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.

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.

Punjabi Chickpeas with Potato (Chole or Chana Masala)

The freshly mixed masala spice blend in this recipe was wonderful. I absolutely love full-flavored vegetarian meals like this traditional dish- and this is such a delicious version. It was heavenly and rich served with a dollop of whole milk Greek yogurt on top.

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. (another successful dish!) We ate it with brown Basmati rice and warm naan.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 T sunflower, canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 T finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • two 15 1/2 oz cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 T lime juice, plus lime wedges, to serve
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus more to garnish
  • chopped fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced Serrano chilies, and whole-milk Greek-style yogurt, for serving, as desired
  1. Using a food processor or the large holes of a box grater, grate the onion, then transfer to a mesh strain and drain.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the oil with the coriander, cardamom, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  3. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the cumin seeds and cook, shaking the pan, until the seeds are fragrant and darken, 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Add the drained onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture has evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown and a fond forms on the bottom of the pan, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Add the ginger, garlic, and tomato paste, then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Clear the center of the pan, then add the spice paste tot he clearing and cook, mashing and stirring until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  8. Stir in the vegetables.
  9. Add the water and bring to a boil, scraping up all of the browned bits.
  10. Add the chickpeas and return to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the potatoes are tender and the oil separates from the sauce at the edges of the pan, 13 to 15 minutes.
  11. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and cilantro.
  12. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  13. Serve with lime wedges, chopped tomatoes, chiles, and yogurt, as desired.

Wild Rice & Mushroom Casserole

This hearty vegetarian main course casserole would be a lovely option to serve vegetarian guests during the holidays. We ate it as a cozy winter meal with roasted broccoli and green salad.

The puréed beans add creaminess to the filling. After reading comments about this recipe online, I was apprehensive to include all of the bean liquid required in the original recipe because others had complained that the final consistency was mushy. I only used half of a cup but next time I would include 1 cup or even additional liquid (noted below).

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I substituted celery for fennel, added a chipotle chile, used mixed baby greens, and reduced the breadcrumbs, beans, liquid, and baking time. It was the ultimate dish to utilize my brand new giant 14-inch skillet. Yay! The vegetables could be cooked in batches if using a smaller pan, of course.

Yield: 12 servings

  • 2 ¼ cups vegetable, mushroom or chicken stock
  • coarse salt
  • 1 ¼ cups wild rice, rinsed
  • 9 t0 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 24 oz sliced mushrooms, preferably a mix of different kinds (I used cremini mushrooms.)
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery heart or 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped
  • 5 ounces mixed baby kale, chard, and spinach
  • 7 fat garlic cloves (4 chopped, 3 finely grated or crushed into a paste)
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • (14-ounce) cans white beans, strained with liquid reserved (I used cannellini beans.)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (about 2 tsp)
  • tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • cup chopped fresh cilantro (or basil)
  • cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/4 cups panko or coarse bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Taste broth; if bland, season to taste with salt. In a medium pot, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in rice, lower heat, cover and simmer until just tender, about 1 hour, or according to package directions. Fluff rice with a fork, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté vegetables: In a large, heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If using a smaller pan, cook in batches, adding oil if necessary.)
  3. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a plate and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. In the empty skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Stir in leeks, fennel/celery and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in baby greens, chopped garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and cook until garlic starts turning golden, another 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  6. Heat oven to 400 degrees, and oil a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. In a blender, purée 2 cans beans with 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the reserved liquid, chipotle, lemon juice, 1 grated garlic clove, and salt to taste. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Stir bean purée, remaining whole beans (drained), mushrooms, cilantro, parsley and cooked wild rice into skillet with vegetables. Taste and add more salt or lemon as needed; it should be well seasoned. Add additional bean liquid, if necessary, in order to achieve desired consistency. Scrape into prepared baking dish.
  9. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, rosemary, lemon zest, remaining 2 grated garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil and Parmesan, if using.
  10. Sprinkle evenly on top of casserole and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Note: To make part of this recipe in advance, assemble casserole and prepare topping (separately) up to 24 hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered, in separate containers. Just before baking, spread breadcrumb topping evenly over the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until heated through and topping is golden, another 20 to 30 minutes.

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Spicy Roasted Carrot & Red Lentil Ragout

When a family friend posted a link to this “tried and true” recipe on Facebook, I knew that I was going to make it for sure. Not only is she a wonderful cook, but she also endorsed it by saying that she’s been making it for ten years!

This hearty and healthy stew-like soup is really another wonderful variation of vegetarian chili. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Molly O’Neill. I increased the amount of carrots, omitted the cayenne pepper, and cut the carrots prior to roasting in order to decrease the preparation time.

We ate it as a stew served over brown Basmati rice and topped it with Greek yogurt (others with sour cream) to temper the heat. The author suggested extending the ragout with either coconut milk or stock to give it a soup-like consistency, if desired. Yum!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut in half and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • ¾ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  • plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Lay the carrots in a roasting pan and toss with 3 tablespoons oil. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for 12 minutes.
  3. Turn the carrots, add the onion and roast an additional 15 minutes, until the carrots are brown and tender.
  4. When carrots are cool enough, cut them in 1/4-inch dice.
  5. Warm 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan. Add the carrot-and-onion mixture, the chili powders and the cayenne pepper, if using. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the lentils. Add the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart.
  7. Season with remaining salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with rice, or as a thick soup. Garnish with yogurt or sour cream to temper the heat.

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