Growing up, my mom frequently made what we referred to as “white spaghetti” (aka spaghetti without red sauce!). The pasta was coated with garlicky olive oil and topped with crispy garlic slices, broccoli florets, and Parmesan cheese. Classic. 🙂
This version is from Old World Italian: Recipes & Secrets from Our Travels in Italy by Mimi Thorisson. The recipe is included in the “Roman Pastas” section of this beautiful book. It is a little bit more indulgent than my mom’s rendition because it contains more cheese as well as heavy cream. I loved that the broccoli was chopped and incorporated into the creamy sauce.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 large head broccoli and stems (about 1 pound or 450g), cut into small florets and coarsely chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove with a kitchen spider or slotted spoon and set aside, keeping the water boiling to cook the pasta.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups (500ml) of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty pot and set aside.
Chop the onion and mince the garlic in a food processor. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the cream over the mixture and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from heat.
Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor and process until roughly creamy.
Add the broccoli sauce and a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the pot of pasta and set the pot over medium heat. Cook, tossing frequently, adding more pasta water as needed to adjust the consistency, until the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. Scatter the grated Parmesan on top and serve immediately.
My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.
Yield: Serves 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
My husband and I enjoyed this skillet dinner. The kids had mixed reviews! My son thought that it was over-seasoned and my daughter declared that she wouldn’t eat bone-in chicken thighs. (We are quite used to boneless, skinless chicken thighs in my house.) It’s clearly hard to please the two teenagers in my house. 😉
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Aaron Hutcherson. I modified the method and proportions, incorporated red onion, used a Meyer lemon, and substituted chicken stock for broth.
This is a great end of summer ~ early fall dish. I loved that it gobbled up my CSA collards and chard. I really love any dish that transforms greens into a crowd-pleaser! 🙂 The mashed beans made the sauce creamy.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz, via epicurious.com. I used garbanzo beans and a mix of collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach. I also substituted sweet Italian sausage and modified the proportions. The fried rosemary garnish was essential.
Yield: Serves 6
1/3 cup (5 T) extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
8 to 10 oz sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 3 sweet sausages)
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed, patted dry
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 oz (1 pound) paccheri, rigatoni, or other large tubular pasta (I used pennoni pasta)
8 to 10 cups (lightly packed) cut or torn escarole, kale, or Swiss chard leaves (I used 1/4-inch ribbons stemmed and halved collard greens, 1/2-inch ribbons stemmed Swiss chard (stems cut into 1/4-inch pieces and reserved), & baby spinach)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
freshly ground black pepper
3 T unsalted butter
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a shallow bowl.
Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with a spoon, until browned in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage.
Add wine to pot (and add the Swiss chard stems, if using), bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add the greens and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until the greens are wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes.
Add another 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add 1/2 cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce.
Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
Divide pasta among bowls or place in a large serving dish. Crumble fried rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
I love trying new ways to use summer zucchini. Making pasta sauce out of grated zucchini is absolute genius! This dish gobbled up all of the zucchini that I received in my CSA share- amazing.
This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used bucatini (our favorite) instead of spaghetti. I also modified the proportions and method. It was a vegetarian crowd-pleaser. Super quick to prepare too.
Yield: Serves 5 to 6
3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for pasta water, and to taste
16 ounces (1 pound, 450 grams) bucatini, cooked al dente (I used De Cecco)(can substitute with spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine)
2 cups (470 ml) pasta water, reserved
2 1/2 to 3 pounds (about 1100 to 1300 grams) zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated (I used 3 large zucchini- about 8 cups grated)
1 generous cup (90 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (about 2 large handfuls)
Mince the garlic cloves in a food processor. Set aside.
Coarsely grate the zucchini in a food processor, emptying the bowl as necessary. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
Add the garlic, stirring it into the butter for one minute.
Add the zucchini, salt, and red pepper. Cook the zucchini, stirring from time to time, for 13 to 15 minutes. It will first let off a puddle liquid, the liquid will cook off, and the zucchini will become soft and concentrated. If the zucchini begins to brown, reduce the heat slightly.
Stir frequently for 2 more minutes until it reaches an almost spreadable consistency.
Meanwhile, boil your pasta in well-salted water until it’s 1 minute shy of fully cooked. Before you drain it, reserve 2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. (I cooked my pasta for 9 minutes.)
Pour in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water into the zucchini and butter mixture scraping up any browned bits.
Add the drained pasta, and cook together for 2 minutes. Use tongs to pull up the zucchini butter sauce into the pasta strands, tossing frequently, and adding some or all of the remaining pasta water as needed to loosen.
Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
Incorporate a generous half of the parmesan and basil and mix, then transfer to a serving bowl, if desired. (I served the pasta from my cast iron pan!)
This is a crowd-pleasing and quick summer dish. It was a wonderful meal served with a giant green salad. The original recipe notes that any summer vegetable, or a combination, can be used instead of the fresh corn. Chopped tomatoes, broccoli, summer squash, or even green beans would work.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions. Great!
Yield: Serves 6
16 oz rigatoni
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil, plus 1 cup leaves for serving
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or other mild red pepper flakes)
fresh corn kernels from 3 large ears
5 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium and cook sliced garlic in same pot, stirring occasionally, until light golden around edges, about 2 minutes.
Add basil sprigs and Aleppo pepper; cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 1 minute.
Place an ear of corn upright in a medium sized bowl. Use a knife to cut off the kernels. (The bowl will prevent the kernels from flying all over the counter.)
Add corn and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pot and cook, stirring often, until corn is mostly tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking water.
Add butter and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
Add the Parmesan in several additions, stirring after each addition until sauce is smooth.
Return sausage to pot and cook until flavors meld, about 1 minute. If needed, add additional pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a serving bowl or individual shallow bowls. Top with basil leaves and more Parmesan and serve.
This cheesy pasta lived up to its title as “classic.” The combination of cheeses gave it the perfect velvety texture. We ate it as part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. Everyone loved it!
The recipe was adapted from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe also notes that the recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch square baking dish. Great.
Yield: one 9×13-inch casserole: Serves 6 to 8 as a main course or 10 to 12 as a side dish
For the Bread Crumb Topping:
6 slices (about 6 ounces) good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Sourdough sandwich bread)
3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
For the Casserole:
1 pound elbow macaroni (I used Trader Joe’s)
5 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
5 cups milk (whole, low-fat, or skim okay)(I used 3 cups whole and 2 cups low-fat)
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
To Prepare the Bread Crumbs:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread and butter until the crumbs are no larger than 1/8-inch, about 10 to 15 pulses. Set aside.
To Prepare the Pasta & Cheese:
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the broiler.
Place a 9×13-inch broiler safe baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. (I also covered the enameled handles of my baking dish with foil to protect them from the heat of the broiler.)
Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until the pasta is tender (NOT al dente).
Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water (for reheating leftovers). Drain in a colander and set aside.
In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming.
Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne; whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. (I used a flat whisk.)
Whisking constantly, gradually add the the milk; bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture must reach a full boil to fully thicken.
After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheeses and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Whisk until the cheeses are completely melted.
Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs.
Broil until the crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @500 degrees.) Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.