Four greens pasta sauce

Wanting some sort of variation on this green vegetable pasta sauce, I ended up with zucchini, broccoli, parsley and chives as my greens. This was a strictly vegetarian version with white wine. I also wanted the broccoli to be overcooked. Love the way Chinese dishes make almost raw broccoli work, but those aside I think it sucks if it’s underdone.

As it happened, we were in Leiden last week and I tried one of the top rated cafes where, as a change from soup and sandwiches (so often the offerings there) I had their pasta dish. At the time of writing, Bistro Noroc is rated #3 on Trip Advisor of all restaurants in Leiden. It is tiny and therefore has nothing like a proper kitchen. Food is kept very simple. The pasta included pesto, sun dried tomatoes and other bits and pieces. For me the zucchini which featured, was undercooked in large pieces which were hard to cut through and too big to want whole in one bite. It made me come back thinking next time I put it in a pasta sauce I’m going to cook it ’til it’s given in.

The advantage of over-cooking such a sauce is that the vegetables take on the taste of the sauce’s liquid, white wine and olive oil in this case. But you can have your cake and eat it. Overcook these, then add parsley near the end, just to wilt. And snip the chives onto the top when serving. Toasted pine nuts went in this too.

I suppose in general that using four greens rather than one for such a sauce gives more balance to your food consumption. And it’s a good way of using up bits you might have sitting about the crisper.

 

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Pea and spinach pesto

Ingredients for two

  • 100g+ peas, weight after podding
  • 100g+ spinach, thoroughly washed, chopped and stemmed
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 chillies, washed and chopped – red gives a nice fleck through the green sauce
  • several generous slugs of dry white wine
  • ghee/butter/oil 1 tblesp
  • 1 tblesp of pistachios and 1 tblesp pine nuts, both toasted

Method

While the pasta is cooking:

In a saucepan heat the ghee and gently fry the shallots, garlic and chilli. Add the wine and turn heat to high. After it has bubbled vigorously away for a bit and reduced, add the peas, cover with a lid and bring the heat to a simmer. Add the spinach when the peas are close to cooked.

Use a stick blender to puree the mixture, including the nuts. When the pasta is cooked, add a few spoons of the cooking water to the sauce. Mix in the pasta.

Serve.

Notes

I can’t see that parmesan cheese would add to this, we loved it without. Salt and pepper to taste – if the pistachios are salted, be light on adding it.

A relatively healthy pesto-ish sauce. Little oil compared with standard pesto and no cheese.

The peas stand out, it is their dish. I had good fresh peas from the market, but presumably frozen peas would do just as well. I didn’t weight the peas or the spinach so I’m guessing on the weights I used.

Olive and bacon pasta sauce

I don’t know if that’s the right way to put the emphasis on this dish. I wanted something that included a good variety of ingredients (balanced diet) that somehow fit together. Ie not the kitchen sink pasta sauce.

Ingredients for two

  • half a dozen green olives, take the stone out and sliver
  • a shallot, peeled and slivered/finely diced
  • a couple of slices of bacon – not too much, so it depends on your bacon, chopped
  • garlic, one clove peeled and finely chopped
  • a couple of fresh chillies sliced
  • tomatoes seeded and chopped or slivered. I use about 20 cherry tomatoes.
  • olive oil
  • parsley, maybe half a bunch, stripped (do something else with the stalks) and chopped
  • lemon juice, maybe half a lemon
  • grated parmesan for serving

Method

While the pasta is doing its thing:

Take the fat/rind off the bacon and fry it. When rendered of its fat, eat the crunchy remnants (otherwise your dish may fail) and add the bacon to the fat in the pan. You may want to add some olive oil to taste, it depends on how fatty your bacon is. I use lard fumé on account of being in French parts and that has a very high fat to meat content, as the name suggests. Therefore I use maybe a tblesp of olive oil at most. Once I’ve added the olive oil, I don’t cook on high heat as olive oil seems to prefer it that way.

Add the shallot, garlic, chilli, fry and stir on low heat. When the shallot has softened add the tomatoes. This can all sit on low heat, you don’t want the tomatoes to cook, just warm through. Add parsley at the right moment to give it time to wilt. Put in the lemon juice just before the cooked and drained pasta which you stir through the sauce.

 Comments

Everything rides on the quality of ingredients. As far as tomatoes go, you might be lucky enough to grow your own. Here in Geneva I rarely find any tomatoes that make me truly happy. There is no concept of traditional varieties that I can see. So, I have a kitchen that doubles up as a tomato preparing zone. I have several containers of them which are staggered in terms of when they were bought. They need a couple of weeks before they are really nice to eat, so you do have to think ahead. After that long they will be relatively juicy and ripe, squishy even. Which is about how they need to be for a good eating experience.

 

 

Spaghetti with asparagus….

One of my staple sauces for spaghetti has long been the bacon/spinach/pinenuts concoction. Today we bought asparagus at the market and I have to say it is actually an improvement on an already fine dish.

Ingredients

  • asparagus, stems snapped, tops left whole and the nice part of the stem chopped into a few pieces and then into quarters longwise, if they are thin stems.
  • garlic, finely chopped
  • pine nuts toasted in a frying pan and not burnt (wish I’d remembered that today)
  • bacon or lard fumé if you are in some part of the world that doesn’t do bacon.
  • olive oil for cooking
  • best olive oil for serving
  • parmesan

Method

While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the bacon or equivalent (pancetta is okay too) in olive oil, add the garlic and then the asparagus. You want all this to cook on a really gentle heat, maybe even off heat some of the time. When the spaghetti is boiled, drain and mix it thoroughly into the sauce, add the pine nuts.

Serve with black pepper ground at the table and parmesan. I found this a beautifully sweet dish, which perhaps did not even need cheese. We did add best olive oil at the table.

 

 

 

Risotto with tuna and parsley

When you live in Geneva, you can’t have too many variations on Things to Do with Tuna, on account of how it’s probably going to be the main non-veg ingredient you can afford. I’m amazed at how well red wine worked in this, we are so used to ‘fish = white’. I will never be able to replicate this exactly as my red wine right now is an amalgam of various bottles people haven’t quite finished lately, including sparkling shiraz and cab sav.

Ingredients

  • Risotto rice
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Chicken stock
  • Parsley
  • Chilli
  • Tinned tuna
  • Red wine

Method

While the stock is brought up to a simmer: gently fry the shallot and garlic in the olive oil. Add the rice and coat well with the oil. Add red wine – for two people I made that several generous slugs – and raise heat to burn off. Break up the tuna in the pan at the same time. Pour in the juice of the tuna if there’s any left in the tin and quite a bit of the stock. Leave at a fairly vigorous simmer. Start stirring and keeping an eye on it after five minutes (maybe more, I didn’t time it). Add lots of parsley, chopped, and the chilli. When it seems like it’s about done, stir in the butter.

That’s about it. Sorry it isn’t the traditional hover over it the the entire time earnestly stirring, but I find reading a book during that period has no damning effect on the risotto and it’s more fun.

Tomatoes, basil, stracciatella di bufala

My first homegrown tomatoes are better than they look, a little pale and regular for me to trust them on sight. The type is Rouge de Marmande.

Perfect with white sourdough, fresh or toasted, butter, and, on top of slices of tomatoes, a little good quality salt. That’s often been breakfast lately.

And something like this on pasta: heat best olive oil and add finely chopped fresh garlic and some tomato, sliced/chopped according to the type of pasta cooking. Basil from the garden – we’ve got some at the moment – a little chilli finely chopped, some parsley….all as you have convenient or to taste. I don’t cook any of this, but I heat it gently. Stir in stracciatella di bufala or burrata and then mix in the drained pasta.

That’s it. I think it should be a very mild, almost sweet dish, but you can add freshly ground pepper and/or parmesan if you want. Sometimes I start by frying a finely chopped shallot and then after adding the garlic and chilli, turning the heat up high to burn off perhaps half a cup of white wine or rose. It shouldn’t be a piping hot dish either. Warm – luke warm, maybe – is about right.

If you live in Adelaide, getting good tomatoes from the Wayville market (if not other places) is easy. But growing your own seems to be quite easy…unless beginners’ luck has struck again.

Herbs and greens pasta sauce

Ingredients for two

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • one shallot chopped
  • two cloves garlic chopped
  • a couple of good slugs of dry white wine
  • a good sized zucchini chopped
  • a couple of tablespoons pine nuts dry roasted to a light brown
  • flat leafed parsley, perhaps one cup of leaves
  • maybe half a cup or more of pouring cream
  • chopped green rounds from spring onions
  • chopped chives, maybe half a bunch
  • parmesan grated for the table

Method

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan fry the shallots and garlic in the butter until softened. Add the wine and boil until the alcohol is burned off. Add the zucchini and cook at a lively pace, saucepan covered, until the zucchini is soft. Add the cream, pine nuts and parsley. Puree. I continued to add parsley until there was a noticeable green fleck to the sauce.

Keep warm on a very low temperature, season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, stir in the chives and spring onion rounds leaving a handful for decoration. Put drained spaghetti in bowls, add the sauce, mix thoroughly and then sprinkle the green rounds on top.

Parmesan and more pepper are required at the table.

I think when I try this again I will use at least double the zucchini and less cream. I would also like to try vodka rather than the wine, which I thought was a bit sweet. Not clear to me that the pine nuts added to this.