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 167–Pasta with Checca Sauce

July's Tomato Haul

Well, I have been out-of-pocket for almost a week! It has been a crazy/busy/stressful week, but I’m getting back on track again! So why not start over with tomatoes!

Tomatoes are one of my all time favorite foods and they are so amazingly good for us! When Ellie was a toddler, she would walk into the garden, pull raw tomatoes off the vines and eat them like apples. Sadly, not much chance of that anymore. Still, we tried a new recipe for pasta with a raw tomato basil sauce that seemed perfect for a warm, summer night. Tom and I thought it was great. Here is Ellie’s opinion. She felt strongly enough to type it herself:

it has way too much basil!

to me the dish had way too much of it. I am not normally picky about herbs because I dry them all the time, but it over powered the meal and it was gross! So for parents my suggestion is, don’t go overboard with the herbs.

So, with that in mind, here is my version of Pasta with Checca [pronouced KEE-kah] sauce. The original recipe is from Giada DeLaurentis’s book Everyday Italian:

Pasta with Checca Sauce

  • 4 ripe garden tomatoes, cut into fourths (the original calls for 12 oz. cherry tomatoes, which I did not have)
  • 2 small spring onions (white parts only)
  • 3 cloves organic garlic
  • 10 or so basil leaves
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5-6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
  1. Put a pot of water on the stove and heat to boiling (for pasta).
  2. Add onion, garlic, basil, parmesan and oil to a food processor and coarsely chop (do not puree).
  3. Add tomatoes to the processor and coarsely chop. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add mozzarella and stir.
  5. Pour sauce into a large bowl.
  6. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and reserve 1 c. pasta water.
  7. Add drained, hot pasta to the bowl with the sauce. stir to coat the pasta. Add pasta water if necessary to make a thicker sauce.
  8. Serve!

Day 149–Pasta with Ham and Roasted Asparagus

We are nearing the end of our NC asparagus season. Asparagus and strawberries always seem to leave too soon! We received a beautiful bundle of local asparagus in our Produce Box this week and I’m using it to make one of our favorite dishes–pasta with ham and asparagus. You can saute the asparagus for this dish, but I love roasting it–roasting really brings out the flavor. This is a quick and easy weeknight dish. We’re using the last of our Christmas smoked ham that has been living in the freezer. I tell you, that was one wonderful gift! Instead of a  ham steak, you could use pancetta or prosciutto instead. You don’t need a lot–just enough for flavor. Here is the recipe:

Pasta with Ham and Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 smoked ham steak, diced and bone removed
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, rinsed of sand
  • 8 oz. fresh or dried fettucine
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated (about 1 c., but more if you like)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put water in a stock pot and heat to boil for pasta.
  3. Trim tough ends from the asparagus. Cut asparagus spears into 2″ pieces. Put asparagus pieces in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Put asparagus in a baking dish in an even layer. Roast for 20 minutes or so, until they are soft and a little browned.
  5. Heat a skillet and cook the ham pieces until browned.
  6. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving 1 c. of pasta water for sauce.
  7. Add pasta back into pot, along with ham, asparagus pieces and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir. Add pasta water if needed to make a light sauce.
  8. Serve with a green salad and you’ve got dinner!

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!

Day 45–Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Ricotta cheese.

In case you missed it, Monday was national Eat Italian Food Day. I have no idea why this isn’t an entire month–I know I could do it. In spite of the Americanized version of Italian food, which tends to be very heavy on the cheese and meat, most Italian food in Italy is locally-based, impossibly fresh and creatively resourceful. I know this because I once tried to eat my way across Tuscany (I am an expert–don’t try this at home).

So in honor of Meatless Monday and Eat Italian Food Day, we celebrated with a vegetarian pasta dish that is delicious, healthy and easy to make. This recipe is actually based on a dish made by The Cake Boss (go figure!) and its simple beauty comes from using whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables are available. Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural flavor and sweetness without any additives other than olive oil and salt. That is truly Italian cooking!

You can vary this dish throughout the seasons by using what is ripe and delicious at the time. You can also vary the pasta you use. I like orecchiete (little ears) pasta because it holds the sauce well. As a mom, I think this is one of those healthy, versatile recipes that could be a regular (and by changing it up, maybe no one will notice I am basically recycling the same dish). Score!

  • 1 lb. fresh pasta (we used orecchiete pasta)
  • 1 organic onion
  • 2 organic tomatoes
  • 2 c. organic broccoli florets
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3″ planks
  • 2 c. cubed organic butternut squash
  • 2 handfuls of kale (from our garden!) or other greens–arugula is good, too!
  • About 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (we used Hillsborough Cheese Co. garlic and chive ricotta)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Put a stock pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
  3. Cut all vegetables except kale into bite sized chunks and toss with olive oil and a little kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Chop kale into little bite sized pieces and reserve.
  5. Put all vegetables except kale in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add kale to pan during last 5 minutes.
  6. While vegetables roast, add pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente. When pasta is done, reserve 1 c. pasta water for sauce and drain pasta.
  7. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, kale, ricotta and pasta water and mix together. The cheese should melt and make a light sauce. The pasta water is essential and will thicken the sauce and help it stick to the pasta.
  8. Serve with pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan or whatever makes you happy!

Buon appetito!

Day 22–Starting Week 4–Budget and Menu

Well, Week 3, despite my less than stellar shopping experience, ended up a great success. Pizza challenge night and “breakfast for dinner” with our farm fresh eggs were both popular events that we’ll repeat! We even made our 75% challenge! The shopping experience went much more smoothly this week, although we have a TON of greens. We will definitely be getting our fresh greens in! We also picked up our first meat box from Farmhand Foods. The box included a braising cut (2 beef shanks), a grilling cut (hangar steak) and a roasting cut (mini boneless ham) all from local farmers. Since that’s a lot to eat in one week, we’ve frozen the steak and ham and are having the shanks this week. To make budgeting easier, I cut the cost of the box ($45) into thirds and will add each third into my budget as we use the meat. So how did we do budget-wise? Here is the breakdown:

  • Farmhand Food (beef shanks from meat box): $15.00
  • Mae Farm (Italian sausage, eggs): $12.00
  • Farmer’s Market-various vendors (onions, carrots, locally ground grits): $6.00
  • Farmer’s Market-Heaven on Earth Organics (collard greens, kale, salad mix, pea shoots, broccoli, sweet pepper): $23.00
  • Trader Joe’s (organic canned tomatoes, organic garlic, organic apples, soy milk, frozen fruit, wild caught salmon, yogurt, wine): $45.13

Total this week: $101.13 (YAY!!!!)

What good eats are we having this week? Here is what’s on tap at our house:

Sunday–Braised beef and sausage ragu over creamy grits, sautéed collard greens (Recipe will be posted this week)

Monday–Broccoli quiche and salad greens with pea shoots

Tuesday–Poached, wild caught salmon with sautéed greens and red quinoa

Wednesday–Leftover quiche or sandwiches (scout night–everyone fends for themselves)

Thursday–Leftover ragu over whole wheat pasta

Friday–out (date night!)

Saturday–Pizza challenge using leftover vegetables and cheese carryover from last week

As usual, breakfasts are toast, bagels, oatmeal and lunches are sandwiches or leftovers. I see more kale chips in our immediate future!

Have a happy and fulfilling week!