Spring Vegetable Pasta

Wow, what a busy summer this has been so far. I barely eked out two posts in June, and July isn’t off to a much better start. Blogging from the beach isn’t as easy as I thought it would be! So, I recently declared that a pasta night was in order. This is technically a “spring” vegetable pasta, but the ingredients are fresh all throughout the summer as well. The cooking style is unique (the pasta is cooked in a risotto style), but it results in an extra creamy (sans cream) pasta. The resulting dish is exactly what I’ve come to expect from America’s Test Kitchen…delicious!

Spring Vegetable Pasta – from America’s Test Kitchen
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and cut into 1/2 inch-thick slices (about 5 cups); 3 cups roughly chopped dark green parts reserved
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, chopped coarsely, and reserved; spears cut on a bias into 1/2 inch-thick pieces
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound dried farfalle pasta
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Ground black pepper

Place dark green leek trimmings, asparagus trimmings, 1 cups peas, minced garlic, vegetable broth, and water in large saucepan. Bring to simmer over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer 10 minutes. While broth simmers, combine mint, chives, and lemon zest in small bowl; set aside.

Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into 8-cup measuring cup, pressing solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have 5 cups liquid; add water as needed to measure 5 cups). Discard solids and return broth to saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced leeks and pinch salt; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until leeks begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons garlic and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining cup peas and continue to cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside. Wipe out pot.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

When wine is fully absorbed, add hot broth, Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of liquid is absorbed and pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove pot from heat, stir in lemon juice, Parmesan, half of herb mixture, and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan cheese and remaining herb mixture separately.

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Rigatoni with Spicy Vodka Sauce

Though definitely not a Piemontese dish, I LOVE Vodka Sauce. I especially love Vodka Sauce with rigatoni. However, many times, whether eating it at a restaurant or buying it in a jar, Vodka Sauce is too mild for my taste. I like it to have a little bit of a kick. I’ve finally mastered making Vodka Sauce at home, and I’m ready to share the recipe. Not only is this pretty easy to prepare, it is a crowd pleaser. Recipe serves 3-4, but can easily be doubled for a crowd.

Ingredients:
1 pound box dried rigatoni
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (whole)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup vodka
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/2 – 3/4 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drain the tomatoes in a strainer and set aside. In an oven proof pan over medium high heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion is tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, dried oregano and salt to taste. Stir and saute for a few minutes more. Add the vodka. Let the onions simmer in the vodka for approximately 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onion and vodka while crushing them with your hand. Do this carefully, as they have a tendency to squirt! Add the bay leaf, give the mixture a quick stir and cover the pan. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni to just about al dente. Strain and set aside.

Remove the pan from the oven, discard the bay leaf and let the onions and tomatoes cool for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, using an immersion hand blender, blend the onion and tomatoes until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer the onions and tomatoes to a blender and process until smooth. Pour the tomato and onion sauce back in to the pan and reheat over medium heat. Add the cream to the tomato sauce and stir.  Salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Add the rigatoni to the pan and let the pasta cook in the sauce until al dente. Serve in bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pasta with Burro e Salvia

If there was one dish that we ate more than all of the others in Piemonte, it had to be Tajarin with Butter and Sage, or Tajarin al Burro e Salvia. I’ve always loved pasta with butter, but I was blown away by how much I loved the simple addition of sage to the dish. Butter and sage is now my go to topping for pasta. Although I prefer homemade tajarin, good quality dried pasta is a decent substitute when in a hurry. Here is how I make it.

Ingredients:
Dried pasta
Butter, unsalted (2-3 tablespoons per serving)
Fresh sage, finely chopped (4-5 leaves per serving)
Grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  While the water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Be careful the butter does not brown. Once butter is melted, remove from heat and add the chopped sage.  Let the sage sit in the melted butter while you boil your pasta. Once the pasta is cooked to the desired consistency, drain and add to the melted butter and sage. Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve immediately.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and salt and pepper as desired.