Pasta is perfect as summer turns to autumn

Try your hand at homemade noodles, then complement them with summer ingredients for tasty dishes

    There’s nothing better — and easier — than a baked pasta dish as summer begins to turn to fall.
    After all, just thinking about a baked ziti or homemade macaroni and cheese is enough to get most people’s mouths watering.
    And in this age of Covid-19, when people are spending more time at home and in the kitchen, it might be tempting to try your hand at homemade pasta.
    To do that, place 2-1/2 cups of  semolina, 00 or all-purpose flour in a mound on a large cutting board. Create a good-sized well in the middle of the mound, then crack four large room-temperature eggs into the well. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon fine sea salt on top and drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil.
    Use a fork to whisk the eggs until they are combined, then gradually whisk in some of the flour into the egg mixture. Once the egg mixture is nice and thick, use your hands to fold in the rest of the flour until the dough forms a loose ball. Knead the dough about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, sprinkling some extra flour on the cutting board if needed to prevent sticking or if the dough seems too wet or sticky.  
    Form the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
    Roll the dough into the desired shape either by hand or using a pasta maker. Cook in a large pot of generously-salted boiling water for one to five minutes, until it is al dente. Drain and use immediately.
    When making a pasta dish, consider the right type of noodle for the job. A pasta with ridges holds sauce and cheese, and sturdier sides make for a well-cooked, not soggy and floppy, noodle.
    Or instead of a classic elbow macaroni, try a rigatoni, riccioli or rocchetti.
    To avoid mushy baked pasta, undercook the pasta when boiling it. Try for a semi-raw texture that’s even firmer than al dente. Because the pasta’s going into a hot sauce in a hot oven, it’ll continue to cook long after it’s been drained.
    A red sauce is traditional in Italian-American baked pasta dishes, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. You can try combining a red sauce and a white béchamel for a sauce that’s both bright and rich.
    Sauces should be well-seasoned but not overly salty, and the noodles should be tasty with an extra-firm bite.  
    And allow your dish to rest for five to 10 minutes after cooking to give the sauce a chance to settle into the nooks and crannies of your pasta and the entire dish to come together. That’s what you want, isn’t it?
    Following are a few pasta recipes from and

One Pot Spicy Chicken Riggies

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 pound chicken breast, cut into small chunks
2 large roasted red peppers, sliced into thin strips
6 hot cherry peppers, chopped and deseeded
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooking sherry or white wine
1 cup water
1 pound uncooked rigatoni
1 cup pecorino romano or Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

    In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and chicken and sauté until the chicken is just browned on the outside but not cooked through.
    Stir in roasted red peppers and hot cherry peppers and sauté for a minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and sherry. Add the water and pasta and bring to a low boil. If there isn’t enough liquid, add a bit more water. Continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the pasta has cooked to al dente.
    Reduce heat to low and add butter, basil  and salt. When the butter has melted into the pasta, add the cream and cheese. Let simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with additional cheese, basil  and red pepper flakes if desired. Serve warm.


Brown Butter Lemon Pasta

1 pound uncooked pasta such as rigatoni or bucatini
Fine sea salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
1/2 cup salted butter
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 ounce freshly-grated Parmesan

    Heat a large stockpot of generously-salted water until boiling.  Add pasta and cook until 2 minutes shy of al dente.
    Cook the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and begins to foam, stirring frequently.  Add lemon zest and a few grinds of black pepper and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until butter starts to turn golden brown and smells toasty.  Keep a close eye on the butter since it can go from golden to burnt quickly.
    Slowly pour one cup of pasta water into the brown butter mixture,  Let mixture simmer and reduce for a few minutes until it has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally.  Add the grated Parmesan and lemon juice and whisk until combined.
    When the pasta is two minutes shy of al dente, use a strainer and transfer pasta to the brown butter sauce. Toss, stirring gently and constantly until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is thick and glossy and coats the pasta evenly. If the sauce seems too dry, just add an extra 1/4 cup of the remaining pasta water as needed. Taste and season with extra salt, if needed.
    Serve immediately garnished with Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper if desired.


Garlicky Pasta With Burrata, Basil and Burst Cherry Tomatoes

1 pound uncooked pasta
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
Sea salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
1 large ball of fresh burrata cheese
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup toasted pine nuts

    Bring a large pot of generously-salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until one minute shy of al dente.
    Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, eight minutes, until the tomatoes begin to burst and release their juices. Reduce heat to low, season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove and discard the smashed garlic. Let the tomato sauce continue cooking on low until the pasta is ready.
    Use kitchen tongs to transfer the pasta to the tomato sauce and toss briefly to combine. Tear the burrata into six or eight rough pieces, then add burrata, basil, 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts and 1/2 cup hot pasta water to the pasta. Toss until the pasta is evenly combined and al dente. If the pasta seems too dry, mix in more pasta water as needed.
    Serve, sprinkling each serving with the remaining pine nuts.


Mushroom Lovers Pasta

1 pound uncooked pasta
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

    Cook pasta in a large stockpot of generously-salted water until al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta water and set it aside.  Drain the pasta.
    Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook three to four minutes, tossing every minute or so, until lightly browned and softened. Add the garlic and cook one minute, stirring occasionally.
    Add remaining butter, wine, veggie stock, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, crushed red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches a simmer, then simmer five more minutes, until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove and discard rosemary sprigs..
    Pour sauce into the stockpot with the cooked pasta. Add Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup pine nuts and toss until combined. Taste and season with extra salt, pepper and/or crushed red chili flakes if desired.     
    Serve immediately, garnished with remaining pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Kale and Shrimp Scampi

1 pound linguine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound 26/30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups chopped kale

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, generously salt it and cook linguine according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
    In a deep sided skillet or large pot over medium heat, melt two tablespoons butter in two tablespoons olive oil. Cook shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes about three minutes, until the shallots have wilted and the garlic is fragrant.
    Stir in shrimp, and cook about two minutes, until the shrimp is pink and cooked. Transfer shrimp to a small bowl.
    Add wine and lemon juice to the pan. When it comes to a boil, stir in remaining butter and olive oil. Add shrimp, linguine and kale to the pan, tossing to coat in the sauce. Serve immediately.


Chicken, Mushroom and Corn Tetrazzini

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 ear corn, kernels removed
1 teaspoon dry thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cup chicken stock, warmed
1 cup whole milk
3 to 4 cups shredded roast chicken
1 pound egg noodles, cooked
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Heat canola oil in a deep-sided saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook three to four minutes, stirring, until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms, corn, thyme and bay leaves, then season with salt and pepper. Cook another five minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked down and wilted. Transfer mushrooms and corn to a bowl and set aside.
    Return saute pan to the stove and lower the heat. Melt butter in the pan, then slowly add the flour, whisking constantly. When mixture is smooth, whisk in warm chicken stock and let simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Whisk in milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in mushrooms, shredded chicken, and gently add the cooked noodles. Transfer to a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes, until casserole is bubbling and the top is golden brown.


Baked Ziti With Roasted Eggplant and Peppers

2 medium eggplants
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bell pepper
2 ounces pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
15 ounces tomato sauce
3/4 pound ziti, penne or rigatoni pasta
1/3 cup grated Parmigianno Regianno, plus more for serving
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded

    Peel eggplants, trim the ends and slice each eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into thirds. Trying to keep the eggplant together to retain its shape, cut them across into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to a baking sheet that’s lined with foil and brushed with olive oil. Drizzle the mounds of eggplant with about three tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and place in a 400-degree oven about 45 minutes, until very tender.
    Pierce bell pepper with a fork and hold over an open gas flame until the skin is black and blistered all over. Place in a brown paper bag or in a covered bowl and let cool. Peel the skin and discard. Remove the stem and seeds, then slice the pepper into 1/4-inch pieces lengthwise.
    Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt water and cook pasta. Drain and set aside.
    Heat remaining olive oil in a deep-sided saute pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and garlic and cook until they begin to brown. Add roasted eggplant, peppers and tomato and cook one minute. Add tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and stir in the Parmigianno regianno cheese.
    Transfer pasta to a baking dish and sprinkle with mozarella. Bake about 20 minutes, until the cheese has all melted and the sauce underneath is bubbling.
    Serve with additional Parmigianno regianno cheese.


Prosciutto and Spinach Stuffed Shells

12 ounces jumbo shells pasta
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
6 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and finely chopped
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
    In a microwave safe bowl covered with plastic wrap, cook spinach in the microwave for about two minutes. Chop spinach. In a medium bowl, combine chopped spinach, prosciutto, ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese and pepper.
    Pour marinara sauce into buttered baking dish. Fill pasta shells with one to two tablespoons of the prosciutto, spinach and ricotta mixture and arrange in the dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven about 25 minutes, until the top of the dish is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.






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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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