Tomato Apple Pasta Sauce

Tomato and apple is not the first combination that comes to mind for pasta sauce. It works, with the apples smoothing out the acidity of the tomatoes and adding body to the tomato sauce. If you have already-prepared tomato sauce on hand, simply add the grated apple and cook as per the recipe. I tried this with apples peeled and unpeeled and liked the unpeeled version better. The apples peels need longer to cook to become softer. Your call. While you’re making the sauce, prepare your pasta of choice, using 3/4 – 1 pound for this sauce.

3 c canned tomatoes, (plum tomatoes if you can find them), undrained
4 T vegetable oil
1 c chopped onion
1 c shredded carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t dried herb, such as oregano or basil
salt and pepper, to taste (check the salt content of the canned tomatoes before adding salt)
2 – 3 medium apples, or about a pound’s worth
1 c grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

1. Purée tomatoes in a blender or food processor, or not.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. If you didn’t purée the tomatoes, break them up with your stirring utensil as they cook down. Add the dried herb, some salt, and pepper. Heat to a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, peel and core apples. Coarsely shred and add to the sauce as you do so. Return sauce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the apples shreds are tender

4. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving some of the pasta water. Gently add to sauce and toss for a minute or so. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese. Drizzle over the olive oil, toss again, and serve, extra grated cheese.

Pasta with Creamy Kale Sauce

I first came upon this recipe in a leftover turkey article. You can indeed use leftover turkey, or any other leftovers. Cooked beans are also excellent here. Or make the recipe with just the kale and cheese. Good both ways. If you don’t have a large skillet that can accommodate all the ingredients, you’ll want to transfer the skillet contents to the pasta cooking pot.

12 oz – 16 oz dried pasta
1 1/2 c reserved pasta water, divided
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 c finely chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 c dry white wine
1 1/2 t grated lemon zest or 1 t dried lemon peel or 3/4 t lemon extract
8 c or so thinly sliced kale leaves, stemmed if necessary
2 c shredded cooked turkey; or cooked (white) beans, optional
3/4 c (6 oz) sliced goat cheese, or cream cheese, or feta cheese
1/2 c pitted, chopped black olives, optional
2 T lemon juice
2/3 c grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
black pepper, for serving

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 1/2 c cooking water. Drain pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, another minute. Stir in the white wine and lemon zest. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about a minute. Add the kale, in batches, if necessary, along with 1/4 c of the reserved pasta cooking water (or more white wine). Cover and cook until the kale has wilted and tender, 5 minutes or so, depending on the type of kale used.

3. Add the turkey or beans. Heat through. Stir in the goat cheese and remaining 1 1/4 reserved cooking water. Cook, stirring until the cheese has melted and a creamy sauce has been created.

4. Add cooked pasta to the skillet and stir well to combine. Or return pasta to its cooking pot and transfer skillet contents to the pot. Stir well to combine. Stir in olives, and lemon juice. Sprinkle with grated cheese and incorporate.

5. Serve, with extra grated cheese and a grind of black pepper, if you like.

Pasta Soup with Napa Cabbage

I love soups like this, that come together quickly. Short on time, long on flavor. Broth or stock is a must here, for the best flavor. Lots of other vegetables are good here. Any kind of cooked protein is also good here, or a protein, such as shrimp, that cooks quickly. You can also add any number of seasonings, spices, spice mixes and the like, hot sauces, herbs–whatever catches your fancy, and your eye, as you peruse your refrigerator and pantry. If you decide to add extra vegetables, you will need to increase the amount of oil for the initial sauté, to prevent burning of said vegetables.

1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped leek or onion
1/2 c chopped carrot
extra vegetables, if desired
1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
salt, to taste
7 – 8 c broth or stock
ground black pepper, to taste
1 c small pasta shapes, such as orzo, ditali, macaroni, etc.
3 c cooked protein (see headnote)
3 – 4 c thinly sliced Napa cabbage

1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add leek, carrot, extra vegetables if using, garlic, and salt. Sauté, stirring, until tender.

2. Add broth or stock along with some pepper. Bring to the boil. Add pasta and cook until almost done. Add cooked protein and Napa. Cook an additional 2 – 3 minutes until cabbage has wilted and is tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Herb Cream Sauce

This is essentially a pasta sauce for hot pasta or a salad dressing for a pasta salad. It’s also a good dressing in general, and a refreshing change from pesto. The recipe calls for crème fraîche and directions are given to create some, from Julia Child. You could also use yogurt or yogurt with heavy cream, which I think takes the slightly acidic edge off the yogurt.

3/4 c heavy cream
3/4 c sour cream or yogurt
1 c packed fresh herb, such as basil, cilantro, dill, or a combination
1/4 c grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
salt and (white) pepper, to taste

1. Combine cream and sour cream in a bow. Cover and let stand away from direct sunlight for 1 to 2 hours until thickened, though if you are short on time you could just combine them.

2. Transfer to a food processor along with the herb(s) and whizz until the herb is finely chopped and well incorporated. Don’t let the machine run too long or the cream may separate, on its way to becoming butter. Or finely chop the herb(s) and mix into the crème fraîche (thus saving food processor clean-up). Add the grated cheese, salt, and pepper.

3. If using for hot pasta, leave out of the fridge. If using for a pasta salad, refrigerate until chilled some.

Eggplant and Capers Pasta Sauce

Capers, which are so often used as a garnish or by the tablespoonful for salads, is one of the main ingredients in this sauce. It pairs well with the eggplant. Along with the addition of anchovies, this sauce attains a complexity of flavor which belies the ease of preparation. Roasting the eggplant first will create an even deeper level of flavor, and I recommend the procedure, but if time is of the essence, just sauté diced eggplant. There’s leeway in the amount of anchovies here; if you’re not an anchovy fan, use the lesser amount, but do keep it in, it balances the sauce. Before adding salt, taste first, both capers and anchovies are quite salty, as is Parmesan, if you decide to use some.

1 medium to large eggplant
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 – 3 T minced garlic
1 – 3 T anchovy paste, or 3 – 10 (or so) anchovies
1/2 c capers, rinsed
1/2 c dry red wine
1/4 red wine vinegar
(salt) and pepper, to taste
1/2 c toasted pine nuts or walnuts
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, for serving, optional

1. To roast eggplant: Preheat oven to 400°F. Make several small slits in the eggplant. Place on a baking sheet, and roast until the vegetable has collapsed some, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on its size. Remove from oven and allow to cool, before cutting in half scraping out the flesh. Fork-shred it. Set aside.

2. If not roasting eggplant, peel or not. Cut off stem end, cut in half, and chop up as you wish. If you have time, put in a colander and salt it. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or so, then do a quick rinse and quick dry.

3. Put oil, garlic, and anchovies in a large skillet. Heat over low heat until the garlic has softened and is fragrant, but do not allow to brown. If using anchovy fillets, mash them up while cooking.

4. If using roasted eggplant shreds, add to skillet along with capers and remaining ingredients except for the nuts and cheese. Increase heat some and heat through. The mixture will be loose, but the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta  or pour over a bowl of cooked pasta. Top with nuts and cheese, if using.

5. If using uncooked eggplant, add to garlic, increase heat some and sauté, stirring, until tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Add capers and remaining ingredients and heat through. There mixture will be loose, but the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta  or pour over a bowl of cooked pasta. Top with nuts and cheese, if using.

Pasta with Coconut Curry Sauce and Fresh Herb(s)

This isn’t your regular pasta with sauce, rather pasta in a coconut-curry broth. You can add some protein to this (the original recipe used cubed tofu), preferable already cooked, or quick-cooking like shrimp or scallops. It’s rather good with canned salmon and tuna. if going for fish, you might consider fish stock, or bottled clam juice mixed with water. Or leave the protein out all together. If you have more than one herb on hand, combine them. The flavor will be that much more complex. You can use any thin pasta here, rice noodles being the most authentic; spaghettini and spaghetti work well here. Curry or chile paste is a must here. They can be bought in most markets now.

6 oz or so dried pasta (guestimate if you don’t have a scale)
1 1/2 c coconut milk
1 1/2 T curry or chile paste
1 1/2 c broth or stock
salt, to taste
6 oz or so cooked or quickly cooked protein
2/3 – 3/4 c chopped or minced fresh herb(s), divided
crushed red pepper or cayenne powder, to taste (omit if using chile paste)

1. Bring salted water to the boil for the pasta.

2. In another pot or skillet, bring 1/2 c of the coconut milk to a simmer. Add the curry or chile paste and mash and whisk until combined and smooth. Add the remaining coconut milk, broth or stock, and salt to taste and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add protein.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions and/or your personal preference. Drain.

4. Just before serving stir most of the chopped herbs into the broth. Put a serving of pasta pasta bowls or other bowls. Ladle some of the broth over the noodles, making sure to distribute the protein evenly. Sprinkle with some of the reserved herb(s) and some crushed red pepper flakes, if using.