13 September 2010

Easy cooking 101

One of my staple weeknight dinners is plain old pasta with broccoli.  Growing up, dinner was not dinner without a pasta course and I can eat pasta in some form or another almost every night.  My workdays tend to be very long so when I come home, if I'm going to avoid the takeout or delivery trap, I need something quick and easy.

Tonight I used DeCecco spinach pasta and I usually alternate between that and whole wheat pasta but you can use whatever type and shape you like.  Just cook it up in in salted water.  When you get to about cooking time minus 3 minutes, throw the broccoli in with the pasta.  Cook for 2 more minutes and then drain but reserve some of the cooking water. 

In the same pot turn the heat to low to medium and saute some garlic and red pepper flakes.  After about 1-2 minutes add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water (at this point the heat should be at about medium).  Add the pasta and broccoli and saute for a few minutes adding some grated cheese.  I like pecorino romano but you could also use parmigiano reggiano if you prefer.   Finish with a swirl or two of really good olive oil and that's it.

Tonight I had the pasta with a simple salad of red leaf lettuce, cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market.  I made a basic Dijon mustard, red wine vinaigrette. 

The key to simple, easy cooking is good ingredients.  Get the freshest ingredients that are available and use the best quality ingredients you can find and afford.  One key ingredient for me is really good olive oil.  I have two favorites.

The oil above on the right is Lungarotti's extra virgin olive oil and I buy it at Williams Sonoma.  It's not cheap; I think it's about $44 per bottle but it's really fruity and flavorful which makes it perfect for making salad dressings and finishing off simple pastas like the one I had tonight.  If you don't want to spend that much, Aria's extra virgin olive oil from Crete is a close second and much less expensive.  I saw a 3 litre can at South End Formaggio recently and it was $48.

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