Penne with Bacon and Flageolet Beans

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What’s with me and pasta? No, seriously, I’m really asking: how can I eat so much of it and never get tired of it? Sometimes I think it’s my own personal Rosebud, because my earliest food-related memories involve sitting at a little yellow plastic table on a gray carpet in front of the big TV, eating fusilli with Prego on top. Am I trying to recreate the innocence of childhood? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just that pasta is so versatile and, more importantly, once you know the rules of how to make it–undercooking your pasta in well-salted water, then finishing it in the sauce, taking off the heat when almost all the liquid’s absorbed, and finishing with raw olive oil and grated cheese–it’s just one of the most impressive, delightful things you can make at home.

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Penne with Ramp Pesto, Asparagus & Peas

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I’ll admit, I get lazy when it comes to eating seasonally. It’s easier to pop into the grocery store across the street, where lemons, onions and garlic look the same the whole year round, than it is to march all the way up to the Union Square Greenmarket on a windy or rainy spring day. On a Saturday, however, the rules change: I forcibly remove myself from the world wide web and make a point, especially in spring, summer and fall, to go pay a visit to the Union Square farmers. Sometimes I come home with just honey or maple syrup; other times I buy flowers (the lilacs I bought a few weeks ago made it into my newsletter.) This past Saturday I came home with ramps (despite my ramp-ambivalence) and asparagus and a few hours later I whipped up a dinner (the one you see above) that I declared to be one of the best meals I’ve ever made. And I give 100% of the credit to what I found at the farmer’s market.

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Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

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Once, long ago, I found the following statement on someone else’s food blog: “I’m sick of The Amateur Gourmet, all he cooks is pasta.”

I usually let such cutting criticism roll off me, but this–like a piece of wet spaghetti thrown at the refrigerator–stuck. I haven’t stopped cooking pasta (not by any means: it’s my favorite thing to cook) but I’ve blogged about it less. What was the last pasta recipe I posted? Exactly: it’s been ages. (Actually, it was my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta two months ago, but let’s ignore that.)

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Penne with Broccoli Rabe

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Broccoli rabe is usually the first thing I buy at the farmer’s market when the weather gets warmer. It’s a transitional vegetable: something that bridges us from the dark and murky vegetables of winter to the bright and sprightly vegetables of summer. Raw, it tastes rather fresh and green, but cooked, it takes on all these wonderful qualities–it becomes bitter and complex and, as Lydia Bastianich says when she cooks with it on this old episode of Julia Child: “almondy.”

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