cavatelli with prosciutto, leeks, & arugula

the dish

Despite my busy school schedule, I treat myself pretty well when it comes to dinner on weekdays.  But the weekend is when I really look forward to cooking and trying new recipes. One of my favorite times of each month is when the new Bon Appetit arrives.  I love browsing through the magazine for inspiration.  This month the pappardelle with arugula and proscuitto really stood out. I love proscuitto and the leeks, lemon, and arugula just screamed spring.  The local grocery store unfortunately didn’t have fresh pappardelle or fettuccine which is what Bon Appetit suggests, so I settled for what has become the usual pasta in my house — cavatelli! Also, I need to credit my neighbors for the Parmesan cheese that I realized we didn’t have right as I started to cook!

fresh flavors

By the way, I am totally aware that it is Cinco de Mayo and I am posting a completely un-festive recipe.  This was actually last night’s meal.  But if you are looking for a celebratory treat try this guacamole or these fajitas which I will be making tonight!

Cavatelli with Proscuitto, Leeks, & Arugula

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cavatellimise en place
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, quartered lengthwise, sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 bunch arugula (about 4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, torn into 1-inch pieces

Method

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large skillet.  Add leeks, and cook until softened but not brown (5-8 minutes).  Add pasta, lemon zest, chives and 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Cook, stirring often and adding pasta water as needed until a glossy sauce coats the pasta (about 4 minutes).

Add arugula, Parmesan, and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Add prosciutto right before serving and toss again.  Garnish with a touch of lemon zest and more Parmesan cheese.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

How I eat it: with a lot of Parmesan, crunchy bread, a fresh salad, and Chardonnay

ready to eat!

cavatelli with spicy lamb ragu

Today may have been my ideal day.  I woke up, ate some Frosted Mini Wheats, worked out, showered, blew some money on a Michael Kohrs bag, went to the grocer and the butcher, and spent the rest of my day baking and cooking dinner for my family and Mike.

One of my favorite things to do is spend my time cooking dinner. Why dinner?  Because dinner is the time of day when my family is all together and, unless there is some important sporting event on TV, we spend time talking to each other. It could be simple conversations about our days or incredibly goofy, and somewhat inappropriate, dinner talk.  These conversations are a major part of why I love cooking. Food brings people together.  Especially dinner.  At least this is how it always was, and is, in my family. And this is how I intend it to stay.  So any day where I get to really spend time cooking a nice evening meal for those I love, is a wonderful day. (The Michael Kohrs bag may have added a little bit of wonder to today as well..)

I decided to try a new recipe with some flavors that I am not so used to cooking with.  Fennel and cumin and lamb are not common ingredients in my house.

As opposed to my lovely boyfriend, I was also attracted to this recipe because of the lamb.  Rack of lamb and mint jelly may be one of my all time favorite meals.  Mike, however, was not thrilled when I told him after he was already eating the meal that he was consuming lamb (he’s more of a beef guy).  Nevertheless, he said it was delicious.

Cavatelli with Spicy Lamb Ragu

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 1/2 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved, cored, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/2 lbs. cavatelli pasta
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 c. chopped mint leaves
  • Grated parmesan/pecorino for serving
*Special equipment: cheesecloth

Method

In large cast iron dutch oven, add fennel seeds, cumin seeds, red pepper, and black peppercorns. Heat over medium heat, until fragrant (about 2 minutes).  Remove spices from dutch oven, cool, bundle in a cheese cloth, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the dutch oven.  Add lamb and cook over high heat until browned, breaking up with spoon (about 5 minutes). Remove lamb with slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the garlic, onion, and fennel to the casserole and lower to medium heat. Saute until tender (about 8 minutes).  Add the smoked paprika, tomatoes and reserved liquid, chicken stock, and return the lamb.  Bring to a simmer.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes.  Uncover, and cook an additional 50 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook cavatelli according to package directions (usually about 7-9 minutes for frozen). After ragu has thickened, remove spice bundle and season with salt and pepper. Add the cavatelli to the sauce along with some of the pasta water (about 1/4 cup).  Stir in the cherry tomatoes and half of the chopped mint.

Serve hot, with parmesan/pecorino cheese, and mint for garnish.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

How I eat it: with a lot of fresh mint and a large glass of pinot noir (as Food & Wine recommends)

[Above photo credit to Mike]

One more thing I should mention: the mint completes this dish.  Don’t even think about making it without it! Thanks to my parents herb garden, we had plenty =)

cavatelli with spicy sausage & sun-dried tomatoes


This is the post for my little brother who’s off being a college kid.  It’s weird not having him around all the time — now I know how he felt when I went off to school!  For his last home-cooked meal of the summer I made a pasta dish that has become one of my family’s favorites.  It definitely ranks in my top five favorite dishes.  The original version of this dish is one of Giada DeLaurentis’ recipes that I found on foodnetwork.com.

I love that you cook the sausage in the oil that the jarred sun-dried tomatoes are packed in.  It just adds something extra to the already spicy and flavorful sausage.

Giada uses fusilli pasta, but the ricotta cavatelli is one my favorite changes I’ve made to the dish.  If you haven’t tried cavatelli you MUST.  Mike introduced this pasta to me because it is one of his favorites.  It’s so rich and tender – it’s now one of my favorites too!  If I hadn’t decided to make this dish for him one day, I wouldn’t have thought to change the pasta.  So this addition to the recipe is thanks to Mike!  Most grocery stores carry frozen bags, but I’ve also gotten fresh cavatelli at Italian specialty stores.

 

Cavatelli with Spicy Sausage & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cavatelli
  • 1 7.5 oz. jar of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes sliced, oil reserved
  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed
  • salt and pepper

Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausages and cook until browned, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces. (I usually do this step by squeezing the sausage meat out of the casing into the skillet and breaking it up with a wooden spoon once the meat starts to brown.) Transfer the sausage to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

This is usually the best point to add the cavatelli to the pot of boiling water. Cook until tender, but still firm to the bite, about 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta and 5-7 minutes for frozen. Drain the pasta.

In the same skillet from which you removed the sausage, add the garlic and sauté until tender.  Then, add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Raise the heat to medium-high and boil until the sauce reduces slightly.

Add the pasta, sausage, basil, and parsley to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mozzarella right before serving so that the cheese does not become too stringy.

Serve with grated Parmesan.

Recipe adapted from Giada DeLaurentis via foodnetwork.com

How I eat it: with a hot and crusty loaf of bread on the side.