all about the noodle!

pancetta & rigatoni Last week, on a business lunch, I had the pleasure of dining in one of my favorite midtown eateries, Il Gattopardo. Simply put, their pasta dishes are utter perfection and I found myself savoring every bite (I’m been told that I’m the quickest eater going) of the cracked pepper rigatoni with pancetta. Truth be told, every dish can be improved upon with cured bacon fat. Pancetta on a Snickers bar? Absolutely. Pancetta on flapjacks? Naturally. Pancetta-topped ice-cream? You betcha. Frequently, I use the salt-cured bacon as a base for soups, and as a flavoring agent in most of my chicken and pasta dishes. The heady saltiness of the pecorino cheese & bacon juxtaposed against the bite of cracked peppercorns was a gastronomic delight, and I left the restaurant fully aware that I’ve secured a favorite haunt. And the best part? My lunch was a simple dish that could be easily replicated by the home cook (how rare!!).

After a tough week which included an emergency room visit and a decision to pare down my project workload, I went back to basics. To what is familiar and comforting: cooking in the kitchen. This weekend, it was all about the noodle. Tossing together al dente pasta (1 1/2 cup uncooked pasta), cracked pepper (1/2 tbsp), pecorino romano cheese (3 tbsp) and small diced chunks of sautéed pork (1/4 cup) – Saturday evening dinner was easy breezy. In preparation for dinner for two with a sweet friend, I’ve prepared the fan favorite: butternut squash lasagna replete with crushed amaretti cookies, to be served with an arugula salad with shallot vinaigrette & loaves of french bread and creamed butter. Because it’s no fun pulling your hair out over dishes you can’t easily prepare in advance.

foodie gal pasta recipes

Saturday Night Dish…in TEN minutes!!

pasta and herbed sausage If you’ve had a long day at work and the idea of cooking makes you want to pull your hair out, this recipe is for you. This is my perennial – whole wheat linguine, herbed sausage and basil. A little olive oil, garlic, cracked pepper and a smattering of pecorino Romano cheese and dinner is on the table in 10. I make many variations on this easy dish – sometimes I toss in sundried tomatoes that have been soaked in olive oil, fresh goat cheese and spinach. To die for!

Ingredients (serves one generously)
Note: I use all local/organic ingredients because this is how I fox trot

4 oz of whole wheat linguine (1/4 of the bag)
One small-medium sausage link. (I go for the sweet sausage, herbed sausage variation. I’m not a fan of the hot sausage in this dish)
A handful of basil
2 tbsp pecorino Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan, however, I really prefer the sharpness of this cheese against the bland whole wheat pasta)
A drizzling of olive oil (not extra-virgin)
Cracked black pepper/salt (to taste)
1 garlic clove, finely minced

Directions:
Fill a medium saucepan (pot) with water. Bring it to a boil. Once the water is furiously boiling, add the pasta in. The Venetians say pasta water should be as salty as the sea so add a few tablespoons of salt. This is the only opportunity you have to flavor the pasta, so do it now! Stir the pasta frequently so as it doesn’t stick. Now, you guys know that I heart Martha. Martha is the omnipotent one, the sage, but on one thing she is very, very mistaken. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT add olive oil to the water. Why, you wonder? Let me tell you from one who has ruined many a pasta:

1. You are wasting expensive oil. Even the cheap stuff is $6 a bottle.
2. The oil will adhere to the pasta and the pasta will not adhere to your sauce. Translation=bland, flavorless pasta
3. It is simply wrong

Now that we have the no oiling of the pasta rule covered, let’s move on. Your pasta won’t stick if you have enough water in the pot and if you stir the pasta in the first few minutes of cooking. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than what the package says until it’s al dente (to the tooth). The pasta should be cooked but have a slight bite to it. No one loves gummy pasta.

saturday night dinner in 10 minutes While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium-sized pan. Take the sausage out of its casing and break apart in your hands. When the pan is hot, toss in the sausage with the olive oil. You’ll hear a pop and a sizzle, and that’s good. That means your meat will have a nice sear and will get the delish caramelized brown color. The sausage should cook within 5-7 minutes. On the last minute, throw in the garlic. You don’t want to add the garlic in the beginning because garlic cooks fast and you’ll get charred bits rather than garlic sausage.

When the pasta is done, add it directly to the pot in which you’re cooking the sausage. Add some of the starchy pasta water. Stir to blend. Add the basil, cheese, salt & pepper. Serve hot.

Variation: Want to turn the volume up on this dish? Add sundried tomatoes (packed/soaked in olive oil), goat cheese, 1 cup of spinach.

Tip: When you’re cooking pasta (except for cold pasta salads), do not run cold water on cooked pasta. This will wash off all of the starch that makes your sauces adhere to the pasta.

foodie gal pasta recipes

walnut pesto pasta

yummy pesto pasta! When people think of basil, pesto immediately comes to mind. This verdant and aromatic herb–-which has hints of licorice, lavender, clove, mint and pepper–-is a staple in Italian cooking. Yet, few people know that basil is actually native to India, South East Asia, Africa and South America and varieties of the herb are used in spicy noodle dishes and baked goods.

Basil is the very essence of summer and what better way to usher in the warmer months than with a sauce that is not only fresh and affordable, but also velvety and decadent. If you’re familiar with making pesto, this version is savory, delicious and is easy to make!
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foodie gal pasta recipes