Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer Ice Box Pasta

I threw this together last night with items we were trying to use up from our last CSA delivery. We get a new delivery on Wednesday, so sometimes Tuesday night it's a fun chore to figure out how we can throw together what we have left over.

What we had on hand were some long, thick green beans with purple speckles, I don't know exactly what they were, tomatoes, garlic, and some nice Greek feta that gets moldy pretty quickly.

It is imperative to use the proper pasta method, which allows for the flavor of the sauce to permeate the pasta. Otherwise what you get is bland pasta with sauce sitting on top with a weird texture contrast. I'll describe it for those of you who aren't familiar. If you're a proficient cook, I apologize for the detail. Some of my friends and family have probably never learned to cook pasta this way, so I thought it might be fun to explain it to them. It makes such a world of difference.

What I was thinking about when I cooked this up was Italian style green beans cooked in 'maters and what I got was much much better! We loved it so much that there is no picture as evidence.

1 lb whole wheat angel hair pasta
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1-2 cups green beans trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes OR 1 large can good quality diced / or whole tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
2 T fresh basil or 1 t dried basil
kosher salt
4 oz. feta cheese
kosher salt
pinch sugar

1. Fill VERY large pot with cold water, cover and bring to boil. More water is better.
2. While the water heats up, heat oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat.
3. Add onion, saute until translucent.
4. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute. Add large pinch of salt to onion-garlic mixture.
5. Stir in green beans, add large pinch of salt, and saute about 2 minutes until start to turn bright green.
6. Stir in tomatoes (if using canned, include liquid). If using dried basil, stir in now....otherwise wait.
7. Season with 2-3 pinches of salt and one pinch sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer.

8. Your pasta water should be boiling. Season LIBERALLY with salt....I'm talking a good handful. If you don't season your pasta water, your pasta will be bland.
9. Add pasta to water, stir well. Cook until about 2-3 minutes shy of being done...which in the case of whole wheat angel hair is only about 3 minutes.
10. RESERVE 2-3 CUPS HOT PASTA WATER, strain pasta. Don't worry about getting all the water out. That water is going to add body and flavor to you sauce.
11. Transfer partially cooked pasta to skillet with sauce and toss well. Spoon in 2-3 ladles of pasta water and let the pasta water blend with sauce and become absorbed into pasta until pasta is al dente (taste it to know if it's done).
12. Move pasta and sauce to very large bowl, season with another 2 pinches of salt.
13. Crumble feta over pasta and stir well.

What you'll get by adding the salt a little bit of time is that every part of your sauce will be well seasoned, it won't be salty I promise. By finishing the cooking of the pasta in the sauce, the flavor of the sauce will be permeate the pasta. And the combination of the starchy pasta water, plus the feta will make a delightfuly velvety texture that you can't replicate by cooking sauce separately and just dumping it on pasta. That would end up a watery mess.

14. Consume pasta.

An aside: my personal blog is about to spill into my food blog a bit here. Using this method always makes me think of my dad. If you knew my dad, you'd be scratching your head right now because he didn't cook, at all. His idea of cooking was boiling hot dogs. So, my mother makes this really delicious Italian sausage tomato sauce that is one of my husband's favorites. My parents really love B, so when we visit, my mom will frequently have either pasta with the sauce or a baked pasta dish using the sauce awaiting us. Upon our arrival, we were always tired, but happy to be in their home and very happy to get some food and my parents would sit down with us even if they had already eaten. One of these nights, my father felt it necessary to explain to me that it is important to finish cooking the pasta by mixing it with the sauce. I have no idea where he learned that, but it makes me laugh to think about that.

He and I had a lot in common in our lives, but our taste in food was not one of those things. Yet somehow, many of my memories of him and everyone who has been important to me are totally wrapped up in food. And this is one of the reasons I take so much care and effort to make sure that what we eat has been prepared with love. An unhealthy relationship with food? Perhaps.

1 comment:

sarah said...

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