Day 213–Local Shrimp and Pasta

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My wonderful daughter brought a gift to me a couple of months ago and I am just now delving into it. Knowing how much I absolutely LOVE Italy, she brought me the “Under the Tuscan Sun Cookbook.” Not only are there wonderful recipes using fresh vegetables and seafood for summer, there are lots of hearty baked dishes to try when the weather turns cold. YUM!

When I say I love Italy, you need to understand that I love it so much I changed my will to have my ashes sprinkled in the olive groves of Cinque Terre. The food we had during our trip around Tuscany featured fresh, local foods that were cooked simply and were absolutely amazing. No crazy food towers with mystery ingredients and very little, if any, processed foods. And, of course, wine. With everything. Well, not breakfast, but you get the idea.

This recipe is adapted from the Tuscan Sun Cookbook using what we have locally. We had this last night and we agree that this is definitely a “do again” recipe. It is super healthy, quick and very, very easy to make. We use only local shrimp, but any US shrimp would be fine. We steer clear of shrimp not wild caught in the US because of the environmental degradation caused by many oversees shrimp farms, but you could also substitute almost any shellfish here or sub fresh mozzarella cubes for the shrimp and make it ovo/lacto vegetarian!

Buon appetito!

Local Shrimp and Pasta

  • 3/4 lb. orricchiete (“little ear”) or small shell pasta
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh shelled peas
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. local, wild caught shrimp
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When water is boiling, add a generous helping of kosher salt and the pasta. This pasta will need to cook about 12 minutes.
  2. While pasta is cooking, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a saute pan and heat at medium low.
  3. Add the shelled peas and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, salt and pepper and continue sauteing for another 3 minutes until peas and onion are just softened.
  4. Add pea mixture to a bowl and puree with an immersion (stick) blender (you could also use a food processor). Set aside.
  5. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and add the shrimp, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until shrimp are just pink and remove from heat.
  6. When pasta has cooked, drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Add pasta and all other ingredients to the pot and stir to combine.
  7. Serve and eat up!
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Day 157–Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

One of the most memorable meals I have ever had was in Corniglia, Italy, while Tom and I were hiking the Cinque Terre (if you haven’t done this, consider putting it on your bucket list). We had a simple lunch at a small restaurant operated by a woman in her 70s. She made everything herself and grew the vegetables in her garden. There was no menu, just a few daily specials that took advantage of what was in season.

A huge part of what made the experience so wonderful is that we ate on a patio outside looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. Far from the Olive Garden, billion calorie, sauce laden pastas in America, the pasta we had was typical of the region–homemade pasta tossed with a light basil pesto and bits of potato and green beans. Delicious, satisfying and fresh. After hiking an hour and climbing almost 400 stairs to get to Corniglia, we were famished and ready to tuck in. When we finished our wonderful meal, we continued on our hike with renewed physical and emotional energy.

This recipe calls for all that is wonderful about summer–fresh potatoes, green beans, basil and (I veered from the traditional recipe) tomatoes. Yum!

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

  • 1 lb. fresh or dried capallini or fettucine pasta
  • 2 c. basil pesto (see below)
  • 1 potato or about 8 small red potatoes
  • 1 c. green beans, topped and tailed and cut in 1/2
  • 1 large, fresh tomato
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  1. Put a stock pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. While water is heating, cut your potatoes into bite size pieces.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add a handful of kosher salt and the potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans to the pot and continue to boil for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to directions.
  6. Cut up tomato into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  7. Reserve 1 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta and vegetables.
  8. Put pasta and vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add pesto, parmesan cheese and tomato. Mix to combine, adding pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 c. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tsp. lemon juice
  1. Put basil and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend into a paste.
  2. Add pine nuts, cheese, garlic and remaining oil. Blend until smooth.

Basil pesto should be made fresh and used the same day. Or, you can freeze pesto (this works very well if you buy a plastic ice cube tray and freeze the pesto in the trays–just pop out a cube and use in a sauce!).

Day 48–Pasta Con Sarde

Sardines

I am still perplexed as to why Eat Italian Food Day is not Eat Italian Food Month, but whatevs. We are not beholden to whoever makes those decisions. So in open rebellion of the “food of the day” policy makers, here is another recipe that we will be making this weekend. It takes advantage of Italy’s coastal waters as well as its love of the tomato. I am planning to buy fresh pasta at the farmer’s market tomorrow and I’m excited about that, but when left to my own devices, I like whole wheat angel hair pasta for this dish. Pasta con sarde is high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids and relatively low in fat. Basically, this is a fast, healthy and very inexpensive dish that is perfect for weeknights when you really don’t feel like cooking.

What? You don’t like sardines? My suggestion would be to have an open mind and try sardines that are packaged boneless and skinless as they have a milder taste to them. Trader Joes carries these for about $2 a can. And indeed, this dish would be better with fresh sardines rather than canned, but until global warming really kicks in, I don’t know that sardines will be swimming off the shores of North Carolina. If you are (like my child) absolutely resolute in your dislike of sardines, you could use cooked salmon or tuna and you would need very little (6 oz), just increase the amount of olive oil you use or the sauce will be dry. This is a great dish for stretching out what you have. And who doesn’t want to do that these days?

  • 1 package whole wheat angel hair pasta (16 oz.)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 (4 oz) cans sardines packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (about 3-5 slices bread toasted and run through food processor)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced + 1 Tbsp. grated zest
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions for al dente pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 2 minutes until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in sardines with their olive oil and tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When sardines are heated through, add bread crumbs and stir. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
  6. Add drained pasta to the sauce in the skillet and combine. If the sauce is too dry, add pasta water 1/2 cup at a time until you get the consistency you like. The sauce should cling to the pasta.
  7. Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the pasta, stir and serve with parmesan cheese.

Buon appetito!