Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce, Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad

by Jennifer

This dinner was yummy, even though the yellow plate doesn’t do it justice eye appeal-wise.  Get the salad started first as it can sit for a bit (and gets better with the sitting).  For parents of young kids, two of my three (the third is pretty selective, but he did eat some) had huge helpings of the pasta and loved it.  Serves 4 adults.

Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce

  • 1 lb orecchiette
  • 3/4 cup fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs – I used about half chives, and half a mix of oregano, sage and thyme
  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil;  cook pasta until al dente according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.

In a large bowl combine ricotta through black pepper.

Stir in pasta and reserved cooking water, mixing well, then serve hot.

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad – from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4”-thick slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into four pieces each
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill for medium to medium-high cooking.  Toss zucchini and peppers with 2 TBS oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill vegetables 3 – 4 minutes per side, until just tender and grill marks appear.  Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Peel peppers and cut into 1” pieces;  slice zucchini into 1” pieces as well.

In a medium bowl whisk together remaining 2 TBS oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add vegetables and basil, mixing well to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

by Jennifer

This recipe, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, is delicious.  Come to think of it, I haven’t made a dish from his cookbook so far that wasn’t!  Serves 4 – 6.

  • 2/3 cup neutral oil
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4” slices
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • 3 cups basil leaves, divided
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. short pasta
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 TBS capers, rinsed
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn by hand into chunks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat 2/3 cup neutral oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the zucchini in batches, turning once, until lightly golden.

Transfer zucchini, as they’re cooked, to a colander to drain.

When all the zucchini have been fried and drained, toss them with the red wine vinegar in a large serving bowl and set aside.

Cook the edamame in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then use a fine-mesh sieve or slotted spoon to scoop them out.

Rinse them in cold water (rinse the capers at the same time), drain well, then add them to the zucchini in the bowl.

Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions;  drain, rinse with cool water, then add to the bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, combine half of the basil, the parsley and the olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree;  add puree to the bowl, along with the lemon zest, remaining basil (roughly chopped) and fresh mozzarella.

Toss everything together, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy.

Pasta, Crispy Tofu and Green Bean Salad

by Jennifer

This pasta salad, from either Cooking Light or Eating Well (can’t remember!), is better at room temperature but can be eaten cold as well.  I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe;  it serves 4 – 6.

  • 14 oz package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed using either paper towels, plates and something heavy, or the EZ-Tofu Press;  slice pressed tofu into cubes
  • 1 TBS neutral oil
  • 1 lb short whole wheat pasta, such as farfalle or penne
  • about 3 1/2 cups cut green beans, in about 2” pieces (roughly 13 – 14 oz)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into four pieces, each piece halved crosswise and sliced into thin pieces
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions.

Five minutes before the pasta is ready to drain, add the green beans.  Drain when time is up and rinse pasta and green beans with cold water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 TBS neutral oil in a nonstick (this is key) skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Cook tofu until crispy and golden on all sides.  Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain and cool.

In a small bowl whisk together the red wine vinegar through salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine pasta, green beans, tomatoes, yellow pepper, basil and dressing.  Serve at room temperature or cold.

Angel Hair Pasta with No-cook Tomato and Basil Sauce

By Ira,

I make this every summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. It’s very important to use the best tomatoes you can find and a good quality salt. With so few ingredients, it makes a big difference to the overall taste of the dish. All you need to do is combine the chopped tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil, then stir in the angel hair pasta and top it with Parmesan cheese. Very easy and delicious.

Serves 4-6

  • 5 large tomatoes or 7 medium ones
  • 2 handfuls sliced basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt or Himalayan salt preferably, or sea salt
  • freshly grounded black pepper
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

Note that I like to have a generous amount of tomatoes with my pasta. If you prefer less sauce, use 4 large tomatoes.

Start by boiling the water for the pasta. Add 1 tablespoon salt before adding the pasta.  Note that it only takes 2 minutes for the angel hair pasta to cook, so add the pasta to the water when your sauce is ready.

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Be generous with the salt. Taste and add more accordingly. Stir and set aside until pasta cooks.

Add the angel hair pasta to the tomato mixture and mix well. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Penne with Zucchini, Walnuts and Pesto

by Jennifer

This pasta recipe comes from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook;  the pesto comes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  The pesto freezes well;  I will make it every time I have enough basil in my deck pots, or there’s a bunch from our CSA, then freeze it for pasta or pizza later.  On the side I served some local, ripe tomatoes tossed with a dressing of 1/2 TBS balsamic vinegar, 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard, salt and black pepper (whisk the dressing ingredients in a bowl, then add the tomatoes and toss to coat).  Serves 4.

  • 14.5 oz – 1 lb penne, whole wheat preferred
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 2” long thick matchsticks
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe pesto (see below)
  • 3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to package directions;  reserve 1/2 cup cooking water before draining.

Meanwhile, heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook zucchini until tender and turning golden, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Season zucchini with salt and pepper.

Toss drained penne with pesto, cooking water, zucchini and walnuts, and serve with freshly grated cheese on top.

Pesto – adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

  • 1 – 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 TBS pine nuts
  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a food processor, finely chop the garlic and pine nuts with the salt.

Add the basil and pulse until finely chopped.

While the processor is running, pour in the oil, stopping to scrape down the sides.

Add the cheese and process just until combined.

Makes about 1 cup.  Freezes well.

Summer Squash Lasagne

by Jennifer

I’m not usually a fan of lasagne because it always seems so heavy.  I don’t know if it was the Barilla no-boil lasagne noodles, which themselves baked up so light, or the squash, or the skim milk ricotta (which I made the day before, recipe also in Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheesemaking book, even easier than the 30-Minute Mozzarella, and no, I’m not insane, I just had a gallon of skim milk that I needed to use up fast!), but this lasagne was so light and delicious, it actually seemed perfect for summer.  Serves 8, alongside a salad (some garlic bread would be tasty, too…).

  • 1 1/2 lbs mixed summer squash (I used zucchini and yellow crookneck squash)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably part-skim or nonfat
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a mix of basil, marjoram, sage and thyme)
  • 1 egg white
  • 24 – 25 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 12 no-boil lasagne noodles

Slice the squash very thinly, then toss it with the salt in a colander set over the sink and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Rinse it well with cool water and pat it dry on a kitchen towel.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium-size bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, herbs and egg white.

Coat an 8” x 12” deep pan with cooking spray, then spread a little of the marinara sauce over the bottom.  Place 3 noodles in the pan next to each other,

spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top,

then arrange 1/3 of the squash slices in a single layer.  Top with a little more sauce, and repeat two more times,

ending with a last layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the remaining 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese.  Coat a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan.  Bake the lasagne, covered, for 50 minutes, or until the lasagne is bubbling,

then remove the foil and bake for a few more minutes, until the cheese on top is melted.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Portabello Mushroom Pasta, Broccoli Rabe

by Jennifer

My father visited recently and brought us bags of dried pasta he had bought at Claudio’s at 924 South 9th in Philadelphia, and it’s fantastic.  I used one of the bags for this meal;  in the past, I’ve used regular store-bought penne, and it was delicious, but if you can get your hands on amazing Italian pasta, do it as it really elevates this simple dish.  More broccoli rabe from my CSA (hurray!);

this time I just sauteed a couple chopped garlic cloves in some olive oil until fragrant,

then added the broccoli rabe (any tough stems removed, washed) and cooked, tossing in the garlic and oil occasionally,

until it wilted, then seasoned it with Maldon sea salt.  The original pasta recipe, from Gourmet magazine, calls for 1 TBS of fresh chopped marjoram or oregano, and tonight I had neither, and it was still, well, you know!  Serves 4.

  • 1 1/4 lbs portabella mushrooms (6 – 7)
  • 3 TBS neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. short pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Prepare your grill.

Slice stems off mushrooms and, using a spoon, gently scrape off the mushrooms’ gills.  Brush both sides of mushrooms with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill for 5 minutes on the first side, or until grill marks begin to appear, then flip and cook 2 – 3 minutes on the other side.

Remove from grill and when cool enough to handle, cut each mushroom in half, then into slices.  Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, reserving 3 TBS cooking water before draining.

Toss together drained pasta, reserved cooking water, extra-virgin olive oil, mushrooms, cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper.