Pasta with Herbs - february 10, 2011

Last week's oregano was a beautiful thing, arriving dewy fresh in a dead-of-winter produce box. Like the emerald city in miniature, it sat on my counter next to a bowl of squash and oranges, exuding  a sunny summer herb garden sort of fragrance that prepped us for the unseasonal heat wave to come. There was a cold snap a few weeks back or so, but overall, spring seems to be coming early. Which, I am told, is making the roses bud out earlier than usual. So if you haven't pruned yours yet this year, get on it.

This pasta recipe is extremely easy and infinitely adaptable. It is also really delicious, which surprised me the first time I made it. Inspired by a recipe called "Pasta Rags" that ran in Gourmet Magazine a few years back, the "rags" were to be made by tearing up fresh pasta into little pieces. I can get the same result by purchasing whatever sort of fresh pasta suits my mood or can be used to bribe my kids, so I don't bother to shred the poor pasta. Tagliatelle or pappardelle are both good options. As for the tomatoes included in the original, they just muddle the fresh herb flavors.

The herbs can be a carefully combined mix of your favorites that are at their peak in the garden. Or they can be whatever you happen to have on hand. Oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, basil, marjoram, even a little bit of mint can be delicious. You could probably even get by with spicy greens like arugula and mustard or even some baby chard, beet or kale leaves, maybe. Let me know how it goes if you do.

The amount of herbs you use can also be adjusted to taste. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup, and use more or less the next time you make it. I go easy on  herbs for kids who don't like to eat green things, but use a lot in my own pasta. Although even the amount of herbs depends on what is available in the fridge or out in the yard if the weather is nice. Sometimes, however, a dash out in raincoat and boots to snip herbs from the garden can be just perfect. 

Fresh Pasta with Herbs: (inspired by Pasta Rags from Gourmet Magazine Jan 2006)

(serves 4)

1 container fresh pasta 

1/4 - 1/2 cups mixed fresh herbs, washed, dried and chopped

1/4 c olive oil



Parmesan cheese to grate

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. While it is heating prep the herbs. You can wash them, roll them in a towel to dry, then remove the leaves from the stems and chop them fairly finely. Put the olive oil in a skillet on low heat, and when the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, dump in the herbs, give the mixture a stir and turn the temperature even lower. Once the herbs become fragrant, in just a minute or two, turn the heat off. 

Cook the pasta as specified on it's container, reserve 1/4 cup or so of the cooking water and then drain the pasta in a colander in the sink. Put it back into the now empty pot, stir in the olive oil and herbs, taste for salt, and add the cooking liquid if it seems to dry. Grate some pepper and Parmesan on top and serve. It is best with salad on the side, dressed with a simple vinaigrette.



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