As we were eating this lovely pasta dish, The Hubs exclaimed how much he liked it. I responded “And the list of ingredients was short for such depth of flavor and it was simple to boot!” Then he looked at the Milk Street recipe print out and saw that this adaptation hailed from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook titled “Simple”—how serendipitous!
That being said, I cut back the pasta from 12 to 8 ounces because it did not seem that the amount of sauce would be sufficient for the larger quantity. With gentle simmering and a bit of water to facilitate cooking, cherry or grape tomatoes are transformed into a bold pasta sauce. To ratchet up the flavor, herbs, red pepper flakes and pecorino Romano are added. Try to get a block of the cheese to create shavings as opposed to the already grated variety.
Fusilli was our choice, but spaghetti or bucatini (a tubular pasta resembling thick spaghetti) also pairs particularly well with the sauce. Be aware that you do not want to simmer the tomatoes until there is no liquid remaining. Some moisture is needed for the sauce to cling to the pasta.
8 oz. fusilli, bucatini pasta or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
¾ tsp. smoked paprika
Shaved pecorino Romano, to serve
Add the oil to a 12-inch skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the garlic, pepper flakes and bay, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 4 minutes.
Reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a steady simmer, until the tomatoes have fully broken down and the sauce is thick enough that a spatula drawn through it leaves a trail, 40 to 50 minutes.
Remove from the heat and remove and discard the bay. Stir in 1 tablespoon of sage and the smoked paprika, then cover to keep warm.
When the sauce is almost ready, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the fusilli, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
Drain the pasta, then return to the pot. Add the sauce and toss until well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sage and shaved pecorino, then drizzle with additional oil.
An Italian, Middle-Eastern mash-up if you will. In a twist, this version of Sicilian eggplant dish is roasted on a sheet pan in the oven, so you don’t have to bother with any deep- or pan-frying. The tomato paste and cinnamon give it depth, the sherry vinegar lends brightness, and the raisins and brown sugar offer balance.
This variation on Italian caponata becomes a main course atop fluffy couscous and creamy goat cheese. Buy the freshest eggplant you can find, it should feel heavy and have no soft spots, and you won’t need to peel or salt it to pull out any bitterness. Because pine nuts are traditional in caponata, they’re the first choice, but they can be pricey so pepitas or chopped walnuts make fine substitutions. Finally, if you don’t like goat cheese, substitute ricotta or farmer cheese. But the cheese adds a welcome component, so don’t omit it.
Under the couscous, the goat cheese melts into a creamy, salty, tangy puddle.
G. Daniela galarza
NOTE: Leftovers may be refrigerated in covered containers for up to 4 days.
1 lb. Japanese or globe eggplant, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow or red onion (8 to 10 oz.), chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium tomato (6 to 8 oz.), chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. light brown sugar or honey, or to taste
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup raisins (any kind)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, pepitas or chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, or to taste
For the Couscous
1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
1 1/2 cups (about 9 oz.) couscous
3 oz. soft goat cheese, or more if desired
1/4 cup torn fresh basil, mint or parsley (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the eggplant, onion, bell pepper, tomato and garlic, and use your hands to toss everything together. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top, followed by the brown sugar or honey, salt, cinnamon and black pepper. Toss again, then spread into an even layer.
Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using tongs or a spatula, flip and redistribute vegetables so they cook evenly. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.
Transfer the pan to a heatproof surface. Mash the garlic cloves into a paste. Push the vegetables aside to expose a small area of the hot metal and place the tomato paste on it. Using a wooden spoon, stir the tomato paste into the vegetables, followed by the raisins, nuts or seeds, water and vinegar; stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with more vinegar, sugar, salt and/or pepper as desired.
Make the couscous: About 10 minutes before the eggplant is finished roasting, in a medium lidded saucepan over high heat, bring the water or stock, olive oil and salt to a rolling boil. Immediately pour in the couscous, ensuring it’s moistened throughout, then cover, remove from the heat and let it steam for about 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, portion about a quarter of the goat cheese into the center of each plate. Top with a pile of couscous and some of the caponata. Garnish with the torn herbs and more goat cheese, if desired.
Recently a foodie friend posted pictures of this recipe on her FB feed, and I knew I had to try it—thanks Deb! She informed me it’s from “Mostly Plants” by Tracy Pollan, an Emmy award-nominated actress who has enjoyed a successful career in television, film, and on the Broadway stage—and is the wife of Michael J. Fox.
In October 2014, Pollan, along with her two sisters and mother, co-authored the multiple award winning The Pollan Family Table, a cookbook of family recipes, kitchen tips and cooking techniques. Based on the outcome of this dish, I’m curious to try some more from the Pollan family…
If you’ve ever had chicken or veal piccata, you are familiar with the flavor components of tangy lemon, briny capers and aromatic garlic all combined together in a silken butter sauce. Paired with spinach with its range of valuable vitamins and minerals, and navy beans with their high nutritive value and protein content, you got one healthy meal here!
Our changes: Instead of four skinless fillets, we cooked the skin-on salmon whole which required a few minutes longer on each side. In lieu of canned navy beans, which the grocery store didn’t have, we used Great Northern. And there was a lot of liquid in the sauce so the cooking time was nearly doubled to reduce it enough before adding the butter.
In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Slowly add the spinach and cook, stirring until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the beans and season with salt and pepper, mix until combined. Cook until the beans are warm, about 2 minutes; remove from heat.
In a separate large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Gently add the fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until light golden brown. Transfer fillets to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add the shallots to the hot skillet and cook, stirring until translucent, about 1 minute.
Add the broth, wine, lemon juice and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, and when melted, add 2 tablespoons of parsley and stir.
Distribute the sautéed spinach and beans on a serving platter (or divided amongst 4 individual plates). Top with the salmon fillets and spoon the sauce over the fish.
Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and top with lemon slices. Serve hot.
This delicious simple bean salad, Fasolia Piaz, was found in our Milk Street magazine and had the Mediterranean profile we were looking for. In Greece they typically use large, flat butter beans, but here, easier-to-find cannellinis are incorporated.
To compensate for canned beans’ blandness, they are heated in the microwave, then tossed while still hot with oil, vinegar and aromatics. As the beans cool, they absorb the seasonings, so they’re flavorful throughout.
A bonus, the beans can be heated, dressed and refrigerated up to a day in advance; but bring the beans to room temperature before tossing with the avocado, herbs and lemon. However, even cold the salad is delicious. A great dish to serve at a picnic or potluck as a side for meat lovers, or as a main for plant-based followers.
Milk Street stresses not to skip the step of heating the beans in the microwave, and don’t allow the beans to cool before adding the oil, vinegar and aromatics. Dressing them while hot ensures they are fully infused with flavor. To keep the flavors and colors fresh and bright, don’t add the avocado and herbs until you’re ready to serve.
It’s not unusual that most of us would like to cut calories and fat where we can, but not loose flavor. With this riff on a Martha Stewart recipe, you bake rather than fry, for less mess and less fat. In addition, there is no salting of the eggplant to extract moisture—a process I’ve never grown fond of.
Another plus, make the chunky tomato sauce a day or two ahead and save time on dinner night. It only takes about 20 minutes total, then refrigerate in an air tight container, and you’re one step ahead of the game.
As we prepped the dish, we realized that a few tweaks to the recipe were needed. After coating the slices for one of the eggplants, we noted there would not be enough for all the remaining slices, so we quickly increased by about another 50%; while the amount of egg wash was spot on.
The shredded mozzarella was increased to 2 cups from 1 1/2, although we would even increase it more next time! The dried basil was swapped out for fresh, making sure to add it between layers as well as a garnish. One of those grocery store clamshells of basil is the perfect amount. These changes are noted in the ingredients below.
It was so light and tasty, The Hubs claimed it might be the best Eggplant Parm he’s ever had! Can’t wait to attack those leftovers… Serves 8 as a side dish, 6 as a main.
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 Tbsp. for topping
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 oz. fresh basil, chopped to equal a loose 1/2 cup, save some whole leaves for garnish
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 lbs. total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2+ cups shredded mozzarella
Tomato Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, 2 to 4 minutes. Crush tomatoes into pan; add oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Make up to 3 days ahead.
Eggplant Parm: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 1 cup grated Parmesan, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and basil; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Pistachios are a borderline addiction for me (although I’m usually not picky when it comes to nuts of any sort). In fact, whenever we stop at Costco’s, it’s pretty likely we’ll pick up a 1.5-pound bag of the shelled, roasted/salted variety.
Did you know Sicily is famous for its pistachios, as well as for ricotta cheese? In this recipe, Milk Street blends the two, along with fresh basil and chives, to create a simple pesto to toss with al dente pasta.
There’s no need to grate the Parmesan—simply cut it into chunks and toss the pieces into the blender. The pesto is good on a wide variety of pasta shapes, but the hollow centers and surface ridges of rigatoni do a particularly good job of gripping the rich, creamy sauce. We used rotini whose spirals also made an easy job of grasping that sauce.
Milk Street advises NOT to use toasted or roasted pistachios because they claim, in this case, raw pistachios are best. Their bright color and natural sweetness lend a vibrant, full-flavored pesto. Well, as I mentioned, we had the roasted salted pistachios and went ahead and used them.
Now don’t forget to reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta. You’ll need some of the starchy seasoned liquid to thin out the pesto.
¾ cup raw pistachios, plus 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 oz. Parmesan cheese (without rind), cut into 4 or 5 pieces
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh chives
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
In a blender, combine the ricotta, the whole pistachios, oil, Parmesan, basil, chives, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and blend until creamy, about 1 minute; the pesto should have a consistency similar to yogurt.
Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir, adding more reserved pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with the chopped pistachios.
What to do for dinner in late-summer/early-fall with an abundance of grape tomatoes and fresh herbs? Well that would be Skillet Burst Grape Tomato Casarecce with Lemony Breadcrumbs. It’s a very simple pan roasted grape tomato pasta with white wine, garlic, fresh herbs, topped with the most crunchy lemony breadcrumbs, and finished with luscious burrata cheese.
This perfect late-summer dinner is ready in under 30 minutes using basic pantry staples and end-of-season garden bounty. If you’ve never used it, Casarecce pasta is a very narrow, twisted, and rolled tube, almost resembling a scroll. If you can’t find it, substitute a similar twisted, tubular pasta like cavatappi, cavatelli, gemelli, or fusilli.
If you have any leftovers, keep the bread crumbs and buratta separate. When ready to eat, reheat the pasta in a microwave for a few minutes, then top with crumbs and cheese.
Skillet Burst Grape Tomato Casarecce with Lemony Breadcrumbs
1 pound casarecce pasta, or other twisted tubular pasta
1 1/4 lbs. red and yellow grape tomatoes
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup manchego cheese, grated
2 cups fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 balls fresh burrata cheese, each ball split in two
In a large skillet set over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the bread, a pinch of red pepper flakes and pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden and toasted all over, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Slide bread crumbs onto a plate. Wipe the skillet clean.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, remove 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.
Meanwhile, place the same skillet used for the bread over high heat and add the remaining olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and oregano, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes. Pour in the wine, cook 1 minute.
Add the pasta and a splash of the pasta cooking water to the skillet, tossing to combine. Remove from the heat and add the manchego cheese and basil, toss to combine. If needed, thin the pasta sauce with a little of the reserved cooking water.
Divide the pasta among shallow bowls, nestle in half a burrata ball, and top with bread crumbs.
Fresh basil, I like that this pasta recipe uses a lot of it. At the time we made the entrée, our garden was brimming with the herb, one of my all-time faves. Freshly picked, the aroma alone titillates the senses.
This recipe is Milk Street’s weeknight adaptation of the pasta fresca con carciofi e pecorino. The flavors are bright and fresh, and the prep is a breeze (chopping the basil is as arduous as it gets here). In 30 minutes or so, you have a tasty and filling entrée that’s sure to please.
As per Milk Street’s instructions, be sure to purchase jarred marinated artichoke hearts—they offer much more flavor than canned or frozen. You will need three 12-ounce jars to get the 3 cups drained artichokes called for. The hearts usually are halved or quartered; there’s no need to chop them after draining, as they will break apart during cooking.
About those artichokes, if you happen to have jars marinating in mostly oil, go ahead and use that in place of the additional EVOO listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe’s fits that bill, while Cento for example has too much vinegar in the mix.
Our box of rigatoni was only 12 ounces as opposed to the 1 pound called for, which we thought made for a better pasta-to-artichoke ratio, and still provided 4 full servings.
Don’t forget to save 2 cups of the cooking water before draining the rigatoni. You will need the starchy seasoned water to create a sauce that lightly coats and marries the artichokes and pasta.
2 oz. pecorino romano cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, chopped
3 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
In a large Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
Wipe out the pot, add the oil and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add the artichokes and cook, stirring, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. (Ours took 9 minutes.)
Add the garlic and pepper flakes, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the pasta to the pot, along with 1½ cups of the reserved pasta water. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until the pasta is al dente and little liquid remains, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Add the pecorino, lemon zest and juice, basil and butter, then stir until the butter is melted.
Stir in additional pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until slightly saucy. Taste and season with salt and pepper.