Bucatini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

My kids are back in school! I can get back to sharing dishes that we enjoyed this summer (and probably last spring as well). I have quite a few to share. 🙂

This is a fabulous, restaurant-indulgent, late summer pasta dish. The real beauty of it is that it could be made in any season to bring back the taste of summer. It was also quick and easy to prepare- the best combination. The cheese adds creaminess to the finished dish but can easily be omitted for a vegan version.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I used grape instead of cherry tomatoes, bucatini instead of spaghettini, and modified the proportions. I am definitely going to make this dish year round. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound bucatini, spaghettini, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds (about 3 pints) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2-4 T finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. (Simmons recommends 2 T of kosher or fine sea salt in 4 quarts of water.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet or wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes, then stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the tomatoes have burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta.
  6. Add the pasta, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, to the pan with the sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pasta is coated, about 30 seconds, then stir in the basil and parsley.
  7. Divide the pasta among serving plates. Dollop with the ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately.
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One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

This dish is amazing summertime comfort food as well as a great dish to make celebrating summer tomatoes. It is a variation of a delicious Martha Stewart Living one-pot pasta dish that I’ve also enjoyed and posted in the past.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I increased the quantity to make 4 main course servings, modified the proportions, and used a Vidalia onion as well as freshly picked vine-ripened tomatoes. (from a friend- lucky me!) The fresh backyard basil was the icing on the cake.

Serves: 4 as a main dish, 3 as a hearty main dish, or about 6 as a side dish

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro (the package will note a 30-minute cooking time)(I used Nature’s Promise farro)
  • 1 large onion, preferably Vidalia
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a generous pound or grape, cherry, or small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons, for garnish
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (5 to 10 minutes is sufficient) while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons.
  3. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well.
  4. Halve or quarter the tomatoes.
  5. Add salt, red pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes.
  6. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. (I used a medium-size enameled cast iron pot.)
  7. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
  8. Adjust seasonings as desired.
  9. Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind.
  10. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.

Sheet Pan Israeli Couscous with Browned Butter, Corn, Zucchini, & Basil

This wonderful side dish had the incredible nutty flavor from browned butter in every bite. It was a lovely way to enjoy my beautiful CSA corn and zucchini this week. 🙂

This dish was adapted from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. I added an extra ear of corn and used Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend, a combination of Israeli couscous, red quinoa, orzo, and split dried garbanzo beans, instead of Israeli couscous alone. Great!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 to 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and kernels sliced off the cob
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced into ribbons
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Place the butter on a rimmed sheet pan and set it in the oven until the butter melts and smells toasty and nutty, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the browned butter into a small heatproof bowl.
  4. Stir the corn and zucchini into the remaining butter on the sheet pan, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the zucchini softens and the corn loses its raw starchiness, about 8 minutes.
  5. Transfer the corn mixture to a large bowl and season with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste.
  6. Add the couscous to the pan alone with the boiling water and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, and wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal.
  7. Bake couscous for 10 minutes, remove the foil, stir the couscous, re-cover the pan, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the couscous is plump and tender.
  8. Transfer the couscous to the bowl with the corn mixture.
  9. Add the reserved browned butter and most of the basil. Stir to combine and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  10. Serve sprinkled with remaining basil.

Sheet Pan Crispy Mushroom-Parmesan Sandwiches

I must confess that we’ve eaten these delicious sandwiches on a couple of occasions already. They are a fabulous variation of the more common vegetarian alternative “parm” sandwich, eggplant parmesan. Worth using the oven in the summer! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. I served them with both challah and potato rolls, on different occasions. The original recipe recommends sub rolls. I modified the proportions, used part-skim mozzarella, and substituted fontina for the provolone cheese. Fabulous!

Yield: 4 sandwiches

  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup grated low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina or provolone cheese
  • 6 T finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 large or 6 medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine), or more, as desired
  • 4 rolls, such as challah, potato, or sub rolls
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a microwave safe bowl, and warm in the microwave at high power until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Pour 3 T garlic oil into a small bowl and add the panko bread crumbs and a pinch of kosher salt. Rub together with your fingers to combine and set aside, reserving the remaining garlic oil. (Add up to an additional tablespoon of garlic oil, as needed.)
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella, fontina (or provolone), and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses.
  5. Place the mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 T garlic oil and the remaining 1 tsp kosher salt.
  6. Transfer the mushrooms to a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan and roast until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not flip them. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  7. Line a second sheet pan with aluminum foil (or the same pan if it is cool enough to handle). Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high.
  8. Open the rolls and lightly brush the interior of each with some of the remaining garlic oil.
  9. Place the rolls, face up, on the prepared sheet pan and broil until the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully! Remove the rolls from the oven, keeping the broiler on, and divide the tops of the rolls among 4 plates. Leave the bottom of the rolls on the sheet pan.
  10. Arrange the mushrooms over the bottom halves of the rolls and top each with 2 (or more) T marinara, spreading it out a bit.
  11. Divide the cheese over each mound of vegetables and return the sheet pan to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes, watching carefully.
  12. Sprinkle the reserved panko bread crumbs evenly over the cheese and return to the broiler until the crumbs are golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
  13. Transfer each portion to a plate and top with reserved roll top. Serve hot.

Sheet Pan Orzo with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon, & Mozzarella

I realize that many people avoid using the oven in warm weather, but I have a couple of quick sheet pan meals that make using the oven completely worth the extra summer heat.

In this dish, the pasta even cooks in the oven! It was super creamy as a result. The roasted lemon added incredible brightness. This recipe is from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. The cheese can be omitted for a vegan version. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium-size lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 16 oz orzo pasta
  • 3 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, roughly torn by hand
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a sheet pan on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place the tomatoes, lemon, garlic, 1 tsp salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and the olive oil in a medium-size bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Carefully turn the tomato mixture out onto the heated sheet pan, spread it in an even layer, and roast for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and stir the vermouth into the tomato mixture.
  5. Using a spatula, press down on the tomatoes and lemon slices to extract their juices.
  6. Stir in the orzo.
  7. Pull the oven rack partway out of the oven and place the sheet pan on it. Carefully pour the boiling water into the orzo, stirring to combine and distribute evenly.
  8. Wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal. Bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
  9. Uncover the pan, add the remaining 1 tsp salt, stir, and cook, uncovered, to allow the juices to thicken and any partially cooked pasta from the top layer to absorb more liquid, about 5 minutes more.
  10. Preheat the broiler to high.
  11. Stir most of the basil into the pasta, then scatter the mozzarella cheese over the top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the mozzarella and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 to 5 minutes more. Watch carefully!
  12. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the top just before serving.

Indian Tomato Rice

I couldn’t stop myself from trying- and sharing- one more recipe in Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street: The New Home Cooking book. 🙂 This recipe was inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s tomato rice recipe in Vegetarian India.

This quick and versatile dish can be served as a side with seafood, chicken, or, as Kimball suggests, a simple fried egg. We ate it as a light meal with sautéed chard with garlic and cumin. I loved the layers of spices. I used serrano chiles instead of bird’s-eye chiles.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 cup white Basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T grapeseed or other neutral oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp brown or black mustard seeds
  • 2 serrano or bird’s-eye chiles, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  1. In a bowl, combine the rinsed rice with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain the rice very well
  2. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the 1 1/4 cups water and tomato paste; whisk until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium, combine the oil, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the seeds begin to pop and the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the rice and salt and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the water-tomato paste mixture and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, add the tomatoes and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cilantro, fluffing the rice with a fork.

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