Here’s how you know if the new recipe you’ve tried is successful: a few days go by, maybe a week, and suddenly you find yourself craving the thing you cooked the week before. This happens far less often than you think. For example, the other night I made Kung Pao Chicken from scratch and while it was very good (I’ll blog about it soon) I don’t think I’ll be craving somewhere down the road. Whereas this cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes…
…which I made last week and which took far less time and used far less ingredients is something I’m craving intensely right now. It’s extraordinarily easy and extraordinarily delicious. I saw Lidia Bastiniach make it on her show and I scratched my head and though, “Hmmm, I wonder if that’ll be any good?” So I had Craig and Diana buy the ingredients on their way home from Zodiac, which I wasn’t in the mood to see, and those ingredients amounted to: a box of Cavatappi (corkscrew shaped pasta), a head of garlic, a jar of dun-dried tomatoes, and 1 pound canned cannellini beans.
Here’s how easy this is. You boil the pasta. In a skillet, you add 2 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs of the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar. You scatter in 4 fat cloves of garlic, sliced, and then cook on medium high heat for a minute or so and then you add red pepper flakes (which you should have on hand)–about 1/2 tsp–and toast for another 1/2 minute. Then you add 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes which you’ve drained and sliced into 1/4 inch strips. You spread them out, let them sizzle, toast for a minute, and then ladle in 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, keep it simmering, until the liquid reduces by half. Finally, you stir in 1 lb of the cannellini beans which you’ve drained and rinsed, along with 1/4 tsp salt and about 1 1/2 cups more pasta cooking water. Bring it to a boil, stir together, and cook “at an active simmer” for 4 minutes. When the pasta’s al dente, you add it to the skillet to finish cooking in the sauce. You can add parsley, then, and off the heat about 1/2 cup of cheese (Parm or Grana Padano) and a final Tbs of olive oil before serving.
The beans somehow enrich everything so the meal feels far more substantial than you think it might be. It’s a wonderful and surprising mix of textures and flavors and everyone loves it. I love it, so much so that I’m going to the store RIGHT NOW to buy the ingredients so I can make it again.
T-minus 30 minutes until supreme mouth satisfaction.
Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 6.7 ounces) I like Delallo brand
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 can cannellini beans (15 ounces)
- 1 pound dried cavatappi pasta It's corkscrew shaped; another similarly-shaped pasta will do too
- Red chile flakes, to taste
- Your best extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup grated aged Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season it with enough kosher salt to make it taste like good soup, but not so salty that it tastes like the sea. (At least 1/4 cup of salt.)
- In a large skillet, add your 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of oil from the sun-dried tomato jar (make sure there's enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan). Add the garlic, slice the sun-dried tomatoes, and add them to the pan next to the garlic. Strain the cannellini beans and rinse under cold water. Set the beans aside for later.
- Add the cavatappi to the boiling water and at the same time turn on the heat under the skillet with the garlic and tomatoes. Toast the garlic and tomatoes just until the garlic starts to turn golden. Add a big pinch of chili flakes, then a ladleful of pasta water. It'll sputter and spurt: that's okay! Let that cook down a bit, and then add your cannellini beans, plus another ladleful of pasta water. Keep it simmering as the pasta cooks, stirring occasionally.
- When the pasta is just al dente (a minute or two less than package instructions), use a spider tool to lift it directly into the pan with the garlic, tomatoes, and beans. Stir all around on medium heat and if the pan is very dry, add another ladleful of pasta water. Keep cooking and stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed, the pasta is cooked, and the sauce is thick.
- Off the heat, add a drizzle of your best extra-virgin olive oil, a big handful of Parmesan cheese, and half of the parsley. Stir that in and taste to adjust for salt and heat (add more chili flakes if you like it spicier). Ladle into warmed bowls and top with more Parmesan and more parsley. Serve right away.