Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Pasta isn't just for Italians anymore. In fact, when I was growing up, we never called it pasta; we called it macaroni. No matter what you call it, no one ever seems to get enough pasta. It's inexpensive, delicious, and easy to put together. There's a pasta for everyone: meat eater, vegetarian, dieter, child, and old codger. Shapes run the gamut from tubes to butterflies to shells to wagon wheels. Why, there are even colored pastas if plain old beige doesn't do it for you. Whether you have an afternoon or just 30 minutes to prepare a meal, you can find a pasta dish that will feed you inexpensively and well. Here are a few of my favorite pasta dishes.


6 slices diced bacon
1 finely chopped onion
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, crushed or blended
1 1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 lb. farfalle pasta
1/4 cup heavy cream
Asiago cheese, grated

Brown the bacon, discarding all but 2 Tbs. of fat. Set bacon aside. Saute the onion in the bacon fat. Add the tomatoes with juices, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. As sauce simmers, prepare pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done, add cream to sauce, then add drained pasta. Top with reserved bacon and Asiago cheese.


2 Tbs. butter
1 diced shallot
4-6 diced, seeded plum tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup vodka
fresh basil ( a few leaves)
3/4 lb. penne pasta
Asiago cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Saute the shallot a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add the cream, vodka, and basil and simmer 5 - 8 minutes. Turn off heat while you prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Turn heat back on under sauce until hot, then add pasta, toss to coat, top with cheese, and serve.


8 oz. spaghetti
1/2 cup grated cheese (I prefer Locatelli Romano here)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
2 oz. chopped Pancetta (if unavailable, use chopped center cut bacon)
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Be sure to clean leeks thoroughly. Boil water for the pasta. At the same time, cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove pancetta from skillet and add leeks to pan drippings, sauteing 3-4 minutes. Add garlic to skillet and cook an additional minute. Combine cheese, salt, pepper, egg, and egg white in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta and add it to skillet with leeks and garlic. Reduce heat, add cheese mixture and pancetta and cook for 1 minute, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.


1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/ lb. ground veal
2 eggs
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 small onion, grated
salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese (I prefer Locatelli Romano) OR 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
1/4 cup milk
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup oil

Soak the breadin the milk for a few minutes. Combine in a large bowl: bread, beef, pork, veal, eggs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to blend ingredients. Add bread crumbs, then add water, 1 cup at a time, until mixture is moist. Shape the meat into 3 inch balls. Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs in batches. Don't crowd the skillet; you want the meatballs to brown and be slightly crispy. When bottom half is browned, gently turn over and brown the other side. Drain well on paper towels.

1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 large can Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano, of course)
salt and pepper
basil, 3-4 leaves
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3 Tbs. olive oil

In a food processor, chop carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot, but not smoking. Add chopped vegetables and saute about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook on low an additional minute. Blend tomatoes and juices to consistency you prefer (I don't like chunks, so I puree). Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 1 hour. Add meatballs and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Serve over your favorite spaghetti (I love spaghettini) and top with lots of grated Asiago.

These are some of my favorite pastas. The farfalle with bacon-tomato sauce and the penne vodka are very easy. The spaghetti carbonara is all about timing. And, who doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, the cook gets to sample the just-out-of-the-frying pan crunch of the meatball and, if there are any leftovers, they make great sang-wiches, as my mother's family used to call them.

1 comment:

  1. Alrene, your blog is delicious!! Now I have to place to go for new receipes. thank you, great job!


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