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Pasta and beans (pronounced pasta fazh-e-ohl-eh, and sometimes referred to as pasta fazool) is a classic Italian dish that couldn’t be much faster, easier or more inexpensive; it can also be made without precision, and you can take liberties with the ingredients: a bit of sausage with the onion, carrot and celery is delicious, you could add some thyme, rosemary or Italian seasoning to the pot, and though small pasta shapes are traditional, a diced potato or even some rice or other grain would be tasty as well. With more stock, tomato juice or other liquid, it’s more like minestrone; with less it’s a thicker, stewier pasta dish. If you happen to save your Parmesan rinds, this is a good use for it.

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I recently came across food writer Julia Turshen’s simple lasagna — what she calls “a nice lasagna”, and was instantly drawn to its simplicity—there’s no meat, no layers of roasted veg or ricotta, just a rosé tomato sauce and fresh basil, and plenty of cheese. Best of all, it utilizes fresh pasta sheets, which you can mix up and roll with a rolling pin—no pasta machine required! (Though they are a lot of fun.) And then you just go ahead and layer the rolled-out pasta dough directly in the pan with the sauce and cheese, no need to boil it first, which is ridiculously satisfying. You could, of course, add all manner of meat and veg sauce, or ricotta, or anything else you like, but I love that this is not at all over the top- a big spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream turns the sauce into a rosé that takes care of my craving for tomato and cheese that ricotta usually satisfies.

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Confession: I’m one of those odd people who loves leftover salad. Yes, salad from the night before, that has already been tossed in dressing, so it gets all wilty in the fridge. It’s like a more condensed version of its original self, and I’ve always wondered why we don’t wilt lettuce the same way we do spinach. If you follow along on Instagram stories, you’ll know I had a bumper crop of lettuce this year. I’ve been plucking leafy greens straight from the garden all summer – which never gets old – but even in July and August, you can get too much salad. And now, finally, my immaculate and bountiful lettuce row is beginning to wane, and I’m scrambling to add it to things before it winds up in the compost bin. But look: it’s tasty tossed with warm pasta, which wilts it slightly, and it has a delicate, lettuce-y flavour compared to hardy spinach, chard or kale, that goes so well with butterContinue reading

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So back in February, when my friend Jan’s new cookbook came out, I was so diligent in making sure I made one of the recipes in a timely manner to post on the day of her official launch. I made a pot of beefaroni on a Sunday night when everyone was over for dinner – I’m making an effort to do more big family Sunday suppers these days – and it was a total hit. I mean, perfect for everyone, from the new generation of littles to my Dad, who took some home for lunch the next day. I’ve made it twice since – it’s a good meal to send someone who needs it, or to have in the fridge to dip into for quick dinners and Thermos lunches, and it freezes well. And I just realized I never managed to post it here.

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We all need emergency meals some days. I’ve been eyeing this – a soupy sort of one pot pasta that’s a staple in Rome, and the sort of humble home-cooked meal that intrigues me most about visiting such a place. (Although yes, I would also make the trip just for the pizza.) As with most staples of this kind, there are as many variations as there are people who make it. This particular version is cooked quickly on the stovetop, pasta and all, which allows the starch from the pasta to thicken the sauce. It works-truly. I brought it in to CBC this morning as an example of the sort of last-minute I-don’t-know-what’s-for-dinner emergency meal you can rummage through your pantry for and eat in 20 minutes rather than give in to take out.

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Who needs some comfort food? I do. Even if I have to make it for myself. It’s been a nutso day/week/month.. year, really. For all of us? A couch and some slouchy socks and a big bowl of pasta is a realistic salve when sleeping in isn’t an option. This is one of those recipes that I know, that I glaze over when I see because it’s just too familiar and I know how to make pasta and give me a more unique idea already, but occasionally I just stick to the directions and am amazed at how delicious something is. My friend John Gilchrist sent this to me as I was gathering recipes for the Calgary Food Bank that uses ingredients on their wish list, and having half a package of bacon and half a can of tomatoes in my fridge, I gave it a go. Pasta all’Amatriciana is traditionally made with guanciale and Pecorino, but bacon is just fine. And you can useContinue reading

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The text came in early one Saturday morning. “The tomatoes have spoken,” it said. “It happens today at 11am.” It was my friend Victoria, alerting me to the specific time her in-laws would be putting up their tomatoes this year, something they’ve done since they moved to Calgary from Sessano del Molise, a small town just outside Naples, in 1967. When I heard it was an annual thing, generally a major production involving 20 cases of tomatoes, a dozen friends and neighbours, tables set up in the garage and a hot tub-sized pot set over a single burner in the driveway, I begged to tag along. Putting up tomatoes is largely a lost art, what with the availability of good-quality canned tomatoes just about everywhere food is sold, for a dollar or three. But I love the idea of picking up cases and doing it myself, and of letting the tomatoes determine when they’re ready to go. If you’re going to do this kind ofContinue reading

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Apparently it’s Labour Day weekend in a few days (HOW!), which means part of me is plotting what to bring to the parties our friends hold every year to see out the summer, and part of me is getting used to the idea of getting back to a regular schedule next week. I’m also doing my annual kitchen purge, after coming home from Tofino and wondering why we have so much stuff. This includes the stuff currently occupying our freezer and cupboards – including bags of pasta shapes I’m always drawn to at the Italian market, that seem to multiply in the dark recesses of the pantry.

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If you asked him, W would tell you his favourite foods are shrimp and pasta – and it occurred to me recently that for some reason, I’ve never thought to combine the two. Which is ridiculous for reasons beyond the fact that together, they are better than the sum of their parts – when it comes to pasta sauces, shrimp and garlic sautéed in butter is about as fast as you can get. Quicker, I think, than heating up a jar of sauce. Also – I generally have butter, garlic and Parm, and shrimp are easy to keep in the freezer, dry pasta on the shelf.

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