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.

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Summer Vegetable and Burrata Salad

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I’m all about the summer ingredients, and this salad is a great way to get in on it. Use some greenmarket cherry tomatoes, corn and arugula, and alongside some rich, creamy burrata, you’ll be in heaven. I love what the fresh basil and mint do for this salad — the recipe (from Food & Wine) calls for a generous amount of both, and it adds such an awesome array of flavor to this — so much more than you’d get from just plain lettuce (even if it IS arugula). Unfortunately I couldn’t find fava beans for this, but I bet it would make it even more interesting.

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TW’s Tips

  • Buy quality fresh burrata — good grocery stores package it themselves and sell in the cheese section
  • If you’re not eating the salad in one sitting, don’t dress the whole thing so the greens stay fresh and crisp.
  • To keep your basil fresh, snip off the ends and put in a glass of water on the counter.

Enjoy!

Summer Vegetable and Burrata Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ears of corn (preferably white), shucked and kernels cut off the cobs (3 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 ounces arugula (6 cups lightly packed)
  • 8 ounces mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil (see tip for keeping fresh)
  • 8 ounces burrata cheese

Directions

Fill a medium bowl with ice water. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the fava beans for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice bath to cool completely. Slip off and discard the skins.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the corn and fava beans and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, just until the corn is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the arugula, tomatoes, mint, basil and the corn mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then spoon onto plates. Scoop the burrata into pieces and gently spoon it onto the plates. Season with pepper and serve.

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.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

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It’s my favorite food time of year…tomato season. What is better than a super fresh, sweet, tasty heirloom tomato right from the garden? One of my favorite things ever! This awesome salad that I spotted in Food & Wine takes advantage of tomato season and matches them up with fresh ricotta seasoned with lemon zest and sunflower sprouts, and an unconventional topping — granola. It’s so simple but so delicious!

The granola incorporates pistachios and sunflower seeds and adds such a nice crunch to the salad. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty to throw on some yogurt with some berries for a nice week or so of breakfasts. And the other interesting ingredient — sunflower sprouts. They’re sweet, crunchy and fresh, and add a nice green splash to an already beautiful plate.

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TW’s Tips

  • Do not skimp on the tomatoes. If you can’t get them fresh at the farmer’s market, don’t bother. Heirloom — even better.
  • Same with the fresh ricotta — must be fresh! You’ll find it at a good grocery store in the cheese section. Don’t you dare use the stuff in plastic tubs in the dairy aisle.
  • Sunflower sprouts won’t be easy to find. I nabbed them at the Union Square greenmarket.

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • Two 12-ounce heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the agave, water, 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the oats on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring twice, until the granola is light golden. Stir in the pistachios and sunflower seeds and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until golden brown and dry. Let the granola cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, toss the sunflower sprouts with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tomato wedges in shallow bowls and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the ricotta around the tomatoes. Scatter the sprouts on top and sprinkle with some of the granola; save the remaining 
granola for another use. Serve right away.

Pappa al Pomodoro, aka Amazing Italian Tomato Soup

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It’s been a rainy few days in San Diego, which doesn’t happen too often. I won’t complain, though — the variety is nice, actually — and regardless, it’s the perfect weather for a nice, warm bowl of soup, which I took advantage of with this awesome pappa al pomodoro. This is a classic Italian recipe — Tuscan to be exact — and was traditionally a way to get rid of that stale bread Italians tend to have hanging around. As you can expect from a classic Italian dish, the flavors are simple but delicious. You’ve got ripe tomatoes (in this case canned San Marzano), onion, carrot, garlic, fennel, basil and red wine, all mixed in with cubes of bread that break down and thicken it up a bit. This version by Barefoot Contessa incorporates a topping that absolutely nailed it for me — toasted bread (basically fresh croutons), pancetta and basil leaves baked in a hot oven and then sprinkled on top. It’s a great crunch with salt from the pancetta and the crispy basil leaves. Awesome.

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I made this with some of the homemade chicken stock I made the other day, which really made a big difference. It’s so nice to be able to control the salt, and I barely had to add any to this! It was so warm and hearty, and the perfect thing for a rainy night. Serve with a salad or a baguette.

TW’s Tips

  • I splurged on San Marzano tomatoes instead of the regular or store brand. I have to say, it was awesome and much sweeter than you would get from the run-of-the-mill brand.
  • I highly recommend pancetta for the topping — bacon as a replacement just won’t cut it.
  • Barefoot Contessa calls for whisking this before serving — personally, I wasn’t a big fan, particularly of the chunks of carrot. So, I just stuck it in the food processor and smoothed it out a bit. Perfect.
  • This makes a lot — as usual, I froze some, which will definitely take me through at least six more servings.

Pappa al Pomodoro

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Green Bean Salad

I’m not the biggest green salad fan (BO-ring) so I’m always on the lookout for interesting slash delicious ways to get my veg on. Don’t get me wrong — I like a great green salad now and then, but it’s just not my go-to, and if I DO go there, I need a lot of more interesting components (that means more than lettuce, tomato and cucumber, people. Yawn.), and dressing made from scratch (obviously). Anyway, this Green Bean Salad by Jamie Deen is pretty awesome — it’s got great acidity from the red wine vinegar, plus almonds for some crunch and some tangy feta…literally could make it a meal, it’s that good. I made this for a side with Couscous Stuffed Chicken Breast with Feta, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives, but it would be a perfect summer cookout recipe, or a great bring-something-to-a-friend’s-house dish since you don’t need it to be warm and it’s even better once everything marinates for a little while.

I used some awesome farmers market beans for this — both green, purple and yellow (though the purple ones lost their cool color in the cooking process…boo).

TW’s Tips

  • I’ve only got one tip: cut the green beans into one-inch pieces once you’ve cooked and cooled them — much easier to eat. And use the best, freshest beans you can find.

Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound slender green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spider to remove to a bowl of ice water. Drain well, pat dry and place the beans in a large bowl. Combine with the feta cheese, tomatoes and red onions.

Toast the almonds in a small skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, garlic and some salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the green beans and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Hot Weather Meal: White Bean Tuna Salad

I hate to admit it, but San Diego has made me soft. I grew up in New Hampshire enduring weather from opposite ends of the spectrum — from negative temperatures and feet of snow to hot, humid, 100-degree summers to rain, sleet, hail, ice…you name it. But now living in San Diego, I like my perfect 70-75 degree weather quite a lot, thankyouverymuch, and after a week or so of 85-90 degree days, I’ve had it! I’m melting here! (Disclaimer: I don’t have air conditioning in my house and I normally don’t need it — it’s just a few times a year when it’s painful. This is one of those times.) I spent today searching for coffee shops with air conditioning where I could hang out and not be sweating.

The first thing I did when I sat down in said coffee shop? Google search for hot weather meals. I just couldn’t imagine the thought of turning on my oven — or my stove for that matter — and making my little house any hotter than it is already. And I found a great little recipe that made me very happy: White Bean Tuna Salad by Giada. Not only did I not have to cook — I barely had to do anything! It was super easy and really tasty and flavorful as well.

The trick to this is making sure you use chunk light tuna packed in oil — NOT water. It makes the tuna more moist and you get lots of flavor in the oil, which Giada uses as the base for the dressing. Mix the tuna in with canned white beans (easy!), grape tomatoes, capers, some red onion, salt and pepper, and dress with oil/red wine vinegar, throw it on some arugula and you’re good to go! I ate this outside at my table tonight.

TW’s Tips

  • Use oil-packed tuna, not water-packed.
  • I would consider cutting the tomatoes in half. She doesn’t call for it, but it would spread the tomato out so you get some in each bite.
  • I’m not a big red onion fan so I used a small shallot, which is more mild, and it was delicious.
  • The dressing made a lot, so I ended up draining some off at the end. Maybe cut it by 1/3.

Enjoy, and stay cool!

White Bean Tuna Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans dark meat tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, add the tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil – add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.

Place the arugula on a large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve immediately.