weeknight gourmet

Category : Pasta

Carbonara with a Twist

This pasta is a delicious twist on a traditional carbonara.  The lemon gives the dish a bit of zest and the leeks lend some great flavor.  And, of course there is great smokiness from the bacon.

I used to think carbonara was a cream sauce.  For those of you not familiar with how carbonara is made, it is a sauce made with eggs and parmesan.  It’s definitely a bit heavier but its creaminess is entirely from the eggs and cheese.  The heat of the pasta actually cooks the raw eggs in the sauce so make sure your pasta is fresh out of the pot.

A delicious and quick weeknight pasta!

Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemon
Everyday Food

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle or orecchiette
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 ounce parmesan, grated (1/4 cup), plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until leeks are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, parmesan, and lemon zest and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture. Drain pasta and immediately add to egg mixture, along with bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle with more cheese if desired and serve immediately.

Active time: 30 minutes

Healthy(ish) Mac N Cheese

After this unexpectedly snowy and cold weekend, I was in the mood for some comfort food!  I contemplated making the Barefoot Contessa’s Macaroni & Cheese which is absolutely delicious.  But I didn’t want such a rich and heavy dish.  I searched for some lighter mac ‘n cheese recipes and found this one that uses frozen winter squash which adds creaminess to the dish and a good dose of veggies.

The dish is very tasty.  Not as amazing as a traditional macaroni and cheese but it is very creamy from the ricotta and squash.  And, it has great flavor from the squash and the four cheeses.  Some of the recipe’s reviews describe the recipe as bland.  To avoid this, I would definitely use an extra-sharp cheddar and not skip the salt, cayenne, or ground mustard.

This dish is a delicious lighter alternative for adults and a great way to sneak some veggies into your kids dinner!

 

Macaroni & 4 Cheeses
Ellie Krieger

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
  • 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

Sunday Sauce: Pasta with Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragù

Perhaps I should join the Fine Cooking payroll? Many of my recent recipes have come from the magazine. The recipes tend to be relatively simple while still very flavorful.  Good food that is not overly complicated — my cooking mantra!

This dish is not a weeknight meal because it cooks for a few hours.  But, it is perfect to make on a Sunday and either enjoy that evening or during the week.

Honestly, I think this was one of the best meat sauces I have ever made.  And, I LOVE meat sauce so this is high praise.  The sausage and pork shoulder simmer away for over two hours in the red wine and tomato puree mixture.  The pork shoulder shreds easily and the resulting sauce is incredibly rich and flavorful.

I made two notes for next time I cook this dish.  Keep an eye on the pot as it simmers — I should have lowered the heat to prevent the liquid from cooking down too much.  When you add the ragù to the pasta make sure to add some of the pasta water to bind the sauce and thin it out a bit.

Overall, though, this was an amazing dinner and I will definitely be making it again!

A final note, I borrowed the photo in this post from Fine Cooking’s website because my photo made this delicious dish look terrible.  Hopefully my upcoming photography class can help me figure out how to take good food photos when the lighting is less than ideal!

 

Pasta with Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragù
Fine Cooking

  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Sicilian Nero d’Avola
  • 3 cups strained tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage (3 links)
  • 2 lb. short, sturdy pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, or cavatappi
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the pork generously on both sides with salt and pepper and sear the meat on both sides until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the pork to a deep platter.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Return the pork to the pot, raise the heat to medium high, and add the wine. Let it bubble for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Remove the sausages from their casings and break the meat apart over the pot, allowing it to fall into the sauce in small clumps. Cover the pot and simmer gently, adjusting the heat as necessary, for 30 minutes. Uncover and turn the pork shoulder; then re-cover and continue to cook at a gentle simmer, turning the meat once or twice more, until very tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board with tongs and let cool for a few minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Cook over low heat until the meat and sauce are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta and serve

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente—you want it to still have some bite because it will continue to cook a bit while you’re tossing it with the ragù. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return it to the pot and toss it with some of the ragù, adding a little cooking water if it seems dry. Serve the pasta with more ragù spooned over the top, garnished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.

Make Ahead Tips
The ragù can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before tossing with the pasta.

Autumn Dinner: Pasta with Spicy Sausage & Kale

Autumn days and autumn nights,
Autumn feelings and autumn sights.

Leaves of red, yellow and gold,
Afternoons so bright and bold.

These are two lines of a poem I wrote in the fifth grade.  I can’t remember the rest of the poem but I always think of these lines as soon as there is a chill and crispness to the air.  (Yes – it’s quite dorky that I can remember something from Indian Hill School.)  There is a distinct feeling I get when fall arrives and I start to crave a different type of food — heartier, more comforting.

Here is a great weeknight dish using a wonderful fall / winter green — kale!  I tried to make the recipe healthier using whole wheat pasta and turkey sausage.  The spicy sausage, cheese, and broth all lend great flavor to the dish.  If you don’t like spicy food, sweet turkey sausage would be delicious as well.

I used pine nuts in the recipe but I don’t think they add a ton to the dish.  So, if you don’t have them on hand or don’t eat nuts, just omit them.  The pasta will be tasty without them.

The recipe as written will make 4 servings.  I’m already planning to eat some leftovers for dinner tomorrow night when Tim has class.

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Kale

1 pound whole wheat orecchiette or shells
1 pound spicy turkey sausage, casings removed
Olive oil
About 4 cups kale, torn into bite-sized shreds
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup toasted pine-nuts
1 cup grated Parmesan

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the sausage and cook until browned.  Add the kale to the pan. Pour the chicken broth in, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and tender.

Add kale-sausage mixture, pine-nuts, cheese, and reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water into the cooked pasta.  Serve with additional cheese.

Serves 4.

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp

Here is a quick and easy pasta dish from the Barefoot Contessa.  I just loved the lemon flavor with the roasted shrimp!

I did make a few changes to the recipe though.  Instead of angel hair, I used Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle which added more flavor to the dish.  I added some minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the shrimp before roasting.  Lastly, I know this is a major faux pas in Italian cooking but I mixed in some grated parmesan to the pasta before adding the shrimp.

I’ve never gone wrong with the Barefoot Contessa!  This probably isn’t my all-time favorite Ina Garten recipe but it is solid and great for a weeknight dinner!

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp
Barefoot Contessa

  • 2 pounds (17 to 21 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the shrimp on a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well, spread them in 1 layer, and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, just until they’re pink and cooked through.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the angel hair, and cook al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Quickly toss the angel hair with the melted butter, 1/4 cup olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the shrimp and serve hot.

Barefoot Contessa's New Cookbook, "How Easy is That?"

I received the latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook, How Easy is That, for Christmas.  As usual, it is beautifully photographed and full of flavorful but simple recipes that rely on good quality, fresh ingredients.  I don’t think there was a single recipe in the book I wouldn’t want to make (or eat).

I’ve already cooked a couple of the dishes — the Lemon Chicken Breasts and the Weeknight Bolognese (recipes are below).

The lemon chicken was so simple yet so packed with garlicky, lemon goodness!  I used bone-in, skin-on breasts because I have never seen boneless, skin-on breasts and did not want to do any butchering.  The chicken cooks at 400 degrees which is a great temperature for roasting some veggies as a side.  I served with some Brussels sprouts and crusty bread.  The sauce is definitely dip worthy.

I also used some of our endless ground beef from the half-steer to make the Weeknight Bolognese.  The only changes I made to the recipe were to use a can of whole tomatoes and penne because that’s what I had in the pantry.  The sauce was so delicious and tasted like it had been simmer for hours.  We had a nice simple antipasto with the bolognese for a quick Italian feast.

I really love the Barefoot Contessa and would love to be a guest of Ina’s at her beautiful Hamptons home.  She always makes her guests feel so welcome, sets a stunning table, and makes comforting dishes that rely on seasonal ingredients.  Alas, until Ina discovers the Weeknight Gourmet, trying more of Ina’s delicious recipes from this gorgeous cookbook and, hopefully, being as gracious and relaxed a hostess as she will have to suffice.

Lemon Chicken Breasts
Copyright, 2010 Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 X 12-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.

Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Weeknight Bolognese
Copyright, 2010 Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

  • 2 TB good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ¼ cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • ¾ pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells (
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat until the meat is no longer pink and has started to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 TB salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Finish the sauce while the pasta cooks. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining ¼ cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Serves 4-5.

Looking for Menu Ideas? Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan

I used to grocery shop multiple times per week.  I would just pick up what I needed for dinner that night on my way home from work.  That’s not a realistic option now that Charlotte has come along and I am working full time.  Menu planning (and some shortcuts courtesy of Trader Joe’s and Fresh Direct) has become key to my weeknight cooking.

October’s issue of Real Simple Magazine features a four-week dinner plan.  Not having a ton of time to look for menu ideas, I decided to give Week 1 of the plan a whirl!  I made 4 of the 5 recipes.  They were all quite good but I thought the Penne with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella and the Pork Cutlets with Spicy Noodles really stood out!  Real Simple provided a shopping list making my life even easier!   I bought all of the ingredients on a Sunday and was prepared for a week of tasty, healthy eating!

The four recipes I made are below.

Roasted Tilapia, Potatoes, and Lemons

Very tasty!  I used tri-colored fingerling potatoes which were tasty and provided some great color to the dish.  The lemon and olives lend a great flavor to the very mild tilapia.

  • 1 pound baby potatoes (about 12), halved
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 6-ounce skinless tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Heat oven to 400° F.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, lemon, thyme, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.  Roast, tossing once, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
Toss the olives with the potato mixture; nestle the fish in it. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil and season with paprika and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Continue to roast until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp and the fish is opaque throughout, 12 to 15 minutes.

Penne With Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Delicious!  I skipped the mint and used basil instead.  I also added some grated parmesan.

  • 1/2 pound penne (1⁄2 box)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1⁄4 pounds), cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the eggplant. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing, until the tomatoes soften, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pasta, along with the mozzarella and reserved cooking water. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with the mint.

Turkey Burgers With Creamy Romaine Slaw

This was my least favorite of the four dishes but it was still tasty!  To save time I used shredded carrots.  And, we used sandwich thins as opposed to buns to save on calories.

  • 1 pound ground dark meat turkey (93 percent lean or less)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 4 soft rolls, split and toasted
  • potato chips and pickles, for serving

In a medium bowl, gently combine the turkey, mustard, thyme, and scallions. Form the meat into four ¾-inch-thick patties. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss with the lettuce and carrot.

Serve the burgers on the rolls, topped with the slaw. Serve with chips and pickles (if desired).

Pork Cutlets With Spicy Noodles

This was delicious!  I had trouble finding udon noodles so I used a brown rice spaghetti that I found at Trader Joe’s.  The noodles had great flavor from the broth, ginger, and jalapeno.  The pork was delicious as well!  I used two butterflied pork chops.

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 pound udon noodles
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
  • 1 red jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 4 thin pork cutlets (about 3⁄4 pound total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 scallions, sliced

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and ginger to a boil.

Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the noodles are al dente, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and jalapeño and simmer until the mushrooms are just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Coat with the flour, then the egg, and finally the panko.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Slice the pork and serve over the noodles. Sprinkle with the scallions.

Meatless Monday: Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese

Tim and I are laying off the carbs for a few weeks but I made this Meatless Monday recipe in September and it was quick and tasty!  I used baby spinach because that’s what I had on hand.  The combo of parmesan and asiago was delicious!  Making my life even easier, Fresh Direct sells grated asiago.

This pasta dish will even get your kids to eat their spinach!

Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese
Giada de Laurentiis

  • 1 pound fusilli pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (9-ounce) bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup (about 3 1/2-ounces) grated Asiago
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 more minutes. Add the cooked pasta and toss. Add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and the pasta cooking liquid and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate and serve.

Summer Meatless Mondays: Corn Pesto

Here is another great summertime meatless Monday recipe using everyone’s favorite summer veggie — corn!  If you are looking for a way to enjoy corn other than corn on the cob, this is a delicious and unique pasta sauce.

The corn pesto and bacon combination reminded me of a corn chowder.  Make sure to save some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce — the pesto is pretty thick.

There is still nothing as delicious as a grilled ear of corn but this was definitely a tasty and different way to use corn.

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto
Bon Appetit

  • 4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Summer Meatless Mondays: Pasta Ponza

Here is a delicious vegetarian pasta recipe I made recently using my favorite food of summer — tomatoes!  I had some beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes that I used.  Roasting them only intensified their wonderful flavor!  I would have enjoyed the tomato – caper – breadcrumb mixture on its own but it was even tastier when mixed with penne and Romano cheese.

Sorry about the lack of photos — I left my good camera in the Berkshires so I will be short on photos for a while.

Pasta Ponza
Giada de Laurentiis

  • Butter for greasing
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.