My apartment was a furnace this Memorial Day weekend. We spent Saturday at P.C. Richards buying air conditioners but they can’t be installed until Wednesday. The thought of cooking anything (let alone making french fries!) made my face burn with anxiety. Just looking at the oven made me sweat. We ate pizza and Chinese food and Mexican food and anything we didn’t have to make ourselves. And yet tonight, I missed cooking. And our apartment had cooled down a tiny bit. A voice called to me, a familiar voice, a voice that tickled my ears just a few weeks ago in San Francisco. The voice was Heidi Swanson’s and she was calling to me from the cover of her gorgeous new cookbook Super Natural Cooking. She told me to make Otsu.

Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans

cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes

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…

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

Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans

My favorite go-to dish inspired by Lidia Bastianich and featuring everyday ingredients.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 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.

Related Posts:

Cavatappi with Anchovies, Garlic, and Red Peppers

Cavatappi with Pistachio Arugula Pesto and Sun Gold Tomatoes

Egg Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Anchovies

Lunch with Lidia Bastianich (and My Dad)

Joseph Joseph Pasta Scoop (My Favorite Pasta Tool)

What To Eat While I’m Away (Bucatini All’Amatriciana)

Pity us, if you must, but Craig and I are leaving these record-low New York temperatures for the tortuously warm tropical climes of Boca Raton, Florida where we’re headed tomorrow to visit my family. Yes we’ll be suffering in our bathing suits and shorts as we sip pina coladas by the pool, but we’ll know, in our heart of hearts, that you’ll be thinking of us during this trying time.

“But Adam,” you scream, “what will we eat while you’re away?”

Don’t worry! I have the answer and the answer is in this picture:

“What’s that?” you ask.

That, I answer, is a major contender for the best pasta dish I’ve made thus far in 2007. It was inspired by my recent meal at Del Posto Enoteca. It’s Bucatini All’Amatriciana and it’s the richest, most comforting bowl of pasta you can make for yourself and/or your loved ones.

It’s also one of the most unhealthy. It has (get ready for it) 3/4 lbs of bacon in it! That, for me, was an entire package of bacon. Wow. But I rationalize it this way: in this package there are 12 pieces of bacon. I cooked this for three people. So we basically had 4 pieces of bacon each. That’s not crazy, is it?

And this sauce is so easy because you can cheat. I cheated and bought pre-made tomato sauce, something I rarely do when I’m just having pasta and tomato sauce for dinner, but here it saved a step and didn’t make me feel guilty because you’re sort of making a sauce even though you’re already using a pre-made sauce. Got that?

What follows is the recipe from Mario Batali’s Babbo cookbook. I’ll be back on Sunday and you’ll get to hear about all that we ate in miserable miserable sunny Florida. Have a great rest of your week!

A Quick Break With Lemon Risotto

&tBefore we get back to Menu For Hope IIIraised over $5000 in just the first day! And wait ’til you see the new prizes I’m about to post…) let’s take a quick break with lemon risotto. After all, many of you are at work and what would your day be like if you kept clicking back to the donation page to see how many people bid on your prizes like UE14 New York in a Box or UE15 An Amateur Gourmet Lunch at Your Office? Well it’d be a lot like mine. So let’s look at lemon risotto:

This wonderful recipe comes from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria, a book heavily recommended by the beloved Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks (her prizes are faring well I bet… you can get a photography lesson with her with prize code UW10). I made this recipe last week when it was still ugly and cold outside and it really hit the spot. It’s relaxing to stand there and stir. The smells are terrific: a perfect balance of lemon and herb, a balance that holds up when you taste it too. So what are you waiting for? Grab some lemons, some mint, some rosemary, and let’s go…

The Call of the Cauliflower

My grandmother used to boil vegetables. I’d ride my bike to her house on East Lexington Ave. in Oceanside, NY and I’d walk in and smell boiled cabbage and carrots and cauliflower (the “C” vegetables) which she’d then top with Mrs. Dash. I thought it was wonderful—it’s one of the few taste memories I have from childhood.

Now that I’m a grandmother, you won’t find me boiling vegetables for my 18 grandchildren. Instead, you’ll find me using a technique I garnered from one Mr. Mario Batali. It’s from his new book “Molto Italiano” and the recipe is for “Penne con Cavolfiore” (That’s eye-talian for cauliflower.) Here’s what you do. Pour 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a saute pan and add 4 cloves of crushed garlic and saute until softened and light golden brown. Then add 1 head of cauliflower which you’ve cored and broken into florets:

Season with salt and pepper stir and cook until softened for 12 to 14 minutes. (I also added red chile flakes but I’m a fiery gramma.)


Then you lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes more. While all this is happening, boil some penne (1 pound) and cook until al dente. Drain it and add to the cauliflower:


Toss around, add chopped parsley, and grate some parmigiano over the top. That’s what I call a dinner! Though Mr. Batali’s “cavolfiore” will never displace my grandmother’s cauliflower—his parmigiano will can’t match her Mrs. Dash. Viva la grandma!

Waiter, These Tomatoes Aren’t Cooked

Here’s something I made last week after watching Mario make it on Molto Mario. Chop a tomato or two, add minced garlic, add parsley (not basil–that’s what makes it different), drizzle a generous helping of olive oil on top, then salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Cook your spaghetti al dente, you can stop the cooking in ice water (but I skipped that step) then add to the tomato mixture. A fresh, summery bowl of goodness.

Ramps and Green Garlic and Pasta, Oh My!

The word on the street is: “Ramps.” “It’s ramp season,” people will say. “You better buy them now: they don’t last long.”

So on this obviously bountiful trip to the farmer’s market (see two posts below this), I couldn’t ignore the several stands selling ramps to innocent bystanders like me. I chose a bunch with large bulbs and then saw, next to the ramps, another crate filled with green garlic. A bell went off in my head: the Chez Panisse cookbook is filled with references to green garlic. So I bought some of that too. Here are the ramps and green garlic relaxing in my kitchen:


Ramps, I have learned, are leek like oniony bulbs that make in appearance in early spring. Green garlic is garlic in its early stage and Alice Waters goes nuts for it. “I go nuts for it!” she probably says in the Chez Panisse introduction. “Me loves me some green garlic.”

Another blog (which I found, I believe, by clicking comments–so this was a frequent commenter’s blog) had a recipe for a pasta with ramps. I interpreted it my way and filled a saute pan with olive oil, heated it up, and then added sliced ramps and green garlic and some crushed red pepper:


When the ramps were cooked through, I tossed in fresh cooked spaghetti that was still al dente (Mario Batali says it should be “just before done” when you add it to the condiment):


I tossed it all through and then added the ramp leaves which I cut just a bit. They wilted like spinach as this source blogger said they would.

Served on a plate using the method I learned from Lydia Bastianich (see: cooking shows on television make TV-watching worthwhile) of twisting the pasta around with your tongs so it makes something of a bird’s nest. I grated lots of parmesan on top and here it is for you to soak in with your eyes:


A seasonal spring dish that would make any average person sing the praises of ramps and green garlic. They gave a nice crunch and a nice subtle flavor to the end product. I knew I’d done well because the condiment didn’t overwhelm the pasta–as Mario says: “The spaghetti is the star of the dish.” (He compares saucing a pasta to putting mustard on a hot dog: you’d never put more mustard than there was hot dog, would you? So you shouldn’t put more sauce than there is pasta.)

If anyone out there has other favorite uses for ramps and green garlic, let me know! I wanna get rampy with it.

Crème fraîche and other words with funny punctuation [PLUS: Creamy Lemon Risotto]

Should you have read the post below this first, you will know that on Saturday I visited the farmer’s market–specifically, the Ronnybrook stand–where I procured a jar of milk and a small tub of crème fraîche:

Believe it or not, this would be my first crème fraîche ever. (Pronounced, I recently learned the hard way, “krem fresh” not “creeeem frayshe.”)

Food writing abounds with references to crème fraîche. “Serve with a small dollop of crème fraîche” or “My wife and I adored the turkey with crème fraîche” or “crème fraîche killed my puppy.”

I felt like Jan Brady: “crème fraîche! crème fraîche! crème fraîche!” You know, because crème fraîche was getting all the attention.

Well, when I got home with my small tub I decided to find a recipe that would require no additional food shopping. The first place I looked was a book that I remembered making several crème fraîche references: Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking For Mr. Latte.”

Sure enough, in the index, I found the perfect crème fraîche incorporating recipe: Creamy Lemon Risotto.

You make it like this (and this is all from my head, but I’m pretty sure I’m right):

Get a few cups of chicken stock simmering.

Combine one Tbs of olive oil and one Tbs butter in a pot and heat up until the foam subsides, then add 1 cup of Arborio rice.

Let that toast a few minutes and then begin ladling in the stock, a little at a time, and stirring constantly. This is the long risotto absorption process–but I did it at a high medium heat so it didn’t take forever.


When half the stock has been incorporated, grate half a lemon’s zest into the mix. Stir it around. Continue adding stock and stirring until the risotto is al dente.

At that point, you add 1/4 cup of freshly grated paremsan, the rest of the lemon, sea salt and–(theme music)–half a cup of crème fraîche. You stir that all in and then present in a bowl like so:


Whoah: that’s lemony, that’s creamy, and just the tiniest bit tangy. It felt so indulgent I expected Kristie Alley to swing through my window chanting “Jenny Craig! Jenny Craig!” Instead, I chanted: “crème fraîche! crème fraîche!” because the crème fraîche made the risotto so wonderfully decadent.

Will I buy crème fraîche on a weekly basis now? No way! That stuff is like pure fat–I can’t keep that lying around. But should a recipe call for it or a small dollop, I’ll now be aware of the wonders that crème fraîche can bestow on to a dish. And then I’ll run around pronouncing it correctly, impressing everyone I meet.

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