Posts Tagged ‘penne’

Try something other than your usual pasta and meat sauce. Pesto takes little cooking to make and is very healthy and light. Add whatever vegetables you feel like. You can also experiment with different types of nuts; pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are great and even pistachios could work. You won’t miss meat at all!


Pesto Sauce

  • Basil (2 cups, almost filling a small food processor)
  • Walnut pieces (a palm full)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese (a palm full)
  • Artichoke hearts (A few pieces from a jar)
  • Olive Oil (until desired consistency is reached) I used thyme-infused oil that I made.
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper
♦ Make extra pesto and use as a condiment for sandwiches, a marinade for steak, or mix with mayo and slather on salmon.
Pasta and Veggies
  • 2 small yellow squashes cut into chunks
  • 1 ear of corn, boiled and de-kerneled
  • Cannellini beans (White Kidney)

Sauté the squash in olive oil with salt, pepper and dried oregano. When the squash has softened, add the corn, spinach, and Cannellini beans and re-season. Boil Pasta until al dente. A few minutes before it is done, start the pesto sauce. In a food processor, grind the pesto ingredients, adding olive oil gradually. The basil should not be chunky, but over-blending will affect the pesto color.

Strain the pasta and mix with the pesto and vegetables. Fold in freshly grated parmesan cheese while it’s warm. Garnish with parmesan ribbons, basil chiffonade, and toasted walnut pieces.

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My below-par photography skills will no longer be featured on this blog. Since Jordan Emont is not with me this week, you’ll have to imagine the appearance. Even though a picture says a thousand words, this dish will leave you speechless. The bechamel allows my sauce to be thick and rich without being heavy and fattening. Subtly sweet Marsala wine offsets lemony thyme which is a perfect counterpoint to the woodsy flavor of mushrooms. I loaded the dish with spinach and onions and roasted grapes give a surprise of texture and sweetness.


  • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves
  • Salt, pepper
  • Mushrooms (I used brown baby bella)
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Marsala wine/Beef broth opt.
  • Spinach/Arugula
  • Milk (I used 2%)
  • Butter (I used unsalted)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Red grapes
  • Pecans
  • Lemons
  • Fresh parsley
  • Penne pasta

Sauté onions in a large pan with olive oil, adding garlic after a few minutes. Salting is important here or your onions will stubbornly resist softening. Add the mushrooms when the onions are translucent. Be generous with thyme leaves and chopped rosemary. Salt and pepper here as well.

Add Marsala wine—the real stuff, not the sweetened kind with barely any alcohol. Beef broth wouldn’t hurt too although I didn’t use it. You can choose to make this dish with spinach or arugula. Spinach should be added here, but arugula should be added  à la minute.

Bechamel: In a sauce pot, heat milk until it starts to boil. In a sauté pan, melt about a half stick of butter and whisk in plenty of butter. Whisk until you have a slightly brown color (this will add an extra dimension of nutty flavor). Slowly whisk in the scalding milk, while keeping the heat up. Just troubleshoot until you reach a very thick sauce. I added a handful of parmesan cheese and a splash of heavy cream. Hey, we’re being much healthier with the milk-based sauce. Keep in mind that it will thin out when mixed with the marsala, which is the next step.

Roast some halved red grapes in a hot oven with some pecans or walnuts. The nuts are done when they are fragrant and crisp. The grapes should still have they’re texture. Add lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Mix with penne pasta or whatever you prefer.

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Gelateria, espresso bar, paninoteca, pasticceria

Ste A, 30 Main St
Southampton, NY 11968-4856
(631) 283-1233

My aunt, my sister, my cousin, and I raced to Sant Ambroeus, hoping to catch a late lunch before they finished the lunch service. Luckily, we were seated at a table in the alley. This was not your average alley, but an up-scale one, brimming with vibrant flowers and trellises enveloped in green. We were flanked by Michael Kors. The only thing resembling alley-cats were the young, graceful italian waiters who all assisted our table.

Caprese Salad with Buffalo mozzarella

For me, the highlight was the caprese salad, which I couldn’t resist when I heard it was made of buffalo’s milk. Buffalos make the most delicious mozzarella. When I tasted a portion of these billiard ball-sized pieces (the picture is only half the real portion), I new for sure that this was the best mozzarella I’ve ever tasted. The texture was like biting into a cloud before a rain shower: soft and moist beyond belief. It was tangy and juicy. Oh, there were tomatoes and basil there too.

My aunt ordered Insalata Di Carciofi: thinly sliced artichoke salad with sliced parmesan and arugula. It was light, peppery, and the artichokes were prepared well. It was just missing some buffalo mozzarella. We ordered Pennette Al Pomodoro E Basilico or “penne in tomato sauce with basil”. The pasta was cooked al dente and the tomato sauce was so simple, yet had so much fresh tomato flavor. My aunt said that Sant Abroeus has the best tomato sauce. I now know where she was coming from. I’m sure he grows his own tomatoes or something. Maybe he feeds them buffalo mozzarella.

Penne with tomato sauce and basil

I had pappardelli with mixed mushrooms and beef. The pasta was great and it was hearty, while remaining light. It could have used a vinegary element to cut through the monotone flavor of the beef and brighten it up. Maybe I should have accepted the parmesan when offered.

I strongly recommend trying the restaurant (there are two other locations: one on Madison Ave and one in West Village). It has everything that a good italian restaurant must have: great bread, great olive oil, and great tomato sauce. The menu is smart and short. The service is impeccable and the waiters look genuinely happy. They are charming and knowledgeable and most have italian accents.

pappardelle funghi with beef

Before we left, my 6-year-old cousin had a gelato and said that it was good. Believe me, she knows her gelato and ice cream. We bagged our leftovers, although not plentiful, and received a “doggy bag” that Michael Kors would have been happy to place newly sold bags in. We left heavy and happy.

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Baked Ziti Penne is a great hearty pasta dish that needs no accompaniment. Okay, maybe garlic bread.

Cook time: 10 minutes for marinara/ 45 minutes in the oven


  • 5 ounces of baby bella mushrooms (half a 10 ounce container)
  • 1 zucchini chopped chopped (small pieces)
  • 1 large stalk of broccoli
  • 1/2 a white onion diced
  • 1 cups spinach or two handfuls
  • handful of grape tomatoes cut in halves or thirds
  • 1/2 lemon
  • fresh parsley, fresh basil, oregano, garlic powder, 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 jar marinara (I used fire roasted tomato and cabernet sauvignon flavored)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • some red wine of choice (I used cabernet sauvignon to emphasize the flavor in the sauce)
  • 1 pound of fresh mozzarella shredded with grater
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta (use skim milk ricotta if you want less fat)

What do I do first?:

1. Boil broccoli florets for 4 minutes. Drain and shock in cold ice water. Sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat (I used a wok) in Extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper.

2. After 2 minutes, chop the broccoli and add it too. Salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.

3. After 1 minute, add the onions and minced or pressed garlic. S and P. Add fresh chopped parsley.

4. After two minutes, add the mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

5. Add splash of red wine like cabernet sauvignon. Simmer with the marinara sauce. Add some tomato paste to enhance the tomato flavor. Finish with chopped basil. You can stack and roll the leaves. Then cut thin strips for a chiffonade. This would be a wonderful marinara sauce all by itself.

6. Boil penne or ziti (1 cup per person). This recipe will serve 6 people.  Strain well, mix with the sauce, and add the ricotta and 2/3 of the mozzarella. When checking for consistency, keep in mind that some sauce will evaporate and soak into the pasta. Flatten in a buttered casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

7. Conceal with mozzarella cheese and cover with foil. Cook for 20 more minutes. Remove the foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle with more basil. Finish uncovered for 15 minutes. If you want, you can also top with parmesan cheese or even use it in the filling.

Experiment with this dish. Try any vegetable you have on hand. If you have eggplant, throw it in. Instead of spending on extra pasta, use what you have on hand and splurge on better ingredients. Use leftover  mozzarella and ricotta for a lasagna or make home-made ravioli with ricotta and spinach. This dish could definitely be made ahead of time; you just finish it in the oven. Feel free to not include ingredients or add them. My final suggestion is to find someone to shred the  mozzarella cheese for you.

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  • penne pasta (rigatoni or practically any similar-sized pasta will work)
  • heavy cream
  • freshly parmesan cheese
  • marsala cooking wine (real marsala wine will work as well, but I’m only 18 and couldn’t buy the real wine)
  • fresh parsley (It is as important in Italian cuisine as olive oil)
  • 2 containers mushrooms (I would suggest a crimini mushroom or any mild, tender, and small mushroom)
  • 1 vidalia onion

1. Start by chopping onions in half inch squares. I used vidalia, yet any sweeter onion will work. Cut the criminis in half, if necessary, to make bite-size pieces. Sweat the onions over medium-high heat in butter. After a minute or two, add mushrooms, garlic (using a garlic press), salt and pepper. You know you are finished sweating when the onions become clear. If the onions are browning, then you are caramelizing.

2. Add about one or two tablespoons of flour and stir to form a roux. A roux is just a thickening agent made, in this dish, with butter and flour. Add the wine and set the fire to a simmer. Cook the wine for a minute or two. Next, raise the heat to reach a boil. The boiling causes the roux to reach its full potential and thickening power. Add grated parmesan cheese, stirring constantly. I used a zester.

3. Boil the pasta until al dente (read container for instructions). Before draining the pasta, ladle in some starchy water to help reach the desired consistency. Note for the perfectionists: I cannot give exact amounts; one just has to trouble-shoot. Add more cream or wine until you have attained a good balance of flavors and the perfect texture.

4. To evade the mistake that I made, make the sauce looser than desirable; when the sauce comes in contact with the starchy pasta, it will thicken naturally. Similarly, as the sauce cools, it will thicken even further. I garnished with chopped parsley, some lemon juice, and salted to taste.

The moral of the story is: even a picnic’s no picnic. In other words, just because it’s a pasta dish, does not mean that it does not require the same meticulous care and attention that a soufflé or a beef wellington does. Serve with crusty italian bread. For this, there are no substitutions.

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