Tag Archives: 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.

Marcella Hazan’s Genius Tomato Sauce

So, it’s been 12 days since my last post, and lest you (Cousin Mark) think I have been slacking off, and not cooking, nothing could be further from the truth. The problem is that I have been cooking so much, there is no time left over for blogging. It’s summer at the cottage and that means lots of company, and way too much eating and drinking and fun. But, today is a rainy Sunday, and there is a lull in the activity, so I’m back to work!

I was planning to write a post all about corn, specifically  corn chowder. But, then I made this:

And after that, it’s all I could think about. I was like a junkie, worrying about getting my next fix. I actually licked out the pot. This recipe has been around since 1973 but somehow it had never entered my sphere of consciousness. I am certainly not the first food blogger to write about this sauce. Jaden at Steamy Kitchen blogged about after meeting Marcella and Viktor Hazan . Deb over at Smitten Kitchen loved it best unadulterated without any grated cheese over the top. It came to Molly’s attention over at Orangette  in 2007.

Thanks to the incredible crew at Food52, my life has been enriched immensely with the knowledge of this recipe. Every Wednesday, Food 52 unearths a recipe that they deem “Genius”. Columnist Kristen Miglore explains:

“There are good recipes, and great ones — and then there are genius recipes. Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They’re handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we’ve folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius 

Now you may be wondering, what is so genius about tomato sauce. But, I’m telling you, there is something akin to alchemy when these 3 simple ingredients come together. Just tomatoes (fresh or canned), 1 onion and 5 tablespoons of  butter. That’s it! The first time I looked at the recipe I thought there was a mistake.

Where were the garlic, the olive oil, the oregano, and the basil? And, this is the part where you will have to take a leap of faith and just trust me; yes you must put in all 5 tablespoons of butter that this recipe calls for. Do not skimp on the butter, or even think about substituting margarine. I will find out about it and hunt you down!

I know that 5 tablespoons of butter seems like an ungodly amount for a tomato sauce. But if you do the math (and you don’t have to, I have done it for you – no need to thank me, it’s what I’m here for), you will se that this recipe makes enough sauce to feed 6 people. One tablespoon of butter contains 100 calories, so that makes 500 calories in butter for this recipe. But divide that by 6 and each person is only getting a measly 2 1/2 teaspoons or 82 calories from butter.  A small indulgence when you consider the flavour payoff.

In what seems like a culinary sleight of hand, these three simple ingredients create a thick, full flavoured velvety sauce. It is pure and rich and luxurious. The butter gives a soft creamy note while at the same time tempers the acidity of the tomato. The onion adds a slight savory note, just hidden in the background of this sauce.

I added an additional step and pureed the sauce with a hand-held stick blender. I served it with Paccheri, a large hollow pasta, similar to rigatoni but bigger. It sort of resembles short pieces of a garden hose.
I finished it off with some grated Parmesan.

Just in case you don’t follow my advice and make this sauce right now while tomatoes are at their peak, you can still make this sauce in the winter with canned  Italian plum tomatoes. You will thank me profusely.

To print the recipe for Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter click here.

Salt and Serenity Hikes the Amalfi Coast Part 1

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. My oldest son just graduated from University and we decided to take him and our daughter on a holiday. We have been planning this for a while now. Typically, our family holidays tend to be of the beach variety with very little physical activity and a lots of reading time on the beach. We are all avid readers. We decided to shake things up a little.

In its initial inception, this was going to be a biking holiday. However, after a bit of time and reflection, my husband wisely decided to drop the “B” and add an “H”. So biking became hiking. He realized that we would not get very far if I were along for the bike ride. The decision of where to hike was an easy one. We all wanted to go to Italy. With the help of our wonderful travel agent, Linda, and Butterfield and Robinson, we mapped out an itinerary. Two days on the Isle of Capri, two days in Positano and two days in the town of Ravello. We hiked by day and ate and drank in the evenings. A plan that made everyone happy.

We quickly became immersed in the Italian culture and lifestyle. Here then, in no particular order are my top 10 Amalfi faves:

1. Autogrill!

If you have ever driven on the Autostrada (system of  roadways) in Italy, no more needs to be said. If not, well  let me tell  you, Autogrill  is quite the Italian experience. Basically, Autogrill is a rest stop along the highway. But a totally different species than the North American rest stop. No mere Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s.

For the uninitiated, here is my Autogrill 101 Primer:

First of all, you must go inside. The concept of drive through is totally foreign to Italians. Once you go inside there is quite a disorderly scramble at the cash. No lining up like polite Canadians do. You need to know what you want, so take a minute to peruse the display case.

In addition to sandwiches, they have pastries, brioche and croissants. Then, join in the communal push towards the cashier and tell them what you want. Depending on your Italian language skills, some pointing may be required. Don’t worry, they are  quite used to it. Then you pay and take your little ticket over to the service counter. Again, some mild pushing and surging forward is required. I discovered later that it is good form to take your little ticket and place it on the counter, weighted down with a few coins (as your tip). They will ask you again what you want and, again, some pointing will be required. If you order one of the sandwiches, make sure you gesture towards the giant Panini presses behind the servers.

We had Caprese (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) Paninis on very good baguette. The cappuccino would put Timmy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts to shame. Once you get your order, you find an empty cocktail height table and stand and eat your food and sip your coffee. Italians don’t do take out. They are a very social people and the mere thought of eating  in your car would cause most Italians to shudder.

The bathrooms are usually downstairs and while very clean, all the toilets in the woman’s washroom are missing seats. So you have to, sort of precariously perch yourself above the bowl and hope for the best. There is usually a bathroom attendant,or if not, a little basket, where you are expected to leave a little tip. Here’s a little tip, “How about toilet seats for women?! ”

2. Stylish Transportation

Although we spent most our days hiking, to get from town to town we needed a method other than our feet. The Italians like to travel in style! To get from Naples to the Isle of Capri, we travelled on a very speedy cabin cruiser. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie. Once we arrived on the Isle of Capri, a convertible taxi whisked us from the port off to the upper town square, where we walked to our hotel. Cars are banned from most of the Island.

3.  Mandorlati from Gelateria Buonocore

While touring the town of Capri on our first afternoon, we couldn’t help but notice the huge line up outside a window of a little shop. When we asked our guide, she told us they have the best gelato in town. Of course we joined the line and soon we were greedily licking gelato from homemade waffle cones. Between the four of us we sampled coffee, pistachio, almond, coconut and raspberry. It was creamy and refreshing, just the thing to revive us from our jet lag stupor.

That night, after dinner as we were strolling back to our hotel, we walked by Buonocore again. Of course there was a huge lineup outside at the gelato window. But inside, the shop was empty.  I decided to go in to see what they sold besides ice cream. We picked out a small sampling of about 6 different little cookies. We started to snack on them as we continued on our way back to the hotel. The pistachio cookies were yummy as were the lemon ones and the pine nut ones, but the almond cookies stopped me dead in my tracks. Fragrant and chewy these were reminiscent of almond macarons but more intense, sort of souped up macaron, studded with chopped almonds. 

I was back at the bakery again the next morning and again that night for more. I was addicted. I discovered that they are called Mandorlati and they are a traditional Italian almond cookie. I was unsuccessful in getting the recipe from the family (a closely guarded secret!), but I plan to play around with egg whites, ground almonds, chopped almonds, almond paste and confectioners sugar and come up with my own version. I’ll share it with you when I figure it out.

4. Lemons on steroids

The Amalfi coast is known for lemons and they are everywhere. We had dinner our first night at da Paolino. The entire terrace has been converted into a lemon grove and you dine under a pergola of lemon trees. An incredibly magical and romantic setting, spoiled only by my worry that one of those ginormous lemons would fall on my head, or worse, into my glass of Prosecco. We were assured by the waitress that before service each evening they shake the trees very well to remove any loose lemons.

Everywhere we hiked we encountered lemon trees. At markets everywhere we saw 2 main varieties of lemons, regular ones and ones which I can only describe as lemons on steroids. They were huge. Apparently these giant ones are used in baking and the making of Limoncello, the most popular export of the region. I was so looking forward to trying this lemon liqueur and sadly, I have to say, I did not like it at all. I subsisted mainly on Prosecco, not that I’m complaining!

5. Rigatoni on Steroids (Paccheri)

I had my very favourite meal of the trip at da Paolino in Capri. I am still dreaming about this pasta dish. I had Paccheri with smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage. Paccheri is a large hollow pasta, similar to rigatoni but bigger. It sort of resembles short pieces of a garden hose. ( To hear this pasta name pronounced, follow this link.

As with most pasta shapes there is a legend about how that particular shape came to be. The fable of paccheri goes something like this:

In the Renaissance era  paccheri was created as a vehicle to smuggle banned garlic cloves from Italy, across the Alps into Prussia (modern-day Austria). Apparently Prussian garlic was puny and weakly flavoured, while Southern Italian garlic was large and pungent. Prussian princes (not to mention the commoners) favoured the stinkier garlic and sales of Italian garlic were robust while Prussian garlic sales languished.

The Prussian government, trying to protect local Prussian farmers, banned the import of Italian garlic. Incensed, the Italian garlic growers worked closely with Sicilian pasta makers and paccheri was created. Each tube of paccheri was perfectly shaped to hide about 4 cloves of garlic and thus the black market trade of garlic into Prussia flourished.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Salt and Serenity hikes the Amalfi Coast.

It all amounts to a hill of beans! (Pasta with White Beans and Tuna)


I have always been a canned bean user. I am just not that organized to know what I am going to cook a day ahead of time, so to remember to soak the beans overnight is just asking too much. Canned beans are a great convenience and I never really gave it that much thought. That is until I started reading about Italian white beans in a jar. First Jamie Oliver, and then Giada De Laurentiis, waxing poetic on the superiority of beans in a jar imported from Italy over domestic canned beans. Who even knew you could get beans in a jar? Could they really be that much better than canned? Of course, I had to see for myself.

For the canned beans, I chose my usual white kidney beans by Unico. The trouble started when I tried to find italian beans in a jar. They did not carry them in the supermarket. I checked at an Italian grocer in my neighbourhood. But I could not find white kidney beans in a jar. They only had cannellini beans. They sure looked the same as my canned white kidney beans. With a little research, I discovered that Italian cannellini beans are exactly the same thing as what we call white kidney beans in North America.  I opened the can and jar, drained, rinsed and tasted.

In a side by side comparison, I have to say I preferred the ones in a jar. The skins were more tender and the beans were creamier and smoother than the canned. The taste was quite similar. Try it for yourself and see which you like better. I also bought a jar of Italian tuna packed in olive oil to try. Quite yummy but I felt so indulgent using it instead of my regular canned, packed in water. It really packs a flavour punch!

I was inspired to dress this pasta with a creamy lemon vinaigrette, created by Toronto chef, Keith Froggett. This has a thick, almost mayonnaise-like consistency that would also be wonderful with asparagus. He suggests blanching the lemon zest in boiling water to remove any bitterness.

Once the dressing is made, it’s just a simple matter of assembly.

To print the recipe for Pasta with White Beans and Tuna, click here.

P.S. Just realized that this is my 100th post since I began blogging 2 years ago! I am quite incredulous that I have reached this milestone.