Penne all’arrabbiata with Asparagus.

As you might have guessed from the lack of pasta recipes here, I’m not a pasta fan. But every once in a while I get a craving for noodles smothered in a creamy tomato sauce or a spicy pesto, and today was one of those days. This dish is on the hotter side (“arrabbiata” means “angry” in Italian), so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you add if you’re a spice whimp. It shouldn’t be overpoweringly hot though–the fresh mozzarella makes the sauce creamy and smooth. A very easy recipe to make vegan if that’s your style–just use vegan cheese!

INGREDIENTS
1 lb penne
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10-20 asparagus spears
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1/2 cup dried basil)
salt
pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium flame and add onions, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes.

Then add crushed tomatoes. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in basil and mozzarella and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

While waiting for the sauce to cook, make the pasta and asparagus. Boil the pasta in salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the boiling water.

In a separate pan, blanche the asparagus in a pan of shallow boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green and al dente. Then remove from heat and rinse with cold water; this stops the cooking process and allows the spears to keep their bright color. Set aside.

Add cooked pasta and asparagus to the sauce and stir, slowly adding reserved water to create desired consistency.

Top with Parmesan and serve hot. It’s the perfect dish to eat while reminiscing about a trip to Italy, like Inspired Redhead is doing today!

Minestrone

I love any recipe with a mirepoix, and minestrone soup is no exception. A tasty Italian classic with a simple country elegance, minestrone is as easy as it is beautiful. It’s a fairly basic vegetable soup in a tomato broth,  but packs a vegetable punch and is a healthy way to warm up on a chilly day!


INGREDIENTS
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped (leaves included)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large potato, cubed
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped
14 oz canned crushed tomato
5 cups vegetable broth
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
olive oil
herbs de Provence
salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, heat oil on medium and add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.

When onion is soft, stir in potato. Top mixture with chard and herbs de Provence and cover. Allow the chard to cook until beginning to soften.

Then add tomato and broth and stir. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

In a food processor, puree beans with 1/4 cup water until smooth. Stir bean puree and Parmesan cheese into soup and season with salt and pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes more.

Remove from heat and serve with bread or over pasta.