Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bow Tie Medley

I like to eat things that are pretty.  Obviously, the way something tastes is pretty important, but you know how sometimes you can just look at a dish and know it tastes delicious?  This pasta does that!  It's colorful and flavorful, and would you believe I just threw it together from random stuff I found in my fridge?  Sometimes I get a little ambitious at the grocery store, especially in the produce section, and I buy more than I can eat. :)  So, tonight's mission was to use up some asparagus, baby bella mushrooms, and fresh herbs that were all a day or two from getting tossed.  My first instinct was to call this trash can pasta, but then you probably wouldn't be reading this blog post, would you?  But seriously, feel free to switch out the veggies I used with ones that are nearing expiration in your own fridge.  I hate wasting food, so recipes like this are special to my kitchen. :)

If you're someone who needs exact measurements for ingredients, you're not going to be very happy with me.  (I used "fistfuls" to measure many of the ingredients.)  But this just proves how easy and flexible this pasta is to make.  If you love sun-dried tomatoes, put in an extra fistful.  If asparagus isn't your thing, swap it with a fistful of broccoli.  Make it your own!

You'll need:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 of a medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
two fistfuls of baby bella mushrooms
one fistful of pine nuts
one big fistful of fontina cheese, cut in bite size pieces
one fistful of sun-dried tomatoes, cut in bite size pieces
1 tablespoon of vinaigrette dressing
15-20 spears of asparagus
2 1/2 cups of dried bow tie pasta 
half a fistful of fresh basil and oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(For a kick, you can add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.)

All the random stuff I pulled out of my fridge and pantry...
On the stove, start boiling a medium pot of water (for the pasta) and a small pot of water (for the asparagus).

Wash and cut the asparagus, but don't use the bottom inch of each spear... that part is hard and chewy, so it's not pasta-friendly.

Throw the asparagus into the small pot of boiling water, and cook for 3-4 minutes.  When you drain the hot asparagus, it's important to shock them with cold water so that they stay crisp... same drill with veggies like green beans, snap peas, broccoli, etc. However, I'm slightly lazy so I like to just throw in several ice cubes and toss them around with the asparagus.  Does the trick without using an extra bowl!

Now throw your pasta into the medium pot of boiling (salted) water, and cook according to the directions on the package.  (I like to set a timer because I get distracted easily with the veggies, and overcooked pasta is the worst.)  While that's cooking, begin sautéing the onion with the mushrooms and pine nuts on medium-low heat.

While the onion and mushrooms are becoming tender and the pine nuts are toasting, start cutting the fontina and chopping the herbs for later. Remember to keep an eye on the onion mixture and stir it occasionally so it doesn't burn.

After 5-7 minutes of sautéing, it's time to add more color!  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus.

Sauté for a few more minutes until heated all the way through, and then turn down to low heat.  Your pasta should be ready by now!  After draining the bow ties, add them to the pan along with your fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and vinaigrette.  You can use almost any kind of vinaigrette - I used Girard's Light Champagne dressing, which is one of my favorites, but I bet a balsamic or red wine vinaigrette would taste great, too.  You may be tempted to add more dressing, but I think a tablespoon is just enough to add some flavor without being overpowering.  Remember that there are so many other flavors here that want to be tasted, and you don't want to mask them with something as silly as salad dressing. :)

Toss everything together, and let all the flavors hang out for a couple more minutes.

Now, add your cheese.

Toss once again and serve.  Since the sauce is so light, the cheese won't melt into it, but instead it will create little clumps of melted cheese throughout the pasta... so yummy.

You could also serve this pasta cold - just wait until after the dish has chilled in the fridge before tossing with the cheese so that it stays intact rather than melts.  Hope you enjoy it!

Sending you love from my kitchen. :)

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