I realize I keep talking about pasta. But it’s because not only do I believe it deserves constant love and praise, but also because I recently went to a dinner completely dedicated to it with things that looked like this:
So how could I not talk about it? Chef Jenn Louis of Portland, Oregon was in Boston promoting her new cookbook Pasta By Hand, which is beautiful and drool inducing. She showcased some of the book’s goodies in a collaborative dinner at Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square with some of Boston’s finest chefs. Swoon.
Each chef took one of the pastas from her book and created a dish around it, and what came out of the kitchen was incredible. Silly delicious. And beautiful to boot.
The pièce de résistance for me was Louis’ own dish. Strozzapretti (a Florentine dumpling whose name Louis explains translates to “priest strangler” – just so you know) are made with seasonal greens and ricotta. Louis served them simply with butter and Parmagiano-Reggiano. I could eat them every day. I may even move to Florence so I can. Or attempt to make the recipe from Louis’ book. Either way.
All of this eye candy is merely to remind us of some really important mantras: everything in moderation, treat yo self, and carbs are lifeblood.
It’s true, there is yogurt in this pasta. Your first inclination might be to think that is not quite right, but think again my friends. Everyone secretly loves a creamy, cheesy pasta dish, but it inevitably makes you feel super bloated and full for about 2.37 days. Greek yogurt is the solution.Tangy is Greek yogurt’s most widely recognized characteristic, and it definitely brings that to the table here. But paired with a tiny bit of cream cheese, a healthy dose of salt, and the brightness of lemon zest–it really works. And it’s just creamy enough to give that element of comfort minus the food hangover. Rainy spring nights are the perfect setting for a heaping bowl of pasta, and thankfully (albeit slowly) vegetable isles across the northeast are once again showing signs of life. Grated zucchini is a pop of color and a subtle flavor that melts right into the mix and doesn’t event require additional cooking. Frozen peas add a sweetness that offsets the zing of the yogurt and lemon. Someday I will swap them out for fresh peas…someday. Important note to leave you with: feel free to get heavy handed with that parmesan cheese. It’s for your own good.
1 pound dried farfalle pasta
1 cup frozen peas
2 large zucchini, grated
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tbs plain cream cheese
2 tbs unsalted butter
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until just cooked. In the last minute throw in the frozen peas to flash cook. Drain (reserving a cup of pasta cooking water) and set aside.
2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then turn off the flame. Add in the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Incorporate the zucchini, peas, and pasta. Stir together, incorporating reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if desired. Add the parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning, add additional salt and pepper if needed.
4. Serve hot with extra cheese (see note above).
The week before thanksgiving is a tough one for eating and cooking. You are likely anticipating just how much eating and cooking is in your immediate future, which fuels a desire for quick, easy comforts as you prepare for those ultimate kitchen hours ahead.
Also, if you live in a place where the farmers’ markets basically shut down completely as winter arrives (like in say, Massachusetts), you are probably stocking up on what’s left of the fresh produce before it all but disappears.
This dish pairs the need for ease with some remaining market treasures. With sliced and sautéed swiss chard, some leeks, and fresh spinach pasta; you get to feel like you’re eating your greens even though you’re also getting the treat of hearty carbs. And naturally there is a healthy topper of parmesan cheese for good measure.
*If you want to be bold and make your own pasta, check this recipe out. If you are following my pre-thanksgiving laziness guidelines, grab fresh pasta that someone else made, ideally someone local. Don’t be afraid to use ravioli or tortellini either. The more cheese the merrier.
the greenest pasta serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 pounds fresh pasta
6 leaves of swiss chard, stems and leaves, chopped
½ cup of leeks, finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for serving
Remove the leaves of the swiss chard from their stems. Cut in small strips, and dice the stems in small pieces.
Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the diced leeks and swiss chard stems for 3 minutes or until softened. Add in final tablespoon of butter and the chard leaves and cook additional 3 minutes.
Add stock to the vegetables and turn up heat slightly to reduce into a sauce. If you’re feeling indulgent, throw in a little more butter. Cook until liquid reduced to your preference and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
4. Cook pasta (fresh pasta usually only needs to be boiled for a minute or so) and add directly into the sauce pan. Over low heat, stir pasta with chard and leeks until combined. Top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
So the weather is changing. The trees are even mid color shift, and I had no idea until it was suddenly cold enough to crave soup for dinner.
Since the farmers’ markets are still open and there are plenty of amazing things available — like fresh cranberry beans and leeks and heirloom tomatoes — it stands to reason that if there is to be soup, it should be made with fresh goods.
This seasonal take on Pasta e Fagioli is hearty like a good pasta dish and light like healing consommés of yore. It is warming and satisfying and everything you need for those first few cool nights of fall.
8 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups fresh borlotti (cranberry) beans, shelled
3 garlic cloves, diced fine
2 cups small pasta such as ditalini
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ cups parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
To peel the tomatoes, slice each in half crosswise and place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Set oven broiler on high, and let tomatoes roast for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool 2 minutes. Peel away skins, remove cores, and dice.
In a large stockpot over medium heat olive oil. Add leeks, carrots, celery, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until soft; stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 2 additional minutes.
Add chicken stock, water, bay leaf, and beans. Cook 25 minutes, covered.
Turn heat down to low. Add pasta and tomatoes (and more salt if needed) and cook additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf and add in spinach. Serve immediately topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
PS: don’t be afraid to throw some cooked bacon or pancetta into the mix here…it can add another layer of flavor (and let’s be serious, bacon always plays.)
I am not entirely sure where I first heard of the zucchini noodles concept, though if I had to guess I’d say it was likely Deb who introduced it to me (and by “Deb” I mean Deb Perelman of smitten kitchen, with whom I am on a first name basis with only in my heart; and by “introduced” I mean I saw it on her fabulous blog).
With a mandolin — or with a knife and some chutzpah — you create strands of zucchini to the width and length of spaghetti. All you need to do is flash boil them for 30 seconds, and they become malleable and able to be twisted around a fork. They add a lovely dash of green to a bowl of noodles, which helps takes away any guilt one might foolishly associate with eating carbohydrates.
This recipe comes together quickly and is comforting enough for cold nights but light enough for the start of spring. And most importantly, it just tastes good.
I add ribbons of spinach to add even more green, because it makes me feel good. Basil would be a great substitute for that or a strong addition if you have any on hand. For me there is nothing better than a bowl of pasta at the end of the day. Or the beginning of the day…whatever floats your boat.
½ box of whole-wheat spaghetti
1 cup spinach leaves
½ grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 slices of lemon
salt, pepper, red pepper flake to taste
in a sauce pan over low heat, add the olive oil, butter, garlic cloves, lemon slices, and seasoning. Let the butter melt and leave over low heat while pasta and zucchini cook.
With a mandolin or knife slice the zucchini into thin strands. Cut the spinach leaves into thin strips.
Boil the pasta according to your personal al dente preference, adding the zucchini for the last 30 seconds of the cooking.
Remove lemon slices and garlic cloves form the sauce pan, and discard. Drain pasta and zucchini and add them to the sauce pan. Combine everything so sauce evenly coats the noodles and vegetables, and if necessary, add more salt and pepper.