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Archive for the ‘pasta’ Category

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In late January, the New York Times published a recipe for a basic marinara sauce in their Dining section along with a very interesting article. I will admit (to eye rolls and audible gasps, I’m certain!) that I’m not a huge fan of pasta meals. A pasta only dinner leaves me feeling uncomfortably full and bloated, yet hungry within a few hours. Don’t misunderstand, though. I do love a few bites or a small bowl of good pasta, but it needs to be paired with something else like a piece of grilled fish or a big, interesting salad. So, while one of my least favorite meals is a heaping plate of pasta, one of my most dreamy meals would be a side portion of Palace Kitchen’s “plin” a piedmontese style ravioli filled with roast pork and chard (one of my top 10 plates in Seattle- more on this list to come) paired with a piece of seared Pacific Northwest salmon.

When I do crave that taste of a good bite (or several…) of pasta, however, I’m always on the hunt for a go-to sauce. I like pesto sauce (here’s another pesto recipe), but I’ve never quite nailed down a trusted marinara sauce…until now.

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This recipe is delightfully simple, yet full of complex flavor. The appeal of the recipe for me was the minimal list of ingredients, which prevents overcrowding and, instead, allows each ingredient to take center stage and how quick the sauce comes together. The first thing to know before approaching this recipe is that marinara is not synonymous with tomato sauce. Instead, marinara should taste like the brightness of a tomato paired with the richness of olive oil and a substantial hit of garlic, chili, and basil.

I learned many things from making this beautiful, simple sauce. One important key to the recipe is to make this sauce in a skillet rather than a pot so that the flavors can integrate more easily and cook more quickly which prevents the tomato seeds from over cooking and producing a bitter flavor. Additionally, it is important to either thinly slice or lightly crush the garlic rather than mince it. The more the garlic cells are broken down, the more sulfurous molecules, which produce a strong odor and flavor, are released. The trick is a subtle, well developed flavor of garlic rather than something overwhelming. Another trick is to use the basil only for flavoring- remove it once the sauce is finished cooking. And, lastly, not to use onion or butter, this makes the sauce more authentically southern Italian.

Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes (I used the Trader Joe’s brand)
Small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large fresh basil sprig

In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the garlic.
As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes straight from the can. Then, fill the can with 1 cup of water, slosh it around to get the reserved tomato juices, then pour the tomato water into the skillet. Add the red pepper flakes and salt. Stir.
Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower)- I let Jack do this step which he thought was pretty cool. Let it wilt first, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15-20 minutes. Discard the basil, then toss with warm pasta to coat it, do not just place it on top of the noodles.

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If you make it, I’d love to know what you think. Do you have any go-to pasta sauces I should try?

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We made this pasta dish after we all arrived home from long days at work and school stumbling into our dark house, shedding our scarves, hats, and coats, throwing our empty lunch bags onto the counter, and gathering in the kitchen for dinner prep. I began chopping as the ravioli boiled in a large pot. Jack got in a few dances to “Farmer in the Dell” and “Oh, Susanna” playing from his farm magnet on the refrigerator, we poured 2 glasses of red wine, and all three of us were happily sitting around the table by 6 o’clock enjoying a delicious plate of pasta.

The arugula brings the perfect addition of green and the olives and feta provide just enough salt and tang to brighten the dish. This is really yummy…a perfect weeknight meal.

Ravioli with Arugula and Olives

1 pound mini cheese ravioli
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped green and black olives
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
2 cups chopped arugula
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and stir well. Let the pasta cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until tender. When the ravioli is cooked, drain completely and transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the olive oil into the pasta, then add the olives, basil, arugula, and feta cheese and toss gently to mix. Enjoy with red wine and milk ;)

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As you know, I’m always on the hunt for easy and quick recipes for weeknight meals. The recipe has to be really good to land a spot in our rotation since I love trying new dishes. This pasta dish is definitely a staple in my kitchen. What I love about it is its versatility. There are so many options for ingredients in this dish that we always have enough on hand to make a pleasing pasta dinner. It usually goes something like this:

1. Pour a glass of wine- usually red, but sometimes white

2. Prepare the following:

3/4 lb of whatever pasta you have on hand
Some protein- we often use chick peas, white beans, prosciutto, or salami
A large bag or bunch of greens- I wish I could say I get mine from the farmer’s market, but what I typically have is the bag of mixed Southern Greens from Trader Joe’s
A 1/2 cup of cheese- ricotta seems to be the go-to around here since I love having it around to spread on warm toast, but we also use mozzarella quite often
1 lemon
Lots of olive oil
3 or 4 garlic cloves
Salt & ground pepper
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Boil a big pot of salted water. Cook pasta about 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about a cup of the hot pasta water to use if your pasta dish is too dry once combined- I ALWAYS forget to do this, even if I remember to set aside the water, but I do think it would be a good addition.

While the pasta is cooking, chop the meat, if using, into small pieces, or rinse and drain your beans. Sauté the meat in a large pot over medium heat with some olive oil until crispy. Add the minced cloves of garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant (if you are not using meat, add olive oil with your garlic). Next, add your mix of greens, sautéing until wilted. Add more olive oil here if the greens are not covered nicely. If using beans, add them after you have wilted the greens. Squeeze half a lemon on top of the mixture.

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Stir the cooked pasta, and pasta water, if you remember, into the greens mixture. Toss with cheese and perhaps another squeeze of lemon. Salt to taste…Savor.
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