Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pasta with Easy Summer Sauce

 So, true story: Almost every night for the past week it has reached 80 degrees inside our air-conditioned house by dinner time. And I live in Portland, OR, not Death Valley. Can you say broken A/C? There is nothing like a heat wave to put a serious damper on your intentions to cook. By the end of a hot day, I am just drained and want nothing more than to flop down directly in front of a fan with a giant snow cone in hand.

What follows is one of my favorite ways to a) get dinner on the table in a hurry, b) keep the heat in my kitchen to a minimum, and c) use up garden produce. It also helps me give my garden herbs a little haircut, which they need often to keep from going to seed in the summer months.

(PS: Later this month I'll be doing a follow-up to my Windowsill Herb Garden post, so stay tuned!)

One of the other things I love about this recipe is that you can really change it up to suit your taste or use what you have on hand. How do I mean? Well, if you don't have grape tomatoes, go ahead and dice those Romas hanging out on the counter. (Please tell me you've stopped keeping them in the fridge!) Don't like feta? Trade it out for crumbled chevre (as I did for the dish in the photo) or ricotta salata, if you can find it. The black olives could be traded out in favor of kalamata or manzanilla olives, or even briny capers if that's what floats your boat. You get the idea.

The only cooking involved is boiling pasta, to which you add green beans in the last few minutes. The rest is chopping, all of which can easily be done in the time it takes to cook the pasta and beans.

And so, in closing, all I have to say is this: Winner, winner, easy summer dinner.

Stay cool, friends!

Pasta with Easy Summer Sauce

8 oz. (1/2 lb.) short cut pasta -- orecchiette, farfalle, and penne are good choices
2 c. cut green beans (2" lengths)
2 c. quartered grape or cherry tomatoes (or any variety of tomato cut in 1/2" chunks)
1/4 c. chopped black olives (or other olives you prefer)
2 Tbsp. to 1/4 c. minced red onion (I lean toward 2 Tbsp.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1.4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional, but recommended)
1/2 c. (4 oz.) crumbled feta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a hefty pinch of salt, then the pasta.
Let the pasta cook while you chop the remaining ingredients, reserving the green beans and combining all the other ingredients in a large bowl.

When pasta is three or four minutes from being al dente, add in the green beans. Once the pasta is done and the beans are tender-crisp, drain the pot and add it to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. Stir to melt cheese and coat.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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