Everything sounds better in Italian! This is my secret weapon for a quick, yummy dinner that I can whip up in 20 minutes and have my motley crew hollering delizioso! The beauty of this pasta is you can add whatever inspires you to make the dish a little more creative and flavorful like: olives, spinach, asparagus, shrimp, chicken, artichokes, look for what is in season!
Olive oil: This is a great Italian one that I love.
A carton of cherry tomatoes: I especially love when I find the yellow, orange and red cherry tomato mixture at Whole Foods. They make this simple dish a little happier and more colorful.
Herbes de Provence: These are the best! You can buy them at William Sonoma and they last forever! It’s the lavender blossoms and thyme that gives the dish its unique flavor. I have found that the Herbes de Provence from the regular grocery stores are less than stellar. I leave this jar on the counter and use it every single day!
Fresh Basil: What is an Italian pasta without fresh basil!
Step One: Put your salted water with a swirl of olive oil on the stove and bring to a boil for your favorite pasta (I like penne or farfalle).
Step Two: Wash your tomatoes and basil. A little trick with the basil is to roll all the leaves up like a cigarette and then slice at a diagonal, set aside a cup and a half of basil until the very end. Next, I recommend putting down tin foil onto a baking sheet, you can cut the cherry tomatoes in half or leave them whole. The tin foil makes it easier to collect the yummy excess gravy(which makes the pasta!). Generously cover the tomatoes with olive oil, Kosher salt, ground pepper, and Herbes de Provence. Put in the oven at 425 or broil (if you are watching) for about 10 minutes, just enough time that the olive oil is sizzling and the tomatoes are ready to burst. You want your tomatoes to retain their shape.
Step Three: Cook your favorite pasta al dente, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. At the same time, I often steam a whole bag of fresh spinach in another boiling pot of water, cook for literally 30 seconds, douse with olive oil and salt and a squeeze of lemon, and set aside until the end. If you are feeling adventurous, try asparagus (barely steam them, drizzle with olive oil and Kosher salt), or sauté shelled and deveined shrimp in olive oil to add to the pasta at the end.
Step Four: Pour the entire tomato mixture over the pasta, a little of the pasta water, a couple pats of butter, the spinach, and basil. I often add olives. And the pièce de résistance is freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano (lots of it!!!). To change it up, substitute fresh chunks of ricotta cheese for the Parmesan. The beauty of this recipe is you just toss all the ingredients into the hot pasta at once and serve. This pasta is kind of like my salads…gypsy in spirit, always a surprise and an opportunity to be creative and colorful. And it’s just as yummy cold the next day for lunch!
Bring on Summer!!
Live in Hope,