Category Archives: Pasta

Pasta Vongole

Growing up I would spend Christmas Eve with my good friend Anne-Marie and her big Italian Catholic family. It is one of my fondest childhood holiday memories. Anne-Marie’s family was big, loud, and boisterous…and they welcomed me in as if I was one of their own. They included me in all their Christmas Eve activities and even had a present for me under the tree. I never felt like a lonely Jew at Christmas.

And best of all was their Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas Eve feast. Anne-Marie’s dad was a lobsterman and so we had a real bounty of seafood. I remember endless amounts of food coming out of the kitchen—all types of seafood: breaded cod, shrimp cocktail, calamari, pasta with clams, and best of all, pasta with a fiery red lobster sauce. It was incredible!!! All we did was eat, drink, talk, and laugh.

Now that I am an adult and I typically spend Christmas Eve in a more low-key fashion I miss the yearly celebration with my adopted Italian family. This year I decided to hold my own Feast of the Seven Fishes….only since I was dining alone, I had to cut it down to one fish. Pasta Vongole (or pasta with clams) is a recent obsession. Lately, if I see it on an Italian menu I tend to order it. One of my favorite versions can be found at Il Panino in Boston’s North End. But the version below is quite delicious and easy to make any time of year.

Pasta Vongole

1 pound spaghetti
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese (if desired for garnish)

1.    Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt generously. Add the spaghetti, and cook until slightly underdone, about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Set aside.
2.    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili; cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the clams and white wine, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil; cover and cook, shaking occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, until the clams open. Stir in the parsley. Transfer the clams to a bowl and set aside.
3.    Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the reserved pasta water and lemon juice; reduce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the butter. Add the clam mixture and spaghetti. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4
Recipe inspired by The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics

Marcus Samuelsson’s Gnocchi

I love everything about Marcus Samuelsson! His cooking style is truly versatile and global. It is clear from his recipes and menus that he put heart, research, and culture in to his dishes. Plus he has a wonderful story. It also doesn’t hurt that he is adorable!

Chef Samuelsson first came on to my radar screen when he opened Aquavit in New York City. I spent a semester in college studying in Denmark, so there is a soft spot in my palette for Scandinavian cuisine. Chef Samuelsson does the real deal at Aquavit and brings the tastes of his adopted homeland, Sweden, to a level that New York City diners can appreciate and delight in.

I also enjoy that Chef Samuelsson honors his African roots as well. This was especially evident in his appearances on Top Chef Masters (which he won in Season 2).

I had the honor of meeting Chef Samuelsson a few months ago when he was in DC promoting his new cookbook New American Table. This is a wonderful cookbook filled with vibrant pictures, stories, and recipes. You can see the influence the immigrant experience has had on Chef Samuelsson. But what I picked up on after flipping through the pages is Samuelsson’s love for New York City.  It’s like a walk through the neighborhoods of the Big Apple—on one page there is a recipe for pad thai, on the next fish goulash, followed by jerk-spiced catfish. The ethnic influences are endless: Chinese, Italian, Jamaican, Swedish, Russian, Thai, Ethiopian, Cuban, and Creole.  The recipes are easy to follow and fun to make.

I have been searching long and hard for a good gnocchi recipe. Gnocchi and pesto happens to be my comfort food….it quickly takes me to my happy place. When I saw Chef Samuelsson’s recipe I decided to give it a shot. This is a great recipe and I was thrilled with the results. They were much lighter than past recipes and had a great texture and flavor. Plus as it turns out gnocchi is a lot of fun to make!

I made a late-Spring/early-Summer preparation of the gnocchi, simply sautéing them with sundried tomatoes, English peas, spinach, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Marcus Samuelsson’s Gnocchi


1 cup sea salt
2 Idaho potatoes (1/2 pound)
2 garlic cloves unpeeled, plus 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove thinly sliced
3 teaspoons chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2.    Spread the sea salt on a baking sheet. Arrange the potatoes and the unpeeled garlic on the salt and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and continue to roast the potatoes until very tender, about another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

3.    Peel the potatoes and garlic and put them through a ricer into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg to taste and mix well. Add the flour and knead until a dough forms. Try not to overwork the dough. (The more the dough is worked, the more flour you will need, resulting in heavier gnocchi.) Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

4.    On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half and roll each half into ½-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into ½-inch-long pieces and press the tines of a fork into each piece to make grooves in the surface. Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet lightly sprinkled with flour.  (At this point, you can divide the gnocchi into servings by arranging on pieces of plastic wrap dusted with flour. Wrap each serving in plastic wrap or place in zip-locked plastic bag and freeze).

5.    Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice cubes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, drop the gnocchi (fresh or frozen) into the water and summer until they float to the top, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lace in the ice bath for 30 seconds.

6.    To reheat the gnocchi, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the gnocchi and the sliced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with chives and serve.

Turkey Bolognese

There is nothing more comforting than settling in to a hot plate of pasta with meat sauce on a Sunday night. The problem is, depending on how you make that sauce, the meal doesn’t have much nutritious value. Luckily I came across a delicious recipe a few weeks ago where the typical ground beef/veal/pork mixture is replaced with lean ground turkey. Combined with the various vegetables and served with a leafy green salad and whole grain pasta, this ends up being a delicious and healthy meal. Probably the part with the most calories will be the garlic bread you serve with the pasta (which let’s face it…is a must!).

10 slices turkey bacon (6 ounces), finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 lb. ground turkey (97% lean is preferred)
¾ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (14 ½ ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ cup half-and-half
¼ cup chopped parsley


1.    In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook bacon over medium until crisp, 10 minutes. Add onion, carrots, and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
2.    Add turkey; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8 to 9 minutes. Add wine and garlic; cook until wine has almost evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste and oregano, cook stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes.
3.    Add broth and half-and-half; bring to a boil over high. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until sauce is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes more. Sprinkle in parsley and stir. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Yields 6 cups

Adapted from Everyday Food, Emeril Lagasse

Springtime Risotto

As a person that loves to cook locally and seasonally I get very excited this time of year when the seasons starts to change and my ingredients start to become fresher and lighter. After making my first shad roe sighting at the P Street Whole Foods, I know spring is definitely on its way. In order to celebrate I made a delicious risotto. I use zucchini and peas in this recipe but you can easily switch around the ingredients to what you can find at your local farmers market: asparagus, ramps, or fava beans would all be delicious.


2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 large zucchini (1 pound), cut into ½-inch cubes
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 ½ cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish


1.    Heat the broth and 2 ½ cups water in a saucepan over low heat; keep warm. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is golden, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a plate.
2.    Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onion; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Raise the heat to medium. Add the rice; cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the wine; cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
3.    Cook the rice, adding 1 cup hot broth at a time (stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding more), until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.
4.    Add the zucchini and peas; cook until the peas are bright green, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining tablespoon butter and the Parmesan. Serve, topped with more cheese.

Adapted from Everyday Food’s Great Food Fast.