Pasta Is My Favorite Meal
You may not know that because I make way more pasta than I post about. Mostly because I keep dry pasta in the pantry for nights when dinner needs to be thoughtless and fast, throw some noodles on to boil, and top them with whatever strikes. No measuring takes place on those nights, to be sure.
I made this pasta dish several weeks ago in this fashion, and it was so good, I wanted to recreate it both so I could take the time to photograph it and share it with you and so I would remember what I did.
Some people immediately dismiss a pasta recipe if it has heavy cream in it, largely because restaurants have given cream sauces a bad rap. A plate of fettucine alfredo at a place like Olive Garden is probably at least 2 whole servings (maybe more) of pasta, and the noodles are usually swimming in a bath of butter, cream, and cheese, for a grand total of, what, at least 2 days worth of calories and fat grams? Not to mention the bread…
But who wants a bath of cream anyway, when you can add a small amount of cream to coat the noodles and soak into the vegetables, giving the dish the rich flavor you want without all of the fat? Some, yes, but not a week’s worth.
Dusting the artichokes in a bit of flour and seasoned salt and then pan-frying them in olive oil with the garlic deepens their flavor and makes them a little bit crispy on the outside, which I love, but it isn’t necessary. You can also just add them in with the olives and sundried tomatoes. I also added a grilled chicken breast because I had one leftover, but leaving it out won’t compromise the flavors in the least if you want a vegetarian dish.
Good feta cheese and high-quality olives (I like the Greek ones from the deli counter at my grocery) will make a difference, and I like the sudried tomatoes packed in oil for this, rather than rehydrating the dried ones.
Oh, and I love olives, so I use a lot; strongly flavored ones like kalamatas can overwhelm, so if you’re not a huge fan, you may want to reduce the quantity.
The best part? The sauce was ready to toss with the noodles by the time they were finished cooking, AND it tastes fabulous. My kind of meal.
Ziti with Olives, Pan-fried Artichokes, and Sundried Tomatoes
1 pound ziti
2 T. olive oil 1 14 1/2-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, slivered
1/3 cup roughly chopped black olives (I like the Greek ones)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Put the pasta on to boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Drain the artichoke hearts and lay flat on paper towels. Dust with a bit of flour and sprinkle with seasoned salt. When the oil is hot, lay the artichokes in the skillet in a single layer, as many as will fit at once. Press down with a spatula and let them fry undisturbed for a couple of minutes. Flip them over and fry until brown on both sides. Remove that batch (if you need to do two), and repeat with the remaining artichokes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Saute the garlic until fragrant and soft, a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, olives, and fried artichokes. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the cream. It should reduce quickly; add the milk, and stir continuously until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the feta. Drain the noodles and add them to the sauce; toss until the noodles are coated and the vegetables are evenly distributed. Serve immediately. A simple green salad with mint, lemon, and olive oil makes an excellent accompaniment.