Category Archives: Pasta

2010 – A Year in Food, Part Two

Following on the previous post, here are my favourite dishes which I made for the first time in 2010, followed some year-end musings.

Top Savoury Dishes

5. Yorkshire Pudding – from My Grandmother Jessie’s Recipes

4. Jewish Pork Tenderloin - from My Grandmother Jessie’s Recipes

3.  Linguine Umami – My original creation

2.  Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza – from America’s Test Kitchen

For the top savoury dish, top sweet treats, and…

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Classic Basil Pesto: A Sauce for Summer’s End

What cookbook would you take to the hypothetical desert island?  I would have to lug my tome, New Best Recipes, from America’s Test Kitchen.  I consult this indispensable volume more than any other of my hundreds of cookbooks.  In fact, I just did their zucchini bread recipe in my last post.  Their pesto recipe is simply outstanding.

(To my consistent readers, I decided to put Wednesday’s What Would Jessie Dish? on hiatus until after summer, ongoing renovations at the moment, and a trip with my mother to Maine  for the upcoming week. The remaining recipes were all very autumnal, and I thought it best to wait and highlight seasonal summer dishes.  Sorry, but it will return in just a few weeks!)

ATK is so thorough and creative in testing the many permutations, techniques, and varieties of ingredients to create the ultimate recipes.  Sometimes they are a bit fussy, but this is based on their experimentation to produce the best taste, texture, and finished product.  One thing I do find is that their recipes tend towards the less hot (spicy) side, so I often will up the heat or add a bit, when I feel like it.

I had made a few recipes for pesto before trying ATK’s, and this one really is best.  Toasting garlic and nuts adds a bit of time, but it is worth it to highlight the flavours, creating depth, subtlety, and nuttiness – what more can you ask for in life?

On our island, we have a garlic growing cooperative, and I was able to participate in a couple of sessions (prepping, cultivation, planting, weeding, harvesting), which gave me 40 bulbs of organic Russian hard-neck porcelain garlic – if you really want to know the variety.  It was an interesting experience, and I now have quite a bit of garlic for the upcoming colder months.

The basil we have been growing on the deck (it is not deer-proof, though it is supposed to be) has been doing well the past few years, with our southern exposure.  Around this time of year, I have plenty of basil – and combined with a bounty of garlic – making pesto for the winter is a good idea.  So I tripled the ingredients, and the three batches went along much more quickly than doing each one separately, of course.

For more on storing the classic basil pesto and the recipe… Continue reading

“Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Red, Gold, and Green

At the risk of being sued by Boy George (as opposed to a-wannabe-lawyer-who-liked-to-bathe-in-apricot-Jell-o), I decided to call this treatment of bucatini with cherry tomatoes “Karma Chameleon” for obvious reasons.  The pure red cherry tomatoes with the vibrant “sungold” cherry tomatoes (from our deck-top garden) and fresh basil (right off the deck, too) made me think of the lyrics:

Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red, gold, and green, red, gold, and green.

Huh? What exactly does that mean?

This is from an era of many pop songs with memorable refrains but not much meaning:  the 1980s, of course.  The song was very catchy but did not really have the “deeper” meaning indicated by the references to “karma” and the changeability of the chameleon. There is good alliteration with “karma chameleon” together, while “red, gold, and green” make a nice vivid trio of colours.  But does the song really say anything, other than just being a fun tune?

Like the song, bucatini is a fun pasta. However, it is not always easy to find bucatini in your grocer’s shelves, nestled among its more popular cousins, spaghetti and linguine (do not even try to find “buca-what?” on a small island like this one).  Bucatini is like a drinking straw, with a hollow centre, a kind of tubular spaghetti, which provides, a nice al dente contrast to the warmed cherry tomatoes, and good textural counterpoint to the light olive oil-butter sauce.

My inspiration for combining bucatini with cherry tomatoes comes from a casual dinner a few years back, hosted by friend and fellow island blogger, Lynn, of Real Food from a Small Island.  Lynn’s sauce was delicious yet somewhat different from this recipe.

I like the classic Italian base of garlic-olive-oil-black-pepper-and-Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This base also can include parsley, bread crumbs, red chili flakes, anchovies, lemon juice, capers, or many other ingredients, depending on the region. time of day, and the chef.  I posted about a combination that I did a few months back, Umami Linguine.  A bit of butter, I find, in a sauce like this helps improve with the mouth feel and adds a bit of richness to the sauce without becoming heavy.

For the recipe…

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Trapanese Pesto Pasta

I believe I have not hidden my devotion to America’s Test Kitchen and their rigourous testing-tasting, tasting-testing, or whatever their process is for creating the best never-fail recipes.  ATK has never let me down.

When I came across ATK’s version of pesto, as served in Trapani, Sicily, it made me decide to make it right away.  I did not have such a sauce during a trip to Sicily, but all the foods were memorable in Sicily and the Aolian island of Lipari, including the blood oranges everywhere (the inspiration for my blood orange marmalade).  So the combination of ATK with Sicily seemed like a major convergence of culinary imperative.

Living on an island not even as large as Lipari (and, of course, nowhere as big as Sicily itself), there are certain ingredients not always available.  With the urgency of making this sauce, I could not find any decent cherry tomatoes, in mid-June, so I had to resort to an island act of forced creativity, substituting a tin of Italian cherry tomatoes in its place.  This is not as much a locavore’s meal as is possible, though one could argue that it is more authentic in its Italian origins (olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the said tomatoes all hailed from Italy – OK, I used imported linguine, too…).

For the easy recipe…

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Capers-Lemon-Parmesan-Prosciutto Linguine Umami: Fast, Full-Flavoured, & Fantastic Pasta for Mid-week


I am not a “super taster”. My palate is not sensitive nor is subtlety my desired approach in cooking. Forget the understated, muted flavours for me. While I would like to be more “discerning” in my ability to distinguish barely distinguishable flavours, this is not the case. So it is not a surprise that I prefer highly seasoned, strongly flavoured, and spicy foods – not to mention coffee, chocolate, rich caramel, raspberry, lemon, and mint in desserts.

One way for those of us who are decidedly not super tasters to enjoy food is through “umami”, which is hard to translate from the Japanese. It describes rich, savoury, meaty, and satisfying earthy flavours, such as prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, ripe tomatoes, as well as soy and fish sauce. Interesting that these are hallmarks of Italian and Japanese cuisines, both of which are noted for their simple preparations of high-quality ingredients.


For more Umami – and the recipe  Continue reading