Walnut Pesto with Fresh Tagliatelle

This is from Lidia’s Italy. On this episode, Lidia made fresh tagliatelle and featured two sauces to dress the pasta with. This one really struck me. I probably won’t be making fresh pasta anytime soon, but luckily I can get it in the refrigerated case at New Seasons from local pasta makers. Lidia stirred all the ingredients together in a big bowl while the pasta was cooking, then smoothed it over the bottom and up the sides a bit. She then lifted the pasta out of the boiling water and right into the bowl without draining, added a few pats of butter on top, and then tossed gently with two spoons. Lastly, she topped with very finely grated reggiano.

Walnut Pesto
Pesto di Noci

serves: 6 main courses

This uncooked dressing, enriched with ricotta and butter, is delicious and quite different from the herb-based pestos I’ve found in other regions. You can blend it together in a bowl while the pasta water is heating up and have a distinctive pasta appetizer or main course in minutes. To retain its vibrant, fresh flavors, it is important not to cook the pesto, just toss it with the pasta and serve.

For the Pesto
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups walnut halves, or pieces, toasted
1½ cups ricotta, preferably fresh
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons Grana Padano, freshly grated, or more for passing
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons butter, softened

For the Pasta
1 pound tagliatelle

Put the walnuts and garlic in the food processor, and pulse until the nuts are chopped into very tiny bits (but don’t grind them to a powder). Scrape the ground nut-garlic mixture into the large bowl, and stir in the ricotta, olive oil, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper, until thoroughly blended. When the pesto is ready and the water is boiling, drop all the pasta into the pot at once, and stir to loosen and separate the strands. Cover the pot, and over high heat return the water to a boil rapidly. Set the cover ajar, and cook the pasta until the tagliatelle are perfectly al dente. Working quickly, lift out the tagliatelle with a spider and tongs, and drop into the bowl with the dressing. Drop the soft butter in dollops on the hot pasta, and toss until all the strands are nicely coated with the pesto- if the dressing is too thick, loosen it with a bit of hot water from the pasta pot as you toss. Serve immediately in warm bowls, with more grated cheese at the table.

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Spaghetti with Chickpeas

It was the chickpeas and pancetta that got me. I love anything you can add crispy pork to, and chickpeas are an all-time fave. Plus it’s pasta…

Debbie recommends double-ing the amoung of sauce, or halving the amount of pasta (which would my choice, since usually cooking for two). The pic below is of the recipe as written.

15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 2 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup chicken stock
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, diced (a little shy of 2 ounces)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch chile flakes
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
10 to 15 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Set 1/3 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped.

Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned; a splatter screen will make your stove look better than mine did after this. Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, or tastes like it could use an additional minute’s cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Toss pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through, about one minute. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed. Season again, as needed, and serve with grated Parmesan to pass.

Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza

1 batch Simplest Pizza Dough or a store-bought pizza dough that will yield one small (approx. 11 to 12 inches across), thin pizza
1 lemon
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
Few leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin slivers
1/2 medium yellow zucchini, sliced as thinly as you can pull off with a knife or your mandoline (I went for 1/8-inch thick with mine)
1/2 medium green zucchini, sliced as the same as above
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Roll your pizza dough into a thin 12-inch circle and lay it on a tray or stone that has been dusted lightly with cornmeal.

In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese with the juice of half your lemon. Season it with salt and freshly ground pepper, and spread it over your pizza dough. Scatter fresh basil slivers over the cheese.

Arrange your zucchini coins in concentric circles over the goat cheese spread, overlapping them slightly. You can alternate their colors, if you’re feeling fancy. Squeeze the juice of the second half of your lemon on top of you zucchini, then drizzle with olive oil and finish with more salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes (your baking time will vary, so please watch carefully), or until the edges of your pizza are golden brown and the zucchini looks roasted and a little curled up at the edges. Serve with a green or even simple tomato salad and a glass of crisp white wine.

Source: http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/07/lemony-zucchini-goat-cheese-pizza/

Simplest Pizza Crust

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.

Source: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/01/pizza-and-the-limits-of-diy/

Pasta Puttanesca

I just can’t stop pilfering recipes from Smitten Kitchen. Seriously, who is this person and how did she get to be that way? I wish she lived near me. Also Dana. She and Dana and I would drink alot of wine and form a coven of awesomeness.

Pasta Puttanesca actually means something like “whore’s pasta” or “prostitute’s pasta” or something like that. I don’t know why and stories vary, although I like Deb’s idea that it was traditionally prepared by women who wanted to keep their meal prep short so their evening could move on to “other things.” (I’m sure the MoTH would like that one best, as well). Regardless, I’m happy to keep prep short because there are currently Mad Men episodes to watch and hot tubs to sit in and electric guitars to practice. So here’s the recipe:

8 ounces regular whole-wheat thin spaghetti, vermicelli or angel hair
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated cheese.

Herbed Pasta Salad

Serves 8

    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    1 1/2 pounds orecchiette, or other short pasta
    1/3 cup olive oil
    4 garlic cloves, sliced
    1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water; leave in colander and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant and sizzling, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Pour garlic oil through a sieve into a large bowl; discard garlic. Add pasta and herbs to oil. Season generously with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, chilled or at room temperature. (Salad may be made up to 2 days in advance; before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.)