Great Pastas I Have Known...

Pasta and Pizza are two really great things in the culinary world. I love them both, with pizza edging out most other things to be my all time favorite food. Once upon a time, when I was young and therefore didn't care about my health, I used to eat lots of pizza and pasta. The Atkins mentality has considerably dampened that whole part of my culinary experience, but I refuse to give it up entirely. Instead, I am treating these foods the same way I do red meat. My rule for red meat is that I won't eat it unless it is top quality. In practice, that means either I made it (yeah, a bit of hubris there, I know), or I have purchased it from a first class red meat establishment such as Morton's or Ruth's Chris. In this way I avoid Burger King and McDonald's, and generally lessen my overall consumption. I've done the same for pizza and pasta, and even though it's been hard, I still can enjoy the very best quality dishes without too much guilt. Check out these great pasta recipes.


Penne Pasta with Rosemary Sausage Sauce

This dish is so tasty our first batch disappeared in a heartbeat and the guests were still scratching around for more. It's also so easy to make that you can assemble a quick Mise en Place (stick all the ingredients into bowls) and cook outdoors. There are few ingredients, steps, or complications, but the flavors are bright and cheery. We recently cooked this dish outdoors, and with our ocean view imagined that we were looking out over the Meditteranean from our (mythical) place in Italy:

Cooking Al Fresco!

Ingredients (6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red onions, peeled and chopped
5 Italian Sausages (2 spicy and 3 sweet is a nice combination)
1 2/3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 small dried hot chile peppers, crumbled
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
11 ounces penne pasta
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 heaping cup of freshly grated Parmesan
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper


Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and sauté the onions until they are light brown.

Remove the sausage meat from the casings, crumble it, and add it to the sauce pan along with the rosemary, bay leaves, and chile. Sauté over high heat, mashing the sausage meat every so often to be sure it crumbles.

When the meat has browned, remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, and continue cooking for another 20 minutes until the sausage meat is brown and crumbly.

Add the tomatoes, stir, and bring to a boil.

Remove from stove.

Cook the penne in boiling salted water and drain thoroughly.

Stir the cream into the sauce, add half the Parmesan, and then toss the penne in the sauce until coated and thoroughly mixed.

Season, and serve with the remaining Parmesan.


Linguini with Tomatoes, Smoked Bacon, and Arugula

This was a very interesting dish for me. My original notion of homemade pasta hailed from the classic American spaghetti recipe: put a bunch of stuff in a pot and cook it all day. The fresher/stronger/more of the stuff, the better the sauce. Generations of college kids have grown up to adulthood thinking this was real cooking. Imagine my surprise when I got a look at a radically different formula for success. The way this sauce is prepared, where things are put together late instead of earlier, and where there are fewer spices instead of more, was a revelation to me. Adding chicken stock was almost like cheating, but heck, it works, its easy, and it tastes great! It's also a very convenient recipe, since the basic sauce can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, and it reheats well in the microwave for lunches later in the week.

Linguini with Tomatoes, Smoked Bacon, and Arugula

Ingredients (4 servings)


3 14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 large onion, chopped
6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch wide strips
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth


1 pound linguini
1 5-ounce bag of arugula
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place diced tomatoes in a large strainer set over a bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes to drain liquid into the bowl. Reserve juice.

Drizzle rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread the diced tomatoes 1 layer thick over the sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are slightly carmelized, stirring every 10 minutes. Should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Watch closely near the end!

Meanwhile, bring the reserved tomato juice and puree to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. It will have a thick consistency, like a finished tomato sauce.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Put the onion in and saute until browned--about 12-15 minutes. Stir in the roasted tomatoes and the reduced tomato sauce. Taste it: super concentrated tomato goodness! You can make this part up to 3 days in advance.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp, transferring to paper towels to drain. Pour off the drippings from the skillet. Heat the reamining 3 tablespoons of oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper. Stir for 1 minute, and then add the tomato sauce and chicken broth. Simmer 10 minutes to develop the flavors. Stir in the bacon last.


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. You want it to be a bit firm, Al Dente as they say. Drain, and return the pasta to a pot, or to the bowl you'll be serving from. Add the sauce, arugula, and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Toss until the arugula wilts. Serve with additional Parmesan as desired.


Penne Carbonara ala Chipotle with Smoked Beef Tenderloin

There is more to life than tomato based Italian pasta though Lord knows life would still be fine if there wasn't. This is an experimental dish designed to be hearty and strongly Southwestern in flavor. Having recently had one of our smoked meat extravaganzas, we have plenty of smoked meat leftovers. We always fill the smoker to capacity and knosh our way through the week or two after with the tasty smoked meat. I don't see this as any different than the cured meats of sophisticated Charcuterie, though our smoking process doesn't cure the meats well enough for preservation as true Charcuterie would. In any event, we have some lovely Omaha prime beef tenderloins that have been smoked all day over Mesquite. They have a spicy/tangy crust from the rub I like to use. Coupling these flavors with a traditional creamy-cheesy Carbonara should be perfect. We'll add a touch of Chipotle Adobe just to make sure the smokey Southwest flavors are in evidence. Lastly, for a touch of green, we'll be adding asparagus, another traditional beef accompaniment.

Serves 6

12 ounces of smoked beef tenderloin (filet), sliced thin into bit-sized chunks.
1 1/2 pounds blanched asparagus cut into pieces a little shorter than the penne
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspon of Chipotle Adobo sauce (see recipe for Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce)
freshly ground black pepper
6 egg yolks -- freshness matters in this recipe!
1/2 cup heavy cream
sea salt
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
9 ounces penne rigate pasta

Saute the asparagus briefly in olive oil with the basil leaves. Mix in the smoked beef chunks. Set aside keeping warm.

Beat the egg yolks with the cream and season with salt and pepper and Chipotle Adobo. Add half the Parmesan.

Cook the penne in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly. Combine the pasta immediately with the warm asparagus and beef and then pour in the cream mixture. Stir to coat each pasta piece--the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs so don't dawdle lest your pasta cool!

Add the remaining Parmesan and serve.

Smoked Pork Loin and Chipotle Cream Pasta

4 Servings

1 bunch of fresh asparagus
3/4 cup of frozen peas
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
2 shallots, diced
1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper + 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce
2 tablespoons of good quality tomato paste (get the kind in a tube if available)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried basil
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 package of pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining

Optional Garnishes

Fresh or dried parsely
Red pepper flakes
Fresh Parmesan Cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (for the asparagus). Put the pasta water on to boil while you make the sauce.

Chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces, put them into a bowl and add 1 tbs of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well, then put them onto a non-stick cookie sheet, and stick into the preheated oven. Keep an eye on it. Turn it so it roasts evenly on both sides. It will only need a couple minutes to stay crisp. Remove when done and put it in a bowl to set aside for later.

In a large skillet heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Once it starts to froth, toss in the onions and shallots. Cook them until translucent and just starting to brown at the edges - about 3-5 minutes.

Add the roasted red peppers and the frozen peas and continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes until it starts to brown and take on a rich color.

Add the garlic and adobo sauce (but not the chipotles!) and cook for another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Chunk up your pork loin or whatever meat you'll be adding (it should be already cooked) and add it to the mixture to warm.

Add the tomato paste and stir for another 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Slice the chipotle pepper as fine as possible, put it into a food processor, and add parseley, basil, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Give it a quick whir, but don't chop it down to pesto.

Transfer this mixture back to the pan, put it back on medium-low heat, and stir. Add the heavy cream and continue stirring until thickened. Add the asparagus and the 1 cup of parmesan to warm and coat. Keep tending it until the parmesan has melted and thickened the sauce.

The pasta water should now be boiling. Add the pasta taking care not to overcook it--al dente!

Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta.

Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce pan and toss it until well coated. Add a little of the pasta water as needed to get the pasta and sauce to meld.

Serve family style and garnish with more parsely and cheese.



Back to Recipe Central...

All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.