Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

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




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.

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!

Thursday is pasta day!

April 1, 2010

One thing we knew for certain when I was growing up, with very few exceptions, dinner on Thursday would be macaroni in tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage.

It’s a tradition that we continue in our home to this day. 

Today it has even more resonance as it is April 1…the date of the record Swiss Spaghetti Harvest as reported in this BBC documentary from 1957.