Weekly Winner:  Keeping it Simple – Pork, Peas & Pasta

I’ve been getting a bit “fussy” lately with my cooking.  Lots of ingredients, some of them a bit hard to find or not things you normally have lying around.  I was thinking it was definitely time to dial it back and keep it simple.  That, in my opinion, is best done with two things: steaks and pasta. As it was Friday night which means a pre-run pasta dinner for hubby, I went for an old favorite:  Bucatini with Sausage and Peas.  The title just about gives you all the ingredients.  It is sensationally simple and stupidly delicious.

The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and I’ve been making this for years.  I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it here in the blog before and I also can’t believe its been so long since I’ve made it.  Lucky for me (and hubby) I made a double batch and froze half. We’ll be enjoying this stunner of a dish again soon.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup frozen baby peas

Salt

1 pound bucatini or perciatelli

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons shredded basil

Procedure:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  2. Partially cover the saucepan and cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream and peas and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes longer.  Season with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss over low heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.  Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the shredded basil and serve.


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Weekly Winner:  Parsley Pesto Pasta Packs a Perfect Punch

Oh alliteration, how I’ve missed you!  But you are back – which makes me very happy and my blog posts that much easier to write. But wait… This entry isn’t about my journalistic quirks, it’s about the food!  So without further ado, I present Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto. (See?  Don’t you think my headline is better?)

The recipe is from Bon Appetit Magazine and caught my attention because it hits on some of my all-time favorite things.  Bucatini has to be my favorite pasta shape.  It’s substantial and chewy.  Walnuts definitely top my list of favorite nuts (along with cashews) and I’m a big fan of pesto made from non-traditional ingredients.  I also tend to lean toward pasta dishes that have relatively few ingredients.  Simplicity is the key for me and in this dish, it just about reigns supreme.

One more fun fact about this dish.  When I decided to make it I realized that, although I’ve wanted shallow pasta bowls forever, I’ve never bought them.  There is no excuse for this but every time I made a new dish, I regretted the fact that I didn’t have the perfect vessel to show it off.  So last Friday I bit the bullet and before I shopped for groceries, I went to my favorite home furnishings store and picked these up.  My pastas finally have a welcoming new home.

Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup walnuts

6 pickled Calabrian chiles or 1 Fresno chile

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

1-1/2 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 1-1/2 cups)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound Bucatini

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.
  • Pulse 3/4 cup walnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving.  Remove stems from chiles, add to food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer walnut mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil and 1 cup parsley.  Season pesto with salt and pepper
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife.  Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.