shredded or grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 # Barilla linguine (i’m convinced Barilla pasta has a lovely flavor of its own and adds another flavor to the dish)

Prior to preparing the meal put the clams in a basin of cold water with a lot of salt to soak for at least 30 minutes.  The clams will rid themselves of any sand.  I let them sit longer and changed the water a couple of times and put some ice in at one point to keep them cold.  Then I put them in a bowl in the refrigerator.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

Heat oil in braising pan on medium.  Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook till softened and golden.  Add the chicken broth and white wine, raise the heat slightly and cook down about 1/3 to 1/2.  

Add the container of garlic cheese and half of the parsley.  Toss in the oregano.  Add the clams and turn up the heat.  As the clams begin to open in 5-7 minutes, remove the clams with a slotted spoon to a bowl and start to shuck them, leaving as many as many as you would like to remain in the shell.  I tried to pick out the smaller ones to put aside for the pasta.  Once I started shucking I put the linguine in the boiling water.

When the pasta is about a minute away from being done, I put the clam bodies back in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. I reserved a cup of pasta water in case I needed it to add to the sauce.

Drain the linguine and add to the sauce in the braising pan.  Toss well.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top, the rest of the parsley and add the clams in the shell. 

Buono Appetito! Mangia!

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