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Video: Make Lidia Bastianich’s perfect pasta

updated 5/1/2008 11:24:18 AM ET 2008-05-01T15:24:18

Recipe: Anna’s spaghetti and pesto trapanese

The beauty and delight of this dish is that it is so fresh and clean — and it is a cinch to make. It’s important to make the pesto with the best ingredients, then just toss in the hot cooked spaghetti to coat it and enjoy.

  • 3/4 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 plump garlic clove, crushed and peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and ½ tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate if for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Serving Size

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe: Insalata cotta e cruda (cooked and raw vegetable salad)

This recipe is much like the wonderful salad I had at Manfredi’s house. In Palermo, as I mentioned earlier, the insalate cruda/cotta that you can buy at the markets will vary with the season. In America, we can enjoy that same variety, so do not feel confined by these ingredients: Use other greens such as escarole, mesclun and frisee together with cooked vegetables such as roasted squash, boiled leeks, boiled beets — anything else you have on hand or enjoy.

  • 1 pound sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
  • 3/4 pound red bliss potatoes (3 to 6 potatoes, depending on size)
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/ 2 cup black olives, pitted

For the verdura cotta (cooked vegetables): Peel and trim the onions and slice into rounds, about ¾-inch thick. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt lightly on both sides. Lay the onions on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 375° oven for 20 minutes or longer, turning once, until slightly softened and nicely caramelized on the flat sides and edges. Cool, then separate the rounds into thick onion rings.

Meanwhile, drop the potatoes, whole with skin on, into a pot with plenty of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook just until a sharp knife blade slides through the potatoes — don’t let them get mushy. Extract the potatoes and cut them into wedges, about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Trim the ends of the green beans and, when the potatoes are out of the boiling water, drop the beans in and cook until al dente, 4 minutes or so. Scoop them from the pot with a spider and drop the beans into very icy water, to set the color. Once chilled, drain and dry the beans and cut them in 2-inch lengths.

For the verdura cruda (raw vegetables): Rinse, dry, and core the tomatoes. Slice them in wedges about the same size as the potatoes.  Separate, rinse, and spin-dry the lettuce leaves.

Put everything in the bowl except the lettuce: onions, potatoes, beans, olives, capers and tomatoes. Sprinkle over the remaining salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle over the rest of the olive oil and the red wine vinegar, and tumble the vegetables to coat them with dressing.

Scatter the lettuce on top, tearing the larger leaves in two, then toss the greens with the vegetables gently but continuously for about a minute, to distribute the dressing evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if you like, and toss again.

Serve immediately — always including some of the heavier goodies that drop to the bottom of the bowl and hide under the lettuce.

Serving Size

Serves 6 or more

Recipe: Shrimp alla buzara

Shrimp alla buzara is common all around the North Adriatic coast. When I make this quick and delicious dish at our house, I give everyone an empty bowl for the shells. I bring the pan to the table, we roll up our sleeves and dig in, savoring the sweet meat, then sucking and licking every drop of sauce from the shells. All that’s needed is some grilled bread.

If you wish, use smaller, inexpensive shrimp (shelled and cleaned) in the recipe to make a terrific dressing for spaghetti or linguini. And leftovers make a great risotto.

  • 24 large raw shrimp, 1 ounce apiece (U-16 size )
  • 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more
  • 3 plump garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup of water
  • Freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs or more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Recommended equipment: A heavy-bottomed sauté pan, 10- to 12-inches diameter, for the sauce; a heavy-bottomed 13- to 14-inch skillet for searing the shrimp

Without removing any of the shell, remove the vein (digestive tract) that runs inside the curving back of each shrimp: Slice open the back with a sharp, sturdy paring knife, cutting through the shell, and scrape out the vein. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.

Pour ¼ cup of the olive oil in the sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. Scatter in the garlic, cook until sizzling, then stir in the shallots. When they’re sizzling, stir in ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ cup of the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is nearly completely evaporated and the shallots have softened. Drop in the tomato paste and stir it around the pan for a minute, coating the shallots and caramelizing.

Pour in the rest of the wine, bring to a boil quickly, then add the water and ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce bubble gently and reduce for about 5 minutes while you sear the shrimp.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the wide skillet and set over high heat until very hot. Scatter the shrimp in the pan, toss them in the oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for just a minute or slightly longer, until the shells are lightly colored and the flesh underneath is opaque, then turn off the heat.

With the sauce still bubbling, slide in the seared shrimp and tumble to coat them all with sauce. Stir in the coarsely ground pepper, then the tablespoon of bread crumbs — use more crumbs if the sauce is thin. Cook for another 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.           

Drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil — or more to taste — and incorporate it well, tumbling the shrimp in the pan. Sprinkle the parsley on top and serve immediately.

Serving Size

Serves 6


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