As promised in Sunday lifestyle, here are summer pasts and tips courtesy of Gannett News Service.
Cook pasta perfectly
Pasta should be cooked al dente, which in Italian means “to the tooth.” Translation: pasta that is slightly chewy. Not undercooked and tough nor overcooked and mushy. No matter how fresh the produce, poorly cooked pasta can ruin the dish. Follow these steps for perfect pasta.
• Fill a large pot three-fourths full of cold water.
• Turn heat on high. When water begins to boil, add about one-half teaspoon salt. When the water comes to a full boil, gently add the pasta.
• Once the water begins to foam, reduce heat to medium high.
• Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.
• Use the cooking time on the package as a guideline. You must taste the pasta to know when it’s done. If it has a raw taste or pasty texture, continue boiling.
• When pasta is done, pour into a colander and shake it to drain the pasta well.
Pasta shape matters
Certain pasta shapes pair better than others with summer’s lighter, vegetable-inspired sauces. Here are a few that work well with sauces from the garden.
Angel hair – In Italian, this fine spaghetti is called capelli d’angelo. It goes best with light, delicate sauces that showcase fresh herbs.
Campanelle – This fancy-looking cone-shaped pasta with wavy edges traps and holds chunky vegetable sauces such as eggplant or squash.
Cavatappi – A short, S-shaped tube that resembles a small corkscrew. Its slender, spiral shape makes it suitable for cherry tomato and corn sauces.
Farfalle – Also called bowties or butterflies. They come in small, medium and large. Their large, flat surface works well with sauces containing diced vegetables.
Fiori – In Italian, fiori means flowers. This pasta has rounded petals that provide extra surface area for chunky, tomato-based sauces. Has lots of kid appeal.
Produce recipes for the pasta pot
GRILLED EGGPLANT INVOLTINI IL FORNO
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
one-fourth cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)
1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
one-half cup chopped fresh basil (divided use)
1 12-ounce can crushed tomatoes
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise one-half-inch thick
8 ounces shredded smoked scamorza (an Italian cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella) or smoked mozzarella
one-fourth cup chopped Italian parsley
In a saucepan, sweat the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat for a few minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the red-pepper flakes, oregano and half of the basil. Cook and stir for 1 minute, then add crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Heat a grill to high. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill slices 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook 3 minutes more. Remove slices from grill and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon about 1 ounce of cheese on one end of each eggplant slice and roll up. Let rest on seam. Brush the bottom of a baking dish with remaining olive oil. Place eggplant rolls (involtini) in dish. Ladle tomato sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining basil and any remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 white onions, diced
1 and one-half cups arborio rice
one-half cup white wine
2 bay leaves
5 cups heated, unsalted chicken stock
one-fourth cup chopped chives
1 cup corn kernels, cut from the cob (or use defrosted frozen corn)
one-half cup diced, seeded tomatoes
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound crabmeat (shrimp may be substituted)
1 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced to 2 tablespoons and cooled (optional)
In a wide saucepot, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium-low heat until translucent. Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the rice with oil. Cook and stir for a few minutes to toast the rice. Add wine and bay leaves. Continue stirring to prevent sticking. Slowly add the hot chicken broth 1 cup at a time, stirring occasionally. As the mixture absorbs the broth, ladle more into the pot. When all of the broth has been added, simmer until rice begins to soften. Reduce heat and gently stir in chives, corn, tomatoes, cheese and crab, trying not to break up the lumps of crab. Cover and remove from heat when rice is slightly undercooked. Rice will continue to cook. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar in a deep dish, spoon the crab risotto into the middle and serve. Serves 6.
PASTA AND SQUASH WITH TOMATOES, BASIL AND PINE NUTS
4 medium zucchini or summer squash (2 pounds), halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into one-half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons kosher salt (divided use)
1 pound farfalle pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
one-half teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
one-half cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
one-fourth cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Parmesan cheese, to serve
Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Transfer to a large colander and set over the bowl. Let drain for 30 minutes. Spread the squash evenly on a double layer of paper towels. Pat squash dry with additional paper towels and wipe off salt.
In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt (or 1 tablespoon table salt) and pasta. Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and return to stockpot.
While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Swirl to coat pan with oil.
Add half of the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and slightly charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer squash to a baking sheet or large plate.
Heat another tablespoon of oil in the skillet and repeat to cook remaining squash. Transfer to baking sheet or plate.
Return empty skillet to a medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil along with the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds, then add squash and stir well to combine and heat through, about 30 seconds.
Add the squash mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts to the pasta in the stockpot. Toss to combine. Adjust seasonings, if needed, and serve, passing Parmesan separately. Serves 6.