During the season of extra holiday preparations and party planning, coming up with tasty daily dinner options can feel like a chore. Pretty much everyone I know loves a delicious and nutritious pasta recipe, and this one -- for Fusilli Pomodoro with Arugula & White Beans -- has been tested on the toughest audience. A pasta hater.
Yes, folks, it's a real thing. Said tester also is a major carnivore and can't imagine not having meat as the main course for almost every meal.
I had major butterflies moving around in my stomach while waiting for the final review. When the results came in, it was an extremely enthusiastic "DELICIOUS," and I nearly fell over from the anticipation relief. I mean, I thought it was fantastic myself, but to hear the word uttered by a pasta-hating, no-use-for-vegetables carnivore made me do a little arm pump and quietly scream "Yes!" internally.
Pomodoro simply refers to a fresh tomato sauce. While this recipe is technically meatless, it does call for chicken stock as part of the secret to the incredible, rich flavor boost while cooking the pasta. If you'd like to go full vegetarian here, no problem: Just substitute a hearty vegetable or mushroom (even better!) stock as a swap to the chicken version. The technique to making dried pasta taste great is to first cook it in seasoned liquid (hence most recipes calling for salted water), and then toss it in the sauce or toppings straight from the boiling water, while also stirring in some of the starchy cooking liquid.
It may seem as though we are using less liquid than usually called for to boil the pasta (a standard ratio is 1 gallon of liquid to 1 pound of dried pasta). This is true, and the reasons are twofold. First, we want to cut down on any wasted liquid since we are using stock rather than water to cook the pasta, and stock holds tons of flavor value. Second, we are going to use the pasta-cooking liquid as an important part of the sauce, and therefore want to concentrate the actual liquid as it cooks down and mingles with the starchy pasta, giving us a delicious, yummy thickened result. If you find that the stock is reducing faster than the pasta is cooking, simply add some water to just cover the pasta until it's done cooking.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville. Follow her at http://blogs.lowell sun.com/yourpersonalchef,and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @ShisoKitchen.
Fusilli Pomodoro with Arugula & White Beans
1/2 lb. dried fusilli pasta
6 c. chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed & drained
2-3 c. fresh arugula greens
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried basil
Grated Parmesan cheese, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil a large, straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the halved grape tomatoes, garlic and dried basil, and give a good stir. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the white beans, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the arugula and balsamic vinegar. Toss the mixture until the arugula is just wilted. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil with 1 tbsp. salt. Cook the pasta in the boiling stock to "al dente," meaning it should have a little bite to it rather than being completely soft and tender, usually for about 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions recommend. To check, simply bite into a piece of cooled pasta. The center should be just slightly white, and the texture soft and slightly chewy on the inside.
3. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it directly from the cooking stock to the simmering Pomodoro, arugula and white beans with a slotted spoon. There should be about 2 cups of pasta cooking stock remaining. If there is more, simply measure out 2 cups of the liquid, and add it to the Pasta Pomodoro mixture. Add in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and stir to combine and coat everything. Cook for another 2 minutes to finish cooking the pasta. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more of the pasta cooking stock, and toss to coat. Serve with additional parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper, as desired.