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For dinner tonight, we're pairing briny pasta with a warm bitter green salad -- a dinner that may be a nod to spring, but also conveniently teetering on the edge of a pantry meal. Puttanesca includes many staple ingredients that you may already have in your cupboards -- and if you don't, now's the chance the stock up; olives, capers, anchovies, and canned tomatoes lend themselves to endless variations of salty, summery dinners. This meal can easily be tweaked, too, depending on who you're feeding. If you decide to leave out to the bacon, be sure to sauté the leek anyway to achieve that same warm, wilted affect on the salad.
Two 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, San Marzano if you can find them
1/2? cup black olives, pitted, sliced into thirds
1/4? cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced into thirds
1/4? cup nonpareil capers, drained
1/2 ?cup Italian parsley, chopped, divided
1 big bunch of dandelion greens, about 4 heaping cups when cleaned
1 large leek (or 2 small ones)
6 strips bacon
4 eggs for poaching (optional)
We've assuming you have some olive oil, crushed red pepper, anchovies, garlic, dried oregano, pepper, 1 pound dried pasta (fusilli or spaghetti work well), red wine vinegar, maple syrup, and eggs. If not, be sure to add those to your shopping list, too.
1. Clean the dandelion greens: Remove the thick part of the stems and gently tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Wash them and dry them very thoroughly. Put them in a big bowl that you can toss the salad in. Start salted water boiling for the pasta. You're going to cook the pasta according to package instructions while you make the sauce, but stop and drain it 1 to 2 minutes short of the directed cooking time.
2. Drain and quarter the tomatoes, squeezing out as much liquid as possible without destroying the tomatoes themselves (they'll break down in the sauce). Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 8 anchovy fillets to the skillet. Stir and break them up until they completely dissolve. Add 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper and let it cook for a few seconds, just to let it blossom. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and continue to stir. When the garlic begins to brown just a little, add the tomatoes and simmer until they start to break down and thicken into a sauce (10 to 15 minutes).
3. While the tomatoes cook, prepare the leeks for the salad: Quarter them and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. Wash and dry them in a salad spinner. Now cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp, then remove it to drain. Turn the heat to medium, add the leeks, and cook them until they are quite soft. Turn off the heat and add 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, stirring to get the good bits up off the pan. Pour the leeks and all of the liquid into a small bowl, grind in some pepper, and add 1/4 cup oilve oil and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Whisk the dressing and taste.
4. Add the oregano, olives, capers, and half the parsley to the pasta sauce. Simmer for about ten minutes more. While this happens, poach your eggs if you're including them with the salad.
5. Take the drained pasta and add it directly to the sauce over medium heat. Pour in a small amount of the pasta sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat, combine with remaining sauce, and then sprinkle in the rest of the parsley. Crumble the bacon onto the greens, then toss with the dressing. Serve with the pasta.
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