Pantry Pasta

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Nothing beats a meal you can whip up in under an hour from what you have in your cupboard. Admittedly, this probably ges a little beyond the cupboard for most people, but it’s a really simple list of ingredients, and what you don’t have you can easily pick up at the market.

I’m sort of obsessed with all the awesome flavors going on in this dish from Bon Appetit. First, there’s olives — and Castelvetrano have to be some of my favorites. They’re more mild than your traditional green olive, with a little sweetness to them. I pop them like candy (or the candy corn pumpkins I’ve been gorging on lately…I digress). We’ve got cherry tomatoes, a little red onion, and some spicy peperoncini, then some salty Pecorino cheese on top and fresh basil, and the delicious meatiness of the sweet Italian sausage. So. Much. Happening. And sooo delicious.

I love that the sauce for this pasta is so simple — it’s just the liquid that comes from smashing the tomatoes, a little oil and butter and the pasta cooking liquid. Because there’s so much going on here, it’s the perfect way to make sure the dish doesn’t get overwhelming and allows the flavors to stand on their own. And stand they do.

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TW’s Tips

  • I used fresh cherry tomatoes — make sure they burst in the pan to give it some juiciness
  • Instead of spaghetti I substituted penne — or use any pasta
  • Use fresh basil — store it on your counter with the stem in a glass of water
  • Really seek out the Castelvetrano olives. Most high end grocery stores will have them either in an olive bar or pre-packed in the olive/cheese section.

This reheats beautifully. I can’t wait to make it again. Enjoy!

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Pantry Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup torn pitted olives, preferably Castelvetrano
  • 1 14-ounce can cherry tomatoes
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup peperoncini, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces Pecorino or Parmesan, finely grated, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup torn basil

Directions

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, browned, and crisp in places, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and olives to skillet. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, mashing tomatoes lightly and stirring often, until juices are slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta and ¾ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing, until pasta is al dente and sauce coats noodles. Mix in peperoncini, cooked sausage, and another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid. Then, tossing constantly, gradually add all but ½ cup cheese, followed by butter. Once incorporated, remove from heat and mix in basil. Divide pasta among bowls. Drizzle with oil; top with remaining cheese.

Spaghetti with Sautéed Cauliflower, Raisins, and Pine Nuts

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For Meatless Monday tomorrow, I give you this gem. If you haven’t gotten on the cauliflower bandwagon yet, this may well convince you. There’s a ton of flavor going here, and I get it, at first it sounds weird. But trust me — when you put it all together, it works. There’s the caramelized cauliflower, sweetness from the raisins, acid from the lemon and umami from the anchovy, plus cheese, nuts and lots of parsley to top it off=bliss. I loved the addition of panko bread crumbs on top which gave it a nice buttery crunch. This is yet another of Tyler Florence’s hits from his “Tyler’s Ultimate” cookbook.

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It’s nice to have a pasta now and then that doesn’t use a traditional meat or pesto sauce. This one uses just olive oil, a little water and lemon — when reheating you may want to add a bit more olive oil to loosen it up a little.

TW’s Tips

  • Instead of using anchovies, you can buy anchovy paste in a tube (literally like toothpaste)
  • On the raisins, you can use golden or regular
  • To keep this totally vegetarian, just leave out the anchovy (but I don’t recommend it!)
  • On the pinenuts, you can substitute others — almonds, walnuts are good options
  • Keep the toasted breadcrumbs separate so you still get a crunch when you reheat the pasta for leftovers — just sprinkle them on top when it comes out of the microwave.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Sautéed Cauliflower, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-size florets
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins (TW: I used leftover golden raisins)
  • 2 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste with the side of a large knife (TW: or use anchovy paste)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (TW: I used sliced almonds)
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Freshly grated Parmesan to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 350.

Saute the cauliflower and the anchovies in a saute pan in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot and the anchovies are sizzling. Add 1/4 cup of water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, heat on medium, cover and and steam the cauliflower for about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 5-7 minutes more until the water has evaporated and the cauliflower is starting to brown. Add the raisins and pine nuts and toss to warm through. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

On a baking sheet, drizzle the panko with 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread out in a layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until it’s lightly brown and crunchy.

Cook the spaghetti until al dente.

Drain the spaghetti and place in a large bowl. Add a 2 count of olive oil and toss. Dump in the cauliflower mixture, add the parsley and lemon juice, and fold together. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with the bread crumbs and cheese.

Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto

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I’m sticking with my tomato theme this week — why limit a good thing, right? This Bon Appetit recipe for Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto uses cherry tomatoes as a base for a non-basil related pesto — alongside walnuts, anchovies (trust me), garlic and Parmesan. I say trust me on the anchovies because people tend to feel squeamish about these little filets of flavor. And you’re right, I wouldn’t recommend eating one on its own. But these guys are the ones responsible for the great, funky undertone in food classics like Caesar salad dressing. It works the same way fish sauce works in Thai food — used sparingly, and you won’t be able to say “that’s anchovy,” but it adds depth and character. Using the tomatoes for a base makes for a pesto that’s a bit sweeter than what you’re probably used to, but it’s totally delicious and rich and I couldn’t stop eating it.

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IMG_7081And while the pesto doesn’t have basil involved, basil is added at the end of this dish in full leaf form, so you still get that great basil flavor, which cuts through the rest of the tastes beautifully.

TW’s Tips

  • Rather than toast the walnuts in the oven, I did it on the stovetop in a dry skillet — easier and you don’t have to heat up the whole oven.
  • When you buy basil, cut off the bottom of the sprigs and put it in a glass of water on your countertop. I can’t tell you how many bunches of basil I’ve had go bad in one day in the fridge despite my best efforts. This is the way to go — and if you get really fresh basil, it will last a long time — mine lasted two weeks!
  • If you don’t have spaghetti, any type of pasta will work

Enjoy!

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Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

  • ⅔ cup walnuts
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • ½ cup (packed) basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool. (see TW tip for another option)

Heat broiler. Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil, tossing once, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.

Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ oz. Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in ⅓ cup oil; process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

Transfer pasta to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.

Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and black pepper and drizzle with oil.

Do Ahead: Pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheese Tortellini

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If you know me, you know I love pasta — any type, shape, filling, flavor or sauce. As long as it’s cooked al dente, I’m in. This is a great winter meal that combines pasta with roasted acorn squash with a pretty impressive presentation. And you don’t have to feel quite as guilty about the cream-based, cheese sauce since you have vegetables involved.

So yes, it’s cheesy and rich, but it’s delicious and perfect for a dinner party since the presentation is so lovely. The sage on top is the perfect finisher. And for the record, another Tyler Florence.

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TW’s Tips

  • Any small stuffed pasta would work here — mini ravioli, etc.
  • It took a while for the squash to cook through — longer than the recipe indicated. Make sure it’s done well by testing with a knife. Nothing is worse than crunchy squash.
  • Reheating this meal isn’t easy — I scooped the whole bit out of the squash and reheated in a bowl.
  • This is a heavy meal. Serve with a salad on the side.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheese Tortellini

Ingredients

  • 2 medium acorn squash (about 1 pound each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound store-bought fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Fresh sage leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half through the equator and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Cut a small piece off the rounded edge of both halves to give them a base to sit on. Place the squash halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until tender.

Cook the tortellini in salted boiling water according to package directions; drain well, reserving some of the pasta water. Set tortellini and pasta water aside.

In a separate saucepan heat the cream over medium heat. Add garlic and thyme; cook 5 to 7 minutes, until liquid is reduced and mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Add the 1 cup the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the nutmeg, stir over low heat to melt the cheese. Toss tortellini into cream mixture. (Use some of the pasta water to thin sauce, if necessary.) Season with salt and pepper, then divide among cooked squash bowls.

Turn the oven to 400°F. Sprinkle the tops with Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh sage leaves; bake for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and golden.

Chicken and Egg Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Dill

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It’s getting to be soup weather in New York — complete with a rainy Nor’easter. This soup has some nice bright flavors from the lemon and dill, and it cooks up in 30 minutes — the perfect comfort food on a chilly night. I’ve never made soup with egg in it before — it adds a nice creaminess without cream or milk — just make sure you whip it thoroughly before stirring it in. Quick, easy and the leftovers are delish!

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TW’s Tips

  • The recipe calls for pastina, which you could probably find at a specialty Italian grocer. I opted for orzo, but you could also use Israeli couscous or any small pasta.
  • I used shredded roasted chicken and threw it in at the end to heat through, instead of putting the whole chicken on the bone in the pot.
  • Serve with pita or flat bread.

Chicken and Egg Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Dill

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 (2 1/2-to-3-pound) rotisserie chicken (on the bone)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup pastina (small pasta) or orzo
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups baby spinach or other baby greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)

Directions
Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the broth, 4 cups water and the juice of 1 lemon; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pastina/orzo and simmer until the pasta is cooked and the soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken; when cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite-size pieces.

Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk the juice of the remaining lemon with the whole eggs and yolks in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually whisk a ladleful of the hot soup into the egg mixture, then stir the warm egg mixture into the soup and return to medium-low heat. Cook until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the shredded chicken, spinach and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with feta, if desired.

Roasted Chicken With Moroccan Spices, Cheesy Orzo and Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Walnuts

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If you’re craving a home-cooked meal, this one will hit the spot. It’s homey and comforting, but with an interesting twist — Moroccan spices on the chicken, with a little sweetness and a little spice, classic green beans but with shallots and walnuts to dress it up, and the orzo is pasta transformed into pure homey, cheesy goodness.

The chicken and green beans are recipes courtesy of Tyler Florence, and the orzo is Rachael Ray. This delicious orzo is a recipe I’ve been coming back to again and again. And if you know how I cook, that’s unusual. I love trying new recipes, so it’s not often that I’ll choose to revisit something I’ve tried. But this orzo is just too good. It’s easy, quick and the end result is creamy and delicious — with great garlic and onion flavor and the tanginess of fresh Parmigiano. I admit this is best fresh off the stove, but it doesn’t stop me from eating the leftovers, either. It’s the perfect go-to side for whatever meal you’re cooking.

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The green beans are pretty amazing too. They’re fresh and crisp, with some acidity from the lemon juice, great savory flavor from the mild shallots and crunchy nuttiness from the walnuts. Plus the finish of the fresh parsley…this is one of those vegetable dishes I could eat for a main course. It’s that good.

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And don’t forget the chicken. I love a great roasted chicken — it makes your house smell delicious, it’s warm and comforting, and the leftovers are fantastic. This one uses some great spices and you will love it.

TW’s Tips

  • Make sure you have a coffee or spice grinder for the chicken spices — otherwise, use already ground spices. It won’t be as potent and flavorful, but grinding spices otherwise is impossible.
  • Eat the chicken skin. Trust me.
  • Don’t overcook the beans. Test them with a sharp knife or fork and keep them nice and crisp.

Roasted Chicken With Moroccan Spices

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3-4 pounds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, chopped in pieces
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse chicken with cool water, inside and out – then pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the cinnamon stick, cloves, cayenne, cumin, fennel, coriander and paprika in a dry skillet over low heat and toast for a minute – just to release the fragrant oils – shake pan so spices don’t scorch. In a clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together with the sea salt and brown sugar.

Massage the chicken skin with the spice rub, making sure you don’t miss any spots.
Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the lemon halves, cilantro and garlic into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken into a roasting pan, fitted with a rack, and fold the wing tips under the chicken and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Drizzle oil all over chicken. If you have the time, let the chicken sit for 30 minutes to really let the flavors meld into the chicken.

Roast the chicken for one hour, then check with an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh – if it reads 160 degrees F, then it’s done! Take the chicken out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before carving – so the juices can settle back into the meat. Squeeze the lemon halves that have cooked inside the chicken over the meat for added wow.

Cheesy Orzo

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (14 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 2 cups orzo pasta (enriched rice may be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat a 8 inch pot with a tight fitting cover over moderate heat. Add oil, onion and garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Add broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and return broth to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed and pasta tender. Remove lid and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. You favorite fresh herbs may also be stirred into the orzo or rice to strengthen the flavor even more.

Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green beans — trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots — sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 dash freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley — chopped

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil, blanch the green beans for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put a skillet over medium heat and add oil. Saute shallots for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and get some color. Add the walnuts and cook for 3 more minutes, tossing frequently.

Add the green beans, season with salt and pepper. Toss together and add lemon juice and parsley.

Sausage and Pea Pesto Pasta

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As many of you know, it’s been 2-3 months of major life changes for me — new job, new city (New York!), cross-country move, new apartment, new practically everything! So needless to say it’s been a bit crazy around here, and I’m super delinquent on this blog. Here goes redeeming myself!

This is the first meal I made in NYC and a recipe I found on the Very Culinary blog — I was looking for something simple that didn’t require buying a ton of ingredients that I would have to move to a new apartment, but something that would still be delicious. Grocery shopping and meal-making is a whole new world in New York — forget hopping in your car and running to the massive Vons/Safeway/Trader Joe’s and carting out several bags worth of heavy groceries. You’re walking, you’re finding a nearby (small) grocery store, probably something independent that looks halfway promising, and you’re carrying what you buy home with you with your own two arms. It’s a great way to really make you rethink the impulse purchases. Quite the adventure!

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I ventured beyond the local market for this meal — I got all the ingredients at Chelsea Market, a veritable foodie heaven that is now only a few blocks away from my new apartment. (When I made this meal it was a subway ride and 15 minute walk — much more of a mission.) I will definitely be frequenting the place. The Italian market there is fabulous, and I used fresh made pesto, dried pasta straight from Italy and some amazing fresh sausage — even an Italian brand of frozen peas! It was simple but delicious — fresh, a little spicy and great reheated.

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TW’s Tips

  • I got fresh sausage from the meat counter, but packaged Jimmy Dean would work as well.
  • I recommend fresh pesto — you can find remarkably good pesto at Costco in the refrigerated section. I swear by it. Or hit your local Italian market. I’m NOT a big fan of jarred pesto.
  • Serve with crusty bread and salad.

Sausage and Pea Pesto Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 pound medium shell pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound seasoned pork sausage
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the shells to al dente texture, according to package instructions, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in the pork and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon until no pink remains; about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Gently toss in the peas until warmed through.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the pesto until all the shells are coated. Stir in the sausage mixture until thoroughly combined. Ladle into bowls and serve right away.