Dutch macaroni.

Not to rush the end of summer (I would never!), but I’m getting pretty excited for fall dinners, leggings-based outfits, 60 per cent less boob sweat, and a little cookbook launch party I hope you’ll attend if you’re in Vancouver. (I hope we can get to Winnipeg, Toronto, and elsewhere – stay tuned! If your local bookstore, pannenkoekenhuis, or licorice parlour wants to talk boeterkoek and bitterballen, drop me a line!)

In the meantime, while the temperature has dropped slightly ahead of another summer heatwave, I’m in the mood for macaroni. This recipe, a family friendly Dutch weeknight dinner not unlike American Goulash or a fancy take on Hamburger Helper, is a one-pot weeknight staple for us; I use whole wheat macaroni in mine because no one here seems to notice and, you know, fibre.

Dutch macaroni

(Makes 6 to 8 servings.)

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 6-oz can low-sodium or no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp grainy Dijon or Dutch mustard
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 14 oz dry macaroni
  • 4 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken stock
  • 4 oz shredded Edam cheese

In a large pot on medium, brown beef with salt in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tbsp grease.

Add onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, and garlic, and sauté for about 4 minutes, until colors have brightened and vegetables are shiny. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, and basil, and coat vegetables.

Return beef to pot. Add macaroni, and stir well. Add chicken stock; liquid should just cover mixture. If not, add a cup or two of water.

Bring contents to a simmer, and cook 10–12 minutes, until macaroni is tender.

Add Edam and stir until melted. Serve immediately.


Dutch Feast is currently available for pre-order from Arsenal Pulp Press, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other fine online retailers; order online to receive your copy this fall, or purchase it from your favourite local bookstore in November, 2017.

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EarthBites and Spaghetti alla Carbonara

atung

Last week, the folks from Rocky Mountain Flatbread, one of my favourite local pizza places (and a kid-friendly spot to boot!) invited me to sit in on a cooking class with Alex Tung, a Vancouver-based chef with international credentials and a flair for all things Italian. Given that it was a rainy Thursday and there were plates of pasta a chef would make for me while I watched, it didn’t take much convincing. Chef Tung made three dishes: a luscious pomodoro sauce over a fresh pasta he likened to Italian udon, a fregola dish with clams and fresh tomatoes, and Spaghettoni alla Carbonara, a version of which is described below.

The class was part of a fundraising initiative on behalf of EarthBites, a local program that teaches children in schools about food and nutrition. It’s an issue that’s timely and particularly pressing for urban kids who may not have access to gardens at home.

Every year, EarthBites goes into schools to teach thousands of kids how to grow and cook their own healthy meals. The children are instructed by a dedicated team of urban growers, nutritionists and entrepreneurs who are passionate about engaging children with the food they eat.

You can support EarthBites (and maybe learn something new!) by participating in one of their “watch and learn”-style cooking classes with local chefs, including Top Chef Canada contestant Dawn Doucette, and Chopped Canada winner Alana Peckham. Classes run through the fall; visit their website to learn more. I love getting a few chef-tested recipes to play with at home, so between that and the food and the cheffy banter, this was a winner for me.

To whet your palate, here’s a recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara from the class I took with Alex Tung (pictured above), an award-winning French-trained chef with a passion for Italian cooking. If you can’t find guanciale, available in Italian delis and specialty stores, use pancetta or bacon. If you can find smoked hog jowl, it’s comparable (but smoked, which guanciale is not), and generally a bit cheaper. In Vancouver, Buy Low Foods often has smoked hog jowl for around $3.50 per, which – at about a pound per piece – I generally can make work for two meals.

While we’re on the topic of kids and food, you might like to know that this dish was picky-eater approved. The kid practically inhaled it, and requested it for lunch the next day, even though he hates cheese and everything else that is savoury and delicious. Dear Alex, I love you.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

(Adapted from a recipe by Chef Alex Tung. Makes 4 servings.)

  • 1/2 lb. guanciale (or pancetta or bacon), diced
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 3 whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese (slightly cheaper grana padano also works well here)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pan over medium heat, cook diced guanciale until crispy and until fat has rendered, three to ten minutes depending on the size of your dice.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Chef Tung insists that it must taste like sea water; he is right. Cook pasta according to package instructions, about seven to nine minutes until al dente. Between the salted pasta water, the pork and the cheese, it’s likely that you will not need to season the dish with any additional salt.

While your pork and pasta work their magic on your stove, beat eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl. Add cheese, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

If your guanciale cooks quicker than you expected, remove it from the heat but leave it in the pan to keep the rendered fat liquid.

When pasta is ready, scoop out about a cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot but do not return the pot to the stove. Add the guanciale and its rendered fat (like, all of it), stir, then add the egg mixture, stirring well and quickly. Stir in the water, about a quarter of a cup at a time, until the pasta is coated in an satiny sauce.

Taste. Does it need salt? Add salt.

Scoop the pasta into bowls, then sprinkle liberally with black pepper. Serve immediately.

Learn more about school programs and adult cooking classes at earthbites.ca.


EarthBites_logo_header_200This post wasn’t exactly sponsored, but I did get to take the cooking class for free. No one told me what to say, but I think the assumption was that I would say something good? I don’t know. Maybe no one should ever assume that of me. I can be a real jerk.

Gnocchi with kielbasa and caramelized corn.

gnocchi

There is so much choice when it comes to ingredients, and such a range of qualities and price points that it can be hard to know where to save your dollars and where to splurge. I sometimes get asked about this, but my answer is always pretty wishy-washy, as it’s one of those personal preference issues I can’t really call one way or the other. What matters to you? What do you notice when it’s not there? I buy both good and crappy vanilla, because the good stuff has its place but the crappy stuff can pass unnoticed, which makes the good stuff last longer.

You don’t need fancy ingredients to make good food. Most people can’t tell the difference between The Best and Good Enough anyway, the way most people will taste a wine and only know for certain whether it is white or red. They might think they can, and the truly gauche might say it out loud, but the reality is that a thoughtful meal comprised of modest ingredients is more than the sum of its sale-priced parts.

For the experienced cook, this is not news. But the novice cook, the young person who is just starting out and is perhaps swayed by pretty pictures in magazines or on Pinterest might be led to believe that there is no sense in doing something half-assed.

This is important: the only thing culinary you ever have to use your full ass for is eating. This is home-cooking; we are not cheffing around. The people you’re serving are already impressed that they didn’t have to make dinner. You can haul out the big guns, the good stuff, the meticulous technique and gourmet ingredients for special occasions – fancy company or holiday dinners or desserts – but when it comes to getting dinner on the table on a weeknight, half your ass will do.

The secret to good home-cooking is knowing where to take shortcuts, and where to spend your time.

If it’s corn season, highlight corn by gently caramelizing it with a finely chopped onion until your kitchen smells like butter and brown sugar; this is one of those gratifying things you can do while your small person tears around, suddenly naked, shouting the Rescue Bots theme song. If a package of gnocchi was on sale for a dollar, don’t bother hand-rolling fresh gnocchi; no one wants to do that on a weeknight anyway and you’re, like, what? Not supposed to ever have gnocchi? No. The shortcuts you take will emphasize the ingredients you lingered over, and everyone will love you for your efforts.

What follows is a recipe that takes full advantage of leisurely caramelizing and store-bought potato dumplings and the seasoning effects of Polish sausage. The great thing about this dish is that it kind of seems like something fancy, but if your people are like my people they won’t quite know why and you’ll somehow manage extra credit which you can use to excuse yourself from unsavoury tasks like scrubbing the cast iron or trying to wrestle a big-for-his-age three-year-old into the pajamas he would prefer not to wear.

Gnocchi with kielbasa and caramelized corn

(Makes 4 servings.)

  • 3 tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil, divided
  • 1/2 lb. kielbasa or farmer’s sausage, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (from two or three cobs if using fresh)
  • 3 tbsp. garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. store-bought gnocchi
  • Smoked cheese, such as cheddar

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook kielbasa for about two minutes, until lightly browned, then scoop from pan onto a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.

Depending on how fatty your kielbasa is, you may or may not have to add additional oil at this point. If the pan is looking dry, add additional oil as needed. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about five minutes. Add corn, and stir often until the colour has deepened and the kernels have browned in places, about fifteen minutes. Add a small amount of water as needed to dissolve the layer forming on the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, salt and pepper, and cook until garlic has softened.

Make the vinaigrette by combining oil, vinegar, fresh parsley, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl or jar and stirring or shaking to combine. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the corn has turned colour and smells buttery and sweet, add gnocchi to the pot and cook according to package directions. Gnocchi will cook for about two minutes, most likely.

Reserve half a cup of the gnocchi cooking water, then drain. Add gnocchi to the pan with the corn. Add the sausage back. Deglaze the pan with the water, scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring to coat the gnocchi in the sauce that forms.

To serve, spoon vinaigrette over gnocchi and corn, and top with shaved or shredded smoked cheese. If you are not able to find smoked cheese, use an aged white cheddar.

(This is the soundtrack to my life right now. Just FYI.)

Something to Read: Hunt, Gather, Cook and The Homemade Pantry

30days

I’m not doing great at keeping to my schedule. Last night I ate some expired salad dressing that may have gone off and some shrimp that might not have been fresh and spent the evening in a state of discomfort, trying to focus on The Voice and also complaining a lot about my bad stomach feelings. I did not have an enthusiasm-filled day today.

So, to compensate, I’d like to tell you about two books from two bloggers I love and think you’ll love too.

The first one is Hunt, Gather, Cook, by Hank Shaw.

hagc

Hank Shaw is so cool. He hunts, forages, fishes, cooks, and writes about it, which is basically everything I look for in a marriage partner. I like to live with someone who will bring me wild meat every so often, and who keeps me in fish all summer. Who doesn’t, though … right?

I was excited about Hank’s book because I knew it would contain recipes we would use. He’s got recipes for big game, like deer and moose, and for ducks and geese (which we get on occasion), and fish (though I had hoped there would be more on trout) and crabs, and since he’s from the west coast, a lot of what he talks about is relevant to our proteins of choice/availability. He writes about fruit and flower wine-making, meat curing and sausage making, and his chapters on foraging are the stuff of aspirations, at least for me. I long to trudge through the woods to find nettles and fiddleheads, which Nick calls  “hiking” (and I don’t care for it).

You can read Hank’s blog at Hunter Angler Gardner Cook and if you haven’t already been reading his posts, you should definitely start, especially if you are interested in sustainable diets and interesting recipes for wild meats and vegetation. He was profiled in Field & Stream, which I think proves he’s legit. I’ve never read Field & Stream, but I assume it is to outdoorsy people as Bon Appetit is to indoorsy people. Gospel.

When we first started smoking fish, we turned to Hank Shaw first and he did not let us down. And what’s helpful about Hank’s blog is that when I need to learn how to do something, like butterfly a fish, the instructions are probably there. He’s like a really helpful friend you can call up anytime you have a weird question about animal parts. If only my IRL friends could do what Hank does for me.

The following recipe is from his section on wild greens, and the time is right to make this dish. If you have nettles nearby, grab some gloves, pick some weeds, and turn them into a creamy, extremely iron- and Vitamin C-rich risotto for dinner this week.

Nettle Risotto

(Serves 2.)

  • 1 cup blanched nettles (about six handfuls of raw nettles boiled for three minutes)
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (I use half rice and half pearl barley)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken, vegetable or beef stock
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Once your greens are blanched and cool, drain them and roll them into a tea towel and squeeze out any excess water. Chop them as finely as you can.

Heat stock to a gentle simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Once the butter is melted and has stopped frothing, add shallot, garlic, and rice, stirring for a minute or so until rice begins to look opaque and is nicely coated in fat.

Stir one cup of stock into the rice with the salt. Stir frequently, and when the first cup of stock has been absorbed by the rice, add the second cup. Repeat the waiting and stirring.

When it comes time to add the next round of stock, add your greens as well, this time with about a half a cup of stock. Your stirring should be more frequent now. Keep adding water in half-cup amounts until your rice is al dente and has reached the consistency you prefer. I always use all four cups, as I like my risotto loose.

Add the cheese and the last bit of butter. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.


The next blogger I’d like to tell you about is Alana Chernila of Eating from the Ground Up. I’ve been reading her blog since almost the beginning, marveling at how lovely her life seems out there in the Berkshires, wherever that is (I assume it’s like Narnia and I have to find a secret passageway to get there). Her book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making has improved my life in simple, wonderful ways. I don’t buy ricotta anymore. There’s no need.

the-homemade-pantry

 

The best thing in this book might be the recipe for homemade instant oatmeal – ween yourself off that terrible-for-you sugary packet-stuff and start making instant oatmeal with rolled oats from your pantry – there’s a bonus recipe for homemade brown sugar, if you need it. This has been a life-saver for me with Toddler, who eats too much sugary crap but who can be tricked with better-quality stuff if you catch him before he’s formed a habit for the store-bought version. I’ve made it with Porridge Oats, which comes with bran and flaxseed in it, and it works just as well.

The recipe I’ve made over and over is her recipe for ricotta, which, if you leave it long enough, becomes paneer. A batch of ricotta is cheaper than the stuff you buy in plastic tubs from the supermarket, and it’s infinitely better and much more impressive when you serve it to friends. The recipe makes about a cup and a half, but I usually double it because why not.

Ricotta

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Sea salt to taste

Add the milk, lemon juice and cream to a cold pot (with a heavy bottom) off  the heat, and stir for a few seconds.

Affix a candy thermometer to the side of your pot, and warm the pot over low heat. You want to warm the milk mixture to 175°F, which at this low temperature should take somewhere around 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, be vigilant about checking. Stir a couple of times, here and there, as you putter around doing other things.

When you reach 175°F, turn the heat up to medium-high. Do not stir. Watch your pot, and wait for it to get to 205°F. Should take three to five minutes. Don’t let it boil.

When you reach 205°F, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth, and strain your mixture. Strain it over a bowl or something, as you will want to save the whey that’s left behind – it’s beautiful in homemade bread, and I’ve also used it in muffins and soups. Leave the cheese for another 10 minutes, then sprinkle with salt. Serve warm, as is, with toasted nuts and honey, or chill it for later use, or use it as an ingredient for something else altogether.

Roasted cauliflower soup.

Gloom.

This is the hardest part of the year to get through. I have no patience left – please, no more squash! I’m done with potatoes. And I have no kindness left in my heart for kale. Let’s have some asparagus, already!

Tossed.

Spring gave us a sneak preview last weekend, a single day of sunshine and warmth where I ran around with bare arms and ate a bahn mi sandwich in a park while the baby learned the pleasures of sliding and swing-sets. And then things went back to normal, and the sky turned grey, and it has been that way ever since.

This time of year feels like purgatory. Molly Waffles has been pacing the apartment and pressing her paws to the window, scratching at the glass. She is desperate to go outside, but there is a family of raccoons out there, and city raccoons are the size of adolescent black bears and she would be little more than an appetizer. I am similarly desperate for something new and different. Maybe that’s strawberries and pink wine in the sunshine, or maybe it’s something bigger? I will be 30 in 30 days, and I am starting to feel like I’ve been pacing around and scratching at windows, like it’s time to make a mad dash for whatever’s beyond here, whether that means outrunning city raccoons or something even scarier.

Roasted.

Or maybe the wet that seeps in through the holes in my boots has found its way into my bones and now there’s mildew in my bloodstream. Maybe this itch for something fresh is just impatience, because something really good – like peach season – is on its way. And maybe what I need isn’t so much an escape as a way to bide time. If that’s the case, then soup will drag us all through these last dark days before the sun brings back all the green things that make us feel alive.

Soup.

Fingers crossed, anyway. We’ll know better what’s out there for us once the sky clears.

Roasted cauliflower soup

(Serves 4.)

  • 1 small head of cauliflower (1 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese (between 1/4 and 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Chop cauliflower and onion, and place in a large bowl with garlic cloves. Pour olive oil over top, mixing thoroughly with your hands so that all the pieces and bits are coated. Sprinkle with salt, and pour into an oven-safe pot – ideally one that will transfer from your oven to your stove-top.

Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Stir halfway through cooking for even browning.

Remove from the oven to the stove-top, and add almonds, stock, lemon zest and juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer over medium heat for ten to 15 minutes, until the almonds have softened. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or regular blender, then return to heat. Add cheese, stir, then add milk. Taste, adjusting seasoning as needed and thinning to your desired consistency with more stock or water.

 

Crafty macaroni and cheese

Crafty macaroni and cheese.

Sometimes you just want to eat the food you grew up with, the kind of stuff that hearkens back to a time when cheese was powdered and that was okay. Remember when Parmesan cheese came in its own plastic shaker and was shelf-stable? I think it was made of nylon.

I have always loved macaroni and cheese, and for most of my life macaroni and cheese was something that came in a box. It never would have occurred to me to make it from scratch until a few years ago. When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my first “apartment” (translation: dank basement suite with limited natural light and a permanent damp smell), I was broke all the time and would maximize my calorie intake in the days before payday by cooking up a box of macaroni and cheese (remember when it cost less than a dollar?) and eating the whole thing super fast, then laying face-down on the couch, uncomfortable, to digest for the rest of the evening as though I were a snake that had just swallowed an antelope.

It was an attractive time.

It felt horrible, but it was oddly comforting. When I was a kid, even though we always had Costco cases of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard, it was a total treat, especially if you got it for dinner which almost never happened. I loved macaroni. And in my formative years, macaroni and cheese was always, ALWAYS orange.

Orange sauce.

When you make macaroni and cheese from scratch, it is mostly not orange, even when you use orange cheese. And while grown-up, from-scratch homemade white mac-and-cheese is extremely delicious, it is more like comfort food to me when it’s orange. But macaroni out of a box is the opposite of comfort food these days; when I eat it now, I feel … gross. But you know what’s orange? Carrots are! Also they are healthy, so you can pretend that’s why you’re using them.

Veggies.

This is a very simple dish, and I make it quite saucy so that I can add stuff if I feel like it – adding a 28 oz. can of hominy (drained and rinsed!) makes this kind of amazing – or so that I can plan ahead and have leftovers that reheat well. Add whatever you want – even chopped up hot dogs, if that’s what you like. I won’t judge. (How could I?)

Big pot of cheesy noodles.

Macaroni and cheese

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded aged white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Salt

Over high heat, bring carrots, onion and garlic to a boil in about two cups of water with a bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until carrots are soft, 15 to 2o minutes. Remove bay leaf, pour contents of pot into a blender, and blend. Set aside.

Cook macaroni in salted boiling water according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add mustard, whisking again, then add the carrot mixture. Add Worcestershire sauce, paprika and pepper and simmer – whisking occasionally – until thickened, four to six minutes. Add cheese, stirring to melt. Add cream, if you feel like it – not mandatory, but it gives the sauce a richer, silkier taste. Add any additions – such as hominy, cooked sausage, roasted veggies, or whatever. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed.

Add cooked macaroni, stir well to coat, and serve.

Also, if you live anywhere between West Van and Langley, enter this week’s giveaway! Not a ton of entrants, so your odds are good.

Mushroom and butter bean ragù

By mid-morning, there was chaos. The baby has been sick and only seems able to comfort himself by wailing, though he will pause briefly for food – but only briefly.

The cat needs her nails done but won’t sit still for it, and if she’s not hanging off the seat of my pants by her claws she’s attempting to bury her wet food under the mat in the hall or scratch holes into the garbage bag that’s waiting to go out to the bin. When I finally got the baby down for a nap I came out to find the cat licking my sandwich.

“You’re all a bunch of jerks!” I yelled at no one in particular, and foraged a lunch of stale Bugles and a glass of white wine that may have been sitting out on the coffee table since last night. I glared at the cat but she has made it clear that apologizing to me is beneath her.

Six weeks ago I joined the Learn to Run clinic at the local Running Room, partly to get back into shape. It was not a great idea because I don’t enjoy running – what’s the point unless you’re being chased? It means rushing out of the house on Monday evenings after Nick gets home from work, and we end up eating dinner late while having to juggle laundry and any mess left over from the weekend. I usually dread it but tonight I couldn’t wait to go. These past few days I have come to understand why someone might go out for a pack of cigarettes and just not come back.

So, you know. There are highs and lows. And sometimes there is enough time in the day to linger over the stove, and some days dinner comes together in a few hasty minutes after the kid goes down for the night. Tonight was one of those hasty nights, and I’m calling the result a ragù even though it contains no meat and did not simmer for very long at all – I loaded it up with the kind of things that make it feel like it simmered long (oaky wine, soy sauce, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese), but it was only 15 minutes, while the pasta cooked. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me today.

If you can’t find canned butter beans, use one cup fresh or frozen lima beans or any other canned white bean.

Mushroom and butter bean ragù

(Serves 4.)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup oaked white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14 oz./398 mL can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 14 oz./398 mL butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb. fettucine

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, sauté shallot, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until vegetables have begun to sweat. Add rosemary, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, black pepper, and mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms have released their moisture, about two minutes.

Add wine and bay leaf, scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure no bits have stuck to the bottom. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until liquid has reduced by half, one to two minutes.

Add tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese, and soy sauce. Simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add fettucine, and cook according to package directions – five to seven minutes – until al denté (or cooked to taste).

Add butter beans to the ragù, and continue to simmer until fetuccine is cooked. Drain pasta, and add to the ragù. Stir well. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. Add parsley, and serve.