While between trips and traveling, I’ve been able to get back to a semi-normal routine the last two weeks. That means getting back to the farmer’s market on Sundays, stocking my fridge, and cooking again. It’s great to feel some sense of normalcy while in the kitchen. Like this is my thing. This is my home.
This Sunday pasta is basically just me being super stoked about everything new and green at the market – spinach, ramps, asparagus – and putting it together. Oh and treating myself to $10 burrata. Roasting the asparagus adds a deeper flavor to the light pasta. The creamy burrata pulls the whole dish together. I basically want to live inside this pasta when it’s spring.
Spring Cappellini with Ramps, Roasted Asparagus, Spinach, Burrata
Preheat oven to 400°. On a baking sheet, toss asparagus and garlic cloves with olive oil and sea salt. Roast for 25 min. Meanwhile, sauté ramp bulbs in lots of olive oil and butter. Add in ramp leaves and let wilt down. Add in a bunch of fresh spinach and let cook down. Remove asparagus and garlic from oven, chop, and stir into the ramps and spinach. Grate in fresh parm. Cook pasta and toss with veggies. Stir in fresh, creamy, burrata.
Are we over this snow yet? Another day at home…bundled up in a fuzzy blanket, sipping coffee, working, as the snow falls sideways. It’s nice actually, to have time to myself. Power through emails, no distractions, wearing the comfiest pajamas all day long. A break from trying to impress and entertain constantly. So maybe for one last time, I’m thankful for the snow. Last one though!
One other snow day perk, a craving (maybe more so than usual) for a rich and comforting pasta. Hopefully your fridge is stocked with a few simple ingredients – spinach, cauliflower, cheese – because you’ll want to crawl into this dish and hibernate. Mmmm. My no-recipe version below…
Creamy, Cheesy Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach
Chop cauliflower in small bite-sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 20-30 minutes at 400°. Meanwhile, sauté chopped onions and garlic in butter and olive oil for a while until onions have softened. Add a whole bag of baby spinach and stir as it wilts. Add some heavy cream and and a spoonful of mascarpone into the sauce. Toss in roasted cauliflower and cooked pasta. Serve with fresh grated parm and a dollop of fresh ricotta.
I made this pasta for a boy but I ate it alone. More for me. I made it spicy cause he likes it spicy. But turns out I like spicy too now. Sometimes, well most of the time, things don’t work out the way you plan them out in your head. But other times, like in the case of this pasta sauce, they turn out even better. It could be the incredible pork belly. It could be the anticipation of sauce bubbling on the stove for hours…letting my favorite smells (garlic, onion, mmmm) fill my entire apartment. It could be that because the boy didn’t show, I got to eat this in sweatpants while watching Pretty in Pink and sending silly snaps to my girlfriends. Clearly I won this one.
I definitely improvised with this one, but you can too. Here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:
Pasta With Spicy Slow-Roasted Pork Belly Sauce
In a heavy pot, sauté minced onion, shredded carrot, a big pinch of red pepper flakes and garlic with some butter and olive oil. Add a large can (or more) of crushed tomato and bring to a simmer. Add cooked pork belly. (I got mine from Chef Dimitri at Cava Mezze, but you can easily make your own too. I like this 3-step recipe.) You don’t need a lot. I used about a half a cup. Shred in sauce. Simmer for as long as you can stand it…an hour at least. Serve with pasta (homemade if you’re feeling ambitious) and fresh grated parm.
It’s getting chilly out there. (No snow in DC yet though…I’m a little jealous New York.) And while I make pasta almost every week, no matter the season, now I want mine extra creamy and rich. (Like the fusilli at Red Hen or cacio e pepe at Rose’s Luxury…mmm.) Soon the farmer’s markets will start shrinking too. Luckily I know I’ll always be able to find bundles of fresh spinach and local cheese. Combine them with some classic elbows and indulge with some cream, and you’ve got pure comfort food. Sure they’re decadent ingredients, but at least you’ll know them all and where they’re from. Plus, this is my favorite way to load up on my greens!
Sunday pasta is supposed to be a relaxing activity. Not a lot of thought. A way to unwind before the week ramps up. (A glass of wine usually helps with this too.) So here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:
Spinach Mac and Cheese
Put on a pot of water for pasta. In a large pan, melt some butter and olive oil. Add some chopped garlic. Chop the ends off fresh spinach leaves and add to the pan. Stir until spinach is cooked down. Season with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Meanwhile, cook elbow pasta. Add some heavy cream to spinach. (Don’t be shy here.) Liberally grate cheddar and parmesan cheese into sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce. Continue to add cheese until you just can’t wait to dig in.
On Sundays I make pasta. It’s not overly planned or anything, but over time I realized this was become a routine. It makes sense. After a weekend of moving all around the city and most likely eating out a lot, this is my time to regroup and unwind. I always have a bunch of veggies from my CSA and and I visited the farmer’s market earlier in the day for more provisions. Pasta is just my go to. It’s comforting and easy. I know it’s the perfect base for experimenting with any of those veggies or new ingredients. Carbs schmarbs. The kitchen calls.
This pasta celebrates the seasons changing. The corn is still so fresh and summery. Tomato season is almost over, so while I can, I like to roast them for some fall-flavor. Ricotta from Blue Ridge Dairy is so creamy and light. I love knowing about where these ingredients come from and that they all end up working together to create something new and exciting to devour.
I take my time and sip wine while cooking. Between steps, I bob in and out of the kitchen, cleaning a little and getting ready for the week. Coming back to the stove slows me down. Maybe I’m crazy that making a big mess is a way to wind down but I love it. It fuels me. It’s my time. And even though I always cook enough for small dinner party, usually I’m pretty happy that it’s just me. Sunday nights with me and my pasta.
As you’ve read before, I don’t really do recipes for pasta. Because I never measure anything out really I think with repetition, you’ll be able to come up with something great yourself too. Here’s my non-recipe recipe:
Pasta with Roasted Tomato, Corn, Spinach and Ricotta
Preheat oven to 300° and throw a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. On a baking sheet, toss golden cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until soft about an hour or you’ve run out of patience. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil and butter in a pan on the stove. Cut corn off the cob and toss in the pan. Cook for a while until soft. Toss in some fresh spinach (cause you have it and you should eat something green) and cook down. Now’s about the time you should probably cook your pasta. I typically use cappellini, but I think bowties would be nice with this too. Remove tomatoes from the oven and pour into the pan, juices and all. I removed the whole garlic, chopped, and returned it to the pan. Toss with pasta and fresh ricotta. Best eaten on the couch watching West Wing season 4.