The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Recipe: Pasta Toscana

Recently, I was asked to cater a small event – an office birthday party for about fifteen guests. One of the guests was vegan. I was told that the young lady always felt left out at these events because everything served generally contained meat, dairy, or something else she couldn't eat. So I set about finding a dish to prepare that she and the other guests could enjoy. I settled on version of Pasta Toscana. It was a huge hit, even among the non-vegans. Of course, you can add meat and cheese if you like, but this recipe is pretty good as is. As they used to say in the old TV commercials, “Try it! You'll like it!”


2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1 lb 8 oz) jar marinara sauce
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (15 oz) can cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz penne or ziti pasta (farfalle works, too)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
Chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish) *

*(obviously, you'll leave this out of a vegan version)

In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so to infuse flavor before adding in the mushrooms. Cook an additional 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the marinara sauce and the red pepper flakes. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Add the beans and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the pasta according to package directions until just short of al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce. Cook for an additional minute or two, stirring gently to blend the pasta with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and cheese as desired.

Serves 4 – 6

Buon appetito!

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