Pasta with Spinach and Red Onions

 

This pasta was beautiful. I know, I made it, and this is not very modest of me, but it really was beautiful. The spinach was a lovely green touch, the red onions were warm and rich, and I added a little dried cranberries and crushed pecans for extra flavor. When I made it, it was a little dry, but this is easily fixed by adding a little stock to the vegetables as you cook them, or a little of the water you cooked the pasta in.

I’ve been a little vague on the measurements for the pasta and spinach because this really depends on you, and how much you want to use. I usually use a handful of pasta for two people. In this case, I used two small fettuccine nests, which made a medium-sized portion for one person. I also used a small bunch of baby spinach. With spinach, remember it really cooks down to about a third (at least!) of its size, so make allowances for that.This recipe is for one serving of pasta — enough for one person.

You need:

  1. 1 small fettuccine nests, or enough pasta for one person
  2. 1 small bunch baby spinach, washed and drained
  3. 2 tbsp crushed pecans or walnuts
  4. 2 tbsp dried sweetened cranberries or raisins
  5. Salt and white pepper to taste (you can use black pepper)
  6. Olive oil for cooking
  7. Romano or parmesan cheese (or any other hard cheese you like to eat over pasta)

How to:

  1. Put six cups of water (or enough to cook the pasta) in a saucepan. Add 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp salt and bring to boil. When it boils, add the pasta. Cool until al dente–cooked through, but when you eat it, it should still be very, very slightly hard, not mushy.
  2. Cut the onions into very thin slices.
  3. Put 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan (more if your pan is not non-stick). When it is hot, add the onions, Stir and let it cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Give the spinach a very rough chop (just once or twice).
  5. When the onions are cooked (but before the caramelize), add the spinach. The onions should still be a bit crunchy. Stir the spinach in. Add 1 tsp salt and stir again.
  6. Drain the pasta and arrange on a plate.
  7. When the spinach is just wilted, add the cranberries, pecans, and white pepper. Stir gently. If it is too dry, add a little stock or pasta cooking water and stir gently. If you added too much, let it cook off before you take it off the heat.
  8. Turn off the heat. Arrange the vegetables over the pasta.
  9. Grate romano or parmesan cheese over the top.

 

 

 

Celery and Leek Risotto with Variations

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Happy new year!

I made this risotto for Christmas dinner this year, and it was light and lovely. The white wine is optional–I find it adds a sweet tang to the risotto, but if you don’t want to add it, it won’t hurt.

Risottos are a labor of love–they take about 25-30 minutes to cook, and you are stirring constantly, so don’t start this unless you have the time.

You need:

  1. Two medium-sized leeks, whites only, finely chopped.
  2. One medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  3. Two sticks celery, finely chopped.
  4. 5 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1 cup white wine (a nice one you could drink while cooking)
  6. 1 cup arborio or other risotto rice
  7. 1 tbsp olive oil
  8. 1/4 cup grated aged gouda (I used Rembrandt–you could also use other cheese, like parmesan or romano)
  9. Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, or whatever salt you have), to taste
  10. White pepper (or black), to taste
  11. 2-3 sprigs of thyme

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or dutch oven. I used a saute pan, but make sure it’s a heavy-bottomed pan. Keep the heat on medium.
  2. Add the onions, leeks, and celery and sweat them–cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. Add the salt. Don’t caramelize them, but they should be near that point. They shouldn’t turn brown. If they are starting to stick to the bottom, lower the heat.
  3. Add the rice, stirring frequently until the rice turns translucent. This may take a few minutes. The middle of the rice will still be white.
  4. Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine is cooked off. If you are not using wine, simply skip this step.
  5. Add the thyme and stir gently.
  6. Add the stock, a cup at a time. Here’s how. Add a cup of stock. Cook, stirring often. When it is almost cooked out, add another cup of stock. Repeat. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. It should be cooked al dente–still a little hard, but done through. Risotto typically has a creamy consistency.
  7. Add the pepper and stir gently.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, stir, remove the thyme, and serve hot.

I have frozen this risotto, but it lost something in texture and flavor when I reheated it.

Variations:

  1. Replace one leek with a small bulb of finely chopped fennel.
  2. Instead of the thyme, use rosemary or basil or fennel fronds.
  3. Replace the white wine with 2 tbsp 18-year balsamic vinegar + 2/3 cup water.
  4. Replace the white wine with red wine. Note: this will totally change the color of the risotto.
  5. Replace the white wine with a dark beer. Note: while wine adds a tangy aftertaste, beer can give it a hoppy, bitter aftertaste. Not for everyone.
  6. After adding cheese, add toasted almonds or crushed pecans.
  7. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Do not mix these in as they might (just might) get a wee bit soggy.