January 20, 2011

One Pan Pasta Carbonara

Filed under: Pasta — by Carla


I’ve recently experienced an epiphany. I love cooking for two.

After so many years of cooking for a houseful, I’m enjoying cooking for only two with no leftovers to wrap up and refrigerate. You know the drill. Despite your best intentions, those guilty leftovers in the back of your fridge are often tossed when you no longer recognize them. So, I’m saving money and wasting less food, which is great. But the second aspect of my inspiration is cooking up an entire meal for two in one pan because, like most of you, I really love to cook because I really love to eat. But I hate to clean up.

So, I’m offering you, forthwith, a meal sure to warm the cockles of your heart on these chilly winter nights; one pan pasta carbonara. This classic dish is rich, garlicky, smoky, salty and cheesy…the epitome of comfort food. The eggy sauce thickens just enough when tossed with the hot pasta, crispy bacon and nutty Parmesan. Though pasta carbonara isn’t exactly health food, I believe that everyone could use a heaping helping of carbohydrate comfort on a regular basis, especially when a recipe is this simple. You decide whether you need it monthly, weekly or daily. I’m not here to judge.

Even with a kitchen full of lovely pots and pans, you’ll appreciate this recipe’s one pan status and the time it saves you to do other more important things…like having epiphanies.

Kitchen Counter Point: Good cheese is a real shortcut to the best flavor, but that often means you must buy a chunk and grate it yourself. If you feel like investing and discovering the best flavored cheese, you’ll find it in individually wrapped chunks in the cheese bin section at your grocery. Real Parmesan Reggiano has a dot matrix design on the rind. Look for a chunk with only one side of the rind (that hard inedible outer covering) attached for the best bang for your buck.

2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon plus1 tablespoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano or pecorino Romano cheese
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/2 pound dried spaghetti noodles, snapped in half lengthwise
4 strips bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Fill a large pot with about 3 quarts of water and bring it to a boil, covered, over high heat. It will take about 15 minutes. While the water heats, prepare the ingredients so you can work quickly. Combine the eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, Parmesan and parsley, if using, in a medium bowl. Set aside.

When the water boils add the tablespoon salt and the pasta to the pot. Stir once or twice to keep the pasta from sticking and cook the pasta for a minute or so less than directed on the package. Test the pasta by fishing out a piece and cutting it in half. You should see a small dot of uncooked pasta in the center. The pasta will finish cooking with the sauce.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and add it to the egg mixture. Drain the pasta in a strainer.

Working quickly, return the hot pot to the heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook the bacon until it is crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the egg mixture and remove the pot from the heat.

Add the garlic to the pot and cook it in the hot bacon fat for about 10 seconds or until it is fragrant. Return the drained pasta to the pot and toss it in the hot bacon fat for about 30 seconds to reheat it. Quickly pour in the egg mixture and toss to blend the ingredients thoroughly. The egg should thicken into a sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Heap the pasta onto two heated plates and garnish with extra parsley if using.

I like to drink Italian wine with Italian food and this classic pasta would taste great with a medium bodied Chianti. Look for Riserva on the label as it generally denotes a higher quality.

October 26, 2010

Butternut and Sausage Cellentani with Sage

Filed under: Pasta — by Carla



In an effort to eat more healthfully, we’ve tried to cut back on processed carbs and saturated fats. Most nights a few locally grown vegetables, a chicken breast and salad constitute dinner with very few sightings of steak, potatoes, bread or white rice. I don’t generally miss those white calories, but lately I’ve had a genuine craving for pasta.

cellentani_176There’s one specific noodle that I find particularly tempting. It’s a little hollow corkscrew shape called cellentani. Barilla makes it so it should be easy for you to find. It has the most seductive spring and chewy bite… I just can’t get enough of it.

While I’m in confessional mode, I might as well admit that I’m losing the battle with sausage as well. Especially Lou’s, a local Sicilian sausage with just a hint of heat, roasted red peppers and fennel.

Now, in my mind, cravings are the human body’s way of telling us what it needs. Obviously, I’m running short on carbs and fat so in an effort to bring my body and mind in sync, I recently decided to make a meal of pasta, sausage, butternut squash and sage. My in-laws had recently gifted us with a few butternut squash from their garden and my sage bush outside was still holding on to plenty of leaves. It doesn’t get much more local or seasonal than that.

And did you know that butternut squash is good for you? It’s full of vitamin C.

There are so many interesting and healthful ways to eat it. There’s soup (with cream), a filling for ravioli (with cheese), casseroles (with cream), gratins (with cheese and cream) or just split a squash lengthwise and roast it in the oven for about 45 minutes (with butter and brown sugar). Tasty options, all.

Did I mention that butternut squash is full of beta carotene? It helps maintain eyes, skin and a healthy immune system. So, not only is this meal local and seasonal but healthy as well. Right?

Feeling better about my choices, I tossed half the cubed squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in a hot oven until browned and tender. Then I sautéed a leek and a clove of garlic in butter before adding the remaining diced squash and chicken stock. When tender, I whizzed it up in the food processor with a touch of cream. Once the al dente pasta was sauced and tossed with the browned sausage and roasted butternut I topped each serving with a few fried sage leaves, a drizzle of the sage butter and a whisper of shaved Parmesan.

As I set the mounded plates of  hot pasta on the table I informed my husband that butternut squash is a good source of fiber and full of anti-oxidants.

I must admit, it was so delicious. Not like health food at all.


Kitchen Counter Point:  Peeling and dicing a hard skinned squash is easy if you do it in sections. First, using your largest sharpest knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise. If the knife becomes stuck halfway through the squash, just pound the squash on the cutting board once or twice until the knife cuts through and is free. Scoop out the seeds with a large spoon and discard them. Cut the halved squash into quarters. This makes it easier to peel with a paring knife. Once peeled, cut the squash into 1/2-inch slices and then cut them down into 1/2-inch dice. Pretty easy, really.

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, about 4 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 medium leek
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream, more if desired
3/4 lb freshly made sausage of your choice
1 lb cellentani noodles or other corkscrew pasta such as rotini
16 whole sage leaves
Parmesan cheese for grating

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Bring a large pot of water, about 1 gallon, to a boil over high heat.

Follow the directions for the squash in the Kitchen Counter Point. Dump half the squash onto a sheet pan and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the squash out in an even layer and roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned and tender.

While the squash cooks, cut the leek in half lengthwise and wash it under running cold water to remove any grit. Cut away and discard the dark green leaves and thinly slice the white and light green parts. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter is hot add the leek and salt. Sauté the leek for about 3 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the remaining squash, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste and broth and lower the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. You may have to add more broth as the vegetables cook. There should be about 1/3 cup broth in the pan when the vegetables are tender. Process the mixture in a food processor or blender (be careful it’s hot) until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and add the nutmeg, cayenne and cream. Reheat and taste for seasoning adding more broth or cream if the sauce is too thick. Keep hot.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the sausage in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Break it up into chunks and cook for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain and set aside.

In a small fry pan, add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and heat over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling add the sage leaves and cook them for 1 minute on each side or until crispy. Transfer them as they are cooked to a paper towel lined plate. The butter in the pan will brown lightly. Remove it from the heat if it begins to darken too much. Keep warm.

Add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes and check it for doneness. It will need another minute or two, but should still have a nice bite and no flabbiness. Drain the pasta well and add it to the squash sauce along with the browned sausage and roasted squash. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Mound the pasta onto heated shallow bowls and top each portion with a few fried sage leaves, a drizzle of the browned sage butter and a grating of Parmesan. Serve very hot.

April 26, 2010

Cheese Ravioli with Fried Sage and Browned Butter

Filed under: Pasta — by Carla


I love to cook just for me.

Not normal at all, I know, but when my husband is away for the night, I often turn on the Coltrane, Krall, Ray Charles, mix a cocktail and improvise dinner with whatever is in the house. The other night I had a yen for pasta. Whether using a hand cranker or the electric KitchenAid -roller, making pasta is a lot of fun. You take a little blob of dough and turn it into something ethereal…a magical silk purse from a sow’s ear sort of thing.

After a rummage in the frig, I found a smidge of ricotta left over from last week’s lasagna, goat cheese, a wedge of Parmesan, mozzarella, and a bunch of sage leaves. Of course, it all added up to cheese stuffed ravioli with fried sage and browned butter. I flipped on the music (added Big Night to the mix), lit the fire and had a great time making and eating those tender cheese stuffed bites. The salty/creamy, stuffed ravioli juxtaposed with the browned butter and fried sage is one of my favorite flavor contrasts. I’m not crazy about the taste of raw sage, but when fried to a crisp in butter it morphs into something delish. The bonus is that the butter takes on the flavor of the sage turning it into a nutty, sagey sauce. The dish paired beautifully with a breezy little Sauvignon Blanc from Spain appropriately named Las Brisas.

Every time I roll pasta I’m reminded of the creative time spent with those Playdoh factories we had as children. Oh, the hours spent extruding shapes and molding imprints with brightly colored blue, red, yellow and white Playdoh. And here I am, still having a great time playing with dough. Only now the reward is dinner. For one.


Kitchen Counter Point: It’s definitely no fun for your hard earned ravioli to come undone in the cooking water. That’s why it’s important that you push the air from the inside edge of the filling to the outer edge of the pasta when sealing it. If air remains inside the sealed pasta, it expands when heated and pops open your pasta, so this is a pretty important tip. Also be sure to seal the ravioli, pressing down on the seams to make sure that they don’t come unhinged. I like to use a fork.  Finally, cook the ravioli at a gentle boil. That way the force of the bubbles is less likely to burst those little pillows apart.


Serves 1 (plus leftovers for lunch the next day)

Pasta (or use purchased fresh pasta sheets)
Makes about 1-1/4 pound, serves 4-6 (extra can be frozen for another day)

2-3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more if necessary
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
3 tablespoons goat cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon fresh chives (if they’ve come up in your garden yet), minced
1 teaspoon parsley (ditto), minced
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
Pinch nutmeg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra Parmesan cheese

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the eggs and pulse several times until clumps of moist dough form. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 4 piles, gather each into ball and knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let the dough rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes.

While the dough rests, combine the cheeses, egg, herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg and taste for seasoning.

Rolling dough into sheets:
Freeze two of the dough balls for another time. Set the pasta machine to the widest setting. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the other covered, flatten the dough into a rectangle and run ut through the machine. Fold it in thirds crosswise, as if you were folding a letter. Dust the outside lightly with flour and putting the open end through first, run through roller again. Repeat this process on the widest setting until the dough is smooth and elastic. It may take 3 or 4 times. This is a continuation of the kneading process and gives the dough a chance to absorb more flour if it is too sticky. Then continue to roll through the narrower settings (one time through each setting, without folding). Dust lightly with flour as needed to keep it from sticking, until the pasta sheet is the desired thickness (if hand cranking, roll all the way to the thinnest setting and if using the KitchenAid roller roll it down to #5). Place the sheet of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Repeat with the remaining pasta piece. If the pasta tears at any time during the rolling process, just fold it in half, dust the outside with flour on both sides and run it through the same setting one more time.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a gentle boil.

Fill a small bowl with water and a pastry brush. Dust the counter lightly with flour. Lay out the long sheet of pasta, fold it in half and make a mark on the dough at the halfway point. Open the strip of dough out again and brush half the surface very lightly with water. Drop small spoonfuls of your filling on the damp pasta sheet, about 2 inches apart. Fold the other half over the filling, making sure all the filling is covered and at least a 1-inch border remains around the edges. Using your index finger, gently press out the air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife, pizza cutter or ravioli cutter to cut each ravioli into squares and press down on the edges with the tines of a fork to make a tight seal. Dust a sheet pan with flour to prevent the pasta from sticking and lay them out on the sheet making sure not to let them touch. Repeat with remaining dough sheet  and filling.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it is sizzling hot, add the sage leaves, brown them on both sides and then transfer them to a plate. It should take about 2 or 3 minutes. The butter should be browned and full of sagey flavor. Remove the pan from the heat making sure that it doesn’t burn.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water and stir, making sure that they don’t stick on the bottom. Cook the ravioli at a bare simmer until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain into a colander or scoop from the water with a slotted spoon and add the ravioli to the warm browned butter. Toss gently to coat. Pour the ravioli out onto a heated plate and top with the fried sage leaves, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with extra grated Parmesan cheese if desired

September 24, 2009

Summer Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Filed under: Pasta — by Carla


By about mid-September I usually begin to think about fall cooking.  And though I enjoy contemplating  the wonders of a good stew, this year I’m just not quite ready to pull out the heavy duty Dutch oven yet. No, I’m still in summer mode for the simple reason that  my appetite for tasty local tomatoes has not been gratified. I think there are probably a few others out there who feel the same way, so I’m offering one of my favorite ways to eat a really good tomato. All you have to do is make a salad of chopped fresh tomatoes, herbs, balsamic, olive oil and garlic and then toss it with cooked to perfection fresh pasta for a dish that epitomizes the simplicity of summer. To top it off I like to add crunchy, buttery croutons for texture. I often do make dinner just of this delightful dish, but it is also a great side paired with grilled chicken or fish. Everytime I eat it, I think how lucky I am to be tasting such great flavorful food… at least until I’ve picked the last tomato of the season.


Kitchen Counter Point: Fresh pasta is one of those things that you never knew you missed out on until you taste it. And then once you’ve discovered it, you lament the lost years that you could have been eating these silken, chewy noodles. It was an epiphany of sorts for me, so I ran out and bought a hand crank pasta machine so that I could roll out luscious fettuccine on a regular basis. It really is easy to make, especially if you make the dough in the food processor. But just so you know, there are some who insist that the best pasta dough is mixed up on the counter by hand. I can’t really tell the difference, but the ease of making the dough in the processor means I’m more likely to make pasta on a Tuesday night. Another great tool, if you have a KitchenAid, is the pasta roller that attaches to the mixer. It comes with two cutters (fettuccine and angel hair) and not only rolls and cuts quickly, but it is pretty fun to use as well. If a hand crank pasta machine or a KitchenAid aren’t on your wish list, just purchase fresh pasta at the market and proceed with the recipe.


Serves 4 to 6


1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 cups rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon salt, divided
3 large tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil and parsley, chopped
1 lb fresh fettuccine (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375ºF

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add one clove of the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the bread on a baking sheet and pour the butter mixture over the bread, tossing with your hands to distribute the butter evenly. Salt lightly and bake the croutons in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the croutons are crispy and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a large pot, heat 1 gallon of water to a boil.

In a large bowl, toss 1 teaspoon salt, remaining garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, pepper flakes, pepper and basil and parsley mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste with more salt, pepper flakes or vinegar.

When the water comes to a boil, add remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Add the fresh pasta and cook for 4 or 5 minutes or until the pasta is tender and cooked through to the center. Drain the pasta.

Add the hot pasta to the bowl of tomatoes. Toss for a minute and add the croutons to the bowl. Toss again and serve immediately.


Egg Pasta

Makes about 1-1/4 pound pasta, serving 4-6

2-3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more if necessary
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add eggs and pulse several times until the dough is shaggy, but clumps into a ball when squeezed. Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 4 sections. Gather each section into ball and knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes.

Rolling dough into sheets:
Set a pasta machine to its widest setting. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the others covered, flatten a piece of dough into rectangle and run it through the machine. Fold in thirds crosswise, as if you were folding a letter. Dust the outside lightly with flour and putting the open end through first, run through the roller again. Repeat this process on the widest setting until the dough is smooth and elastic. It may take 3 or 4 times. This is a continuation of the kneading process. It gives the dough a chance to absorb more flour if it is too sticky. Then continue to roll the dough through the narrower settings (one time through each setting, without folding). Dust lightly with flour as needed to keep from sticking until pasta sheet is the desired thickness (if using the KitchenAid pasta roller, roll the dough down to #5). Place sheet on lightly floured work surface. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces. If the pasta tears at any time during the rolling process, just fold in half, dust the outside with flour on both sides and run through the same setting  one more time.

Cutting the dough:
Let the pasta sheets rest until slightly dry but still pliable, about 20 minutes. Cut the sheets into the desired length. Fit the machine with desired cutter and run sheets through. Using floured hands, toss strands to separate; spread out on flour dusted sheet pans. Cook as directed.