Tag Archives: parmigiano

Springing into Spring with Tortellini and Spring Vegetables

Last weekend, the weather was perfect. Beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds, and temperatures in the 70s. It was great. The weather got everyone excited for spring, including me. And when I think of spring, I think of spring food…and spring veggies.

This recipe combines one of my favorite pastas, tortellini, with peas, asparagus, and onions, sautéed in delicious bacon grease. Finished off with a little 1/2 and 1/2 and some Parmigiano cheese, it’s perfect! The bacon and vegetables are crisp, the sauce is rich and creamy, and the tortellini are the perfect cheesy carriers for this deliciousness!

Chop 6 strips bacon into thin, small strips. Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven over medium low heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. I use the lid for this process so the bacon doesn’t splatter everywhere. Once the bacon is crisp, remove to a plate, but keep the bacon fat in the pot on the heat.baconslicedcookingcookedChop 1 medium onion. Cook in the bacon fat until golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Add to the onion, and cook for another minute.chopped onioncooking onioncooked oniongarliccookedMeanwhile, set a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil. Chop 1 lb asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus. Blanch for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl. I do this instead of draining with a colander because that way you can use the same water for the pasta.

water boilingasparagusblanchingblanched asparagusAdd the asparagus and 1 lb peas to the onion mixture. I used frozen peas, but if you can get fresh, go for it. I don’t find a huge difference in flavor, so if you can’t, frozen works. Cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup dry wine. I didn’t have any white open, so I used red. The flavor stays the same, it just adds a slight pink to the sauce. 🙂 Simmer the wine for a few minutes until reduced some, then add 1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Bring to a boil and boil for a few more minutes until creamy and thoroughly combined.adding asparagusadding peasadding winesimmering wineadding 1/2 and 1/2almost readyIn that reserved water, cook 2 lbs tortellini according the package directions. Once cooked and drained, add to the sauce along with the bacon. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese. Roll up 10 basil leaves and thinly slice into ribbons. Add to the pasta and enjoy!cooked tortelliniadding tortelliniadding baconadding cheesebasil leavesslicedadding basilall readyAlthough I don’t know if I mentioned it sooner, pasta is my one of my favorite meals. It’s no wonder I turn to this recipe when spring has sprung! 🙂

More Spring Produce with Braised Artichokes

As I told you earlier in the week, I love the produce that starts appearing in the spring.  While I went on and on about sugar snap peas, another one of my favorites is artichokes.  Maybe you’ve never had them outside of the jarred hearts, which, don’t get me wrong, are delicious!  I know the whole artichoke can seem intimidating…those sharp edges, tough leaves, and you probably wonder “what do I even eat?”  But if you take a little bit of time, and prepare them right, they can be delicious.

cut off topsBraising is simple, basically searing something off on the stove, then finishing it simmering in some sort of liquid.  Usually it’s reserved for meats, and they can be delicious.  The searing gives you great color and flavor, and the slow simmering in the liquid results in tender, juicy meat.  Definitely a keeper.  But this time, I’m take a similar approach, but with the artichokes.  They cook in a garlic, lemon, white wine sauce that really brightens the flavor and makes a great vegetable.

ChokeFor this recipe, start with 6 artichokes.  Because they discolor, you’ll want a bowl with acidic water.  This will also be used as braising liquid.  Take 3 lemons, and first, zest 2 of them.  You’ll use the zest later.  Then cut all 3 in half, and squeeze the juice into a big bowl.  Add some cool water.  You don’t need a ton of water, just enough to cover the artichokes.

The next step is cleaning.  Because the cleanedleaves are very tough, you need to clean them so you only end up with the more delicate interior leaves.  If you’ve ever eaten stuffed artichokes, you know you can’t eat the outer leaves.  The principle still stands for these.

Start by cutting about an inch ofin lemon waterf the entire top of the artichoke.  Just cut straight down.  Now start pulling off the leaves.  You really want to take off a lot.  You need to get to the delicate, yellow, almost white inner leaves.  It will seem like you’ve taken too much, but you’re fine.  And don’t worry, if you find that you haven’t taken enough off when you start eating, just cut off any tough leaves and don’t eat those.  Once the outer leaves are removed, take a peeler and peel along the stem to remove the tough skin.  Cut the artichoke in half, and, trust me, you’re almost done, remove the choke.  This is where the artichoke gets its name.  In the middle of the inside is a fuzzy choke.  You need to grab a spoon and just scoop it out.  It comes out very easily.  Once that’s done, just drop your 2 halves in the water.  Continue cleaning until they are all in the water.

cookingOnce the artichokes are clean, mince 3 cloves garlic.  Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan large enough to hold all of the artichoke halves.  Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Feel free to add more or less red pepper flakes depending on if you like a little heat.  Saute for a minute until the garlic gets some color.  Add the artichoke halves, cut side down, to the pan.  Cook for a minute or two, then add 1 cup white wineit's doneLet the alcohol cook off, then add 1-2 cups lemon water (this is the water the artichokes were soaking in).  You want the water to come about half way up the artichoke halves.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the artichokes are soft when pierced with a knife.  Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and boil for about 5 minutes to tighten up the sauce a bit.

parmigianoTo serve the artichokes, I plate them and spoon over some of the sauce.  Sprinkle the reserved lemon zest and about 1 tablespoon chopped chives.  I also like to add some shaved Parmigiano cheese.  It works really well with the artichokes and lemon.

These artichokes make a really nice side dish, and it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy them.  They would make a pretty good addition to an Easter dinner too.  Hmm…I might have to adjust my menu for next week!