April 10, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: A pair of versatile pasta dishes that are good for any occasion

Pasta can be paired and sauced with an almost infinite variety of ingredients. Here are two dishes -- one humble, one quite elegant and refined (and both delicious) -- to fit in with whatever occasion you might have planned.


The sharp flavors of wine, broccoli, and salty cheese brighten up this sturdy pasta dish. Add some store-bought accompaniments such as caponata (eggplant relish), olives, roasted peppers and seeded breadsticks to complete the meal.

Servings: Four

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

11/3 cup dry white wine

1 (15-ounce) can large white beans (cannellini), drained

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

12 ounces penne or other similar-shaped pasta

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups broccoli florets (from about 1 pound broccoli)

2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saut?or 1 minute. Add wine, beans and red pepper flakes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce reduces and thickens lightly.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until pasta is al dente, about 3 more minutes. Remove and reserve about 11/2 cups of the pasta water and then drain pasta into a colander. Toss bean mixture with pasta mixture and cheese, adding pasta water if it seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Serve this pasta with a salad of dark leafy greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and French dinner rolls with butter. A seasonal tart -- homemade or bought from a good bakery -- would complete this elegant little dinner nicely.

Servings: Four

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

1 zucchini (about 8 ounces), halved, seeds scooped out and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

12 ounces linguine or other strand pasta

6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons drained capers

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the oil. Add garlic and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add cream and zucchini and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, juice, tarragon and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes. Remove about 1 cup of cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Toss sauce and pasta until well combined and season with salt and pepper to taste, adding a bit of cooking water if it seems dry. Transfer to a warm platter, drape salmon over the top and sprinkle with capers. Toss at the table.


Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Lobster!" (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny


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