Pressure Cooker Pot Roast and Potatoes

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I know it’s summer, but despite the season, I was in the mood for beefy comfort food last night, specifically: pot roast. However, time got away from us yesterday and we got home way too late to prepare a traditional roast. I then remembered a recipe for a pressure-cooked version in Pressure Cooker Perfection from America’s Test Kitchen.

It’s a four-step recipe that yields a perfectly cooked pot roast in 30 minutes under high pressure. With releasing pressure and skimming the sauce, I had the roast on the table in a little more than an hour from start to finish.

The key to this recipe is a “secret ingredient,” something that you’ll probably never find in a gourmet store or even in the fine-foods section of a grocery. It’s not imported and it sells for under $2.00. It’s condensed French onion soup. I used Campbell’s; I don’t know of any other.

If the thought of using this ingredient turns you off, the recipe may still win you over with its use of dried porcini. It yields an aromatic, juicy roast with creamy, flavor-infused potatoes. Granted you may not want to make this roast this summer, but when fall approaches, you may want to give it a try.

Note: Before attempting this recipe, be sure you are thoroughly familiar with your pressure cooker. Read the manual to know its capacity and to understand how to lock the lid, the cooker’s high-pressure indicator, the methods of releasing (natural and quick release), and the like.

Weeknight Pot Roast and Potatoes Adapted from Pressure Cooker Perfection by America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (the original recipe calls for 1/2 ounce)
1 can (10.5 oz) condensed French onion soup
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I recommend the double concentrate from a tube.)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (not in the original recipe)
2.5 – 3 pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed and cut across the grain into 1 inch slices
2 pounds small or medium Yukon Gold potatoes, washed

1 – In a small bowl, rehydrate the mushrooms in 1/2 cup warm water for about 20 minutes; remove the mushrooms from the water, squeezing any excess water back into the bowl. Strain the soaking water through a coffee filter or strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove any grit and reserve. Mince the mushrooms.

2 – Whisk soup, tomato paste, mushrooms, and their strained soaking water in the pressure cooker pot. Lay the sliced meat over the mixture. Season with ground cumin. Place the potatoes on top of the meat. Lock the pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pressure cooker reaches high pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.

3 – Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove the lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

4 – Transfer meat and potatoes to a warmed platter. Using a large spoon, skim excess fat from the surface of the sauce. Serve the meat and potatoes with the sauce.

Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Pepper and Onion Frittata

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After several heavy meals, I like to prepare something simple, light, and quick. Such was the case last night, when we came home after 7PM from a day of errands and shopping and wanted to have dinner before 8. The answer was a a frittata made from onions, peppers, eggs, Pecorino, Romano, and flat leaf parsley.

I learned to make frittatas as I was growing up from watching my aunt at the stove. Unlike a French omelette, which should take about a minute to cook, a frittata takes cooks slowly on a low flame. And rather than rolled liked it French counterpart, it’s flipped over to finish cooking.

It’s great served hot, room temperature, and yes, even cold.

3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1.5 pounds bell peppers (red, yellow, orange; I don’t like the taste of green) sliced thin
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced thin
10 extra large eggs
2 Tablespoons milk
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1/4 cup, Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Peppers and onions uncooked
Peppers and onions uncooked

In a large sauté pan heat the oil and the garlic clove until shimmering. Add the peppers and onions and sauté over medium high heat, tossing frequently until browned. Remove the garlic clove before it gets brown. Set aside.

 

Browned peppers and onion
Browned peppers and onion

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, until thoroughly mixed.

Egg mixture
Egg mixture

In a 10 inch non-stick pan, transfer the peppers and onions from the sauté pan being sure to capture any remaining olive oil that’s in the pan.

Heat over a low flame and when hot, add the egg mixture. Stir the eggs and the vegetables to combine. Still over a low flame, as the eggs set around the edge, push the set portion into the center and allow the wet potion of the egg mixture to flow into the sides of the pan. Continue to do this, until most of the eggs are set.

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Eggs setting on first side

When the eggs are almost fully set yet slightly wet on the top, remove from the heat, and then cover with a round pizza pan or plate large enough to cover the pan and flip onto the pizza pan or plate, using oven mitts.

Slide the frittata back into the pan and continue to cook, still over low flame, until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Finished frittata on cutting board
Finished frittata on cutting board

Slip the cooked frittata onto a cutting board, slice and serve.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese

 

Linguine alle Vongole

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Last night, we enjoyed our favorite seafood pasta: linguine alle vongole, linguine with white clam sauce. It’s a relatively quick and easy dish to prepare, but it does require attention to detail: slow poaching of the garlic in the olive oil to extract optimal flavor, just a pinch of Calabrian red pepper flakes, a final addition of finely minced fresh garlic and lemon zest at the end to add brightness.

As with most Italian cooking, the primary ingredients must be of the highest quality. For this reason, sometimes you have to adjust a recipe by what’s available in the market. Such was the case yesterday. Typically I use either Manila or small littlenecks for this dish. However, yesterday, there were none of the former and the latter were just too big. But I did find some wonderfully fresh cockles, which I find a tad sweeter than clams.

2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Calabrian red pepper flakes
2 pounds small clams (littleneck, Manila, or cockles), scrubbed if necessary and rinsed. Inspect the clams discarding any that are cracked or that are open and do not close when pinched.
1/3 cup of dry white wine
1/2 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped fine
8 oz linguine
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon, unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, starting from room temperature, poach 3/4 of the garlic and the pepper flakes in the olive oil over a low flame until aromatic. Add a pinch of the parsley for the final minute of sautéing. The garlic should take on only the lightest hint of gold color.

Sautéed garlic awaiting the clams
Sautéed garlic awaiting the clams

At this point, liberally salt the water (add the salt slowly to avoid boiling over) and start cooking the pasta. Cook the pasta following package directions for 1 minute less than al dente

Add the clams, wine, and 3/4 of the parsley to the sauté pan, raise the heat and bring to a high simmer over medium high heat. Cover the pan tightly and shaking occasionally, cook the clams until they open. About 6 minutes.

Clams just opened
Clams just opened

Remove the clams with a slotted spoon, discarding any that do not open, sprinkle them with the lemon zest. Raise the flame to high and bring the sauce remaining in the pan to a boil. Add the butter. Using tongs or a pasta fork, immediately transfer the cooked pasta to the sauté pan and toss for about a minute to coat the pasta. If too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. At this point, the pasta will be the perfect al dente

Transfer the pasta and sauce to a bowl, add the clams, the remaining 1/4 of the minced garlic, and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve on warmed plates with a few grinds of fresh black pepper if desired.

Wine Pairing: Soave, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc

Roast Halibut with Artichokes

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It seems that cooking magazines are always arriving in the mail and it’s hard to keep up with them. Once in a while, I go on a binge read, tearing out the recipes I want to make and filing them for future use. When I choose to prepare one of these recipes, I feel my subscriptions are justified—especially when, as last night, it turns out so good.

This recipe comes from the December 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine. It calls for cod, but when I went to the fish market, the halibut looked much better. It worked perfectly; the flavor is similar to cod, but the texture is richer.

The bed of crisp and creamy potatoes, earthy roasted artichoke hearts, and salty Kalamata olives provided the perfect background for the mildly sweet flavors of the halibut.

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine December 2013
Ingredients

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced (I used a mandolin for uniform 1/8 inch thick potatoes)
1 9 -ounce box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 6 -ounce cod fillets (I substituted halibut.)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges for serving

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine the potato slices, artichokes, olives, rosemary, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl. Spread the mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet; bake until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Vegetables before roasting
Vegetables before roasting

Brush the fish with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the fish on top of the vegetables. Return to the oven and continue baking until the fish is opaque and the vegetables are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Fish before roasting
Fish before roasting

Mix the lemon juice, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the parsley and drizzle over the fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

Read more at: Food Network

Meat Pie “Pizza” Style

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Somehow the day got away from me yesterday and I needed to get dinner on the table in a hurry, or at least in under an hour. Once again I turned to Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian for his recipe for an exquisite Meat Pie “Pizza” Style. This is the second time, I’ve prepared this dish. I’ve made some modifications to the original recipe, adding a little nutmeg, increasing the amount of mozzarella, and adding a few minutes to the original cooking time.

This “pizza” consists of beef, pancetta, pecorino Romano, bread, eggs, seasoning and is topped with mozzarella, basil, and oregano. It’s essentially a meatloaf topped like a pizza Margherita. A wonderful supper in 35 minutes about from start to finish. In case you didn’t know, Giuliano is the son of Victor and Marcella Hazan.

Meat Pie, “Pizza” Style Adapted from Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan
INGREDIENTS
2 slices white bread, trimmed of crusts
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound ground beef 85% lean
1/2 cup pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons plain fine bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter (for greasing the baking dish)
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, shredded
3/4 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes drained of juice, coarsely chopped
4 to 5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried whole oregano leaves crushed between thumbs
Olive oil for drizzling

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.

2. Put the trimmed bread and the milk in a small bowl and mash it with your hands until you get a smooth pasty mixture. Transfer it to a large mixing bowl and add the beef, the grated pecorino, the bread crumbs, the eggs, the chopped pancetta, and ground nutmeg.

3. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then mix everything together thoroughly with your hands.

4. Grease the bottom and sides of a round pie dish approximately 10 inches in diameter. Put in the ground beef mixture and push it down with your hands until it is evenly spread out. Cover with the tomatoes. Cut the mozzarella into strips and arrange them over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the shredded basil and dried oregano on top, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Before baking

Let the “pizza” settle for about 5 minutes after you take it out of the oven, then transfer it with two spatulas to a serving plate. Serve it hot or lukewarm.

Plated
Plated

Wine Pairing: Chianti, Zinfandel

 

Roast Chicken

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Roast chicken has to be one of my favorite poultry dishes. However, for a weeknight dinner roasting a whole bird may be a little too time consuming. That’s one of the reasons why I use Dave Lieberman’s recipe “Dad’s Roast Chicken My Way.” Lieberman somehow disappeared from the Food Network, but his easygoing approach to cooking was a welcome alternative to some of the network’s more flamboyant stars.

Over the years, I’ve tweaked this recipe adding a little ground cumin to the seasoning, upping the amount of herbs, and sprinkling the skin with some paprika for added color. But my major change is substituting skin-on, bone-in thighs for the chicken pieces. In my opinion, thighs are the tastiest parts of the chicken.

I like to serve this dish with roasted broccoli.

Also, take the time to make the olive oil drizzle. Just a little adds a lot of flavor to the chicken, especially if you don’t enjoy eating the skin.

Dad’s Roast Chicken My Way Adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients
For the chicken:
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken cut in 8 serving pieces (I use thighs.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ground cumin
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Olive oil, for drizzling
Zest of 1 lemon
Paprika

For the parsley drizzle:
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.

Trim off any excess skin or fat from the chicken. Cut off and discard the wing tips. Place the chicken pieces in an 11 by 13-inch baking pan lined with foil, or any pan that that they fit in without crowding.

Season the chicken pieces generously with salt, pepper, cumin olive oil, the herbs, and the lemon zest. Toss through all the seasonings and then arrange the chicken piece skin side up in the pan. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. (You can season the chicken pieces and set them up in the roaster up to a day before you cook them. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Chicken marinating
Chicken marinating

Roast until the skin is nicely browned and there is no pink near the thigh bone and the juices run clear, about 35 to 40 minutes. Check both white meat and dark meat. If the white meat is done before the dark meat, take it out and set it on the serving plate until the dark meat is done.

For the parsley drizzle, wash and dry the parsley. Remove the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves finely. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and use immediately to garnish the roast chicken.

Wine Pairing: Chablis, un-oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

 

Pizza Margherita Redux

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Last night saw another pizza Margherita from my kitchen. On a quest to improve what’s already a good pizza, I keep trying different flours, kneading times, cook times, and the like. Yesterday’s attempt involved a change of ovens.

For quite some time now, I’ve been relying on my Breville Smart Oven for baking pizza. It does a very good job, especially with the help of a pizza stone. But the more I read on the subject, I’m finding that cooking temperature plays a key role. Every pizza enthusiast dreams of having a wood-burning oven that can reach an ideal temperature between 700°F to 750°F; but for most of us having one will more than likely only remain a dream.

Before baking
Before baking

So last night, following my favorite pizza recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table, I used the lowest shelf of my oven with a pizza stone and baked the pizza at 500°F. The higher temp made a difference not only in the cooking time, but in the texture of the dough. The cooking time was reduced by 5 minutes and the dough definitely had more chew.

What I’m looking for now is more height to the pizza, those “bubbles” in the crust that you get from cooking in a wood-burning oven. If any of you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Here’s a link to the Pizza Recipe.

Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Lemon Sole Oreganata

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After a rather heavy rib dinner on Friday night, we both thought dining “light” was a must for Saturday’s supper. For us, lighter fare typically means fish, and one of the lightest I know how to prepare is sole. So after a day of watching classic films on TCM, I headed off to the fish market, where I found some sparkling white, wild lemon sole.

Although I am trying to expand my limited seafood repertoire, sole for me usually equates with sole oreganato, one of the mainstays of Friday night meals and Lenten suppers from my Italian-American boyhood. Boyhood dining memories also include my father’s taking us to one of the most famous Italian-American restaurants in New York City, Patsy’s. In fact, my dad was the attorney to Patsy Scognamillo, the restaurant’s founder. This is one of the reasons I was gifted not long ago with a copy of Patsy’s Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant written by the founder’s grandson, Sal.

As I thought, the book had, along with many celebrity tales, an appealing recipe for fillet of sole arreganata and I opted to pretty much follow that for cooking the fish.  However, out of deference to my Sicilian mother and Neapolitan aunt, I chose to make their breadcrumb topping.

Topping
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs Italian parsley, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl, stir all the dry ingredients and then add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork until the breadcrumbs are moistened. You may use a little more or less olive oil depending on the breadcrumbs. The mixture should have just enough oil to clump together lightly when pinched with your fingers and to allow the breadcrumbs to brown and not burn when under the broiler.

Fish
1 1/2 pounds lemon sole (2 large fillets)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Bread crumb topping
Lemon wedges for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the fish fillets in a baking dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer and dot with the butter.
3. Combine the lemon juice and wine in a small bowl and spoon over the fish. The juice should be just enough to come up to the sides of the fish but not cover it. Season with the paprika.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.
5. Remove the fish and set the oven to broil.
6. Sprinkle the topping on the fillets and broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Serve with white rice sauced with the juices from the fish and with lemon wedges as garnish. Serves 2 as a main course.

Wine Pairing: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Sauvignon Blanc

 

 

 

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

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For us, Friday often means “Margarita Madness.” Consequently, frozen margaritas dictate the menu, which often means something other than Italian and, more than likely, something along the lines of grilled meat, Tex-Mex or, as we enjoyed last night, barbecue.

I wanted pork ribs with meat falling off the bones, which meant either slow-cooking or pressure-cooking. Given my schedule, I opted for the latter. One of my go-to books for pressure cooking is Pressure Cooker Perfectionfrom America’s Test Kitchen, which is where I found a great recipe for Barbecued Baby Back Ribs.

When I went to the butcher, he was actually butchering a pig. He said he could only provide me with a small rack of baby backs so I opted for standard pork spare ribs to have enough for our party.

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Local sourced pork ribs

One gripe I have with the book I used is their highlighting the pressure cooking time in the recipe, which was 30 minutes. It leads one to believe that it’s a 30-minute recipe, when in fact it’s more like a 60 minute one. Lesson learned, at least for now: READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE BEFORE STARTING TO COOK!

When I cook, I like to have all the prep completed. I’ve therefore modified the book recipe to follow my style of cooking.

This recipe yielded some of the most mouth-watering ribs I’ve ever had, with a sauce that was the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and savory. Neither the generous dry nor and the ketchup-molasses sauce overpowered the succulence of these local sourced ribs.

Unbuttered corn on the cob was the side.

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs Adapted from Pressure Cooker Perfection

Ingredients
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (1 1/2-to 2-pound) racks baby back ribs, cut into 2-rib sections
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1. Prepare Dry Rub: Combine paprika, sugar, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and cayenne, then rub mixture evenly over ribs.

2. Prepare Sauce: Combine ketchup, water, molasses, vinegar, and mustard. Measure out and reserve 1 cup sauce.

3. Heat oil in pressure-cooker pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sauce, except for the reserved cup, and stir.

4. Arrange ribs upright in pot with meaty sides facing outward, then pour reserved sauce over ribs.

5. Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.

6. Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

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Ribs right after cooking

7. Adjust over rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place wire rack inside aluminum foil-lined rimmed backing sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer ribs, meaty side up, to prepared baking sheet. Using large spoon, skim excess fat from surface of sauce. Bring sauce to simmer and cook until thickened and measures 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Brush ribs with some of the sauce, then broil until browned and sticky, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping and brushing with additional sauce every few minutes. Serve ribs with remaining sauce.

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Ribs sauced before going under the broiler

Farfalle with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula

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I needed a pasta course last night that would be perfect for dining al fresco. Wanted something light yet flavorful. My search led me to Molto Bataliby Mario Batali, where I found the recipe below for Farfalle with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula.

Farfalle with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula Adapted from Molto Mario.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 pounds farfalle pasta
4 cups (about 5 ounces) baby arugula, trimmed

Bring 8 quarts of water to boil in a large pasta pot.

While the water is heating, heat the olive oil in a 14-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until light golden brown. (I added my thinly sliced garlic to the cold oil. I watched it carefully, stirring occasionally so that the garlic would cook slowly and not get overly browned. If your garlic should burn, start over.)

Add the sliced sun-dried tomatoes and the wine to the oil and garlic, and bring to a boil to create your sauce. Remove from the heat.

Add the salt to the boiling water. Drop the farfalle into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less that the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the sauté pan containing the sauce.

Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the pan containing the sauce. Add the arugula and toss well. Over medium heat, toss again for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated, and then pour into a warmed serving bowl.

Serve immediately.

This recipe serves up to 10 as a first course or 6 as a main. If you are only making only a pound of pasta, I would not reduce the ingredients for the sauce.

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We ended our meal with the some fresh cherries and Pecorino Romano Genuino. The term “genuino” can only be used for Romano produced in Lazio, the province of Rome. I find it a bit milder and more flavorful than other types of pecorino Romano.

Our dinner wine was a delicious chilled Chiaretto Valtenesi from producer Pasini San Giovanni, a blend of Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera and Sangiovese.

Wine Pairing:  Dry Rosé.