Tag Archives: pasta

Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts, Leek, Parmesan & Lemon

in cast iron pan with serving spoons 625 sqAt this time of year I feel like I have one foot firmly planted in optimism about spring. However, the other foot is dragging quite slowly behind, unable to escape winter’s firm grip. We get a few warm days and the mountain of snow in front of my house melts a bit, and then wham, a mini blizzard.

This pasta bridges the gap between winter and spring perfectly. Representing winter we have  browned Brussels sprouts. In the other corner, leeks and lemon lighten everything up. Everything comes together to create a deeply satisfying dish.one black bowlTrim the Brussels sprouts and set aside the larger leaves that come off easily. Halve the sprouts, or quarter, if large.Sprouts leaves and halvesSlice half the leek into thin rings. Coarsely chop the other half of the leek. leeksThe leek circles and halved sprouts get browned in a pan. Place sprouts cut side down and leave them alone for 3-4 minutes, so they can get some colour on them. There’s flavour in the brown!browning sprout halves and leeksRigatoni is a great choice for this dish. Penne would also work quite well. Don’t forget to heavily salt the cooking water for the pasta. Just before draining the pasta, scoop off a cup of that starchy cooking water. You will need it to create the sauce for this pasta.rigatoni and saltAn extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of Parmesan cheese finish off this dish perfectly. A glass of wine is always welcome.rigatoni with a glass of wine 1

Click here to print recipe for Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan, Lemon, And Leek.

3 black bowls

Israeli Couscous with Pickled Shallots, Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata

in green bowl 1 625 sqI have never understood the appeal of traditional couscous. It simply does not have enough texture or heft for me. Even when steamed and fluffed properly, so that the grains stay separate, it fails to satisfy me. I like my carbs with a bit of bite to them. Israeli couscous is more my jam. It is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture. I had always assumed that Israeli couscous was just bigger balls of regular couscous. I only recently learned the true difference.

Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed. Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mould, about 1 millimetre in size.  These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavour. 

Traditional couscous has been around, some believe, since the 9th century, but Israeli couscous is just a baby. It only came into existence in the 1950’s. Following the War of Independence in 1948, many immigrants arrived in the newly formed country from all over the Middle East. Most of them relied on rice as a staple in their cuisine, but there were rice shortages. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked the Osem food company to develop something that they could substitute for their beloved rice. They created “Ptitim“. It was nicknamed Ben Gurion rice, since it was originally extruded in the shape of rice grains. They later introduced a round version which they called Israeli couscous.

This delicious salad is my adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have only made a slight change. I substituted ricotta salata for the feta cheese they suggested. I prefer the drier texture and less salty taste of ricotta salata. Many Italian grocers carry it. Feel free to use feta if you like, or even some crumbled goat cheese, if that’s your thing.

Begin with pickling the shallots. Nothing too complicated here. You will need red wine vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some thinly sliced shallots. ingredients for picklingSimmer vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, turn off heat, cover pot and let macerate for 30 minutes. That’s it. I always thought pickling was so complicated. pickling shallotsTo properly cook Israeli couscous, begin by sauteeing in a bit of olive oil until about half the grains turn brown. Then add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes. The ratio of Israeli couscous to water is 1:1.25.  (For every cup of couscous, add 1¼ cups water)toasted cous cousOnce cooked, spread couscous out on a baking sheet to allow it to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients. cooling couscousPrepare the dressing. The mild flavour of couscous can stand up to a bracing dressing of Dijon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and olive oil.making dressingThen it’s simply a matter of assembly. I thawed some green peas (no cooking necessary), drained the pickled shallots, washed some baby arugula and mint, toasted and chopped pistachios and diced up the cheese. Sugar snap peas or asparagus would also be excellent friends with this salad. ready to assembleI loved the combination of all these ingredients. Chewy, nutty couscous, bitter arugula, sweet mint, crunchy pistachios, salty cheese and the zingy pickled shallots. Each bite had me craving more. in white bowl

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Pickled Shallots Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata.

in green bowl 2

Spicy Orecchiette with Tuna, Lemons, Peas and Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping

big bowl of pastaWhen I was growing up, my mom was at the culinary forefront of our neighbourhood. While other moms were making Jello, she was creating whipped jello molds, a raspberry jello and frozen raspberry concoction that had sour cream or whipped cream folded into it. Kind of looked like this. While other moms were making KD, my mom was making macaroni salad. Elbow macaroni, coated in mayonnaise, chopped celery, a squeeze of lemon juice, and, if she was feeling extra fancy, she’d toss in some diced red peppers.

Then, when I went to camp, I had my mind blown by what else you could do with boxed mac and cheese. On overnight camping trips, dinner was a delicacy known as  “Tripper’s Stew.” We’d be sent out into the woods to collect firewood. Some of the campers would actually use that time to hide and smoke cigarettes! With the campfire blazing we’d boil up a few boxes of Kraft Dinner. Once the noodles were cooked, in went the powdered cheese, and a few cans of tuna, peas and corn. It was my favourite camp meal.

When I saw Serious Eats contributor Lauren Rothman’s recipe for Spicy Orecchiette With Tuna, Peas, and Lemon, I was instantly transported back to my summer camp days. This is a more grownup version of Tripper’s Stew. It uses tuna packed in olive oil, (Italian if you can find it), rather than the dry water-packed tuna of my childhood. Red pepper flakes and garlic give it some zip and lemon zest wakes up all the flavours. I adapted Lauren’s recipe by adding a toasted lemon breadcrumb topping to give the dish a welcome crunch. My final adaptation was to add some coarsely grated Parmesan cheese. Please don’t yell at me and tell me that pasta dishes containing fish are not topped with cheese. I already know the Italian rules, I just don’t care. It’s delicious with cheese.3 stacked bowlsgather everything from the pantryThe breadcrumbs take a bit of extra time, but I think that the textural contrast they make to the chewy pasta, makes them worth the additional effort. making bread crumbs 1making bread crumbs 2crispy golden crumbsI made this last week when I was alone, so I ate it for dinner, 3 nights in a row. It tasted better each night. I just warmed it in the microwave and then tossed in grated cheese to melt.

Click here to print recipe for Spicy Orichiette with Tuna, Lemons, Peas and Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping.

close up of pasta

Orecchiette with Summer Vegetables and Spicy Turkey Sausage

in bowl 625 4Sometimes, all the i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed and the stars aligned just right so that fresh pea pods, corn on the cob and little grape tomatoes make an appearance at the market all on the same day! Usually peas are all done by the time corn arrives and sometimes those little tomatoes don’t appear until mid-August, but last week all was right with my world and peas, corn and tomatoes collided in my shopping bag.in bowl 2 625 sqAs soon as I got home I set to creating this perfect celebration of summer pasta dish. I decided to make it with Orecchiette. Orecchiette, originating in Puglia, are type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, hence the name (orecchio, ear,orecchiette, little ears). They’re about 3/4 of an inch across, slightly domed, and their centers are thinner than their rims, a characteristic that gives them an interestingly variable texture, soft in the middle and somewhat more chewy outside. The little cup shape is perfect for cradling the peas and corn!orecchietteIs it just me, or do they remind anyone else of little unrolled condoms. I guess neither reference, ears or condoms, is particularly appetizing, but trust me, this pasta is yummy.grape tomatoes ready for roastingpeas in a podI decided to spice up some ground turkey with ground fennel seed, red pepper flakes and salt and added it to the dish for some zip.saute

Click here to print recipe for Orecchiette with Summer Vegetables and Spicy Turkey Sausage.

in bowl 3 625 sq


Penne with Turkey Sausage and Arugula

You think you know a person.  You sleep together in the same bed, glare stare across the dinner table at each other, floss together every night, for almost 26 years, and you think you know this person inside and out. But then, suddenly you discover something about them that shocks you to your very core. Or in this instance, leaves you scratching your head saying, “huh??”

I’m speaking here, of course, about my husband of a quarter of a century. For the past 6 months, at least once a week, I have been making this pasta dish. And every week, he eats it, cleaning his plate, without comment. All of the sudden, this week, he looks at me and says, “Next time, can you leave the weeds out?”

Weeds?? Upon further discussion, I discovered he was referring to the wilted arugula and spinach that I add to this pasta dish. He finds the texture of sautéed green off-putting. I love them! So much so, that I plan to continue making this dish every week, but, as a compromise, as every good marriage requires some give and take to make it thrive, I will add the green vegetables that he does love, like broccoli, peas and asparagus and serve the weeds on the side. Heck, I love this guy so much, I may even give him a real thrill and add some brussels sprouts one week. Now that’s how you spice up a marriage!

The inspiration for this dish came from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. At home I keep kosher and could not make this with traditional pork Italian sausage, so I used ground turkey and just added the seasonings found in spicy Italian sausage; fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic.

The red pepper flakes and fennel seed, along with some salt, get ground up in a spice grinder. Actually, it’s just an inexpensive coffee grinder, that I use only for grinding spices. Here’s a great tip for cleaning the spice grinder and getting rid of any odours so they do not transfer to the next thing you grind. Take about a halt a cup of raw white rice and grind it up. Any last remnants of whatever you last ground up, that may be lurking beneath the blades, will cling to the rice and will be discarded with the ground rice.

A paste of garlic, anchovy, lemon and olive oil is prepared to add flavour and finish the dish off.

I like to use ground dark meat turkey as it is higher in fat, more flavourful and does not dry out as quickly. The ground turkey gets sautéed with the ground spices.

When the turkey is almost cooked through, remove it from the pan and cook your vegetables. I used baby spinach and baby arugula, as well as some diced tomatoes. Feel free to improvise and use whatever makes you happy. We also love it with fresh peas or asparagus in the spring, or frozen peas, all year round. Sometimes I will make it with broccolini.

If you have never wilted greens before, you will be shocked at how they will wilt down to almost nothing.


Remember to keep some of the pasta cooking water before draining the pot. The starch in the water will help to thicken the sauce.

Click here to print the recipe for Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Arugula.