Tag Archives: pasta

Celebration Scampi

This past weekend, I watched many friends celebrate their graduation from business school.  It was really nice to be a part of their happiness because I’ve seen them progress throughout their program for the past 18 months, and I know how excited they are to move on from school. 

While managing the various celebration receptions, I recalled a meal that I threw together a few years back when I concluded of a certain facet of undergraduate business school:  financial accounting.  I had two good study buddies in this class, and I still remember our late-night meet-ups to go over practice problems and concepts before any exams.  When we all passed the final and the class, we decided to celebrate with a delicious home-cooked meal.  And by that, I mean that I cooked and my friends (two guys who did not have the best kitchen skills back then) provided the home for it.

Celebration Scampi
Serves 4

8 to 10 oz. whole wheat pasta (linguine and penne both work well)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter*
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 Lb. medium, uncooked shrimp (veins removed)
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese, garnish

*For a more traditional scampi, use 2 Tbsp. butter instead of 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.  When melted, add garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly so as not to burn the garlic.

Add wine to pan and stir to combine.  Let cook for 1 to 2 minutes so that the wine begins to reduce.  Then add the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until shrimp are bright pink.  In the last minute of cooking, add in salt, pepper, and lemon juice, all to taste.

Pour pasta onto a large serving platter and top with the scampi sauce.  Garnish with parsley and/or freshley grated parmesan.

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Comfort Food

To me, one of the best feelings in the world is when you get home after a very long work week and know that you have a day off (or two, if you’re lucky).  It was a very comforting thought to know that when I left work yesterday, I had one whole day awaiting me in which I could do absolutely anything that I wanted to do.  It was only natural that I wanted food that comforted me last night.

If you asked 10 random people on the street what their top comfort food was, I bet that at least a couple of them would say pasta.  I would even venture to say that out of that 20%, one or both would say pasta with alfredo sauce.  Alfredo is the definition of comfort — rich, creamy, warm, and cheesy.  While all these things are wonderful, it doesn’t make alfredo the healthiest sauce either.  I decided to make a few changes to make it a little lighter in terms of fat and calories, but not give up anything on flavor.  I think it’s just as yummy as alfredo that you’d get at your local Italian restaurant and doubt you’ll even miss the heavy cream.


Meg’s Penne Alfredo

Serves 3

6oz. penne pasta
1 tsp. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. flour
2/3 cup skim milk
4oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried ground mustard
8oz. Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Firm (about 2/3 of package)
dash of ground nutmeg

In a large pot, boil water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

In a pan, saute garlic in butter over medium-low heat.  When butter is melted, add in flour and stir well to combine.

Slowly add in milk and bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes while milk lightly boils until sauce thickens slightly.  Reduce to medium-low heat.

Add cheeses, tofu, and all seasonings to sauce.  Break up tofu with a spoon and allow cheese to melt, taking about 5 to 7 minutes.  When cheese is done melting, transfer sauce to a blender and blend for 30 seconds or so until smooth. 

Add sauce to drained pasta and stir to combine.  Top with fresh parsley or more parmesan and enjoy.

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Kale and White Bean Penne

In need of a good Valentine’s Day dinner recipe?  Then look no further than this one.  Sure, it may be a little garlicky, but that’s not an issue to me.  If I get married in the future, the hubs better be able to handle me smelling like onions and garlic or else it just won’t work.

This, on the other hand, works.  It’s easy, filling, and delicious.  Plus, Listerine was invented for a reason. 

Kale and White Bean Penne
Serves 4 to 6

12 to 15 leaves of kale
10 oz. whole wheat penne
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. capers
½ to 1 Tbsp. caper juice (to your preference)
½ cup dry white wine
15oz. can diced tomatoes (no salt added variety)
15oz. can great northern beans, rinsed
15oz. can cannelini beans, rinsed
Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1. Rinse kale and remove tough stems from leaves.  Pile 3 to 4 leaves on top of each other at a time, roll them together into a log, and slice into 1/2″ strips (this is called chiffonade).  Place shreds into a bowl and save for later.
2. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.
3. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a large pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and caper juice.  Cook for another minute stirring constantly.
4. Add drained tomatoes, beans, and wine to mixture.  Allow wine to boil and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.  Add a little water if desired (½ to 1 cup).
6. When pasta is done cooking, toss the kale into the hot water.  It will cook quickly, and as soon as the color turns a vibrant, bright green, it’s done (about 30 seconds).
7. Drain pasta and kale, return to pot.  Add sauce, and stir to coat.
8.  Grate cheese on top of pasta before serving.

**Note:  You probably will not need to add salt to the dish as both capers and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese have very salty flavors themselves.  Taste before adding any additional salt!

**Double Note:   If you’re really concerned about having garlic breath, just leave the capers and caper juice out.  It’s an easy fix, and the dish will still taste great.

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Gone to Italia in My Mind

One thing I love about food is that it can transport you to far away locations and distant memories in just seconds either through sight, taste, or aroma.  Not many other things in life can do that so quickly and effectively in my experience.

I’ve been craving comfort food lately (thanks to frigid temperatures that haven’t gone away since Monday’s ice storm), and pasta is my go-to food when I feel this way.  Whenever I make pasta, my mind always drifts back to one of my favorite vacations of all time:  Italy in the summer of 2006.  My sister graduated from college and wanted to tour around Northern Italy as a way to celebrate.  It was an unforgettable family trip filled with delicious food and wine, and I still dream of owning a villa in Siena one day. 

 

Ever since that vacation, I claim that I would make a fabulous Italian.  I love Italian food.  I love Italian wine.  I love preparing food to be shared.  I am completely comfortable spending 2 hours in a restaurant eating with friends and family.  I would much rather walk everywhere than drive.  And Italians (at least in the Northern part) take off the month of August to travel to the beach for vacation.  Italians know how to live, friends. 

Can I get away with calling myself Italian?  Hardly.  Blonde hair and pale skin with freckles didn’t really scream “local” when roaming the streets of Tuscany.  Nonetheless, I think I’ve got the soul for the culture. 

 As a tribute to Italia, I thought of this dinner earlier in the week and made it for a couple friends.  It was a huge hit!   Not only is it warm and comforting,  but it also has the colors of the country’s flag.  Buon appetito!


White Bean and Kale Penne
Serves 4 to 6

12 to 15 leaves of kale

10 oz. whole wheat penne (a little more than 1/2 of a 16oz. box)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. capers

1 Tbsp. caper juice

1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes (no-salt added variety), drained

1 15oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinse

1/2 of  15oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

 

1. Rinse kale and remove tough stems from leaves.  Pile 3 to 4 leaves on top of each other at a time, roll them together into a log, and slice into 1/2″ strips (this is called chiffonade).  Place shreds into a bowl and save for later.

2. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

3. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a large pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and caper juice.  Cook for another minute stirring constantly.

4. Add drained tomatoes, beans, and wine to mixture.  Allow wine to boil, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.  Add a little water if you wish (about 1/2 a cup).

6.  When pasta is done cooking, toss the kale into the hot water. It will cook quickly, and as soon as the color turns a vibrant, bright green, it’s done.

7.  Drain pasta and kale, and return to the pot.  Add sauce, and stir to coat.   

8.  Grate cheese on top of pasta before serving, and enjoy!

**Note — the capers and parmesan add plenty of salt to the dish, so you probably will not have to add any more to the sauce.  Taste first before you do!

 

Now I just need to find some gelato!

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