Friday, August 28, 2015

Busiati with Pesto Trapanese

 The tomato love continues -- Here's yet another way to use up some of those tomatoes ripening by the bushel in your garden. For those of you without your own vegetable gardens, get yourself to a farmer's market or roadside stand to buy some, because this recipe is not only delicious, but fast and easy to prepare. A food processor is all you need - no cooking required, except for dropping the pasta into boiling water (and when Italians are ready to boil the pasta, they say "butta la pasta" which literally means "throw the pasta").
In this case, I used busiati, a long, twisty, corkscrew-like pasta, but if you can't find it, use fusilli.

Busiati is the traditional pasta shape that's used with pesto Trapanese, a sauce that hails from Trapani, a city on the western coast of Sicily. The origins of the dish are unclear. Some say it was inspired by pesto Genovese, from Ligurian sailors who were stopping off at Trapani's port. Others claim it's derived from Liguria's agliata, a pasta dish using only olive oil, garlic, walnuts and tomatoes.
Whatever its origin, it's now become part of my summertime repertoire when tomatoes are plentiful and at their peak.
Here are the cast of characters for this dish: cherry tomatoes (you can use plum or heirloom or any type, really), extra virgin olive oil, whole almonds, garlic, salt, basil, and red hot pepper flakes. I used parmesan cheese but you could also use pecorino cheese.
Keep some of that hot pasta water handy in case you want to thin out the sauce.
My favorite way to eat this dish is hot, although it tastes good lukewarm or cold too.
Everything gets thrown into a blender and whirred until it's creamy. It may not be the most attractive looking pesto, but it sure tastes great.

The sauce is also delicious on broiled or baked chicken or fish, or vegetables, or even as a spread on sandwiches.
But first try it on pasta. I'll bet it becomes one of your favorite summer meals.

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to connect with me on Facebook, here for my Pinterest page, and here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me this Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.

Pesto Trapanese
From Lidia's Italy
printable recipe here
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 leaves fresh basil
⅓ cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated 

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry. 

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived. 

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you're going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.) 

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl. 

Cook the pasta al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls. 

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Wondering what to do with all those luscious tomatoes ripening in your garden right now? There are only so many tomato salads one can eat in a day. After making bruschetta, pizza, gazpacho and tomato sauce (and popping a few tomatoes whole into plastic bags for the freezer), I needed another idea.
Thankfully, I found it on Domenica Marchetti's blog, Domenica Cooks. As soon as she posted this classic Roman recipe, it struck a note of nostalgia and hit one degree of separation. My late friend Clo, who was a native of Rome, (and who was also friends with Domenica's mom) used to make these each summer. Although I've made tomatoes stuffed with quinoa, it was time for me to follow Domenica's lead (and bring back memories of Clo) and stuff tomatoes with rice.
They are delicious hot, warm, lukewarm or cold - perfect to take on a picnic or a lunchbox.
Start by hollowing out the tomatoes - cut a rim with a small paring knife around the circumference of the tomato. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Place the pulp into a colander and press out the juices as much as possible (or until you get tired).
Pour those juices into the cooked rice and mix with the herbs and cheeses.
Place a little oil on the bottom of the baking pan, then spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover the tops with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, or until the top is nicely browned.

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Facebook and Instagram. Click here to connect with me on Facebook and  here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me on Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes
Adapted from Domenica Marchetti's "Pomodori Ripieni"
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ripe round medium tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked Arborio or long-grain rice (I used arborio)
  • 1 cup cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the bottom and sides of a baking dish just large enough to fit the tomatoes with olive oil. 
Boil the arborio rice in an uncovered pan on medium heat with the water, about 12 minutes. I like to slightly undercook it since it will cook further in the oven once inside the tomatoes. Nearly all the water should be absorbed by that time. Dump into a bowl.
Slice the top off each tomato. Set a colander over a bowl and scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick. I used a small paring knife and spoon.  Just be sure not to pierce through the tomato. Set the tomatoes aside; press the pulp and seeds to extract as much tomato juice as possible into the bowl. Discard the solids that remain in the colander.
Combine the cooked rice with the juices from the tomatoes. Stir in the mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses, along with the parsley, basil, and oregano. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and mix everything together well. 
 Spoon the rice mixture into each tomato, filling to the top without overstuffing. Sprinkle a little extra shredded mozzarella on top. 
Bake uncovered for 35-40  minutes;  Remove from the oven and let cool until warm or at room temperature. Scatter a few basil leaves over the top and serve. (Leftovers are delicious straight from the fridge.)

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Grilled Shrimp with Red Rice Salad

Grilling season is in full swing, but before you know it, summer will be over and we'll all move on to heartier soups and stews. But while the weather's still warm and friends stop by for a barbecue, here's a recipe to try before the season's over:
 shrimp bathed in a herby, garlicky marinade, then threaded onto skewers and grilled over hot coals.

Try serving the shrimp over a rice salad, as I did, using a combination of red rice and white rice, plus a bunch of vegetables. You don't have to be dogmatic about the recipe - just use whatever you have on hand or what you like. At this time of year, backyard vegetable gardens and farmers' markets are bursting with fresh produce, so it's easy to come up with flavorful combinations.
I never cooked with red rice until I spotted it recently at a local market. It's commonly grown in the Himalayan mountains, Southern Tibet, Bhutan, Southern India and more recently, the Camargue region of Southern France. I learned that it's a culinary and nutritional superstar, rich in minerals like potassium and magnesium. It's also a good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates. As if that weren't enough, it's loaded with antioxidants too, similar to what's found in deep purple or reddish fruits and vegetables.
For this cold rice salad, I was afraid if I used red rice only, it might end up looking like dog food, so I added in some white rice to make it a little more visually appealing. I added lots of vegetables too, and honestly, with the shrimp skewers covering the top, the salad wasn't even visible at first. I used a simple dressing of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice, an idea from my buddy, Marie of Proud Italian Cook.
You can make the salad a day or even two ahead of time, freeing you up the day of your party or picnic. The shrimp can also be served cold, although I like them best when they're hot off the grill. 

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Facebook and Instagram. Click here to connect with me on Facebook and  here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me on Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.

Grilled Shrimp

for the marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced (the more the better)
minced fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano, thyme and basil)
a few shakes of red hot pepper flakes
salt, pepper

2 pounds raw shrimp (I like to buy wild shrimp caught in the U.S.)

Mix all the above ingredients, except the shrimp. Clean the shrimp, removing the shells and cleaning out the central vein. Place the marinade and shrimp in a bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least two to three hours. Thread the shrimp on skewers and cook over a hot grill for about two minutes on each side. Alternately, preheat the broiler in your oven and cook for a couple of minutes.

Red Rice Salad

1 cup red rice
1 cup white long grain rice
5 cups water
3 carrots, cooked or raw, your choice, minced
1/2 cup minced green or red pepper
1 cup minced tomatoes, deseeded
4 scallions, chopped
2 ears of corn, raw or cooked, your choice, and cut from the cob
a large handful of minced herbs, your choice (I used parsley, thyme and oregano)
salt, pepper

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup lemon juice

Cook the rice in water. Let the rice cool, then add all the other ingredients, except the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and add to the rice, stirring it in thoroughly.  Taste and add more seasonings or more mayonnaise and lemon juice, according to your taste. Serve chilled with the shrimp skewers on top.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kale, Three Ways

Is there anyone out there who hasn't eaten kale? Who is still a kale hater? Let me help convert you.
In the last few years, kale seems to have become the poster child for healthy eating. I admit I was late jumping on the kale bandwagon, and the only kale I grow in my garden is the lacinato or Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale), which is called cavolo nero in Italian and is typically used in the Tuscan soup ribollita (recipe here). 
This dish of beans, sausage and kale is something I normally make with swiss chard or escarole, but I decided to try it with kale instead. While I still think Swiss chard has a sweeter taste, kale is perfect for this recipe since it stands up well to the longer cooking time required for the beans and it reheats without any loss of flavor. In fact, reheating only improves the taste.
I used these beans I bought from - fagioli del purgatorio - and loved them. These didn't need presoaking and maintained their shape even after reheating. They're native to Gradoli, a town in Lazio. The name "purgatory beans" dates back to the end of the 1600s, when they were boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, and eaten as part of a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday, called "pranzo del purgatorio."
Even though it's summer here, I've made this dish a couple of times because of all the kale growing in my garden. It freezes beautifully too, though, so make some for one of those cold winter nights when you don't want to cook.

I've used my kale in a couple of other ways this summer too. 
Maybe I'm the last person on this planet to try kale chips. I was inclined to dislike them, but everyone I served these too (and me too), thought they were delicious. They're really easy to make and they're a healthy snack alternative. I used a recipe from Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa.
Pull out the center rib from the kale, then spritz with some good olive oil, a shake of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
They're crinkly and taste kind of like parmesan cheese. Without the cheese, I'm not sure I'd be sold on kale chips. But this platter disappeared quickly.
The other kale dish that was a hit was this kale salad. You don't need a bonafide recipe. Just chop some raw kale, add some corn shaved off the kernels (I cooked the cob for about three minutes first ), then I chopped some carrots and parboiled the bits for a few minutes. I added some red onion, toasted hazelnuts and chopped shishito peppers from my garden, but you could use red peppers or any vegetable you like. Parmesan cheese shavings were tossed in too, then the whole thing was mixed with an easy-to-make dressing of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice - an idea I got from my buddy Marie, of Proud Italian Cook
It made a refreshing lunch and I didn't have to feel guilty about that piece of cake I ate following the salad.

Kale, Beans and Sausage

2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch of lacinato kale chopped (I used approximately eight cups, but you don't have to be exact)
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 cup dry fagioli del purgatorio beans (or another small, white bean, but you'll probably have to soak them ahead of time, unlike the fagioli del purgatorio beans)
2 cups water
1 parmesan cheese rind
herbs of your choosing - I used fresh parsley, thyme and oregano
salt, pepper to taste
hot red pepper flakes 
roasted red pepper or bits of chopped tomato (optional)

Remove the casings from the sausage and place in a saucepan, covered with water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the sausage and slice, but retain the water for later use. In another pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the kale to the pot and the water leftover from cooking the sausage. Let the kale cook down for about five minutes (with the lid on), then add the beans, the sausage, the water and the parmesan rind to the pot. Don't add the salt yet, or the beans will toughen, but DO add the pepper, the herbs and the red pepper flakes. I sometimes add a small amount of chopped tomato and/or roasted red peppers. Let everything simmer with the lid on for about one hour, or until the beans are tender. Keep checking and add more water if necessary. When everything is cooked, add the salt. If it's not "soupy" enough to your liking, add more water. 
It's great served with grilled bread that's been rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Cherry Almond Cake

I do love cake but it's been a while since I posted one here on Ciao Chow Linda. I've been feasting on summertime fruits and (sh!) an occasional ice cream when I've had the urge for something sweet. But after picking up a package of frozen cherries at Trader Joe's and simultaneously noticing a post from Stacey Snacks on a cake using frozen cherries, I knew I had to make this recipe. 
Make sure to pat the cherries dry before placing them in the batter. I used about 3/4 of the package, or 12 ounces. Use the remaining frozen cherries for a smoothie, as Stacey did.
If you can't find the frozen cherries, I'm sure the recipe works equally well with fresh cherries (pitted of course), or any other fruit. It's moist, has a tender crumb and a delicious almond flavor.
Sprinkle almonds and some sugar on top before baking. If you've got coarse sugar, it's more decorative than table sugar, but not crucial.
I used a springform pan, but the original recipe, from Martha Stewart, shows it baked in a pie pan. Either one works.
Give it a little dusting of powdered sugar, and enjoy. 

Cherry Almond Cake 
courtesy of Stacey Snacks by way of Martha Stewart
printable recipe here

8 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
12 oz. bag of defrosted frozen cherries (pat them dry)
sliced almonds for the top
sugar for the top

Cream the butter with the sugar, eggs, extract and sour cream.

Add in the flour, baking powder, salt & almond meal.

The mixture will be nice and fluffy and yellow.

Pour into a buttered 9" pie dish (I used a springform pan) and dot the top with the defrosted cherries. almonds and a tablespoon of sugar for the top.

Bake 40-45 minutes at 350F.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Flatbread Pizzas

Every time I 'm in the supermarket, I see new products -- and I often think to myself, "Why not try something new each week?" I never manage to follow through on that thought, but a few days ago, I couldn't resist the urge. I saw this package of flatbreads flavored with rosemary and olive oil and knew they'd make the perfect base for a lunch I was preparing for visiting family members.
The package contains six flatbreads, so I made two of each of the following, using veggies from my garden as inspiration. On top -- a base of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and herbs, topped with thinly sliced zucchini, zucchini blossoms and more mozzarella and basil; middle -- corn, tomatoes and shishito peppers, topped with mozzarella; bottom (and my favorite), caramelized onions, anchovies, olives and parmesan cheese, sprinkled with thyme (I left out the anchovies on one for those who don't eat anchovies {they don't know what they're missing}).
I followed instructions on the package, which said to heat the flatbreads in the oven for two minutes at 375 degrees before adding the toppings, then to bake another four minutes. I would recommend baking much longer, maybe doubling the time - both before and after adding the toppings - to crisp up the bottoms. Or use your grill and watch carefully so they don't burn.
I'm heading back to the store to buy several of these packages to store in the freezer. Everyone loved them and they were a snap to make. I got my family involved in assembling the flatbreads, making it a fun family activity. The hardest part was caramelizing the onions (it took an hour and a half), which I did the night before. Let your imagination run wild with all the possibilities of toppings. But don't use frozen corn or supermarket tomatoes. It's essential to use good quality ingredients since they'll be the star of the dish. 

Flatbread Pizzas - 
each recipe is enough for two flatbreads

Bake the flatbreads plain, in a 375 degree oven for four minutes; top with the following, then bake another six to eight minutes or until crispy on bottom, if that's how you like it. (Some people preferred the non-crispy bottoms)
Or place them on your outdoor grill, carefully keeping an eye on them so they don't burn.

1. Zucchini and Cheese - Mix 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Chop up a bunch of herbs (I used parsley, basil and thyme) and mix with the cheese. Spread on a flatbread that's been baked a few minutes. Then thinly slice some zucchini (I used a mandoline to slice but if you don't have one, just slice as thinly as you can.) Break up some zucchini blossoms and scatter them on the top, then sprinkle everything with grated mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
2. Corn and Tomatoes -  Boil two ears of corn for two minutes. Drain, let cool, then slice off "planks" of corn. Use cherry tomatoes, as I did, or thinly slice regular tomatoes. Layer the flatbread with the corn and tomatoes. Thinly slice shishito peppers (or whatever kind of peppers you have). Scatter them across the top, along with some mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.

3. Caramelized Onions, anchovies and olives - This is nearly the same as making a pissaladière, a Provençal pizza. I used two large sweet onions, sliced and sautéed in about 2 T. olive oil at slow to medium heat. It took an hour and a half to get the nice, rich brown caramelization. If you hurry the process, they're likely to burn or cook unevenly. Spread the onions over the flatbread, layer with slivers of anchovy, then slice some pitted green olives in half and place on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bits of fresh thyme.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Grilled Swordfish in Lemon Caper Cream Sauce

People sometimes ask me where I get my inspiration for the recipes on this blog and the answer is, it comes from various sources, like family recipes, meals I eat in restaurants, and from other food bloggers. In this case, it came from Roz, who writes a wonderful blog called "La Bella Vita Cucina". She lives in South Carolina, but has family in Emilia Romagna, the same region where my mother was born and where I still have relatives.
Swordfish is one of my favorite seafoods but it's frequently overcooked by home cooks. It doesn't take long before it's dried out and tasteless. Roz' instructions to grill it for two minutes on each side are spot on. The fish will be perfectly moist and tender. 
Roz' recipe calls for smearing olive oil over the swordfish, but I also brush on some soy sauce, grated garlic and minced thyme. Let it sit for a few minutes, then dredge it in the bread crumbs and grill.
Don't worry if some of the breadcrumbs fall off on the grill. You're bound to lose some, even if you grease the grates.
 The delicious lemon caper sauce covers up any spots that stuck to the grill, and  delivers such a flavor punch, you'll be tempted to lick the plate.
See more of what goes in Ciao Chow Linda's kitchen on my Instagram feed. Just click here to connect with me there: Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram 

And for all you last minute wanna-be travelers to Italy: There are still a couple of spots available in  the memoir writing retreat Kathryn Abajian and I are leading in September in dreamy Lake Como. You don't have to have any writing experience, just a desire to learn. Come write, eat, and meander through Varenna - one of the most beautiful places on earth. You'll be lodged here at Villa Monastero, with gorgeous views of the lake and mountains, and world-famous gardens to explore. For more info, click here, on "Italy In Other Words."

Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Caper Cream Sauce
From "La Bella Vita Cucina" 
printable recipe here
  • 8 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Swordfish Steaks, cut 1" thick
  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Italian-seasoned panko crumbs
  • Garnish: Fresh-cut sprigs of Italian parsley
  • Garnish: Sliced lemons
  • Creamy Lemon Caper Sauce:
  • 8 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ stick of high quality butter
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 medium-sized lemons
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1-½ cups minced fresh-cut Italian parsley
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh-cut oregano, finely chopped
  • ½ small jar of capers (if salted, rinse thoroughly)
  1. Drizzle each swordfish steak with olive oil and spread the oil evenly over each steak on all sides. (I also drizzled some soy sauce on top and spread some minced garlic and thyme over it all)
  2. Using a shallow mid-size bowl, pour in the Italian seasoned bread crumbs and panko crumbs.
  3. Place each oiled swordfish steak onto the bread crumbs and panko crumbsand then turn over, making sure that the steak is covered on all sides.
  4. Get the grill heated.
  5. Prepare the sauce:
  6. While grill is warming up, heat all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan.
  7. Place on a very low simmer to keep the sauce warm while grilling the swordfish steaks.
  8. Grill the steaks on a medium-low heat for 2 minutes on each side until the bread crumb coating is a nice gold-brown color.
  9. The thicker the steak, the longer the time necessary to cook through, keeping in mind that the steaks should not be cooked to the point of being dry, but rather they should be moist and tender inside.
  10. Pour a little bit (about a tablespoon) of the creamy lemon caper sauce on top of each steak.
  11. Garnish with sprigs of fresh-cut Italian parsley and slices of lemons.
  12. Pass the remainder of the sauce around to guests.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Penne Pasta With Mussels

Summertime's great not just for the fresh produce in farmer's markets, but for the abundant local seafood here in New Jersey -- including mussels that I love to serve with pasta in a red sauce. But this isn't just any pasta and this isn't just any red sauce. 
The tomatoes are from Italy and really do taste superior to the canned tomatoes grown in the U.S. They'll cost you more, but it's worth it. The ones I used were flavorful pomodorini from the Campania region, labeled as cherry tomatoes, but I'd say they are slightly larger than cherry tomatoes. You can buy them online from
And don't expect to pair your glorious tomato sauce with insipid, limp pasta. Get something that has some bite to it and really tastes like wheat. In this case, I cooked with pasta from Benedetto Cavalieri, an artisanal pasta company that began more than 100 years ago in Puglia, Italy.
I met the fourth generation pasta maker in the family - Andrea - at New York City's Fancy Food Show last month, and he proudly described the methods that are used in the production of their durum semolina pasta.
The pasta is made using what's called the "delicate method" which means kneading the dough at cold temperatures, pressing it slowly through molds made of bronze alloys and drying it at low temperature. "This is very, very important," he said, "Because with the delicate method we can preserve the typical taste of the wheat." 
The pasta really does hold up well to an assertive sauce and has a fine, toothsome bite and distinctive wheat flavor.
Benedetto Cavalieri pastas can be purchased at Sur La Table or other fine food stores, as well as through, among other places.

Start out by sautéing the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened, then add the jar of tomatoes, breaking them up slightly with a wooden spoon.
Add the white wine and seasonings and let simmer on low to medium heat for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Meanwhile, steam the mussels in another pot and remove them from the pot as soon as they start to open. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove most of them from their shells, leaving some still in the shell to decorate the top of the pasta bowl. Save the liquid the mussels cooked in, then strain it and use put some of that into the tomato sauce. When the sauce has thickened to the proper consistency, (and while the pasta is cooking), add the mussels you removed from the shells to the tomato sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Drain the pasta, then add it to the pot with the sauce and stir to blend the flavors.
Serve in warmed bowls or plates.

Penne Pasta with Mussels

1 lb. pasta (preferably Benedetto Cavalieri pasta or a similar artisanal, Italian brand)

for the sauce
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar Maida Pomodorino Corbarino (or a 23.9 ounce jar of tomatoes)
1/4 cup white wine
salt, pepper
a good handful of fresh basil leaves, minced
a shake of hot red pepper flakes

to cook the mussels:
2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
3 to 4 dozen mussels

Start by making the sauce. Pour the olive oil into a pot, and add the onion, cooking them on low heat until softened. Add the garlic and sauté until softened. Add the tomatoes, breaking slightly with a wooden spoon, then the wine and seasonings. Keep some basil aside to use at the last minute to sprinkle over the top at the end. Let everything simmer for a half hour to an hour, while you cook the mussels.

In a separate pot, add the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic until slightly softened, over low heat. Turn up the heat to high when the onion and garlic are softened, pour in the white wine and add all the mussels. Place a lid over the mussels, and in a few minutes, they should start to open. Take off the lid, and using a pincers, remove the mussels that have opened to a bowl. Continue to do so until you have removed all the mussels. Save the liquid. Some of them may not open, even after five minutes. Throw those out. Let the mussels cool to a point where you can handle them, and remove them from the shell, keeping some intact to decorate the bowl with later.  Strain the liquid through a coffee filter (or paper towels) and pour some of it - maybe 1/2 cup to a cup) into the pot with the tomato sauce. Turn up the heat and cook a little longer to thicken the sauce.

When the sauce is cooked enough to the proper consistency and the pasta is almost finished cooking, add the mussels that you have extracted from the shells and let them simmer in the tomato sauce for a few minutes while you drain the pasta. 
Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine flavors. Serve in warm bowls or plates with some of the mussels in half shells on top.

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