I really love pasta. I could probably eat pasta for every meal every day. And, I love cooking pasta. I even love those hours-long processes involving making homemade pasta dough, rolling it, cutting it, drying it, and then cooking it while making a complicated sauce. But, the book I want to tell you about today is not about that kind of pasta-making. This book is about regular pasta cooking or the kind you can do every day. It’s full of go-to, quick meals made from a well-stocked pantry. This is Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly by Colu Henry, and I received a review copy. The book is intended to inspire creativity with what you have on hand rather than serve as a strict set of rules. There are pasta dishes for every season, made with and without meat and/or seafood, and the options range from light to hearty. Following the pasta recipes, a section for Salads and Sides is included as well as a guide for drinks and wine. A couple of especially pretty recipes are the Scallops, Sun Golds, and a Mess of Herbs with bright, little tomatoes and seared scallops and the Frutti de Mare with Squid Ink Pasta with the black pasta strands mixed with shrimp, squid, clams, and mussels. The Tuscan Kale “Caesar” Pasta got my attention with the fried egg on top, and I like everything about the Mediterranean Cavatappi with artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta. A couple of others I want to try are the Baccala and Green Olive Pasta with Almonds and Fettuccine with Crab and Jalapenos. The first dish I made from the book is a classic, but I had to make one little change.
Linguine con Sarde is all about good pantry items like canned sardines, dried breadcrumbs, canned tomatoes, and olive oil. Traditionally, this dish includes some raisins for a sweet note. And, traditionally, I always skip the raisins in Sicilian dishes (including caponata) no matter how heretical. To start, the breadcrumbs were toasted in a skillet with olive oil, and then lemon zest and chopped fennel fronds were added. Next, the quick sauce was made by sauteeing chopped fennel and minced onion. Garlic and red pepper flakes were added followed by canned tomatoes. Meanwhile, water was brought to a boil for the pasta, and the linguine was cooked and drained. Be sure to keep some of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. I split the sardines into fillets and removed the backbone before adding them to the sauce, and then the drained pasta was added and tossed to combine. To serve, bowls of pasta were topped with golden, seasoned breadcrumbs.
The lemony, crunchy breadcrumbs are a perfect companion to the chunks of sardines in the pasta as is the sweet, sauteed fennel. As much as I enjoy pasta, I often end up using the same ingredients with it over and over. This book has plenty of ideas for changing things up and trying new combinations. Maybe I really could have pasta for every meal every day.
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