Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Spaghetti e bottarga

April 4, 2014


It was a damp and chilly Friday night, not the kind of weather one would want to sit and watch a baseball game in. Feeling a tad guilty about forsaking the local AA team’s second home game of the season for the warmth of home, I turned my focus dinner.

Since we had skipped our normal Thursday pasta dinner because of the home opener, beloved spouse and I thought a simple spaghetti aglio olio would be perfect a dinner for this Lenten Friday meal.

I was doubly ecstatic. This would give me the opportunity to try my latest experiment in food preservation: Bottarga.

Bottarga is fairly common in the countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea. Usually made out of mullet or tuna roe, it’s used in very thin slices on bread as an appetizer with wine or grated over pasta.

Doing some online research into recipes for shad roe, I had stumbled across an interesting idea: curing the shad roe for use as Bottarga.

I was intrigued.

Much to the chagrin of one of my friends, I hit up the local fish monger for two roe sets. They were large and ripe, weighing almost a half a pound each.

Two shad roe sets, each about a half a pound.



I made up a light brine solution (1% kosher salt dissolved in water) and soaked the roe sets in it overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, I took the roe sets out of the brine, patted them dry and then coated them with a little olive oil. I prepared a small pan with a doubled over paper towel topped with a layer of kosher salt. I laid the roe sets down, covered them with a thin layer of salt and set them in the fridge.

Each day, I would check and if/when the paper towel was soaked with the fluids extracted from the roe sets, I would change it. This also gave me the opportunity to flip the sets, always setting them on a bed of salt on fresh paper towel and covered with another thin layer of salt.


Salt cured shad roe sets

Once the roe stopped giving up its moisture, I wiped off the excess salt, threaded each piece with some kitchen twine and hung them in the basement to dry for a week.

They lost a total of half their weight by time I took them down, wiped them down with a little more olive oil and put them in a plastic bag and stored them in the ice box.

Tonight, I made my usual version of spaghetti aglio olio, but after I plated my portion, I grated some of the shad roe bottarga over the pasta.



Shad roe bottarga.

Just what I was looking for! A fresh, briny aroma wafted up out of the pasta bowl. The rich and comforting oil and garlic (and peperoncino) sauce was brightened by a really nice sea shore taste.

Experiment a success!

Oh…and for the investment of less than $20 in materials and about 10 days of time, I created a delicacy that sells for about $90 per ounce. The result was about $675 worth of finished product.


Spring, one way or the other

March 21, 2013

Trenette al pesto

Today was the first full day of Spring. It was, unfortunately, gray, cool and we had snow flurries this morning.

We haven’t had a bad winter, and I don’t mean to complain. Still we are ready to be done with the cold and the gray.

In an effort to welcome the season despite the weather, we opted to have a dish for dinner that reminds us of sunny, warm climes.

On our 2011 visit to the Cinque Terre in Italy, we had the local favorite known as “trenette al pesto.”

We’re all familiar with pesto, that wonderful sauce of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese. The traditional presentation in and around Genoa is to use the sauce to dress a bowl full of pasta (trenette, the Genovese “fettucini“) along with sliced, boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Really! Pasta and potatoes in the same dish. And green beans for good measure. All dressed in fragrant, rich pesto. How could this not be good!

So, tonight, with company coming over and a real need for something to make us “think spring,” we whipped up a batch.  It did the trick.

Trenette al pesto

  • 1 pound fettucini
  • 4 new potatoes, boiled until just done and then peeled, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces fresh green beans, cleaned and cooked in salted, boiling water until just crisp tender
  • 1 cup of your favorite pesto, more or less to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. When done, drain, reserving 1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir pasta water into pesto until blended. In large bowl, toss pasta with potato slices and cooked green beans. Add pesto and toss again.

Serves 4



Crawfish Monica

February 8, 2013
Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

If you know me, you know that Thursday is “pasta night.”  There is little variation from that. It was the way it was as I was coming up and it is the way I prefer it now.

Unfortunately, every 1st and 3rd Thursday is also city council night. As such, I am often attending the meeting, which starts at 5;30 pm, and that throws dinner off schedule.

Last night, cold, damp, grey, was a council night. And a pasta night.

It was also the Thursday before Mardi Gras and just a few days after the Superbowl played in the Superdome, so I was especially attuned to New Orleans food inspirations.

In discussing dinner early in the day, I teasingly tossed out the idea of having Crawfish Monica for dinner. While we had everything we needed on hand (including the crawfish tailmeat), the evening’s schedule wasn’t condusive to an involved dinner prep.

We decided that pasta e fagioli would pass muster for Thursday night’s dinner. It could be slow simmered sans pasta until I was on my way home from city hall.

But the crawfish monica stuck in my mind.

With the threatened Snow-easter scheduled to come in overnight, we were prepared to batten down the hatches, have an adult beverage or two, build a fire and enjoy a relaxing dinner.

Crawfish Monica seemed to fit the bill.

It’s a rich dish. Fortunately, it is also satisfying so you don’t need to consume tons.

The dish screams NOLA! It is comforting and slightly decadent.  And it let afforded me the opportunity to have pasta two nights in a row.

Here’s a version of the dish from Emeril Lagasse and found on the Go Nola website.

Crawfish Monica

  • 1 pound linguine or fettucine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound crawfish tails*
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to the pot and toss with the olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Essence, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated. Add the cream lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, to warm through. Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Serves 6 – 8

*What? You don’t have crawfish tailmeat in the freezer? Why not? Check the frozen seafood section of your favorite supermarket or fish monger. You can order it online from Cajun Grocer. I know, it is not cheap. Splurge and get a couple of pounds to keep in the freezer. You never know when you might want to make some crawfish etoufee or crawfish cheesebread (a recipe I’ll get around to posting someday).  And if you can’t find the crawfish tailmeat or don’t want to order it, use the small “salad” shrimp that are readily available in the grocery store.

Just remember to rename the dish, SHRIMP Monica.

Spaghetti with crabs

March 29, 2012

Spaghetti con i granchi

I admit it. It doesn’t take much to plant an idea in my head. Sometimes this is a good thing; sometimes not.

When a friend reported that a local fishmonger had blue claw crabs in, I didn’t give it much thought. Instead, I started thinking ahead to when the softshells become available.  Then the friend lightly chastised for passing up the seasonal pleasure of blue crabs and I redirected my thoughts.  “What about spaghetti with crabs?”

So, off to the market I went to fetch four nice “jimmies” (male crabs) to toss into the sauce for tonight’s pasta.

Spaghetti with crabs

(spaghetti con i granchi)

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 28 ounce can of crushed, italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 live blue crabs
  • 1 pound thick spaghetti
  • optional any fresh or dried herbs you like in your “gravy” (oregano, basil, thyme)

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large pan over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and stir until it just starts to show some color (1 to 2 minutes). Add red pepper flakes and stir. Add tomatoes and parsley. Rinse tomato can with white wine and add wine to pot. Stir and let come to a simmer. Toss the crabs into the sauce, stir, gently and let the pot come to a boil. Reduce heat and let sauce sit at a slow simmer until the crabs turn red (30 – 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, salt it and cook the pasta per package instructions so it is al dente and ready to go when the sauce is ready.

Pull the crabs from the sauce and set aside in a bowl. Cover to keep warm.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce pot. Toss. Serve. (Note: as a rule, Italian do NOT use grated cheese with seafood pastas. Try some fresh ground black pepper instead).

The crabs can be picked of their meat as a second course.

Serve with a salad, some bread and more wine and you’ve got a nice meal for four.

Sugo alle melanzane

October 6, 2011

It was one of those days around here.

I was out all day with a tour group and didn’t get home until just in time to walk the dogs. The wife is under the weather and a little stressed about the new job. It’s Thursday night…which is pasta night around here. What to have that is satisfying but not just everyday sauce.

Then the aha! moment.

I’d acquired two smallish eggplants as payment for a favor.  Why not an eggplant/tomato sauce for the pasta?

A couple of years ago we had discovered an imported, jarred sauce that included eggplant. It was just different enough from the everyday, familiar sauces and we were fond of it.

Using that thought for inspiration, here’s what I did:

Sugo alle melanzane (Eggpant Sauce)

I washed the eggplants and then cut them into a rough dice (I was rushed. A little more time and a nice quarter inch dice would be perfect).  NOTE: I did not peel the eggplant; nor did I salt them and leave them to “weep”.  They were smallish and young and not bitter at all.

In a large skillet, I heated up some extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. When it started to shimmer, I threw in the cut-up eggplant and tossed it around.  I gave the eggplant a generous sprinkle of salt and cracked pepper.

After about two minutes, I added the garlic which I had chopped.  I also tossed in a healthy pinch of dried red pepper flakes.

A quick stir or two and then I added the tomatoes. (When using canned whole plum tomatoes, crush them with your hands first so they are broken up). Stir.  Keep a watch, stir or toss frequently to keep at a low simmer.

In the pot of boiling, salted water toss in a pound of pasta (we used penne). Cook until just al dente.  About half way through the cooking time for the pasta, add half of the fresh basil, minced to the sauce. When the pasta is done, mix a ladle or two of the pasta cooking water into the skillet with the sauce.  Drain the pasta. Toss with the sauce. Add the remainder of the basil.

Serves 4 – 6

We’re back

October 2, 2011

It has been a busy stretch for us and I have neglected this blog.  Hopefully, you haven’t gone hungry waiting for tidbits and teasers from me.

One of the “distractions” of the past few months was our recent trip to Venice, the Cinque Terre and Milan. Obviously, we ate.  We ate well.  There will be reports about that later.

Tonight, I noticed a number of notes on Facebook from friends describing their various Sunday night dinners.  Although varied, they had in common a turn towards cool weather foods.

Our own meal this evening was what I would consider “transitional” between the summer and fall seasons.

Tonight, we had homemade fettucine in a burro oro e salvia (butter and sage) sauce, chicken breasts with fresh herbs and salad and pecan pie for dessert.

The cool weather inspired Ann to make the pasta.  With an abundance of herbs in the garden, why not use them in the sauce.  Butter and sage, while good anytime of year are rich and savory and comforting enough on a damp, chilly night.  The Rosemary and oregano were begging to be used as well, and what better way to flavor the chicken breasts.

We chopped the herbs and mixed them with salt, black pepper and olive oil.  The mix was then placed into a plastic bag with the boneless,  chicken breasts and left to marinate for an hour or so before being cooked over medium heat in a frying pan and a little more olive oil.

For the burro oro e salvia, I took about 5 tablespoons of sweet butter and melted it in a small pan over medium heat.  When the butter was completely melted and the foaming subsided, let it go a couple of minutes until it picks up a golden color. Toss in 6 to 8 leaves of fresh sage and remove from heat.

At about the time we put sage in the butter, we placed our fresh pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water.  The pasta  should be done shortly after the water has returned to a boil and the fettucine has risen to the top.  Drain, toss with the sage butter and serve.

Sunday, season bridging dinner. Homemade, part home-grown; comforting; quick.

Pasta l’estate

July 29, 2010

Summer pasta

Pasta l'estate

If you know me at all you know that Thursday is pasta night at our house.  It was that way from the time I can remember and it is something I try to carry on.  Of course, growing up it was most often just macaroni in red sauce/gravy with meatballs and sausage.

We’ve certainly expanded the repertoire and, while tomato sauce is always the fall back version, mix it up a bit according to season, whims, etc. 

During the summer, I like nothing more than to take advantage of the bounty of local produce and make a quick sauté of seasonal vegetables to toss with my pasta.  Using a multi-grain version makes it even a little more healthy choice…especially if you go easy on the grated cheese as a topping.


  • 1 pound good quality pasta (I like Barilla’s “Plus” multigrain penne pasta)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Italian sweet frying pepper*
  • 3 small zucchini*
  • 1 medium eggplant*
  • Optional: 4 or 5 Tbs of chopped fresh herbs from the garden (basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley)
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, pecorino romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Throw in a generous pinch of kosher salt. Add pasta to pot and stir.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add minced garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes.  Let cook but don’t let it burn or it will be bitter.

Remove stem and seeds from pepper, dice and toss into skillet just as the garlic is becoming aromatic. Toss or stir.

Cut off the ends of the zucchini and slice into rounds (if the slices are too big in diameter, cut in half), add to skillet and mix with peppers and garlic.

Stir pasta.

Remove ends of eggplant, partially peel in alternating strips (if desired), cut into a large dice, and add to skillet.  Season vegetables with salt and pepper and then stir/flip/shake to ensure even cooking.

Stir pasta.

When pasta is done, toss a couple of ladles of the cooking water into the skillet and stir.

Drain pasta in colander and return to pot. Add half of the herbs (if using) to the vegetables. Stir. Add vegetables to pasta pot and mix. Add rest of the herbs, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and add some grated pecorino romano cheese.

Serve with red wine (Chianti Classico was our choice), toasted bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and a tossed salad.

*NOTE: use any combination of seasonal vegetables that suits your taste.

Buon apetito!