This isn’t re-inventing the wheel, and I certainly don’t expect to win any prizes, but this meal was so simple, only requiring minimal input, but giving maximum output. With only a handful of ingredients per dish, this simple feast transforms a tired weeknight dinner into something rustic and very earthy. It’s a celebration of summer, Tuscan-style, requiring only the gentlest nudge to completely transport oneself to those sun-drenched hillsides and fields of sunflowers.
This meal can come together really quickly, if you watch your timing. Game plan: Get the dessert whipped together first, as it will take the longest to cook, while everything else comes together. Next, sauté the veggies for the tomato sauce together with the olive oil and pour in the pureed tomatoes. Let it simmer for a half hour—the exact time the peaches need to bake. While the tomato sauce simmers happily away, get a large pot of water on to boil. I’m talking a large pot; please don’t use a dinky saucepan for a load of pasta. You’ll end up with a clumpy mess and undercooked pasta. Give ‘em room to move and cook. So find your large soup pot, fill it with water and get it up to a rolling boil (lots of bubbles!). Once the water is at a boil, toss in a good handful of kosher salt (table salt and sea salt work, too). The salt helps to season the pasta as it cooks, so make the water salty! Fifteen minutes before the pasta sauce is done start cooking the pasta. The spinach really only takes five minutes or less to cook. It’s so fast—and can be served hot, cold, or at room temp. Lastly, while the pasta is cooking, the sauce is simmering, and the spinach is sautéing, whip up some vanilla cream for those stuffed peaches.
Phew! Done. Serve up and enjoy—preferably under the stars with a glass of wine and some good company.
Orecchiette with Basic Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Salata
Adapted from Mario Batali
Yields: Six cups
- 1 pound Orecchiette pasta (or any other short pasta)
- 1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 2 tablespoons dried)
- 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
- 2 – 28-ounce cans of tomatoes, crushed and mixed well with their juices
- 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- Salt, to taste
- Ricotta Salata for grating over the top*
Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent, but not brown (about 10 minutes). Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more. Lightly season the veggies with salt. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to just bubbling, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Tear in the fresh basil. Season with salt to taste.
While the sauce is simmering, bring the pasta water up to a rolling boil, add a handful of salt and pour in your pasta. Cook for approximately 11-15 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and pour into a large serving bowl. Pour enough pasta sauce to coat the pasta evenly and reserve any extra for another use. Toss the pasta really well in the tomato sauce so everything is evenly coated.
Serve immediately with ricotta salata grated over the top and more torn fresh basil.
The sauce may be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to 6 months.
Ricotta salata can be found at Whole Foods, most Italian markets and gourmet food shops.
Sauteed Spinach with Garlic and Lemon
Yields: 1 cup cooked spinach
- 1 lb. fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Lemon for squeezing over
Over medium heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large, high-sided sauté pan. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden. Add the spinach. You may need to work in batches if your pan isn’t large enough to fit all the spinach at once. No worries, just wilt as much spinach down as your pan will allow and then add more continuing to wilt the spinach. Grate in the nutmeg (or add a pinch of ground nutmeg). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice over the top.
This would also be great with some red chili flakes added to the olive oil and garlic.
Peaches Stuffed with Amaretti Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis
- 1 1/2 ounces amaretti cookies (about 12 small cookies)
- 3 ripe, firm peaches (about 5 ounces each), halved and pitted
- 3 teaspoons raw/unrefined sugar (1/2 teaspoon per peach half)
- 3 teaspoons unsalted butter (1/2 teaspoon per peach half)
- 2 cups fresh whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
Using a teaspoon, clean out the red flesh from the center of each peach. Arrange the peaches cut side up in the prepared dish. In the bowl of a food processor, add the amaretti cookies and pulse until finely crumbled. Divide the amaretti crumbs between the peaches. Fill the center of each peach with the amaretti cookie crumbs. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of sugar over each. Dot each peach with 1/2 teaspoon of butter.
Bake until the peaches are tender and the filling is crisp on top, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla whipped cream.