Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weeknight recipe #1: Everything but the kitchen sink pasta

So here is a great weeknight dish.  The recipe makes enough for 2 hungry adults and one starving toddler, with leftovers for lunch the next day.  It may seem weird to use beans with pasta, but believe me, it's delicious.  And my little Bean loves beans.

Figure 1.  Ingredients, lovingly displayed.  All quantities are -ish.

-2 oz of thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
-1 medium onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
-1 can crushed tomatoes
-1/2 cup basil leaves thinly sliced, stems reserved
-1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-about 1 tsp fennel seeds
-about 1 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
-about 1 tsp kosher salt
-optional: 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
-2 cups spinach leaves
-1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
-1 lb pasta (large shells worked nicely)
-fresh ricotta cheese (1 Tbsp per serving)

Serve with:
salad (or for toddlers, cherry tomatoes and cucumber)
asparagus, grilled or broiled
bread for sopping

All right, let's get started.

First, dump your pancetta into a pan over medium heat.  Cook that (fancy, salty Italian) bacon until it starts to brown on the edges and the pan is nice and greasy (see Fig 2).

Figure 2.  Mmm, bacon.

Next add your bell pepper, onion and garlic to the hot greasy pan and cook about 6 minutes until the onion looks brown and caramel-ly.

Figure 3.  Nothing says lovin' like onions cooked in bacon grease.

Optional step:  At this point, if you've got a bottle of white wine laying around, definitely deglaze the pan with the white wine, pour a glass for yourself and then continue.

Next up, add your tomatoes, spices and reserved basil stems.  (The basil stems should impart a bit of basil-y goodness to your sauce as they simmer, but should be removed before the next steps.)  Now, while the sauce is simmering (for about 20 minutes or so), sit on the floor of your kitchen and read a book with the kiddo(s).  Or have a conversation with your spouse.  It's totally up to you.  DO NOT read a Nature paper.  It will totally kill the mood.

Figure 4.  A steamy pot of goodness.

Okay, once the sauce is nice and simmered, remove the basil stems, add your spinach and white beans.  Let the spinach wilt (~2 min).  Sauce is, as the say in France, le done.

When your pasta is ready, dump your sauce over the top and stir in the parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Figure 5.   Tomatoes, bell pepper, spinach, beans... all add up to a well-rounded sauce.  But you'd better believe I'm adding two kinds of cheese.

Putting it all together:  Top your pasta with a generous dollop of fresh ricotta, the shredded basil, add your grilled asparagus and bread, and TA-DA!

Figure 6.  Plated for grownups.

Figure 7.  Plated for kiddos.

Figure 8.  A saucy little Bean enjoying her "big" asparagus.


canuck_grad said...

Yummm, sounds tasty! I love basil! :)

I'm excited you're doing this, I need more things to try to get Little Man to eat. He's pretty much getting sick of being fed baby food - he'll feed himself some with a spoon if I help him, but lots of times he just wants to play with it.

But yet, the only foods I can get him to feed himself with any regularity are snack-y foods - cheese and crackers, cereal, fruit pieces - he likes avocado and will eat tofu if it's cubed and mixed in with cubed avocado. But no meat or veg's or pasta - will occasionally eat a bit, but nothing much and often none - used to eat scrambled eggs but stopped.

So I think the only thing I can really do is to start cooking a better variety of health food for us and then give him some - if he doesn't eat it I'll give him some other stuff, but I need to start exposing him to more grown-up foods all the time. Right now I usually make something separate for him, and then I can't be bothered if I feel like he won't eat it.

PS. I started my own blog! Would love for you to read it if you have time :)
I haven't had any takers for my craft it forward thingy yet if you're interested in playing. :)

ScienceMama said...

Bean was a great little eater as an infant, interested in just about anything she tried. Around age 1, when we were just starting on real attempts at self-feeding, she got a LOT worse. She wouldn't eat lots of things, and way more food ended up on the floor than in her mouth.

One of the things that finally brought her back around was when we started eating as a family. We used to feed her early, and then eat as a couple once Bean was asleep. Once we started eating all together (which still takes significant work to have dinner ready before she melts down), she got much more interested in eating a variety of foods again because she saw that we were eating the same things.

My general strategy is to cook things I think she would likely eat (i.e. she hates anything remotely spicy, so I leave the spicy ingredients on the side). She will usually eat some of it, even if, say, she won't touch the eggplant. As a back up, we've got a stockpile of homemade meatballs in the freezer that I can serve her with rice or peas or whatever veggies I have on hand.

And don't underestimate Little Man. Try tomatoes. Cucumber. Black beans. Chickpeas. Snap peas. All great finger foods. Just keep offering, he's bound to dig in eventually, especially if he sees you eating it too!

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

That looks really good. Plus I've had a can of white beans sitting around that need to be used!

The bean-mom said...

Mmmm, sounds good Sciencemama. Can't go wrong with pancetta and onions.

And what a saucy little Bean! She's getting so big!!

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