Pasta times two: Five dishes to cook this week

  • >> Margaux Laskey, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-04-17 17:51:49 BdST

Depending on where you are, you might be feeling a bit of spring right now: There’s a whisper of chill in the air, but the sun is bright, and maybe it’s time to think about planting pansies and begonias in pots outside. It feels like a hopeful moment. This week’s list includes two pasta recipes because sometimes isn’t that just what you need? Consider them cozy bookends to your busy week. And if that’s not your thing, that’s OK, too. Here are five dishes for the week.

1. Pasta With Garlicky Spinach and Buttered Pistachios

If you want to get the timing just right on this one — no wasted time! — start the sauce a few minutes after you’ve dropped the pasta into the boiling water. Your spinach should be wilted right around the time the pasta is al dente. If that feels too stressful, or the spinach wilts before the pasta is ready, simply turn the heat under the skillet all the way down to low and keep it warm while the pasta finishes. Don’t count this recipe out if you’re not fond of capers. They add a hint of salty brininess without being in-your-face caper-y. A pound of pasta is a lot to toss around, especially with 2 bunches of spinach in the mix, so save that extra quarter-box for your next pot of pasta e fagioli.

By: Dawn Perry

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

Kosher salt and black pepper

12 ounces mezze rigatoni or other short pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons capers, drained

12 ounces spinach, stems trimmed to 1-inch length, or Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped

Grated Parmesan, for serving

Preparation:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

2. After pasta has been cooking for about 2 minutes, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pistachios, garlic and capers and cook, stirring to keep the garlic from scorching, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add spinach to skillet one handful at a time, season with salt and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 1 or 2 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to the skillet along with 1/2 cup pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high, tossing, until liquid reduces and coats the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan.

2. Roasted Salmon With Asparagus, Lemon and Brown Butter

Ready in just 15 minutes, this fast dinner combines silky salmon with a vibrant green medley of asparagus and peas. While the fish roasts, the vegetables and sauce come together in one pan on the stovetop. Thinly slicing the asparagus is the trick to maintaining a crisp texture that complements the tender salmon, while bright lemon juice and zingy capers balance the nutty brown butter sauce. Parsley is used here to finish, but dill or tarragon would also be lovely. Leftover vegetables make a fantastic omelet filling the next day.

By: Kay Chun

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound asparagus, tough stems trimmed, stalks sliced 1/4-inch-thick on a slight bias (leave tips whole)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving

2 tablespoons drained capers

1/2 cup thawed frozen peas

1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

Preparation:

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rub salmon all over with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange skin side-down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until medium, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. While the salmon roasts, prepare the asparagus: In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add asparagus, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to skillet. Cook, stirring, until foam subsides and butter is deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (Be careful not to burn). Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice, capers, peas, parsley and cooked asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Divide vegetables among plates. Top with salmon and spoon over any remaining pan sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

3. Caramelised Plantains With Beans, Scallions and Lemon

Bright and earthy flavours complement each another in this easy dish in which cooked beans are tossed with lemon zest, olive oil and cayenne, and roasted sweet plantains are coated in a brown sugar, ginger and lemon glaze. Go with ripe plantains for this recipe, yellow and spotted with large black dots. You’ll need your oven's broiler setting to help caramelise the sugary coating on the plantains, and to char the scallion garnish. This dish is the perfect breakfast topped with a jammy egg, a quick lunch over a bed of fresh greens, or a satisfying side to roast chicken.

By: Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 1/4 pounds ripe plantains (about 4 medium), yellow and spotted with large black dots

6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 lemon, zested and juiced, plus more as needed

1 3/4 cups or 1 (15-ounce) can drained cooked beans, such as navy, cannellini, black-eyed peas or butter beans

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

2 bunches scallions (about 10 to 12 scallions), trimmed

Kosher salt

1/4 cup fresh dill fronds

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems

Preparation:

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Leaving the plantain skin on, cut each plantain in half, lengthwise down the middle. Place the plantains cut-side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake until tender, and a skewer or knife inserted goes all the way through, about 40 minutes. Remove the plantains and set the broiler to high with a rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source.

2. While the plantains are baking, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, ginger and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Whisk to dissolve the brown sugar, then stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

3. In a large bowl, combine the beans, minced onion and cayenne with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Toss and set aside.

4. Once cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes, remove the plantain skins and discard. Break each plantain into pieces, about 2 to 3 inches long, and place back on the baking sheet. Drizzle the plantains with the brown sugar mixture and toss to coat. Move the plantains to one side of the baking sheet. Lay the trimmed scallions on the empty side of the sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the oil into the scallions to coat evenly. Season the entire sheet with salt.

5. Broil the plantains and scallions until the glaze is set and deeply caramelised in spots, and the scallions are charred along the length of each, about 5 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. If the plantains are at risk of burning, pull the plantains from the oven before the scallions have finished.

6. Move the scallions to a board, chop and add to the bowl with the beans. Season the beans with salt, toss to combine and transfer to a serving platter.

7. Top the beans with the glazed plantains. Garnish with fresh dill, cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve over a bed of greens, as a vegetarian side, or topped with a jammy egg.

4. Pork Chops With Dijon Sauce

Yewande Komolafe’s glazed plantains with beans in New York, Jan 14, 2021. Food styled by Simon Andrews. David Malosh/The New York Times

Yewande Komolafe’s glazed plantains with beans in New York, Jan 14, 2021. Food styled by Simon Andrews. David Malosh/The New York Times

In the Burgundy region of France, home of Dijon, pork chops are traditionally served in a sauce made with mustard, cream and white wine, and there are very few pairings that are better. Richard Olney, a prominent food writer and authority on French cooking, sautéed sliced apples and chops and then baked them all together with cream and mustard dribbled on top. I prefer the method here, but you could always fry up some apples and serve them on the side. (For a dish with roots closer to Normandy than Burgundy, make the same recipe but omit the mustard, deglaze the pan with Calvados instead of wine and stir sliced sautéed Granny Smiths into the sauce itself.)

By: Julia Reed

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 1 1/4-inch-thick center-cut rib or loin pork chops, bone in

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped scallions or shallots

1/2 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup chicken or veal stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Preparation:

1. Melt butter in the oil in a large deep skillet over high heat. Season chops with salt and pepper and add them, browning well, about 2 or 3 minutes a side, reducing the heat slightly if chops brown too quickly.

2. Remove chops to a platter and pour off most of the fat. Add scallions or shallots and cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping brown bits off the bottom. Stir in the stock and return chops to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and cook until chops are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Remove the chops to a warm platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Raise the heat and boil pan juices to reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add cream and boil 2 minutes more, until sauce reduces a bit and thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in mustard and the parsley, if using. Taste and add more mustard if desired. Immediately spoon sauce over the chops and serve.

5. One-Pan Feta Pasta With Cherry Tomatoes

In 2018, Finnish blogger Jenni Hayrinen posted a recipe for baked feta pasta. The dish became a full-on TikTok sensation, popular to the point that supermarkets were selling out of feta. This version streamlines her recipe. Instead of cooking the pasta separately, it’s added to the casserole dish with the baked feta and tomatoes, turning it into a cozy one-pan meal. (Also note that you’ll need an electric kettle to boil the water. So maybe it’s more like a 1-1/2-pan meal.) Don’t think of this as a pasta dish in an Italian, al-dente sense. It’s more like a creamy casserole along the lines of mac and cheese. In any case, it’s comforting and supremely easy.

By: Melissa Clark

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 pints cherry tomatoes

5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

5 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

8 ounces feta

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for serving

Pinch of red-pepper flakes

12 ounces short pasta, such as farfalle, campanelle, rotini or cavatappi

3 cups boiling water

1 cup torn basil leaves

Flaky sea salt, for serving

Preparation:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow 2-quart casserole or gratin dish, or an 11-by-7-inch baking dish, combine tomatoes, garlic, thyme, rosemary and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Toss with 1/4 cup of the olive oil to coat. Place the feta in the middle of the dish, and top with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Sprinkle the black pepper and red-pepper flakes over everything. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.

2. Add the pasta to the pan in an even layer and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling water on top. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully submerge pasta. Cover tightly with foil and bake until pasta is al dente, 17 to 19 minutes. Remove from oven and let the pasta stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb the excess liquid.

3. Stir in basil until everything is well incorporated, and the tomatoes and cheese create a creamy sauce. When serving, top with more black pepper, oil and flaky sea salt.

© 2021 New York Times News Service