Spaghetti with Clams

IMG_4050Pasta is one of my go to comfort foods. Whenever I’ve had a long or stressful day, a steaming bowl of cheesy noodles makes me feel better. Pasta is also a blank canvas dish and can be jazzed up with any ingredients that are lying around the kitchen. Everything from eggs and bacon to zucchini and pesto to cherry tomatoes and herbs make a delicious coating for pasta.

Recently I’ve been into putting together a simple variation of linguini con vongole. This classic Italian dish normally has fresh succulent clams and linguini, but I make a pantry version with canned clams and whatever pasta I have on hand (usually spaghetti). I add anchovies because I think it gives the sauce a wonderful depth of flavor. Don’t be afraid of them! I promise you can’t taste them at all.

Spaghetti with Clams

2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 servings spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
4 small cloves garlic, minced
6-8 (about 1 heaping tablespoon) anchovy fillets (packed in oil), minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon milk or cream, optional
1 6.5 ounce can chopped clams in clam juice
1/2 heaping cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, basil)
1 tablespoon cold butter

  1. Bring a large pot of water, seasoned with 2 teaspoons of salt, to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook one minute less than instructed on the outside of the pasta package. Do not drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes until soft and fragrant.
  4. Add the anchovies and garlic and cook, breaking the anchovies into pieces for 4-5 minutes. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Take care not to brown the garlic. You want all the flavors to meld and get slightly caramelized. When the garlic and anchovies are just starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, deglaze by pouring in the wine.
  5. Raise the heat and simmer, for 3-4 minutes until the wine is almost all evaporated. Stir in the milk or cream if using.
  6. When the pasta is almost ready, add the clams and their juices to the pan with the wine and anchovies. Stir everything to combine and simmer for another 2 minutes to thicken the sauce.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the clam wine mixture. Add a little bit of cooking water to thin out the sauce, if necessary.
  8. Add the cheese, herbs, and cold butter. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss everything to combine the pasta with the clams and coat the pasta in the sauce.
  9. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and finely grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 2.

IMG_4052

Roasted Red Pepper and Turkey Sandwiches

IMG_1453Sometimes you need a super easy dish that feeds a crowd and is delicious. When that is the case, look no further than this roasted red pepper and turkey sandwich recipe. I created it for my friend’s bridal shower, but it’s perfect for a picnic or a day at the lake. You can slice it into 1-inch, bite-sized squares like I did for the party or into larger pieces that can feed a smaller group of four to six people. I love sandwich recipes like this that can be made in advance and on an entire loaf of bread. I used store bought pesto and roasted red peppers from a jar, but by all means if you have time, make pesto and roast your own peppers. It can only enhance the flavors of this tasty sandwich.

Roasted Red Pepper and Turkey Sandwiches

1 slab/loaf focaccia
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cups store bought pesto
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry, sliced into 1-inch strips
12 thin slices herb-crusted turkey breast
8 slices provolone cheese
15-20 fresh basil leaves

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Carefully slice the focaccia in half lengthwise. You don’t want the sandwich to be too bready, so using your fingers gently remove chunks of bread from the inside of both the top and the bottom of the bread. Reserve for another use.
  3. Broil the cut side of the focaccia until it’s toasted and lightly golden brown. Transfer to a work surface and let cool for a minute.
  4. While the focaccia broils, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and sriracha in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread the mixture on the top half of the toasted focaccia.
  6. Spread the bottom half of the focaccia with the pesto, making sure that the entire surface is covered in pesto.
  7. Cover the pesto with the roasted red pepper strips, pressing them into the bread and evenly covering the entire slab of focaccia.
  8. Layer the turkey over the roasted red peppers, overlapping slices as necessary. Cover with the cheese slices making sure that it evenly covers the entire slab of focaccia. You want each bite to have pesto, pepper, turkey, and provolone in it!
  9. Cover the provolone with an even layer of fresh basil leaves. Season the entire sandwich generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Close the sandwich by covering the basil with the top half of the focaccia that is slathered with the mayonnaise sriracha mixture.
  10. Wrap the entire sandwich in foil or plastic wrap and place in the fridge with a can of tomatoes (or other heavy object) on top of it for a few hours and up to overnight.
  11. Unwrap and if serving as an appetizer, slice into 1-inch squares and spear each one with a toothpick. Otherwise slice into 4 or 6 sandwiches. Serve immediately.

Serves 10-12 as an appetizer and 4-6 as a lunch sandwich.
IMG_1455

Herb Baked Eggs

IMG_3682When I need to eat something, but am feeling lazy or am super busy, I make baked eggs. They are so easy to make! All you have to do is crack an egg into a ramekin, or other ovenproof dish, and bake until the egg is cooked.

This is a basic technique that can be expanded upon in infinite ways. Sometimes I make a nest of vegetables at the bottom before adding in the egg. Other times, I’ll add meat or a sauce to make the dish more substantial. However, the classic variation that I assemble the most often is the one seen here. It’s simply eggs topped with a little cream, herbs, and cheese. Use whatever herbs and cheese you have on hand.

The hardest thing about baked eggs is knowing when they are cooked. It takes practice and a keen understanding of your oven’s temperature. The eggs will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. Also, don’t use a dish that is too wide — essentially a 7-ounce ramekin is best. The ideal cook time for my oven is 12 minutes, but it might be different for your oven. Practice makes perfect.

IMG_3677Herb Baked Eggs

2 tablespoons basil, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
4 tablespoons cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast, optional for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the herbs with the cheese.
  3. Rub the inside of 4 ramekins with 1 tablespoon of butter each. Make sure to coat the entire inside of the ramekin.
  4. Carefully, to not break the yolk, crack an egg into each of the ramekins.
  5. Pour 1 tablespoon of cream over each of the eggs.
  6. Divide the herb and cheese mixture evenly over the top of the eggs. Season each egg generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the whites are just set, but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the oven and transfer the ramekins to four plates. Enjoy with toast, if desired.

Serves 4.

IMG_3722

Pasta With Cherry Tomato Sauce

IMG_3673It’s always a wonderful surprise when I throw together something at the last minute and it ends up being one of my new favorite dishes — that is the case with this simple pasta recipe. You can’t go wrong with the combination of tomatoes, basil, and cheese. However, it’s still a little too early in the year for a raw tomato sauce, so I made a very light pasta sauce with sautéed and slightly crushed cherry tomatoes.

Canned tomatoes could work, but the fresh cherries taste so sweetly delicious when cooked down into a velvety sauce. Since I had parmesan and pecorino in my fridge, I tossed them both into the sauce for more depth of flavor. The parmesan is more nutty than the pecorino, which is more salty than the parmesan. If you don’t have both, don’t worry, just use one or the other. This dish comes together quickly making it perfect for a vegetarian weeknight meal.

Pasta With Cherry Tomato Sauce

1 large handful (or 2 servings) of spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
2/3 pint of cherry tomatoes, larger tomatoes sliced into quarters, smaller tomatoes sliced in half
1/4 cup white wine
1 heaping tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 heaping tablespoons chopped basil

  1. Bring a large pot of water, seasoned heavily with salt, to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook one minute less than instructed on the outside of the pasta package. Do not drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on how hot you prefer things, add 2-3 pinches of red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and press down on them with a wooden spoon to crush a little and release their juices. Cook stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are soft and tender and a thick sauce starts to form, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and the sun-dried tomatoes, using the wine to scrape up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Stir everything to combine well and cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta to the pan with the tomatoes. Scoop 1/4 cup of the cooking water from the pasta pot and add to the sauce. Add more water if necessary to thin out the sauce.
  6. Add the majority of the cheese and the basil and stir everything together until each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with the remaining cheese sprinkled over the top for garnish.

Serves 2.

IMG_3674