Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Pasta Friday

January 5, 2018

You may recall from my intro that I’m a runner.  That usually means a long run on either Friday or Saturday, sometimes both.  So, Friday night is for carb loading.  When I was training for my marathon I ate pasta on Friday night for 24 Fridays in a row.  24.  I didn’t eat pasta for a while after that.  I finally realized that Pasta Friday didn’t have to mean spaghetti with tomato sauce.  I do try to stay away from cheese sauces and things that are too spicy, but there are a lot of ways to do Pasta Friday.  You’ll see a bunch of them as we go through the year.  But for tonight, we’ll start with the old stand-by – spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Usually when I make spaghetti sauce I make a big vat of it and freeze it for later.  Tonight I just needed to use up one leftover beef and mushroom burger (uncooked) and half an onion.  I planned to make 2 servings, but the sauce keeps getting bigger as you add vegetables and I ended up with 3-4 servings of sauce.  It’ll never go to waste so that’s ok.

Spaghetti sauce is one of those things that a lot of people have a family recipe for.  It’s also incredibly flexible.  It’s an awesome way to use up vegetable odds and ends.  Sometimes you can hide them in a sauce and your non-vegetable eaters are none the wiser.  Tonight’s sauce starts with diced onion and garlic and then the burger thrown in, chunked up and browned.  Next I threw in half a diced yellow bell pepper.  When the vegetables are soft add the tomatoes.

Let me take a second on the tomatoes.  They’re the most important part of a tomato sauce. (Duh).  Use good ones.  If you followed me in the past you know that I can my own tomatoes in the summer.  Well, they aren’t my tomatoes.  I buy them by the bushel from a local farm.  But I do can them myself, in my own kitchen. I have dozens of beautiful jars stored in the basement to use in sauces and soups and curries.  I’m very spoiled by these tomatoes.  But there are store bought ones that are good too.  Use San Marzanos if you can find them and it’s not too hard on your wallet.  San Marzano is a type of tomato and not a brand.  You’ll have to read the can to know.  If the producer uses San Marzanos they’ll tell you on the label.


I didn’t have time tonight to let these cook all the way down so I needed a little something to add some thickness to the sauce.  I used about 1/4 of a small can of tomato paste.  Small being 6 oz.  Then just let the sauce cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, while the pasta cooks.  If it gets too thick add a little water from the pasta pot.

In the summer I usually add some zucchini noodles to the pasta.  It gives me an extra vegetable serving and allows me to eat a slightly larger serving of dinner without adding more pasta.  I’ve always made my noodles by running a vegetable peeler longways down the zucchini.  You end up with something vaguely fettuccine like.  This year Santa brought me a spiralizer.  I never bought one because I don’t like spending money on kitchen gadgets that take up a lot of space, cost a lot of money, and only do one thing.  Santa found a very small one for cheap!

I did a side by side comparison tonight.  Half a zucchini with the spiralizer and half with the peeler.  The spiralizer is super easy to use and turns out noodles that really look like spaghetti.  You do have to cut them off every so often or you end up with impossibly long and unwieldy noodles.  There’s very little waste with this.  At the end you have a very narrow core and a small disc leftover.  With the peeler your noodles are wide, flat and thin.  They start to fall apart when you get into the seedy middle so the core you have leftover is considerably larger than with the spiralizer.  I don’t waste it though.  I dice it up and throw it in the sauce.


When your pasta is almost done throw the zucchini noodles in the pasta pot and mix it all up.  Cook it for about 1 minute and drain.  Top each serving with sauce and grate a little cheese on the top!  We’ll talk about using good cheese another time.  Now it’s time to eat!


Pesto Pasta Frittata

April 7, 2013

Welcome Spring!  Today was the first real Spring day in Central Virginia.  I spent most of it knee deep in Spring chores:  dealing with the storm windows, cleaning the ceiling fans; tilling and weeding the garden.  No energy left for a trip to the grocery store.  So tonight’s dinner was kind of a “smoke ’em if ya’ got ’em” affair.  Pretty much everything is on the menu because I had it –  leftover, already thawed or on its last decent day.  And you know what?  It was a very good dinner.  I got to use the grill and everything!

The feature for tonight is the frittata.  I grilled a London Broil and sauteed some spinach to round things out.  I made the London Broil plain to make it as versatile as possible.  You’ll be seeing it for the rest of the week so stay tuned!

Pesto Pasta Frittata P1010125

A few days ago I made some whole wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce from my Summer 2011 garden.  If I was going to avoid tossing it in the trash I had to do something with it.  And I had some mascarpone and mozzarella leftover from the pizza triumph of last night.  When I looked in the vegetable drawer I discovered some forgotten parsley too.  This recipe let me use all of the above plus a bunch of eggs and some of my quart of milk that I too often end up dumping down the sink.  In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet what we’re really talking about here is little quiche muffins with pasta instead of crust. 

The original recipe calls for prosciutto (didn’t have any), cream (didn’t have any) and grated Asiago (used parmigiano instead).  I also cut the eggs from 7 to 6.  Seven eggs just seemed excessive.  The frittata muffins set up just fine so no loss there.  The original recipe called for plain pasta,  but the pesto more than made up for the absent prosciutto.  Good news for the vegetarians out there!

These are really easy.  The recipe makes a dozen.  Good for any meal.  My plan is to have them for breakfast all week.  Hard to beat them for protein, a few carbs, easy to heat and eat.  You can put pretty much anything in them.  I do recommend keeping the amounts of the basic ingredients the same so you’ll be confident that they’ll set up like they’re supposed to.  Other than that have fun with them!  Add some chicken and broccoli to leftover fettuccine alfredo.  Add some peppers and onions to leftover pasta marinara.  Add a little ham or bacon to leftover macaroni and cheese.  Yum!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Really easy.
Good for company? A terrific brunch option.
Special shopping? Definitely not.

Pesto Pasta Frittata


Cooked spaghetti cut into 2-3 inch segments, enough to measure 3 C
Pesto sauce to taste
6 eggs
1/3 C mascarpone cheese
1 C diced mozzarella
1/4 C grated parmigiana cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T chopped parsley
3/4 t salt
3/4 t pepper
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the muffin tin.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Mix the hot pasta with the pesto sauce. Add the cut pasta, mozzarella cheese, Parmigiana cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until the ingredients are combined.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill each of the muffin cups until both the pasta and liquid are at the top. Bake until firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes before removing from the tin.

Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

March 18, 2013

Yet another cold and rainy Central Virginia day.  Seriously tired of this weather.  Since the weather was the same old, same old I decided that dinner needed to be something new and exciting.  I took a package of uncooked sausage stuffed banana peppers out of the storage freezer a couple of days ago and they were exactly the right thing to start with.  A little reminder of Summer as the peppers came out of my very own garden.  I needed something more interesting than marinara for these.  I decided to try them with red clam sauce, a new sauce for me as I prefer the white, which would have been awesome on these too.  You might be interested to know that “sausage stuffed peppers” is the most searched phrase on this blog.  I’m hoping you’ll like this one as much as I did!

Red Clam Sauce Stuffed Peppers and Clam Sauce

There’s nothing to the peppers except to halve them (or not); take the veins and seeds out and pack them with raw sausage.  This is a mild italian sausage from Faith Farm.  Banana peppers are so mild that you’d lose them completely with anything stronger.  I used my Food Saver to vacuum seal these and they’ve been in the freezer since August 2011.  I’ll say this for the Food Saver – it really works!  Not a  bit of freezer burn on these.

The sauce is easy too.  Since the real focus of this dish is the peppers I didn’t bother to use fresh clams.  The canned ones work just fine here.  I sliced the garlic instead of mincing it.  Bigger pieces seemed better.   I added some chopped onion, not called for in the recipe, because I don’t understand tomato sauces without onion.  If you’re like me and often burn the garlic (which then you have to throw out and start over because it’s so bitter), adding the onion helps prevent that too.  I used about four times the amount of fresh parsley.  With the salt in the clams and the sausage combined I thought some extra sweet, green-ness was in order.  Finally I added some extra crushed hot peppers because I like the heat.

So, how did it turn out?  It’s fantastic!  It’s bright and briny and green and wonderfully warm.  The flavors really balance each other nicely.  A tiny squeeze of lemon juice might be a nice addition.  I served it over a little orzo.  Nice time I might forego the pasta in favor of some crusty bread.  I also look forward to making these when I have fresh peppers on hand.  Having a little crunch left in the peppers will be a nice addition to an already yummy dish.  Bring on the Summer!

Good? So very good.  A perfect combination.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Not at all.

Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Spicy Red Clam Sauce


6 large banana peppers, halved, seeds and veins removed
1/3-1/2 lb mild italian sausage

Two 10 oz cans whole clams
One 6 oz can chopped clams
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot peppers or more to taste
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes packed in juice, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stuff each pepper half with enough sausage to just fill it. Place the peppers in an 8×8 glass baking dish. Set the peppers aside.

Drain the clams reserving 1/2 cup of their juice and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the reserved clam juice and tomatoes, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cook for 15 minutes.  Stir the clams and parsley into the sauce.  Heat back to a simmer.

Pour half of the sauce over the peppers. Cover the dish lightly with foil. Bake 30-35 minutes. Serve over orzo or with crusty bread.

Freeze the remaining sauce for a future use.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

March 14, 2013

Got a late start on dinner tonight.  Part of the late start is because I went for a run in the sunny cold that brought on the need for a hot shower to clean up and warm up.  I decided to continue the warm up with dinner.  Frozen shrimp is a protein that thaws quickly so it’s an easy go to on nights like this.  An arrabiata is just a spicy tomato sauce so I pretty much always have the ingredients for that.  Jackpot.  I had all the stuff I needed for a yummy dinner.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

Believe it or not I made no substitutions tonight except for going the long way around when the recipe called for shortcuts.  The recipe called for pre-chopped onion and bottled minced garlic, but I chopped and minced myself.  It added about 5 minutes to the process.  Other than that I used dried basil from last summer’s garden; dried and ground hot peppers from the summer before; home canned tomatoes from two summers ago; and homemade fettuccine from two months ago.  I could hardly have asked for better ingredients, especially for such a simple dish where they really count.

This is so easy.  If you use shrimp that’s already peeled and deveined you’ll really cut down the prep time.  Next time I made this I’ll probably skip the step where you saute the shrimp first.  Since you boil this sauce until it thickens it seems to me that you could cook the shrimp in the boiling sauce.  It would add some nice flavor to the shrimp and save you a step.  Other than that your only adjustment is likely to be the amount of crushed hot peppers you add.  I added a little extra to continue my warming, but feel free to be conservative if you’re bothered by too much heat.

The next time you have guests unexpectedly or just want to have a few folks over on a week night keep this recipe handy.  It easy and so good and impressive enough to serve to company.  Enjoy!

Good?  Very good.
Easy? So, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope. Just start with good ingredients.

Shrimp Arrabbiata


6 ounces linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
10 oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cupcchopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained


Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with salt; add shrimp to pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Transfer shrimp to a bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add onion, minced garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or just until sauce begins to thicken. Return shrimp to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve over pasta.

Mini Penne with Peas, Peppers and Proscuitto

January 29, 2013

Here’s one of the pasta dishes from the No Football Sunday Dinner.  It’s easy.  It’s yummy.  It’s the lightest cream sauce I’ve ever had.  And you know how creamy cheese sauces usually separate and mostly seem oily when you reheat them in the microwave?  Not so much this one.  It reheats really nicely.  Good thing since I apparently made enough to feed a small village.

Peas, Peppers and Prosciutto Penne

There’s not much in the way of instruction or tips here.  I do roast my own peppers.  It requires planning ahead, but not much in the way of effort.  I think the flavor is more subtle than the ones you get from a jar.  This is about the only way you’ll get me to eat a green pea, but don’t skimp on them in here.  I’m sure fresh peas would be fantastic in this, but frozen ones work just as well.  They’re sweet and they stay firm in the pasta.  I bought the proscuitto already diced.  I’m not sure I’d do that again.  The flavor isn’t as good as when you buy slices.  Marcella Hazan says you can also use country ham in here so if you want to add a little Southern flair, there’s your chance.

This is light and sweet and salty and creamy and wonderful.  It’s a great way to eat pasta without feeling like you need to take a nap immediately afterwards.  It’s pretty too.  And also good at room temperature so easy to make ahead and take to a potluck of some kind.  This pretty much has everything going for it so give it a try!

Good? So good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Absolutely. Makes a ton.
Special shopping? Not at all.

Mini Penne with Peas, Peppers and Prosciutto


4 orange bell peppers, roasted, skinned and diced
2 T butter
6-8 ounces diced prosciutto
2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 C heavy cream
2/3 C grated parmesan
1 1/2 boxes mini penne, cooked to al dente
salt and pepper


Saute the butter and prosciutto one minute.
Add the peas and cook another minute.
Stir in the peppers.
Add cream, salt and pepper. Increase heat and stir until cream begins to thicken.
Remove from heat.
Stir sauce and parmesan into pasta.

Wild Greens with Lardo

January 28, 2013

Here’s the first recipe from this year’s No Football Sunday Dinner.  It’s hard to call a salad a recipe, but I have to tell you how good this is.  The original recipe in La Cucina calls for a wild green not widely available in the US.  They do offer arugula as a substitute.  When I went to the store the arugula looked horrible.  I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it.  I opted for a big clamshell container of Baby Spring Mix instead.  It’s a nice combination of lettuces, spinach, radicchio and arugula so you get a little sweet and a little bitter.  You want at least some bitter in this.  It’s a nice balance for the salt.

That brings us to the lardo.  This is also something you can’t exactly find here.  At least not in a regular grocery store.  It is, at least in part, the rump fat of a pig cured and seasoned.  I found something that said that fat back is a reasonable substitute.  I think that’s probably true, but I’m guessing it lacks a depth of flavor.  That said, I used fat back, rendered, and it was awesome.  Essentially you’re using the melted fat instead of oil as your salad dressing.  A few tablespoons of vinegar and some fresh pepper.  Done.  No other vegetables.  No other spice.  No need.  This is seriously good stuff.  Not that I recommend that you start using pork fat as the base for all of your salad dressings.  Certainly not.  But once in a while it’s worth it!

One note.  Eat the whole salad the first day.  The leftovers are disgusting.

Good? Much better than I dared imagine.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Mine certainly enjoyed it.
Special shopping? I have no idea if grocery stores outside the South routinely carry fatback, but around here it’s easy to find.

Wild Greens with Lardo


1 clamshell or bag of bitter salad greens
6 ounces fat back, rendered (melted into liquid)
2-3 T white vinegar
Fresh cracked pepper


Toss greens with fat back until the leaves begin to wilt. Toss with vinegar and pepper.

Homemade Pasta

January 21, 2013

Next weekend is the Third Annual No Football Sunday Dinner.  I’ll explain that next weekend, but in short, it means that there are 10 people coming to my house for dinner so I need to start early on the planning and cooking.  The theme is Italian food this year so I spent today making pasta.  It’s kind of like playing in play-doh and way easier than making bread or pie crust.  I used to have a hand crank to flatten and cut the dough.  This was the debut of the pasta attachments for the KitchenAid.  Good stuff.


There’s not much in the way of ingredients for pasta.  Essentially you’ve got a 2:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour.  That’s it.  No salt, no oil, nothing.  You beat the eggs and put them in the middle of a pile a flour.  Use your hands to mix it up.  That part’s a mess.  Very sticky.  You mix in the flour a little at a time until it stops being sticky.  According to Marcella Hazan, from whom I will take any and all advice regarding Italian food, it’s the kneading and stretching that count.  She recommends that you knead the ball of pasta dough a full 8 minutes.  Gotta tell you that’s a really long time, but it’s kind of a Zen thing once you get into it.  At the end you have a beautiful, gold, perfectly smooth and silky ball of pasta dough.

When you’re ready to roll it out I really recommend a pasta crank, manual or on your mixer.  You can do it with a rolling pin, but you have to have mad skills.  You need the dough to be completely uniform.  You have flatten the dough a little at a time.  Again, according to Ms. Hazan, the rolling by degrees step (several passes on each thickness setting) is key to producing good pasta and it’s the step that is often skipped in commercially produced pasta.  I’m counting on that step being the difference between just passable pasta and really good pasta.  It certainly is the difference between pasta that takes 30 minutes to make and pasta you spend a whole afternoon on.

The good news about this is that once you’ve spent a whole afternoon on pasta making you don’t have to feel compelled to eat it all at once.  It dries perfectly well and can be stored for a few weeks.  Use an airtight container and store it in the cabinet.  I’m counting on this being a winning strategy also since the big dinner is still 6 days away.  I could have made my life easier if I’d remembered to twirl the freshly cut pasta into little nests, but I didn’t.  I’m going to have to store this in a long container or I’m going to have to break it up.  The pasta has to dry 24 hours so I can figure that out tomorrow. 

Good?  We’ll see.
Easy? Not at all.
Good for company? I can’t see why else you’d go to so much trouble.
Special shopping? Definitely not.

Homemade Pasta


4 eggs
2 C all-purpose flour, plus some as needed


Beat the eggs with a fork until well blended.
Make a well in the middle of the flour.
Pour the eggs into the well. Add flour into the eggs a little at a time.
Mix with a fork until the eggs aren’t runny.
Mix flour in a little at a time with your fingers, forming a dough.
Add flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky.
Form a ball.
Knead for 8 minutes, or as long as it takes to make a silky smooth dough.
Cut the finished dough into 6-8 pieces.
Flatten the dough with a pasta press, beginning on the widest setting and rolling progressively thinner until you reach the desired thickness.
Roll at each level 2-3 times, folding the dough into thirds each time.
Cut the dough into ribbons and lay flat to dry.
Dry 24 hours if you plan to store it.

Rosemary Linguine with Mushrooms

October 27, 2012

This is my first full weekend off since Labor Day.  I’ve worked 115 hours in the last two weeks.  You can imagine what that’s done to my eating habits.  The last two weeks have been filled with pizza, takeout Chinese food and tacos.  Ugh.  Enough already!  Tonight I really wanted an elegant dinner at home.  I wanted it enough to brave the Kroger for truffle oil on a day when the whole city is in storm preparation mode.  Let me tell you, that is no small commitment.

If you’re a Cooking Light subscriber then you know that the November issue marks the 25th anniversary of the magazine.  If you’re not a subscriber it’s really worth picking up this issue.  There’s good stuff in there.  One of the best things I saw was this recipe for Pappardelle with Mushrooms.  It’s so much richer and more wonderful than the name suggests.  The magazine makes a point of recommending (generally, not just for this recipe) that you use the best ingredients you can afford.  Very good advice.  I bought my mushrooms and my pasta at the farmers’ market this morning. (Hats off to Steve Haas, the mushroom guy, and Bombolini Pasta).  You won’t find much better stuff than that.

This dish is pretty easy.  One pot for the sauce and one for the pasta.  That’s it.  I only made one substitution – half and half instead of heavy cream.  Oh, and instead of plain pappardelle I used the most wonderful Rosemary Linguine.  Since I had the rosemary in there I left out the sage in the original recipe.  I got shiitake and cremini mushrooms this morning and I used one bag of each.  I have a good quality parmesan in the house.  I’ll tell you that 2 ounces is a lot in a real parmesan.  I didn’t use that much.

I did simplify things a little.  The recipe calls for dried porcinis reconstituted in water.  And it calls for you to cook the pasta kind of early on and then save some of the pasta water.  I find that doesn’t work all that well if you’re using fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta should really be done at the last minute and only for a minute or so.  I scrapped both of those elements and used ½ C of chicken stock instead. (I had some leftover from the Pumpkin Soup).

The flavors here are sophisticated and wonderful.  It was quite a treat.  Creamy, earthy, sweet, salty and pungent – all but perfect.  The rosemary flavor in the linguine is subtle, but definitely present.  The sauce is creamy without being heavy.  The mushrooms give it substance without overwhelming it.  Of course the truffle oil is the ‘piece de resistance’.  Even a teaspoon is enough to give the dish a touch of decadence you couldn’t get any other way –  at least not without buying actual truffles.  Next time I might add just a touch of fresh parsley to give it a bright, fresh finish.  That to say, there will be a next time.  I’m already looking forward to leftovers!

Good? Oh so good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Would be very elegant for a dinner party
Special shopping? No, major grocery stores carry a variety of mushrooms if you don’t have a farmers’ market that carries them and I found the truffle oil in my local Kroger.

Rosemary Linguine with Mushrooms


• 2 twists fresh rosemary linguine
• 3 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
• 2 (4-ounce) packages exotic mushroom blend, sliced or coarsely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tablespoons dry sherry
• ½ C chicken or vegetable stock
• 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
• 1/4 cup half and half
• 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 1 teaspoon truffle oil


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, mushroom blend, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in sherry and salt; cook 1 minute or until the liquid evaporates.
2. Finely grate 1 ounce cheese; crumble remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in stock, 1/4 cup grated cheese, cream, and pepper into mushroom mixture.
3. Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon salt in boiling water 1-2 minutes.
4. Add cooked pasta to mushroom mixture. Drizzle with truffle oil; toss well to combine.

Drunken Spaghetti with Black Kale

August 28, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – pay attention.  This one is good in about 18 different ways.  I know the name is both intriguing and maybe not so appealing, but don’t judge the recipe by its title.  This is awesome.  It’s easy and it’s beautiful and it’s cheap and the flavor is more than fantastic.  Read on!

I only made a half recipe of this and now I’m a little sad, except that it would be so, so easy to eat way too much of this.  I made one substitution.  I didn’t have any pancetta, but I did have some very yummy sopressata so I used that instead.  The only issue there was texture. I diced the sopressata, but even after cooking it for a few minutes it was still just a touch chewy.  Pancetta is a lot thinner so it crisps nicely.  Still, the flavor of the sopressata was so amazing and the slightly chewy texture actually blended pretty well with the al dente pasta and the wilted kale.  It all gives your teeth something to do so you know you’re eating a real meal.

I used an inexpensive Bordeaux that I found at my neighborhood wine store.  It’s dry, but flavorful and not too oaky.  If ever there was truth to the idea that you shouldn’t cook with wine you wouldn’t be willing to drink, this is it.  The noodles take on a milder flavor profile of the wine and a beautiful burgundy color.  Only cook the kale long enough to wilt it good.  You want to maintain the bright green color and the tiny bit of crispness in the texture.  Finish it all with a good quality pecorino cheese.  If you use a higher quality you can use a lesser quantity and get the same flavor infusion throughout the dish.  I didn’t even both to top the bowl with extra cheese so that I could clearly taste every flavor.

One note about the cooking.  The pasta took longer to cook than I expected.  I don’t know if it just takes longer in the wine and water mixture or if the pot was too crowded.  In any case I did all my chopping before I put the pasta in.  I started the sopressata and garlic pan at the same time as I put the pasta in the pot.  I ended up turning off the kale mixture and waiting for the pasta to finish.  If you’re pretty quick with a knife you could probably cut the stems out of the kale and cut it into ribbons while the pasta cooks.  Then things would be done at the same time.  Up to you.  It worked out just fine for me that I had a little time to hang out in the kitchen and drink some of the wine while I waited for the pasta to finish up.

I don’t repeat too many recipes these days, but this is a keeper!  It will definitely make an appearance at some future dinner party or date.  It’s easy enough and quick enough that you can make it when you come in from work.  It’s pretty enough and sophisticated enough to make a week night an occasion.  Buy two bottles of the wine – one to cook with and one to drink!

Good? Oh so very good.
Easy? So easy.
Good for company? Beautiful and yummy. What more could you want for company?
Special shopping? Nope, you should be able to find lacinato kale in any large grocery. Use regular kale or other hearty green if you can’t (collards, turnip greens, mustard greens).

Drunken Spaghetti with Black Kale

Note: The recipe that follows is the full recipe. I halved all of the amounts listed below.


1 bottle dry Italian red wine
1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound sopressata chopped into fine dice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bundles black, Tuscan, or Dinosaur kale, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus a chunk to shave at table


Pour the whole bottle of wine into a pasta pot and add about the same amount of water. Salt the liquid and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente. Heads up: Remove and reserve 1 cup of cooking water just before draining.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat with the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the sopressata and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic and swirl it around for 2 minutes more. Add the kale, let it wilt and then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Add the reserved cooking liquid, drained pasta and the grated cheese. Toss vigorously for at least a full minute, then serve in shallow bowls.

Zucchini Ribbons and Kale with Spaghetti Sauce

July 2, 2012

Yep, more zucchini.  But this is a “let’s pretend it’s not zucchini” kind of recipe.  I really wanted spaghetti tonight.  A little odd given the temperature, but there you have it.  I also have a few pounds to go until I hit my weight loss goal so I try to avoid much in the pasta family.  So if you’ve got a zucchini or two and a vegetable peeler you’re in business! 

You could put this meal together in 10 minutes if you’ve got some sauce in the freezer, or even in a jar.  I spent about an hour on it because I decided to make a fresh batch of meat sauce.  (Thank you, Greenway Beef)!  This would be just as good with marinara sauce or tomato sauce with vegetables.  To get the vegetables together cut the kale into ribbons with a knife.  Then slice the zucchini into ribbons with a vegetable peeler.  I eat the first slices that are all peel, but throw those in the compost if that doesn’t appeal.  Use the peeler all the way around the zucchini.  You’ll need to stop when you get to the point that the ribbons are mostly seeds.  You can either chop the zucchini cores up fine and throw them in your sauce or you can compost those too.

All you need for cooking is one pot to heat the sauce and another larger pot to boil the water.  Once the water starts to boil drop in the kale.  Let that boil for a little while before you add the zucchini ribbons.  The time depends on the size of your kale pieces, but the idea is that it takes the kale longer to get tender than it does the zucchini.  When the kale is just a little more al dente than you like add the zucchini.  That will take about 2 minutes.  Careful not to overcook that or you’ll have mush instead of ribbons.  One note about the draining.  You’ll drain in a colander as you would spaghetti.  But remember that the zucchini and kale have a lot of water in them.  My advice is to press out a little additional water with a towel or paper towels.  Press gently, you don’t want to destroy your beautiful ribbons.

This is a very satisfying substitute for spaghetti with the traditional pasta noodles.  And I much prefer it to spaghetti squash, which I don’t care for.  It makes a beautiful presentation so you could absolutely serve it to company.  With marinara sauce it would be a terrific side dish for a marsala or piccata dish.  So, another fantastic way to use up you abundance of zucchini.  Or just another neat way to have spaghetti!

Good? Very good.
Easy? Definitely.
Good for company? The most elegant spaghetti you could serve.
Special shopping? Nope.

Zucchini Ribbons and Kale with Spaghetti Sauce


1 cup raw chopped kale
2 medium zucchini, cut into ribbons
1 1/2 C marinara or meat sauce
freshly grated parmesan


Heat sauce in a small pan.
Boil water in a medium pot.
Add kale to boiling water. Cook 4-6 minutes.
Add zucchini ribbons to kale. Cook 2-3 minutes.
Drain in a colander.
Gently press out additional water with paper towels.
Serve with sauce.
Top with cheese.