Winter is a great time for pasta. So much so that I seem to find a lovely bowl of warm and wonderful spaghetti, gnocchi or tortellini on my table at least a few times a week. I know the anti-carb lobby does not approve but there is something ever-so-cozy about pasta. Admit it, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night. Damp and rainy cold or polar vortex cold, it doesn’t matter – pasta is the answer.
Of course, you’ll never get bored because the variety of shapes and sizes is endless. It’s not just the hundreds of possible choices to throw in the boiling pot. The list of sauces goes on forever as well. Why – I bet you could enjoy a different dish every night for year without a single repeat.
When it comes to homemade pasta, I find that one thing leads to another. A batch of ravioli inspires a nest of tagliatelle. The same goes for gnocchi. I’ve no sooner served up a hearty platter of potato gnocchi that my brain starts to spin with new recipes. Spinach, butternut squash or what about roasted beet gnocchi? When was the last time you had a purple dinner?
Anyway, pillowy-soft gnocchi, tantalizing tortellini or a simply delicious fettucine, they all need a fabulous sauce. As kids, the only one to grace our table was a hearty Bolognese. However, we were in no way fancy enough to call it that. To us, it was simply Spaghetti Sauce. And by the way, my mother, who really never liked to cook, simmered up a mean Bolognese.
Eventually, I learned there was more to Italian cooking then a great red sauce. Given my penchant for pasta during the winter months, that’s a good thing, a very good thing. After a long day, if you have an urgent need for a cozy meal, consider pasta and any of the following for a quick and easy sauce:
- Leftover roasted vegetables topped with browned butter and toasted hazelnuts are a wonderful combination – try butternut squash or cauliflower
- For an early taste of spring, sauté asparagus, snow peas and spinach and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
- Cacio e Pepe – made with butter, cracked pepper and cheese – it’s the minimalist’s answer to Mac & Cheese
- Sauté your favorite spicy sausage with broccoli rabe and garlic and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
- Simmer garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil, wine and lemon and add clams
- Sauté some onion with lots of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add crushed tomatoes and simmer before adding shrimp, olives and a few capers
- Whirl up a batch of bright green pesto with basil or your favorite herbs plus a sprinkle of cheese and nuts
- Chop up a green sauce of spinach, herbs, olives and capers – finish with a touch of lemon and garlic
- Anything with cream including just cream and cheese
- Anything with bacon
The possibilities are endless. Bon appétit!
Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù
Last week’s column featured homemade Cheesy Potato Gnocchi. For a cozy supper, toss the gnocchi in an easy sauce of bacon and mushrooms. Enjoy!
1 1/2 pounds gnocchi,* homemade or store bought
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 cup half & half (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
If making homemade gnocchi, prepare the gnocchi.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and, stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon just starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and onion, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5-8 minutes. When the mushrooms start to brown, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
Add the wine, stir in the mustard and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac. Return the skillet to the stove, stir and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.
Use a spider or slotted spoon to add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and gently toss to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add the half & half or a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 minute.
Transfer the gnocchi to shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
* if you don’t have homemade gnocchi in the house, the ragù will be just as delicious with tortellini or fettuccine.
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Three Years Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Four Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Five Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Nine Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Ten Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019