I am a self-declared pasta junkie (make that Italian food junkie), but have tendency to forget all about it during the warmer weather months. I often delegate these coveted carbs to fall and winter, when I am craving a hearty lasagna or a rich bolognese. I recently had an Aha! moment when I realized that fresh summer vegetables are just begging to be paired with pastas of all kinds—and not just in the obvious pasta salad. I know I am probably the last person to think of this, but surely better late than never.
I spent last week on the coast of Northern California, splitting the time between Marin County north of San Francisco, and Big Sur to the south. We drove north to south in the middle of the week, through golden hills and irrigated rows of green. Suddenly, with fields all around, I sniffed. Had I forgot to wash my hands after last night's garlicky pasta dinner? No — even that wouldn't give off this garlic pungence, this scent of a thousand garlic cloves minced and oily. Welcome to Gilroy, California, the capital of garlic. Here, in honor of Gilroy, for all you garlic-lovers, is a pasta salad with not one, not two, but three whole heads of garlic.
Pasta salad can mean a lot of things to a lot of people; down South, we've certainly made "macaroni salad" our own. Heirloom recipes sometimes include onions, celery, hard boiled eggs, pickles, or sweet relish, and you can always count on a heaping dollop of, but what else? Mayonnaise, of course!
What is a summer picnic without its side salads? This one is particularly well-suited to the potluck table. The bright green pasta beckons from across the lawn, and the pungent flavors of olives and crumbly feta make an irresistible companion to grilled chicken and grilled fish. Yup, this salad is destined for picnic glory.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara: when it's good, it can make your eyes roll back in your head with pleasure. It lurks there, beckoning, batting its eyelashes on Italian menus. When you don't order it, you usually end up wishing you had.
Do you ever make it at home? Seems easy enough, right? It's basically just bacon, eggs, and pasta. But like most things with few ingredients, there is a technique that binds all the magic together and if you don't have really great ingredients and a grasp of a few key pieces of technique, you'll be let down — possibly with scrambled eggs on your pasta.
To help you avoid this bummer and give you the opportunity to experience a classic in its greatest form, I spoke to several ace chefs and got the scoop on how to make really authentic spaghetti alla carbonara.
Q: Does anyone have tricks for mixing ingredients into pasta? In restaurants the ingredients seem to be so well mixed, but when I make pastas at home, all of the good stuff clumps together or sinks to the bottom. Any mixing tricks?
My favorite appetizers are simple affairs: easy to make, easy to eat. These elegant little cucumber cups fit the bill quite nicely, with the added bonus of making it appear as though they were much more difficult to make than they were. Paired with a gin & tonic, these are a total dinner party win.
Ramps: Those tender wild onions, shot with pink and flopping over every table at the spring farmers' markets. They are a symbol of spring cooking — but what do you do with them? I often pass them by, glad for their symbolic welcome to spring, but happier with heartier leeks and onions. Well, this spring I decided to really open my arms to ramps — and I remembered that the simplest ways are often the best. Here's perhaps the easiest, tastiest way to enjoy ramps: Spaghetti pan-fried until golden with tender ramps and fragrant mint.
Excited for spring but still waiting for beautiful produce to show up at the farmers' market? Try this bridge between seasons - a creamy yet light pasta dish filled with roasted veggies and a balsamic sauce.
Q: For a friend's upcoming birthday I bought her a bottle of white truffle oil, something she's been dying to try but hesitant to splurge on. I'd like to get her some ingredients to go with the oil. How do you guys recommend showcasing truffle oil, especially for a truffle oil virgin?