Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Go-to Recipes

This month’s Cooking Light did a feature on the recipes people make again and again – go-to recipes on weeknights that are not fussy and please everyone. I’m always so tempted to try new recipes I find or dream up, so the ones that become “regulars” are really something special (and usually super-busy-weeknight-easy). I’ve already shared one of my favorites – Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce. From talking to friends, it seems I've made some fans of this recipe through the blog. I make this quite often, and I always have the ingredients on hand. Spinach Brown Rice Bowl (last night’s dinner) is fast becoming a favorite.

I’d like to share a couple more of my “standards” with you, dear blog readers. You folks know how I feel about pasta. It’s near and dear to my heart and helps me put together rather composed dinners even on the most time-constrained evenings. I have to say, I have become a connoisseur of whole-wheat pasta, and have found the very best—hands-down—it’s called Bionaturae and it cooks up perfectly every time. It’s not gritty, it doesn’t get soggy, and it cooks in as much time as conventional pasta. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive than a box of refined-flour pasta, but when I cook pasta, I almost never cook meat—the pasta’s the star! It best be tasty and nutritious!

I found this pasta recipe a couple of late winters ago in Mark Bittman’s New York Times “Minimalist” column, and it makes regular appearances on our dinner table. The column attempted to satisfy winter-weary readers’ spring harvest cravings before the harvest could comply, focusing mainly on using frozen veggies. It’s one of those on-hand ingredient recipes that make it exponentially easier than pie to have a composed, healthy dinner in less than 30 minutes. I’ve made it with fresh peas instead of frozen, pecorino instead of parmigiano, added lemon zest, mint, dill, basil . . . it’s all great, but it’s just as good as written.

Our Hero loves it.

Penne with Ricotta and Peas
1 lb. whole-wheat penne pasta
8 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 ½ cups frozen green peas (not baby peas)

Put a large pot of water to boil. Salt water well, and cook pasta according to package directions. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, grated cheese, salt, and pepper. When pasta has about 3 minutes left to cook, stir and scoop out about a cup of the cooking liquid. Whisk enough liquid into ricotta mixture to make a sauce consistency. When pasta is about a minute away from being done, toss in the frozen peas. Drain pasta and peas, then toss with ricotta mixture. Serve up with more parm, if desired.

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