Monday, August 23, 2010

A Simple Sunday Pasta

Amidst Sunday’s dreary, dreadful weather, all I wanted to do was to hide away in my kitchen and create some savory, satisfying pasta.  After an entire weekend of eating out and ordering in, I was craving a homemade dish, filling yet fresh.  I spent most of the day avoiding the rain and high winds so when the weather broke I decided to take advantage and run to the market before it started to down pour again.  On the list:  mushrooms and fresh part-skim ricotta.  I already had the rest of my ingredients on hand at home.  This dinner was not only going to be delicious, it was going to be cheap. 

I decided to make the sauce using nutmeg and cinnamon.  These spices give the sauce a unique, warm flavor that complements the mushrooms.  I used a can of crushed tomatoes because I had it on hand.  But since fresh summer tomatoes are a plenty right now, you can also dice fresh tomatoes and cook them down until the sauce forms (this will add to your cooking time). The ricotta and fresh basil are the perfect finishing touches to this dish.  I got the basil from a little plant that I grow in my apartment.  It’s great to have fresh herbs readily available.  I don’t exactly have a green thumb and while my basil is not exactly thriving, it’s surviving and I had enough to top of my perfect, simple sunday pasta!

Simple Sunday Pasta
Time: about 30 minutes

Whole Wheat Rigatoni
One white onion, diced
Garlic, about 3 cloves, minced
White button mushrooms, 8oz
One 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
Part-Skim Ricotta
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Crushed Black Pepper

Drizzle olive oil and heat over medium.  Add diced onions and minced garlic and cook until translucent.  Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, salt and sauté briefly to mix.  Add crushed tomatoes and allow simmering for about 10 minutes.  While the sauce is simmering, boil the pasta and prep the mushrooms by cutting the bottoms, cleaning and slicing.  Add the mushrooms to the sauce. Simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Note, the longer you let the sauce simmer the better, so don't rush it unless you have to.  When the sauce is finished (give it a few taste tests), add the pasta and toss to coat in the sauce.

Plate the pasta and finish with a scoop of ricotta, fresh basil, sea salt, crushed black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

I love cooking on Sundays and making sure there will be leftovers for the week.  You can make up to one whole box of pasta to accompany this sauce and there will be plenty of ricotta left for future meals.  So make enough for dinner, plus more for a fews days of lunch or a busy weeknight when you won't have time to cook. 

What makes this bite better?
Again, no meat. This meal is a testament to the fact that you can have a fulfilling, satisfying meal without meat.  Notice a trend?  I really try to regulate my meat intake.  I’m not a vegetarian or an animal activist and I don’t like extremists.  I like balance.  But meat in the United States is so highly processed and often contaminated with antibiotics and hormones that I definitely put it on my list of things to eat as scarcely.  I save my meat eating endeavors for when I can afford organic or all-natural meat, or I make the indulgence rare. Want to learn ore about how meat is produced and regulated in the United States?  Check out a relevant documentary on today's food system, Food Inc, featuring Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, two experts on the issue.   A warning in advance- be ready to give up your McDonald’s addiction. 

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