Category Archives: Pasta

Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Lasagna

I was hesitant to post a recipe with pumpkin this season because of pumpkin spice overload. Come fall, most markets dedicate a whole section to products with pumpkin spice. Trader Joe’s started this trend a few of years ago and other supermarkets quickly followed suit. There is pumpkin spice in chips, crackers, BBQ marinade, and even in kombucha. It has gotten so out of control, Anthony Bourdain said “I would like to see the pumpkin spice craze drowned in its own blood. Quickly.” Even though this lasagna recipe doesn’t contain any pumpkin spice, pumpkin has gotten a bad rap, kind of an instance of guilt by association.

Despite Bourdain’s loathing of pumpkin spice, pumpkin is a wonderful autumnal ingredient perfect for savory dishes. This pumpkin lasagna recipe is a nice change from your traditional meat sauce lasagna. There are two layers of pumpkin purée and one layer of Swiss chard/ricotta, and the dish is topped with béchamel, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. There is also sage brown butter in the pumpkin purée, which adds a layer of nutty and woody flavor. There is some advanced preparation involved before assembling the lasagna, so plan ahead. This a good dish for a crowd, or if you omit the chicken stock, a nice vegetarian option at a potluck. Serve it with a side salad for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Serving Size: about 12

Non-cooking spray, preferably olive oil-based
Béchamel sauce (see below)
1 lb. of lasagna noodles, no-boil
Cooked Swiss chard (recipe below)
Pumpkin layer (recipe below)
Ricotta layer (recipe below)
1 cup of grated mozzarella
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup of chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°

2. Spray the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ x 3″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Ladle and spread half of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.

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3. Place 4 lasagna sheets, overlapping, on top of the béchamel layer.

4. Spread 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture on top of the lasagna noodles.

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5. Add another layer of lasagna sheets.

6. Spread the remaining ricotta mixture on top of the lasagna sheets.

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7. Evenly spoon all of the Swiss chard mixture and top with 1/2 of the grated mozzarella.

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8. Add another layer of lasagna sheets.

9. Spread the remaining pumpkin mixture on top of the lasagna noodles.

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10. Add another layer of lasagna noodles.

11. Ladle and spread the remaining béchamel, then the remaining mozzarella, and finally the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If using, pour the chicken stock along the sides. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes.

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12.  Remove foil and increase the heat to 400° and bake for 10 additional minutes.

13. Place the lasagna on a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Swiss Chard

2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of chopped onions
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
8 cups of chopped Swiss chard
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté of for 15 seconds. Add the onions and thyme leaves. Sauté for 3 minutes.

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2. Add all of the Swiss chard and red pepper flakes. Sauté and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Season to taste.

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3. Add the lemon juice and transfer to a bowl until ready to use.

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Béchamel sauce

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of low-fat milk, heated
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 pinch of ground nutmeg (half of 1/8 teaspoon)
Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.

2. Slowly rain in the flour while whisking to prevent clumping. Cook while whisking for about 1 minute.

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3. While whisking, slowly add the heated milk. Add the salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Continue to whisk and cook until the sauce thickens and the mixture bubbles on the sides. Turn off the heat. Set aside until ready to use.

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Pumpkin layer

2 tablespoons of butter
8 fresh sage leaves
3 cups of cooked pumpkin (fresh or canned)
3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Pinch of nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves. Cook until the butter turns brown and toasty. Turn off the heat, remove the sage leaves and set aside.

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2. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, nutmeg and few turns of the pepper mill. Stir to combine.

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3. Add the brown butter. Stir well and set aside until ready to use.

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Ricotta layer

1 1/2 cup of ricotta
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

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Gemelli Pasta with Assorted Mushrooms

We normally associate October with pumpkins, Halloween, and all things fall, but did you know we have dedicated the whole month of October to pasta? It’s not surprising since pasta is one of America’s favorite foods. So in honor of National Pasta Month, I am sharing an easy pasta recipe with some delicious fall mushrooms. If you love mushrooms, you will enjoy this pasta recipe. Unlike most of my previous pasta dishes, this recipe is made with store-bought pasta and easy to prepare on a weeknight. This pasta dish has layers of umami flavor, from the porcini water to the truffle salt. Also, the mushrooms aren’t masked in a thick creamy sauce; instead they are sautéed, so you can taste each type of mushroom in the dish. Gemelli or penne works well with a sauceless recipe. There is a method to the madness of the 60+ types of traditional pasta shapes in Italy. The type of sauce and ingredients will dictate the appropriate pasta to use.

In this recipe I have a couple of optional ingredients. I like adding chopped toasted walnuts to provide a contrast in texture, but I made it optional since my son and husband prefer the pasta without nuts. Also, the truffle salt adds a wonderful fragrance to the dish, but it is expensive and not essential. If you happen to have some truffle salt in your pantry, definitely sprinkle some on the pasta, but don’t go out of your way to buy some. Either way, the pasta will be tasty. Enjoy!

Gemelli Pasta with Assorted Mushrooms

Serving Size: 4-6

1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms*
1/2 cup of hot water
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
12 ounces of dried gemelli or penne pasta
12 ounces of assorted mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, chanterelles, oysters, maitake, etc.)
1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped thyme leaves
Sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of heavy cream (optional)
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for serving
1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra shavings for serving
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
Black truffle salt (optional)

1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl. Pour in 1/2 cup of hot water. Set aside.

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2. Prep the fresh mushrooms by cleaning with damp cloth to remove any dirt. Slice and/or quarter the mushrooms. Set aside.

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3. Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for 15 seconds.

 

4. Add the all mushrooms, chopped thyme, a pinch of sea salt, and a few turns of the pepper mill.

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5. Meanwhile, add 3 quarts of water and a handful of Kosher salt in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil.

6. Sauté the mushrooms for about 8 minutes until the mushrooms are full cooked. Transfer to a plate. Set aside.

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7. In the same large sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Then add the sliced red onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat.

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8. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente (See instructions on package).

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9. Drain the porcini mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Finely chop the porcini mushrooms. Add the chopped porcini, the reserved liquid, and a pinch of sea salt to the pan with the red onions. Turn the heat up to high. Cook for 2 minutes.

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10. Whisk in the the butter and cook for 1 minute.

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11. Add the cream and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.

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12. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add the cooked pasta, the reserved sautéed mushrooms, the chopped parsley, and the grated Parmigiano-reggiano. Stir to combine and cook for 1 more minute. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen pasta.Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle extra olive oil.

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13. Spoon some pasta in a serving bowl. Sprinkle truffle salt, chopped walnuts, chopped parsley, and a few shavings of Parmigiano-reggiano.

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*I buy my dried porcini mushrooms from a mushroom vendor at my local farmers market. Dried porcini mushroom can also be found online or at a specialty gourmet market.

Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

When my husband and I traveled to France and Italy for our honeymoon, we created a wine and food roadmap. It was an incredible trip with sublime food and wine in both countries, but I left longing for Italy. The warm and friendly people, the perfect cup of espresso on every corner, the breathtaking villas, and the amazing food all made me fall in love with country. The food in Italy was simple but so delicious, and every pasta dish we ordered was perfectly executed with local ingredients. After I got back from Italy, I spent countless hours trying to perfect fresh pasta. After testing quite a few recipes and techniques, I developed an easy handmade pasta recipe perfect for pappardelle, fettuccine, and filled pasta.

This pasta dough recipe is light and eggy and has great structure due to the addition of semolina flour. The dough is quick to make and easy to work with, and won’t dry up easily. In this ravioli recipe, I use a simple cheese filling. Most cheese-filled ravioli recipes use the whole egg, causing the filing to solidify when cooked. My recipe uses only the yolk, resulting in a creamy and oozy filling. Also, I add lemon zest and Italian parsley for a little zing. If possible, make the filling in advanced. Also, make sure you drain out the excess liquid from the fresh ricotta with cheesecloth-lined sieve or fine-mesh sieve in advanced. This will ensure a creamy filling without excess water. If you’ve never made homemade ravioli before, this is an easy one to tackle. Enjoy!
Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Serving Size: about 32 ravioli (2-inch squares)

8 ounces of fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-reggiano plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
12 ounces of homemade pasta dough (see recipe below)
Roasted tomato sauce or homemade walnut pesto
2 dozen small basil leaves for garnish

Special equipment: pasta roller or pasta attachment for the KitchenAid

1. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg yolk, Parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and few turns of pepper. Place in the refrigerator while you roll out the pasta dough.

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2. Take out the pasta dough and cut it into four equal pieces. Cover three of the pieces with plastic while working with one piece on the pasta roller.

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3. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pasta dough until it is thin enough to fit into the pasta roller. Start on the thickest setting and work your way to the second to the last setting (5 on manual and 6 on the KitchenAid attachment). Cover the pasta sheet with plastic and repeat the process three more times.

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4. Bring a large pot of water and hand full of Kosher salt to boil.

5. Remove the ricotta filling from the refrigerator. Unwrap one of the pasta sheets and place a heaping teaspoon of filling roughly 1 inch apart throughout the pasta sheet. You should have 16 ravioli.

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6. Take another pasta sheet and, starting from one end, carefully place it over the pasta sheet with the filling and press down well around the filling to create a strong seal. Make sure you don’t create air bubbles.

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7. Using a fluted pasta cutter, cut the pasta into 2″ ravioli pieces. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the other two sheets.

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8. Heat up the roasted tomato sauce in a large sauté pan. Keep on low.

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9. Reduce the heat of the boiling water to a simmer. Add about half of the ravioli. Once it rises to the surface, simmer for 2 more minutes.

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10. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to the roasted tomato sauce. Cook the remaining ravioli and transfer to the sauce.

11. Divide the ravioli into 4 bowls. Grate some Parmigiano-reggiano and garnish with a few basil leaves. Serve with a nice glass of red wine.

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Pasta Dough Recipe

Yield: about 12 ounces

1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of semolina flour*
7 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of milk or water

1. Whisk the all-purpose flour and semolina flour together. Transfer to a workstation. Create a well and add the egg yolks, olive oil, and milk.

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2. Using a fork, whisk in the center and slowly bring in the flour. You want to take your time in the beginning so you don’t form flour clumps.

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3. Once the mixture thickens and it becomes difficult to stir with a fork, start kneading the dough with your hands. Clean off the excess flour with a bench scraper and make sure the workstation is clean.

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4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough is nice and smooth.

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5. Double wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to one day until ready to use. You can also freeze the dough for up to one month.

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*You can find semolina flour at most Italian market.

Agnolotti dal Plin

In April of 2003, Los Angeles Times featured an article in their Food section about Il Ristorante di Guido da Costigliole, a restaurant in the Piedmont region of Italy. The article focused on a regional, filled pasta called agnolotti dal plin. Lidia Alciati, the owner and chef of the restaurant, cranked out thousands of agnolotti every week for 40 years. I was was intrigued and I saved the article for my honeymoon trip to Italy that June.

When my husband and I arrived in Asti, we learned that Lidia had retired and that her sons had taken over the family business and found their restaurant a new home. We were directed to a beautiful 5-star hotel in a restored 1619 monastery, atop a hill overlooking a picturesque valley of vineyards. The restaurant was located under the hotel in a converted wine cellar. Once we were seated at our table, I was overcome with excitement. When the agnolotti arrived, the little, yellow pillows of pasta were glistening in light butter sauce. When I took a bite, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The delicious pasta packets were filled with rabbit, pork, veal, spinach, Parmesan cheese and hint of nutmeg.

Today I bring you my version of Guido’s agnolotti. Instead of adding rabbit and veal, I used all pork for my recipe, and I also replaced the spinach with Swiss chard. Make sure you roast the pork a day in advance. For the pasta, I really like Thomas Keller’s pasta recipe for the agnolotti. It’s easy to work with and the perfect texture for this dish. You can also make the pasta a day ahead if you prefer. Making this dish requires a lot time, but it’s worth the effort. This recipe makes enough to feed an army so it’s perfect for the holidays or any other special occasion. Enjoy!

Agnolotti dal Plin

Serving size: 12

Olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary
2 pounds of roasted pork shoulder (recipe below)
3 cups of Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Salt
Freshly grated pepper
2 large eggs
28 ounces of fresh pasta dough – Thomas Keller’s Pasta Recipe
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of reduced pork or veal stock
6 sage leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

 
1. Take the pasta out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2. While waiting for the pasta to come to room temperature, take the roasted pork out of the refrigerator and remove most of the fat using a knife. Cut into large chunks and then pulse a few times in the food processor until it resembles ground beef. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Remove the reserved pork drippings from the refrigerator. Scrape off the fat cap and you should be left with a gelatinous pork stock. Set aside.

4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the Swiss chard for about five minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid until most of the water is absorbed. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. You may need to add a little water. Set aside.

5. Heat the same sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and rosemary. Sauté for one minute. Add the ground pork meat and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer back to the large bowl and cool at room temperature.

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6. Once the meat has cooled, stir in the Parmigiano, 2 eggs (slightly beaten), Swiss chard, reserved pork stock, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. This is the agnolotti filling. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you roll out the pasta.

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7. Roll out the pasta dough a few sheets at a time and keep any unused portion of pasta tightly wrapped in plastic. On your pasta roller, roll the pasta sheet to the second thinnest setting.

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8. Remove the filling from the refrigerator. Using a small teaspoon, place a portion of filling about 1 inch from the bottom of the sheet. Continue placing portions of filling across the bottom of the sheet, leaving 1 inch space in between each.

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9. Fold the bottom of the pasta sheet to partially cover the filling.

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10. Fold from the bottom again, rolling the pasta while pinching between each pocket of filling. It is important to leave this “pinched” area between the agnolotti, or when the agnolotti are separated, they may come unsealed.

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11. Run a crimped pastry wheel away from you and between the center of each pinched area to create the individual agnolotti. Place the filled agnolotti on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the agnolotti inside the freezer until frozen.

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12. Repeat the process until all the agnolotti is filled.

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13. Fill a large pot of water halfway and add a generous amount of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil.
14. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add half the butter until melted. Add three sage leaves, sauté for one minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reduced pork or veal stock. Lower the heat to warm.
15. Once the water is boiling, add about 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once the pasta rises to the top cook for about one more minute. With a large slotted spoon, transfer to the sauté pan with butter sauce.

16. Bring the water back to a boil and add another 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once cooked, transfer to the same pan. Toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter.  Repeat the process with the remaining agnolotti or you can also freeze the rest in a plastic bag for up to 1 month.

17. To serve, place about 8 to 10 pieces of agnolotti on a plate. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, a couple turns of a pepper mill, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Served with a nice glass an Italian red wine.

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Roasted Pork Shoulder

1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 1/2 lbs. of pork shoulder
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

1. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Then rub the pork with the smashed garlic and rosemary leaves. Let the pork rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

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2. Heat oven to 450°.

3. In a small roasting pan, add the pork. Scatter the onions, carrots, celery, and the bay leaves in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.

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4. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 325°. Remove the pork out of the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Put the pork back in the oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Cool to room temperature. Transfer the meat drippings into a container with a lid. Cover the pork with foil. Place both the pork and the drippings in the refrigerator until ready to use

Spaghetti with Easy Roasted Tomatoes

 

When I was a kid, I saw a Chef Boyardee commercial on TV, with a child on the screen, happily devouring some stringy orange noodles. The commercial made it look so appetizing, I followed my mom to the store the next day and bought a few cans. This was my first introduction to spaghetti: soft and mushy pasta, orange tomato sauce, and little pieces of processed beef. I was more than just disappointed, I felt lied to by the advertisers who made this stuff look good. Yet all my friends at school loved spaghetti! How could it be? I knew there had to be something better out there.

I bought every different spaghetti product I could find. Kraft’s Tangy Italian Spaghetti kit in a box (Tomato Paste Not Included), Anthony’s spaghetti noodles with Ragu, Creamette spaghetti with Prego…they were all mediocre at best. I finally had my first good spaghetti experience at a mom and pop restaurant in LA called Andre’s – it’s still there, across the street from the Farmer’s Market on 3rd – but that didn’t stop my quest. One day I went to an Italian market and bought some pasta imported from Italy (the kind wrapped in blue butcher paper), and on a shelf in the back, I found what became my epiphany sauce: Rao’s Marinara Sauce, made with imported San Marzano tomatoes (canned), olive oil, and a handful of fresh basil. It immediately became my go-to spaghetti sauce.

My goal was to capture the delicious flavors of the Raos sauce, but using fresh tomatoes. I think you’ll find this an easy recipe to follow along with. Just make sure you set aside 1 and 1/2 hours; one hour of that time will be spent roasting the tomatoes in the oven.

Spaghetti with Easy Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

10 ounces of Mini San Marzano or Mini Sugar Plum Tomatoes
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (plus extra for serving)
2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
10 small basil leaves (extra for serving)
6 ounces of fresh or dried spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
Freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
Red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Wash the tomatoes and dry completely with paper towel. Add the tomatoes in an small oven-proof casserole pan, add the olive oil, and salt. Toss well.

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3. Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes.

4. Take the tomatoes out of the oven, toss in the sliced garlic, and put it back in the oven for 30 more minutes.

5. While the tomatoes continue roasting, get a large pot of water to boil. Add a handful of Kosher salt.

6. Remove the tomatoes out of the oven. Immediately, toss in the small basil. Let rest until the tomatoes are cool enough to handle.

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7. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente.

8. While the pasta is cooking, peel the skins off the tomatoes. The skins will slip right off. Throw the skins away.

9. Transfer the tomatoes with the liquid into a large sauté pan. Smash the tomatoes with a fork. Heat the tomatoes over medium-high heat. Add the pasta with a little pasta water. Toss the pasta with the tomatoes. Taste for salt.

11. Divide the pasta into 2 serving bowls.

12. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle of sea salt. Add red pepper flakes, if using.

13. Serve with a glass of Italian red wine and enjoy!