Tag Archives: pasta

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, and Olives

When I first meet J, in college, I was wowed by his prowess in the kitchen.  He had two specialties: one was a fried egg sandwich, and the other a box of Spanish rice to which he added a can of black beans and shredded cheddar cheese.  He made it look so easy.  I was smitten.

Later our shared cooking repertoire expanded quite significantly, but J remains a man with a specialty.  These days it’s a perfectly grilled side of salmon or an impeccable vinaigrette, but for a few years (about a decade ago) J’s claim to fame in the kitchen was pasta puttanesca.  He’d whip up a pan on nights when we both worked late and were too tired to deal with the CSA vegetables or walk three blocks to the nearest restaurant.

We were pleasantly reminded of those pasta puttanesca days tonight with this dish from the NY Times Recipes for Health series.  The genius improvement, though, is that this recipe incorporates another family favorite: roasted cauliflower.  We used whole wheat pasta because we’re crunchy like that (and it was great), but you do what you like.

Continue reading Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, and Olives (click for recipe)

Buckwheat Soba Salad with Spicy Almond Sauce

What kind of dinner party do you like to throw? What is your ideal number of guests? Do you have a few go-to dinner party dishes?

I like a big, casual potluck, myself.  (Or a casual dinner for a few close friends.  Notice the theme here?  Casual.)  We don’t throw nearly enough big parties these days, but I’d like to change that. The beauty of a summer potluck is the ease: clear off the counters, park a big bucket of ice or a keg in the back yard, ask a few neighbors to contribute lawn chairs.  I’m ready.  All we need now are some warm, sunny evenings.

I’m happy to announce that I’m gearing up for my real-life party plans by attending a Virtual Vegan Potluck this Saturday.  Tune in for my contribution (we’ll be rolling brown rice sushi, speaking of fun dinner party ideas), then hop around the table to see what else is cooking.  I can promise that we will all come away with enough recipe inspiration to get us through a summer’s worth of potlucks.

As it happens, a cold soba noodle salad is one of the dishes I like to take to potlucks now and then.  It’s easy to make, you can toss in whatever veggies you have handy, and the pasta easily stretches it to feed a crowd.  Maybe you toss in some tofu, maybe not.  I haven’t had a go-to dressing for my salad, though; sometimes I just did rice vinegar and sesame oil, other times a so-so peanut sauce.  That all changed this week.I love An Unrefined Vegan’s spicy almond sauce, and I hereby declare it the dressing that shall adorn my soba salads all summer long.  It was great to start with, but I doubled the almond butter and the spice because I am decadent like that, and the resulting dressing is even more creamy, spicy, and rich.  You won’t be sorry if you invite me to your potluck this summer.  Feel free to request this dish; I’ll be making it a lot, it keeps and travels well, and it’s as good cold as it is warm.  Continue reading Buckwheat Soba Salad with Spicy Almond Sauce (click for recipe)

Homemade Vegan Pasta

It turns out that it’s no big deal to make homemade vegan pasta.  No eggs?  No problem.  You can apparently even make pasta with just flour and water alone, but I fancied things up with a splash of olive oil to replace the richness of the eggs and a spoonful of turmeric for color.

I made these noodles to serve in my zippy noodle curry, but they would certainly stand up well to other sauces.  They are a bit less sturdy than the egg noodles, so I would advise letting them dry out for a little while before you cook them so they don’t end up mushy.  We draped towels over all the kitchen cabinets and hung noodles everywhere while I was cooking dinner, and that seemed like plenty of drying time.

You can vary this recipe, of course, to change the flavor or color of the pasta.  I’m thinking of making pink pasta by adding some of my beet powder, and of course we love spinach pasta (you can blend the 2 c. spinach as I did in that recipe with your liquid ingredients, reducing the water in the recipe below by about 3 Tbsp.). Continue reading Homemade Vegan Pasta (click for recipe)

Triple-Green Pasta: Spinach Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Arugula Pesto

You can’t go wrong sauteing a mess of greens with an onion as the starting point for a meal.  Greens, pasta, pesto, done.

This dish would also be delicious with our easy homemade spinach pasta (here’s a vegan version).  And I know I said you need a pasta roller to make homemade pasta, but look at this!  Cooks Illustrated had yet another good idea and a published a pasta recipe that is apparently a dream to roll out by hand.  Let me know if you try that, will you?

Rainbow chard is so pretty.  My five year old picked this bunch out, enraptured by the colors, but declined to eat more than a bite.  Her loss. Continue reading Triple-Green Pasta (click for recipe)

Parsley Pesto, with or without Whole Wheat Pasta

Last night we bundled up for our first outdoor dinner of the season. Met the neighbors on the front steps, let the kids get dirty, slurped hot noodles with a fresh spring pesto. It’s not summer yet, but it’s coming.

Parsley is always one of the early springtime arrivals in my garden, but my plants are still just unfurling and getting their footing. This pesto made use of a lonely green bunch of store parsley. I like to keep parsley around for the perky boost it gives to the flavor and color of many dishes.  But in this pesto, it’s the star of the show. And it made for a flavorful and nearly effortless dinner; I just whirled the pesto in the food processor while my pasta boiled.

I saved my parsley stems for homemade stock, of course.

Continue reading Parsley Pesto (click for recipe)

Broccoli Salad with Ravioli, Feta, and Lemony Harissa Dressing

I have this little food-related fantasy right around lunchtime some days.  I thought for about two seconds about whether I should share it with you all, but then I realized, YOU’RE the one reading a food blog, you must be at least as obsessed with food as I am.  So I figure you must have plenty of food fantasies of your own.  Here’s mine, which may be most recognizable to stay-at-home parents of very small children who end up eating PB&Js for lunch with one hand while holding a baby in the other arm: a drive-through (or delivery!) deli counter, featuring healthy, hearty, fresh, delectable salads.  Or, since it’s make-believe anyway, let’s just go ahead and say great salads that magically appear in my refrigerator as soon as I get hungry.

There are a few places near me that feature impressive arrays of pre-made salads, but they’re not always as good as they look.  And I want good.  So when I can manage to plan in advance, I like to make a great salad for dinner and then stock my fridge with the leftovers for weekday lunches.  This is just such a salad.  Whether you eat it at your desk or during your baby’s 10-minute nap, I recommend following it with one of those pixie tangerines that are sadly about to disappear until next year.  Almost like magic.This salad is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.  You can play with the proportions, using more ravioli for more of a pasta salad or less for more of a broccoli salad (which I prefer).  As for the dressing, we have tried many prepared harissa pastes and currently use the Tunisian brand Les Moulins Mahjoub (it looks like this and I buy mine at The Spanish Table), but if you have another favorite I’d love to hear about it! Continue reading Broccoli Salad with Ravioli, Feta, and Lemony Harissa Dressing (click for recipe)

Eat Your Greens: Easy Handmade Spinach Pasta

Sometimes, as a threat, I tell my children that there were times, like maybe in the 1950s, when children weren’t even allowed INTO the kitchen.  They had to PLAY OUTSIDE until dinner was ready.  They did not ever get to help cook, and they CERTAINLY were not allowed to gambol about the cook’s feet or play frisbee with the tupperware lids to entertain the baby.  My children stare at me, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.  Being banned from the kitchen is as bad a fate as they can imagine.

In fact, many evenings when I head into the kitchen to start thinking about dinner, they beat me there, pulling their stepladders up to the counter.  “How can we help?”  They measure as we bake, pile cut veggies onto the tray to roast, push the buttons on the machines.  They find the pots, help set the table, and enthusiastically stir clouds of flour and glops of sauces right onto the floor.

So when my little chefs make a dinner request, I like to indulge them.  The other night my five year old requested stracci di pasta.  Actually, what she said, with a bordering-on-maniacal gleam in her eye, was “Mama, can we make that pasta where we get to cut it up by ourselves WITH A SHARP KNIFE?”  (Sharp knives–even not VERY sharp knives–are exciting to the preschool set.)  Indeed we could.

Homemade egg pasta is actually very easy if you have a pasta roller.  If you don’t, forget it, borrow a friend’s and then come back for the recipe.  We made ours with spinach both for the emerald color and because I want my kids to cook with and eat vegetables on purpose (as opposed to only hidden-in-their foods veggies, which seems to be a trend).  This recipe, like many of my favorites, started its life in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Fresh Spinach Pasta starts with two c. lightly packed spinach leaves blended with two eggs until liquid.  Mix 2 c. flour with 1/4 tsp. salt in a mixer/food processor/bowl then add the liquid while stirring or mixing on low speed.  The dough will be quite crumbly but if it is unworkably dry or sticky you can adjust with a spoonful of water or flour.  Turn out onto a cutting board and knead until smooth.  Cover and let rest 15 minutes.  Cut dough into 4-6 pieces and flatten each into a rough rectangle.  Set your pasta roller to the widest setting and roll the dough through, then fold in half or thirds and roll again to continue kneading the dough.  Do this a few times, then stop folding and start thinning out the dough by running it through the machine on progressively thinner settings.  When your pasta is suitably thin, repeat with remaining dough.  Let your kids cut the pasta into stracci (“little rags”), or fold it as shown and slice into noodles.  (If the pasta seems at all sticky, flour it lightly for this step.)  Pull apart into a pile of noodles and toss with a few pinches of flour to keep the noodles from sticking.  Cook in a boiling pot of salted water for a few minutes, tasting as you go (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your pasta).

We drained our pasta and tossed it into a pan of puttanesca-style sauce: olive oil, garlic, capers, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and a few more handfuls of spinach.

Put a Fried Egg on Your Pasta

Ok, so I’ll give you that this is more of a tip than a recipe.  But I promise you this: a salty, garlicky, spicy plate of pasta is even better with a fried egg on top.


Jewel Tone Winter Pasta

I have mentioned before that orange vegetables have favored status with the children in our household.  Which is why, when I have a butternut squash around, my first thought about dinner is usually that I should dice it up and roast it.  My oldest calls the carmelized bites “squash candy,” which isn’t at all wrong (although I don’t go this far).

I, however, am not picky about the color of my food, so long as my plate contains an array of stunning hues.  Ok, so I am picky.  It’s worth it.  Beautiful tastes better.

Luckily, we eat a lot of vegetables, and vegetables are gorgeous.  This pasta has a combination of veggies that I love for their jewel tones almost as much as I love them for their flavor together: butternut squash, kale, red onion, and mushrooms.

I am not an evangelist on this point, but I think this combination is worth trying with whole wheat pasta.  At this time of year especially, I like the robust savor of whole wheat noodles underlying the sweetness of caramelized winter vegetables.  But hey, if that’s not your thing, go ahead and use whatever you’ve got on your shelf.

Jewel Tone Winter Pasta begins with the roasting of a peeled, diced butternut squash tossed with a spoonful of olive oil and a few good pinches of salt.  Roast it at 450 and stir every 10 minutes or so until the cubes start to candy at the edges (about 40 minutes for 1/2″ cubes).  Meanwhile, heat a pot of water to boil pasta.  While it’s heating, find a pan large enough to hold the finished dish and saute a sliced red onion in olive oil on high heat with a pinch of salt until it begins to really brown.  Add a pile of sliced mushrooms and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates and they shine like gold.  Now toss in a big pinch of salt and a shredded head of washed kale, with a few additional spoonfuls of water if necessary to deglaze the pan, and cook until the kale is tender but not mushy.  (Take the pan off the heat if your pasta and squash aren’t ready yet.)  When your squash is nearing perfection, cook whole wheat spaghetti (or your noodles of choice) in salted water for 1 minute less than usual and then drain, reserving a cup of cooking water–the pasta will finish cooking in your pan.  Put your pan back on the heat and combine everything: sauteed veggies, roasted squash, noodles, a splash of olive oil and some good grindings of pepper.  Taste for salt and serve with more pepper at the table, and a little bit of cheese if you’re so inclined.  I love this dish with blue cheese, but fresh goat cheese or grated parmesan would be perfectly acceptable alternatives.

We served this pasta with a spinach salad with fresh pears, dried cherries, sunflower seeds and Creamy Pear Vinaigrette, but it would also be delicious with this lemony Romaine salad with homemade croutons.