Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Attack of the Bland Pasta!!

On today's menu: Leftover lemon-pepper chicken and asparagus (sauteed in olive oil, natch) tossed with farfalle, olive oil, rosemary, sage and parmesan; caesar salad for me, lettuce and croutons for Sean (he hates salad dressing, condiments and most dips).

I had a couple of minor snafus:
1) Sean had just an hour to eat and when he walked in, I had JUST put the pasta in the pot and hadn't started the chicken and asparagus. Oops.
2) The pasta was blander than rice cakes.

Seriously. Although I doused the pasta with salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, olive oil AND parmesan, it still needed something.

So this is where I need your help. Sean prefers red sauces and refuses to eat alfredo. REFUSES. I like all sauces (except I'm not in love with mushrooms) and usually, olive oil is enough for me. Is there a magical, light, asparagus-friendly sauce that is not alfredo OR red sauce? Discuss.


Pat Jarrett said...

OK, easy pasta sauce help-add a pinch or two of cinnamon to any store brand sauce (I prefer Paul Newman's myself) and it adds a delightful yet subtle flavor. Garlic is also almost always added to my sauces, but however you prefer to apply. GOOD LUCK!!!!

Kate said...

Butter would have helped a lot. Sure it adds calories, but it tends to be where the flavor comes too. Also, when did you add the spices? Timing (in this case, how much heat the spices get) changes everything.

I'll see if I can dig up a usable recipe that will suit your needs :)

Anonymous said...

Did you toss all the stuff and then put it on top of the pasta? Maybe if you had tossed the pasta with it, if you didn't. Some better always helps, I agree. I'm trying to think what I do a lot.. I think fresh Parmesan helps. Lemon is always good, can't remember if you said that.

One of my favorite things to do is "clean the freezer" pasta. I'll throw a bunch of frozen veggies (anything, broccoli, asparagus, corn, peas, etc.), fresh cherry tomatoes and mushrooms (but not for you) in a big bowl with some olive oil and balsamic and then lay them out on a roasting pan. Set the oven to 400 and let them go about 30 minutes, or until they start to brown a bit. Once done, I'll toss the veggies over some bowtie pasta with some parm. That's a good one!

Anonymous said...

I meant to say butter. I'm tired.

Amber said...

okay, so the key is to toss the stuff when? in the pot? on the plate?

Joe said...

You need garlic. Butter wouldn't hurt, either.

Once you've cooked and drained your pasta (reserve a quarter-cup or so of that pasta water) you could heat up some olive oil and/or butter in a 10- or 12-inch skillet.

Once the oil/butter is hot, add some minced garlic (a clove should suffice) and saute. Garlic sautes fast. It probably won't take more than 30 seconds. After maybe 10 or 20 seconds, throw in your herbs. As soon as the garlic starts to brown -- gotta be REALLY CAREFUL not to burn it -- dump in the pasta and reserved pasta water. Then toss in the skillet.

Add a few grinds of fresh pepper and sea salt, some fresh-grated parmesan, a squirt of lemon juice and maybe even a little lemon zest, and you should have a tastier dish.

Oh, and if you ever have $15 to spend on cheese, buy a block of parmigiano-reggiano and use that instead of plain parmesan.

And I apologize in advance if you try this and it sucks.

Shayna said...

i know this will probably sound condescending, it's so basic...but did you salt the water enough while it was boiling before you put the pasta in? it should be like sea water. also, take the pasta out sooner than you think.... i will pull one out and take a bite and look at the bite mark..if its still a little darker and chewy in the center (but not crunchy) and it kind of sticks in your teeth, it's good to go ESPECIALLY if you are going to toss it with veggies and oil. this helps with the flavor a lot, and i could eat this stuff plain and cold.

as far as non red, non cream, non butter sauces here are a few options to saute with extra virgin:

-garlic (smash it with your knife or a wooden spoon, then give it a rough chop) red pepper flakes, veggie of your choice (i like broccoli& cauliflower with this)let the garlic& pepper heat with the oil. dont drop them in when the oil is already hot, let them infuse the oil while it's heating.

-1.start to heat the oil and add a little (maybe an inch long squeeze)anchovy paste.2. don't tell anyone you used anchovy paste. (it's in your ceasar dressing, so i assume you don't have a problem with it.)it will melt into the oil and no one will be the wiser especially if you use the next suggestion.

-coat the pasta with the garlic & oil, then toss & coat lightly with bread crumbs (i like 4C italian seasoning.)saute so the breadcrumbs brown.

-sprinkle some fleur de sel or gray sea salt over your finished product. a little goes a long way and it gives a great crunch.

you could also do half butter, half oil. consider sweating some onions or shallots (salt them and let them sit covered on low until they are translucent), toss with the oil then toss with peas and farfalle.

Amber said...

OMG Shayna, such good advice.

I did salt the water, but probably not enough. And infusing the oil while it's heating is genius!

I think I'm going to try everyone's suggestions in the future and see whose I like best.

Joe said...

Shayna's advice is definitely the best.

Amber said...

Yeah, anchovy paste would be really good.
I think it's key to remember that you still need to make a sauce; those spices need to be heated, and garlic helps almost everything. Some parmesan and shallots will help. You can't just toss spices on top of pasta.
There are ways to get around sean being picky about sauce. If he can deal with clear sauces, maybe eventually you can work him up to a cream-based sauce. Vodka sauce is especially yummy and a nice in-between transition, I think. Also, red wine and sherry are always helpful. Just remember to cook them :-)

shayna said...

regarding changing sean

but when i met eric he hadn't eaten meat in years. he thought fish was gross.

a few weeks ago i watched him eat a taco de lingua. tongue taco. if sweetbreads are on a menu, that's what he's ordering. fish? loves it! he's gone from nothing to where i cannot follow. and all because of one meatball 5 years ago. people change, especially when you live together and it's way too much trouble/expensive to cook two meals.

kelly jasper said...

The answer ALWAYS is lemon. Fresh lemon juice. When you go, hmm, it needs something, lemon is it.

f'real. easy, cheap, no cal and way delicious.

A lot of dishes need just a little bit of zing to finish them off. Sometimes I sub rice vinegar or something similar to balance and lift all the fat and goodness I've already added.

Good luck!