Sunday pasta has taken on new meaning this summer. It’s still my chance to cook, unwind, and zone out at the end of the weekend. But it’s also been a bit of a refresher too. A creative stimulant that’s just for me before the week starts. It’s helpful that it’s light out so late and the weather is perfect around dinner time. The day doesn’t have to end so quickly.
Taking my pasta up on the roof + reading a book + drinking a glass of wine + watching the sunset has become a new goal of my Sunday Pasta routine. Plus so much better than sitting on my couch in front of my TV – no matter what drama I’m into at the moment (Chasing Life on ABC Family and re-watching Brothers & Sisters on Netflix).
I love making this pasta in the summer. Mostly because it’s crazy easy. Also because when you have awesome tomatoes, why cook them? Just toss with some great olive oil and serve. I guess I really don’t need to add the pasta in there. A simple tomato salad is just as good. No doubt, healthier. But it’s my vehicle for my favorite things, for new ingredients, for rough days, for dates, for deciphering a book written in 1825, for Sunday nights (proudly) alone.
Simple Pasta with Tomato and Olive Oil
Dice tomatoes into cubes and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, herbs. Set aside. Cook pasta. Toss hot pasta with tomatoes, a little bit of the cooking water, and parmesan cheese. Damn that was easy.
Last night my friends reminded me about some of the joys of blogging. The writing, the eating, how it can be so simple, how it’s part of who we are and how we communicate. You should read their blogs – Eat More, Drink More, District Brit, Frijolita, Florida Girl in DC – especially if you’re in DC. Beyond their blogs, they inspire me in many many ways.
We were also talking about restaurants with menus that haven’t changed. We were split. If it was a good restaurant, we had a great experience, but yet it’s not a place we frequent often, are we satisfied with the same menu every time? Jenna wants to go back and have her favorite dish there – a simple but lovely pesto gnocchi. Russell wants to see what else they can do. They both come from a place of adoration.
It reminded me of my Sunday pasta routine. Sometimes I just want the same thing over and over. After all, the point of Sunday pasta is ultimately comfort – at the end of a busy weekend, at the start of a busy week. But seasons change and so does the produce at the market, and new ingredients and combinations get my creative vibes moving at a time when they’re probably programed to wind down. It’s good for me. (Hint: Nikki, do this more often.)
The ingredients are really the way I’m going to get somewhere new. Everything else remains the same…the boxed pasta (sorrynotsorry that I don’t have time to make fresh pasta every weekend), the garlic and olive oil and butter, tossing everything together in a big pan, making a mess, West Wing or a 90′s pop music playlist playing in the background, my mom calling halfway through.
In this case, I changed things up with a spinach walnut pesto. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it was different than just typically throwing the spinach into the pasta to wilt a bit. Sautéing the asparagus instead of roasting it, kept the dish feeling lighter and added some texture. And how can you not be inspired by that bright pop of green? I’m sooo healthy even though this is full of carbs, yeah? Let’s pretend.
Sunday Pasta: Orecchiette with Spinach Walnut Pesto and Asparagus
In a food processor, combine handfuls of fresh spinach, fresh basil, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper until volià you have pesto. Chop asparagus in small pieces and sauté in butter and olive oil until cooked through (depends on how much of a crunch you’d like). Add the pesto and cooked pasta to the pan. Toss. Buon appetito!
This might just be my new favorite summer dessert. For many reasons. Fresh strawberries and beautiful sage from the farmer’s market. A combination of sweet almond and zesty orange cookies as a base. Mascarpone cheese (’nuff said). Fluffy whipped heavy cream. And no oven required.
How can something be so good when there’s no chocolate in it?
The no baking part is especially wonderful. It’s not even that hot outside yet, but I prefer to not crank my oven up high in the summer. This tart just highlights the best of the best. My first pick of strawberries of the season and quality mascarpone cheese. I’ve been really into berry + herb combinations recently. Blueberry basil, raspberry mint, strawberry sage. Fantastic on a tart or in your cocktail. I think I’ll spend all summer exploring these combos. Adding gin, heavy cream, honey, prosecco as I’d like.
Now on to this perfect tart…
Strawberry Sage Mascarpone Tart
For the filling:
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoon sugar
- 8oz cups mascarpone cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 pound strawberries, sliced thinly
- 1/2 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
For the crumb base:
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 10 oz almond and orange cookies
- Make the base: Melt butter. Crush cookies to a crumble in a food processor. Mix the crumbs with butter. Spoon the crumbs into a round tart pan with a removable bottom. Smooth into the corners and up the pan sides. Refrigerate until set.
- Make the filling: Separate the egg, putting the yolk in a bowl with the sugar and beating for a few seconds until mixed. Beat in mascarpone and vanilla extract. With a clean whisk, beat heavy cream until it’s whipped, and then fold it into the creamed mascarpone.
- Assemble: Spoon mascarpone filling into the cookie crust, spreading it to the edges. Arrange sliced strawberries and fresh chopped sage on top of the mascarpone. Keep cold until serving.
Ok let’s chat about dreams coming true. A little over a month ago, I spent the day with Joey Fatone filming an episode of My Family Recipe Rocks. My episode airs this Sunday 5/25 at 8:30pm on the Live Well Network. Find out where you can watch – I hope you do!
Even several weeks later, I can’t quite describe the day. It was everything. It’s JOEY. I’ve spent so many many hours of my life thinking about him. It was so strange to talk to real life Joey about NSYNC Joey. They were the same person and different person at the same time. Does that make sense?
Look! We hugged, we touched, he was on his phone which has JC’s number in it, we talked about Lance’s wedding, he kissed my cheek, we spent a whole day together! If only 12 year old Nikki could imagine this could happen one day. That she’d move on from writing NSYNC fan e-zines and starting writing a food blog that would lead her to filming a TV show with Joey. I still can’t believe it did.
There were parts of the day I remember so clearly – our conversations and his funny quirks, his movie quoting and his smile – but so much of it flew by, especially the cooking part. I probably said a lot of silly things. Honestly I don’t even remember. But looking forward to seeing how MFRR’s amazing crew pieces it all together.
I made some awesome breakfast recipes on the show which I can’t wait to share afterwards – My Grandma’s Jewish coffee cake, corn and blueberry waffles, whiskey slush mimosas, and antipasti breakfast pizzas. And because this show is about family and I couldn’t have done any of this – from the NSYNC e-zines days to our holiday feasts to my life in food today – without them, my family was part of this episode too. I’m SO glad they were. After all, Joey was a big part of their lives too.
Back to dreams coming true. They did in so many ways. For NSYNC, for Joey, for my family, for my passions, for my life. Thanks Joey.
Can’t wait to see the episode! AHHHHH (still can’t believe it!)