Category Archives: Pastas

Spicy Sausage and Leek Pasta

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Verdict: an incredible, low maintenance pasta sauce with vibrant tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, infused with fennel. One of my favourite recipes of all time.

In the late 90s, the first Western dish to appear on our immigrant table was spaghetti with meat sauce, about ten years after moving to Canada. My mom was the talented cook in the family with a flair for noodle dishes. She made Vietnamese beef noodle soup with the most flavourful and fragrant broth, twenty variations of vermicelli dishes, and the most incredible and awe-inspiring wonton noodle soup. To everyone’s surprise and delight, it was my dad who introduced pasta into our household. His recipe was simple: oil, onions, garlic, ground beef and canned tomato sauce; we kids could never get enough.

IMG_8477Leeks, garlic and carrots cooked in olive oil.

Since then, I’ve learned different recipes and techniques to create a great tomato sauce. First, it was the addition of sugar to decrease the acidity of the tomatoes. Years later, I ditched the canned tomato sauce and started using whole canned tomatoes. Through the internet, I read whispers of another secret ingredient: grated carrots for Mario Batali’s classic tomato sauce. His recipe was great! The grated carrots replaced the need for sugar and yielded an interesting addition to my pasta sauce repertoire.

IMG_3209Italian sausage infused with fennel and chilies.

Around the time I discovered the Batali recipe, I came across Jaime Oliver’s Bloke Pasta,  which uses chilis and fennel seeds to spice up a lemony sausage pasta dish. I decided to combine the two recipes and haven’t looked back. For a simple, delicious, and unique pasta dish, the recipe presented here is perfection. It is the recipe I will use to introduce pasta to my future children.

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There are so many reasons why I keep going back to this wonderful sauce: it is so fresh, hearty and spicy, with the unique combination of tomatoes, sausage, and fennel. This sauce is great on pasta (linguine and rotini are my favourite) or try it over rice for a lighter, gluten free alternative, perfect for summertime dinners.

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Shrimp Niçoise Pasta

Verdict: A wonderful and easy to make pasta dish that sets itself apart from the rest. The licorice flavoured liqueur compliments the tomato sauce and shrimp, lending depth and a subtle sweetness to the dish.

I planned to write about our Meatless Monday recipes today but my coworkers said they would appreciate some meal ideas for Valentine’s Day. I’m not crazy about celebrating it but I understand if people want to spend this day with someone special and perhaps impress them with a home cooked meal. I went through my recipe trove in search of a recipe with a definitive flair, a certain je ne sais quoi.

I found a pasta dish that is pleasantly different, easy to make,  yet gives the impression that you slaved away in the kitchen. Shrimp Niçoise (French pronunciation: [niˈswaz]) pasta borrows ingredients from the traditional Niçoise salad which consists of various vegetables topped with seafood and finished with Niçoise Cailletier olives.

The shrimp is succulent, the pasta sauce full bodied with the je ne said quoi quality from the licorice flavoured liqueur. You can try using Sambuca, Absinthe or Perdon Ricard for the liqueur. It’ll be between you and I how simple it is to prepare.

A key step added to this recipe was using sea salt to refresh the shrimp before cooking. The salt is rinsed off with cold water and the shrimp is patted dry before sauteeing in the garlic butter. I learned this from a Vietnamese cookbook and have noticed the step refreshes the shrimp by removing the ocean smells and making the meat more tender.

Other Valentine’s Meal Ideas

Bonus: They’re all gluten free recipes.

  • Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Broccoli – exotic, super simple and quick to prepare. Lots of flavour pay off here.
  • Balsamic Foil Packed Chicken – take a quick trip to the Asian aisle of your grocery store for sweet soya sauce and prepare this unique and delicious dish. This could be your new chicken and rice recipe for life.
  • Steak Ssam Lettuce Wraps – marinade flank or skirt steak in apple juice, grill them up and serve with rice, kimchi and the ginger-scallion mixture, all wrapped in a crisp lettuce leaf. You will impress the pants off anyone who eats the dish.

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