Showing posts with label easy pasta sauce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy pasta sauce. Show all posts

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

Remember how I was complaining last week about how busy I was?

Yeah, right.  I had no idea what the future held ...

I really didn't think I would get this post together in time, but here's the thing:  no matter how busy you are, you have to eat.  Or, at least, I do.  (I'm not one of those people who "forgets" lunch ....)

Anywho, after my Friday classes ended, I hauled my behind into my little Scion and shuffled off to the Kroger, desperate as much for dinner as for something to make for the blog.  And, lo, cherry tomatoes were on sale.


Notice the healthy basil in the midst of the weeds and dead leaves ... thank you, Mother Nature

Despite the wicked heat and drought, we have been enjoying a bumper crop of volunteer basil in our earth boxes.  (I actually planted some last year but was too lazy this spring ... thankfully, Mother Nature had my back.)  Fresh basil + cherry tomatoes + exhausted Wendy = Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil.

This is a recipe based on one from Cooks Illustrated.  The beautiful thing is that you can make it all year long (even sketchy cherry tomatoes will taste delish after they've been roasted).  The even more beautiful thing about this recipe is that the sauce makes itself in the oven.  So throw the tomatoes in the oven, boil the pasta, mix ... and voila!

So keep an eye out for those sale tomatoes (or hit your local farmer's market), and take an evening off without sacrificing your dinner.

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

1 pound penne

2 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (+ 1 Tbs. for pasta water)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

shredded parmesan, to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Halve the tomatoes.  Toss gently with oil, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, red pepper, garlic, and balsamic vinegar.  Spread the tomatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet, and roast 35 to 40 minutes (until tomatoes shrivel a bit, but don't let them turn to mush).


Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water according to package direction.  Drain pasta.  Return to pot.  Scrape the cooked tomatoes and juices into the pot, sprinkle with the basil, and toss gently.

Serve topped with parmesan.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Comic Book Carbonara: A Graphic Novel Pasta from Cleo Coyle

When I first met my husband, he whipped up a fantastic spaghetti carbonara that has since become part of our menu. Because he’s part Italian, and because both his mother and father taught him how to cook, I assumed his recipe came from one of them. Not so. Marc informed me that he found the recipe in a 1980's comic book.

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.
The comic was Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, launched in 1983. Fans of this series include Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, who hailed Flagg as a precursor to the cyberpunk genre of science fiction.

Flagg is not for everyone. It presents a hard-boiled look at life in 2031—after nuclear war and an economic collapse leave things a tad chaotic in the USA. How bad do things get in Chaykin's 2031? One example: The broken down piano player who inhabits the local lounge is Princess Diana's oldest son.

As for today's recipe, spaghetti carbonara happens to be the favorite dish of Rubin Flagg, the comic book's hero. The recipe was published in the same issue that Rubin cooked it up. (Recipes included in fiction! Is that a good idea or what?) 

Carbonara also appears in
On What Grounds:
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Click here to learn more.
Marc made the recipe one day, and it is now part of our personal culinary history. Carbonara is also part of our publishing history because it plays a diverting role in our first Coffeehouse Mystery, On What Grounds. When two alpha male characters argue about the proper way to prepare the dish, our amateur sleuth (Clare Cosi) breaks up the deadlock before cleavers are thrown.

As far as this dish's actual history, pasta carbonara may not have originated in Italy. Some say Italian immigrants developed it in America during the Depression, which is easy for me to believe since my father, who grew up during that era, remembers the "old timers" throwing lard into the skillet to start everything from sautéed vegetables to pasta sauce. 

Some believe the dish was created during World War II, when ingredients common to American GI's—bacon, powdered eggs, and powdered milk—were handed out to hungry Italian citizens during the American occupation. (For more on the history of this dish, click here.)

Today Italians make this dish, which they call pasta alla carbonara, with raw eggs instead of cream (which is more commonly used in versions found in the US, France, Spain, and the UK). Italians also use pancetta or guanciale (types of Italian bacon). To each his own, as they say. And, when it comes to this recipe, our own is below...


Cleo Coyle's
Comic Book Carbonara

Adapted from the comic book series American Flagg!

To download a free PDF of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

With bacon and cream, you'd think this dish would be heavy, but it's very light and so delicious that a single bowl truly satisfies. Paired with a spinach or tomato salad, it's a complete meal for us. In the summer, we'll eat it as a late lunch or early dinner and simply finish the day with a fruit salad and frozen yogurt.

One last note: The pasta you see in my pictures is Garden Delight spaghetti from Ronzoni. It's enriched with tomato, carrot, and spinach, which provides a full serving of vegetables per 4 ounce portion. The flavor and texture were very nice and the colors let our eyes eat first. 


12 - 16 ounces spaghetti (usually 1 package)
(about) 8 ounces bacon (we use 5 thick-cut bacon slices)
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream (+ a tiny bit extra, just in case)
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
(optional) Ground pepper to taste


Step 1 – Make spaghetti according to package directions.

Step 2 – While your pasta water is coming to a boil, begin to make the cream sauce. Into a large skillet, slice up the bacon. I simply snip the bacon slices into ¼- to ½-inch pieces using kitchen shears. Turn the heat up to medium and begin to sweat the bacon pieces. After a few minutes, as the fat begins to render (but long before the bacon browns or crisps), toss in the garlic.

Sweat the bacon and
toss in whole garlic cloves...

Step 3 – When the bacon is browned and cooked through (but not crisp or dry), remove the garlic cloves and drain the bacon grease out of the pan. Set aside and finish cooking your spaghetti. When the spaghetti is completely drained, set aside and finish the sauce.

Step 4 – To the pan with the cooked bacon, add a tablespoon of butter. As soon as the butter melts, stir in the cream. Simmer the mixture until it thickens. If the sauce breaks, simply add a bit more cream and stir again.

Remove the garlic, drain the bacon fat,
toss in a pat of butter and the cream...

Step 5 – Add the cooked and drained spaghetti to the large skillet. Pour the grated cheese over the pasta and toss...

Place a pepper grinder and a small bowl of grated cheese
on the dinner table for guests to finish their plates to their taste.
Then plate that pasta up and...

Eat with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

Thank You,

Our hardcover bestseller
is now a bestseller
in paperback...

*Starred Review ~ Kirkus
"Top Pick" ~ RT Book Reviews
"A highly satisfying mystery" - PW

Billionaire Blend
A Coffeehouse Mystery

This culinary murder mystery features
more than 30 delicious recipes, including
secret "off the menu" coffee drinks.
Read (and eat) with joy!

See the Billionaire Blend
Recipe Guide 
by clicking here.


Download a Free Title Checklist for
all 13 Coffeehouse Mysteries
(with mini plot summaries)
clicking here.

To sign up for Cleo Coyle's
fun E-Newsletter and weekly
free coffee drawings,
click here.

Haunted Bookshop

Get a free title checklist,
with mini plot summaries,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rigatoni with Chicken Thighs and Sausage

Baby, it's cold outside! Brrr. The temps are headed for 18 degrees! Time for hot chocolate with whipped cream and hearty meals that stick to your ribs. I don't cook pasta very often, but the frigid weather had me longing for a nice dish of al dente pasta with a hearty sauce. The only problem is that I'm often at a loss for a good sauce. Yes, I know about the stuff in jars, but homemade is always better.

So, I did what I often do when it comes to pasta sauces. Checked out recipes. Too light, too summery, too exotic, too spicy -- in the end, I made up my own and it's a nice week night dinner that doesn't take long to prepare. The most time consuming part is cutting up the chicken thighs -- but they don't take long to cook, so I figure it balances out. It's a very easy sauce to make, so don't shy away.

Rigatoni with Chicken Thighs and Sausage

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
6 boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup flour
2 pork sausages, sliced (I used Bratwurst!)
1/2 cup white wine
1 leek, sliced (1/3 cup chopped onion would be fine)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
28 ounces diced tomatoes (2 small cans or 1 large one)
salt to taste
heavy cream
8-10 ounces rigatoni or penne

Cut the chicken thighs into 3/4 inch squares, trimming any fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn, then add the flour and turn several times to coat.

Heat the olive oil and brown the chicken thighs. Add the sliced sausage. Scoop the meat out and set it aside.

Pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze it and add the leek, garlic and oregano. When the leek and garlic have softened, add the diced tomatoes and return the meat to the sauce.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

Simmer the sauce gently until the chicken is cooked through. This doesn't take long! Don't overcook the chicken. In fact if you're waiting for everyone to arrive, bring it to a simmer and turn it off. Reheat when everyone is ready to sit down to eat, making sure the chicken has cooked through.

Salt to taste. Remove from heat and pour cream into the sauce -- Rachel Ray style -- by pouring it in a circle twice (eyeball it!).

Ladle sauce over pasta and enjoy!