Tag Archives: Basil

{ Lemon Caper Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes }

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a meal, aside from getting all the groceries together, is deciding what the heck your actually going to make! As is true of most hardcore foodies, I’m no basic meat and potatoes girl. I love elaborate side dishes and I practically live for condiments–the more, the merrier! So after I choose a protein to cook, I usually find myself flipping through the section labeled “side dishes” in my recipe binder (aka my bible), searching for the perfect partner(s) for my main dish. The standard garlic mashed potatoes and roasted veggies just haven’t been tickling my fancy as of lately, and tonight I wanted something different. So I turned to the end all be all recipe collection, the direct source itself, the food network.

After a great deal of searching, I resolved to try making this lemon, garlic, caper pasta created by Giada de Laurentis. My main dish was a simple herb grilled chicken breast (although my mom also paired it with a nice filet of salmon), and it complimented both dishes beautifully. There are very few ingredients used in making the pasta, so the tremendous flavor comes as quite a surprise, but it was more than welcomed by my plate tonight.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
{ To Make the PastaBring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.
Just before serving, add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture and toss to combine.

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{ Tomato Basil Bruschetta }

Today was a fabulous day that ended with a fabulous dinner–as all truly fabulous days must! (I am certain that the quality and quantity of food that I consume in a day and my respective mood are positively correlated). Anyways, tonight my friend, Brooks, hosted a family-style Italian dinner. No, Brooks is not Italian (he is Brazilian) but yes, he is one of the best damn cooks I have encountered and therefore he can cook anything well–including meatballs and gravy! My little home-maker instincts kicked in earlier this afternoon, and I decided I would make bruschetta to bring as an appetizer…plus, my mom always said, “never go to a dinner party empty handed!” So I ran out to the store and bought bruschetta supplies….12 Roma Plum tomatoes, a package of cherry tomatoes, a bulb of garlic, and some basil. Then I came back home and set about making my mouth-watering creation. I did not follow a recipe to make this but I am going to give the approximate portions of everything that I used, so that you can make it and so I can replicate it again!
It was a huge hit and sadly there was none left totake home, but I’m glad everyone enjoyed it. I served it on diagonally sliced tuscan bread, which I first toasted in the oven on 350 degrees with a little drizzle of olive oil and oregano. I then generously topped each piece with the tomato mixture and garnished with basil leaves! For anyone who loves the tomatoes at Vilaggio (and who doesn’t?), these come out tasting practically the same!

{ Ingredients }

  • 12 roma plum tomatoes
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 green onions
  • 10-15 basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
{ To Make BrushettaHalve all of the grape tomatoes and place in large mixing bowl. Cut an X into the top of each plum tomato and then bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes 2-3 at a time for one minute each and then remove from water and peel back the skins. Cut off the tops and remove seeds, chopping into small pieces.
Add these pieces to the mixing bowl of grape tomatoes. Repeat until all of the plum tomatoes have been done. Chop the green onions and basil, and mince the garlic gloves, adding all ingredients to mixing bowl. Then add the olive oil and vinegar and a few generous sprinkles of Kosher salt. Mix well to coat all tomatoes. Allow to sit and then serve on toasted bread!
But let me also mention the delicious main course that took place tonight. Brooks was head chef (as he should be in his own kitchen) and I enjoyed playing sous chef for a change! The menu included a Baked Brie Bread Bowla Mixed Green Salad with Petit Tomatoes and Red Onion tossed in Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette, Spaghetti with Gravy, and Homemade Meatballs! Ohhh, and i forgot about the Brownie Sundaes for dessert. Talk about a feast….
The meatballs were unreal. I am Italian and I think my mom makes the best meatballs ever, but these were a close rival and they were incredible. Plus, Brooks made them in a cupcake pan, and I tend to love anything that comes out of a cupcake pan so I was instantly happy. Here is a photo of the meatballs, just after coming out of the oven….

Meatballs Post Oven

You can see the fat drippings in the bottom of the pan, which is abundant considering that Brooks uses a combination of Veal, Beef, and Italian sausage to make his meatballs….plenty of fat there. After he spoons out each little masterpiece from the pan he pours the drippings into his pot of gravy, which instantly thickens the tomato sauce. He then places each of the meatballs into the pot of gravy and allows them to finish slow cooking amid the tomatoes for another 20 or 30 minutes. The sauce absorbs the flavor of the meat, and the meat absorbs the moisture and acidity of the sauce….it’s a beautiful marriage a meatball and gravy!
The salad was simple but the homemade dijon dressing really took it to another level. It was very similar to the much coveted secret sauce from La Sandwicherie!! (see post) and the bite of the dijon mustard with the greens was great. Here is a look at my beautiful plate of food…

Spaghetti with Meatball topped with Ricotta and Parmesan Cheeses

As you can see, we finished off the meatball with a scoop of ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese shavings!!! WOW! Even “Big Nick”–clearly fully Italian–approved of Brooks creation, despite his former doubts. So delicious.
Now for my little confession….and I’m praying that no one from the dinner party reads this (although I secretly hope that some of them follow my blog!). As sous chef, I was in charge of cooking out the pasta. And believe me, I can cook out a perfectly salted and al dente pasta in my sleep. I know how to cook pasta like people know how to spell their name….it is just a part of me…second nature. Anyways, I salt the water with the large salt container, add the pasta, and start to cook. But, when I taste the pasta it isn’t salty! So naturally, I add more salt. A few minutes later I taste the pasta and it almost tastes sweet. I can’t believe it, so I reach for the salt one last time and realize that it is actually a container of sugar. His sugar container looks just like my salt container at home. So instead of salting the pasta, I have been coating it in sugar water. Before I start to panic, I reach for the morton’s and begin a generous pour just hoping that the salt will mask the sugar. Thankfully, it did and no one noticed. I couldn’t even taste the problem myself! Anyways, funny little secret that no one knows…..yet, at least!

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{ Tomato Basil Soup }

Tomato Basil Soup

(Adapted from Tyler Florence)
An all-liquid diet equates to hell for a serious foodie. It is even more miserable than I anticipated that it would be, if you can imagine that. For example, I went grocery shopping today and had to actually turn down free samples of food. I never turn down free things, let alone food! It was torture as these older women eagerly waved cubed of aged cheese and sliced salami on toothpicks at me. I had to say “no thank you,” but I was thinking “I want to be fed. I want your samples, I really do, but I just physically cannot eat!” My mom can see my frustration (she caught me reading her cookbooks as literature earlier today) and she decided to make me a nice hearty soup for dinner–tomato basil.
I can’t say that I helped, or even watched my mom make this soup because I was passed out from my pain killers, but it turned out great! She used fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary from our herb garden so the depth of flavor was intense and delicious. She then topped off the soup with some heavy cream and cracked black pepper, which balanced the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly. I ate this as a simple soup tonight, but I think it would also taste delicious over pasta as a faux vodka sauce (once I have teeth again, of course!). I will definitely be adding this to recipe to my own collection, hopefully you will enjoy it too!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of heirloom, cherry, wine, and plum)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 5 fresh sprigs of thym
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
{ To Make the Soup
Preheat the over the 450 degrees F.
Wash, core, and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic, and onions onto a baking tray. Tie up the rosemary and parsley with twin and add onto the tray. Drizzle with a 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion from the onion and transfer to a large stock pot. Cut off the twin from herbs and add to the stock pot as well. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutws or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves and add to stock pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken broth, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with drizzle of cream before serving.

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{ Linguine All’Amatriciana }

Linguine All'Amatriciana

When I come home from college, I bring my appetite because my mom is truly a fabulous cook. She is the one who really got me interested in cooking and food in the first place…I mean lets face it, serious “foodies” are not the kind of people who were raised on SpaghettiOs and Ramen Noodle Soup. In fact, I had never even tasted jarred tomato sauce until college!! My mom always cooked gourmet meals when I was growing up and so she taught me to appreciate the flavors of fresh herbs and vegetables at an early age, which slowly developed into a passion as I got older.

Although I love all of my mom’s food, I love her pasta dishes the most! Tonight, her and I cooked out a box of linguine and made a trio of pasta sauces to have a little Italian pasta sampling of sorts! I made my Pesto recipe (which I have blogged about), and my mom made an impromptu Walnut Sage Sauce (which I will blog about) and an Amatriciana Sauce (which I am blogging about). This Amatriciana sauce is an excellent and easy red sauce to make for any kind of pasta, even though I prefer it with linguine. The pancetta gives a great hearty depth of flavor to the sauce and the San Marzano tomatoes are so sweet and delicious. It is really important that you spend the extra $1.50 and buy the San Marzano tomatoes for this dish, because other brands do not taste the same. There isn’t too much more to say about this simple sauce other than that it is delicious, so enjoy!

Ohhh, there is just one more thing that makes this sauce even better…it freezes really well! So if you set some aside before tossing in the pasta, you can put it in the freezer and enjoy it a couple weeks later!

{ Ingredients }

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces Pancetta (cut into small bits)
  • 1 ½ large Spanish onions (diced)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 (28-Ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, passed through the food mill

**Seeds make the sauce bitter

  • 1 pound linguine
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish

{ To Make the PastaCoat a large saucepan with oil and allow pancetta to cook over low heat until brown and crispy. Remove and set aside the pancetta and then increase saucepan to medium heat, adding the onions and crushed red pepper. Season generously with kosher salt, to taste. Cook onions until they are translucent and turning golden. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 1 hour, tasting periodically. Adjust the salt, as needed.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water (should be as salty as the Dead Sea) to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook al dente (about 1 minute less than the instructions on package call for). Then drain the pasta and add it directly to the pan of sauce. DO NOT rinse the pasta because then the sauce will not adhere to it!! Stir to coat the pasta with sauce, then add in the cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil. Toss to coat and serve with additional shaved Parmesan and fresh chopped basil!

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{ Pesto }

Linguini with Pesto

Over the past two years I have both made and tried several different pestorecipes. However, being a college student on a budget, I could only make pesto when I had enough money to buy the outrageously expensive pine nuts (ohh how I dreaded buying the pignolis!!). But as my mom always says, “budgeting inspires creativity,” and sure enough I found a substitute for pine nuts….WALNUTS!! Same great taste, quarter of the price! This recipe, which is my own, uses equal parts of pine nuts and walnuts, giving the dish a greater depth of flavor and making it more affordable. I use this sauce on everything…pasta, grilled chicken, roasted veggies, sandwiches, and even as a salad dressing (equal parts pesto and balsamic vinegar). If you’re using it over pasta, add more olive oil (between a cup and a quarter to a cup and a half) so that the sauce is thinner, and when using it as a spread on sandwiches only add about a cup of oil so it is thicker.

Buen Provecho!

{ Ingredients }

  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup good extra virgin olive oil –Possibly 1 ½ if you like your pesto thinner

{ To Make PastaPlace the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. Process for about 30 seconds and then ass the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. While the food processor is running, slowly pour the amount of desired olive oil through the feed tube into the bowl and process until the pesto is pureed. Then add the Parmesan and pulse for one minute. Serve or store in fridge!

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