Pantry Pasta with Celery and Parmesan

pasta with celery and parmesan

Sometimes the washing machine breaks and floods the basement with sudsy water. Sometimes the heel of your favorite black leather ankle boot breaks off as you’re walking up the stairs to your office. Sometimes a jagged pebble on the interstate bounces up and cracks your windshield. Sometimes, all of these things happen on the same day.

And at the end of a day like this, simple, unfussy food can feel so, so good.

There was a time when the more exotic ingredients a recipe had, the more desperately I wanted to rush out and buy every single one. I would lock myself in the kitchen for hours, emerging triumphant, elaborate concoction in hand, anxiously awaiting oohs and ahhs. And every so often I still get the urge to flex some culinary muscle.

But these days, I fully appreciate the basic beauty of a quick, easy, tasty and healthy recipe.

Quick. Easy. Heathy. It’s the holy grail of weeknight cooking. I used to think that simple was boring – a cop out. But the truth is that simple is elegant, sophisticated. Kind of like my favorite black leather ankle boots were before that six-inch heel bit the dust.

But back to the food.

whole wheat pasta with celery and parmesan

The thing with simple food is that each ingredient matters. Good pasta, fresh celery, and the very best cheese you can find turn some simple pantry staples into a pretty delicious dinner. Assuming that, like me, you have a thing for cheese, you might even have all of the ingredients for this deceptively basic dish in your kitchen right now. And if you don’t, well, make this pasta once and I promise you’ll start keeping anchovy paste and wedges of parmesan on hand at all times.

This pasta takes all of 10 minutes to make, is full of flavor, and is ultimately comforting. If you think you aren’t a fan of anchovies, I don’t blame you. Neither was I. Until I tried melting down anchovy paste in plenty of fruity olive oil. When cooked, the anchovy paste imparts a deep, rich, salty flavor to the pasta that is frankly addictive. And if Jeff, the consummate fish hater, asks for this pasta on a weekly basis, then there really has to be something to this anchovy business. As for the celery, well, I use it because it’s always in my fridge. Why do I buy celery every week? I honestly have no idea. But I do it. And I’m always looking for ways to use it up. Go figure. I suppose that you could elevate this dish by using a bit of sliced fennel and some fennel fronds instead. But the humble celery works just fine. It’s lovely, actually, and pretty underrated.

The real star here, though, is the cheese. Which means you should spring for good cheese. And no, good cheese does not come in a shaky can. I’m not actually sure that stuff is cheese at all. What you want is a nice wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And a good grater.

pantry pasta up close

Pantry Pasta with Celery and Parmesan
Serves 4

1 13.25 ounce box of whole grain linguine
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons anchovy paste
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped celery leaves

In a large pot of boiling, well salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Be careful not to overcook. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the anchovy paste and garlic in the oil, stirring often, until the garlic starts to brown slightly. Add the celery, oregano and red pepper and continue to cook until the celery is soft, about 5 more minutes, and then reduce the heat to low. When the pasta is done, drain and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet with the celery mixture, along with one cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the sauce, along with half of the cheese. Cook, stirring, for a couple more minutes, adding additional cooking water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with the celery leaves and the remaining cheese.

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Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm  Comments (9)  
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Miso Pork Chops

miso marinated pork chops

You know what’s wrong with pork chops?  Well, for most people, absolutely nothing.  They are juicy, tasty, and quick to cook.  What could be wrong? 

Here’s what’s wrong: they are ugly. You’ve probably never noticed, but pork chops aren’t the most photogenic subjects.  So I’m attempting to distract you with some beautifully bright green veggies – look at the shiny emerald objects! Is it working? Probably not.  And that’s fine, because ugly or not, these pork chops are fantastic. 

These quick and flavorful pork chops are a perfect weeknight dinner, but they are exciting enough to serve to company, and also make for fantastic leftovers.  Reheated, sliced and tossed with some rice and steamed veggies, they may be even be better the next day. Of course, they are awfully tasty straight from the oven, served alongside some sauteed sesame-sprinkled green beans.

If you haven’t use it before, don’t let miso paste scare you.  It is lovely, salty, earthy, and intense – not to mention healthy! Miso is fermented soybeans (sometimes with rice or barley as well), and generally sold as a paste.  There are many varieties of miso, but I’ve found white and red miso paste are most common in my local grocery stores. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the flavor of the miso paste.  I threw together this recipe to use up the remnants of a tub of miso paste, and have used up another tub of miso paste making it again and again. But if you find yourself with some extra miso and need some inspiration, check out this recipe for saucy soba noodles with ground pork: Pork Noodles

Japanese miso pork chop

Miso Pork Chops

Serves 4

3 tablespoons red miso paste

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons sriracha (chili sauce)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

4  boneless center cut pork chops (each about 1 inch thick)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Wisk together the miso paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of oil.  Arrange the pork chops in a shallow dish and drizzle with the marinade, turning to coat both sides.  Cover and  marinate for 20-30 minutes. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with the remaining oil. Arrange the pork chops on the baking sheet (they should be well coated with marinade; discard any excess marinade) and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook, but do cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.  Serve right away.

Published in: on December 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm  Comments (13)  
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