Monday, May 9, 2011

A First Taste of Summer

When the weather starts to get nice out, I start getting excited about grilling and fresh foods!  One of my favorite dishes for this time of year is Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions.  Grilled peppers are so incredibly delicious and with the added flavor of fresh basil, the dish just explodes with layers of flavor and color.  I found this recipe in a Real Simple Magazine about 3 years ago, and every year it helps me transition from spring to summer, but this dish can be made just as easily in the winter (or if you don't have a grill) by broiling or sauteing the vegetables instead of grilling them.  The original recipe is vegetarian, but you could easily add grilled chicken or sausages to this dish.  

The trick to this pasta dish, and other dishes you might make, is to reserve some of the pasta water.  As the pasta boils, starch from the pasta seeps into the water and when you use this pasta water to make your sauce it thickens and makes a "saucier" sauce than just plain water would.  It's really easy to forget to reserve some pasta water, so instead of draining your pasta, just use a slotted spoon to transfer your noodles to your dish, or set a measuring cup beside your colander to help you remember not to dump all the precious starchy pasta water down the drain.

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions

1 box rigatoni
2 med red onions, cut into 1/2 inch thick rings (keep together for ease of grilling, if possible)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into quarters
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bunch spinach, stems trimmed, or 1 5-oz package
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Meanwhile, heat grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the onions, bell peppers, oil, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Grill the vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces.  Add the grilled vegetables, spinach, reserved pasta water, and ¾ cup of the Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine.  Top with the basil and the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan before serving.

Eat this and think of summer!  I do.