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Pasta, Risotto and You

By Nancy Caivano

 

Colorful Recipes

 

Hello there! Welcome to the May edition of Pasta, Risotto and You!

Spring is in the air, all the snow is gone (hopefully) and we shed our winter coats in favor of our snazzy new spring jackets. When we change our wardrobe, we also start changing the way we eat. We want lighter foods, with brighter, fresher flavors. The hot, heavy, comforting foods that we enjoyed during the cold, snowy winters are not what we want now. We want vibrant vegetables, and meats cooked in a lighter fashion, either grilled or sautéed. The heavy sauces are gone too, in favor of fresh vegetable and lighter cream sauces.

Pasta, Risotto and You!  
May is a good month to take stock. It isn't very hot yet (hopefully), and we can decide how to make the transition from winter to summer. Spring affords us this luxury, easing our way out of the heavy winter "hibernation" into the glories of summer, when we are more active and social.

The vegetables of spring are so wonderful—a promise of the summer abundance to come. Fresh spring peas, pencil thin asparagus, lovely baby artichokes, summer squashes that start appearing are all welcome signs to the growing season ahead. Usually around this time of year, the more exotic orange, red and yellow bell peppers are less expensive, as they are in season. A wonderful stir-fry with multi-colored peppers is a beautiful way to welcome in the warmer weather. Also, a multi-colored platter of roasted peppers with some fresh mozzarella and a basil vinaigrette is a great appetizer for entertaining. It whets the appetite for the meal to come—and the warm weather to come.

I have put together 8 recipes full of springtime goodness. These recipes are bursting with bright spring vegetables, seafood, marinated chicken, and luscious cheeses. They all can be adapted into any menu, whether as a first course or an entree. Any of the recipes that involve grilling, can be done indoors, either sautéed or roasted—and vice versa.

First, we start with the pastas. Pasta with Shrimp and Crab is a wonderful dish. If you are lucky enough to have soft-shell crabs available where you live, they would make a wonderful addition to this dish. You can halve them and add them to the pasta in place of the crabmeat. This dish combines shrimp and sweet jumbo lump crabmeat in a luscious pasta flavored with lemon and finished with cream, for a fantastic taste.

Next, we have Pasta with Roasted Peppers, Peas and Tomato Cream—a delightful vegetarian dish. Red and yellow peppers are roasted, then combined with pasta, fresh spring peas, and a not too rich tomato cream sauce. This is a lovely way to incorporate these spring veggies into your menu. This would also make a wonderful side dish to just about any meat.

Our next pasta is Pasta with Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Parsley-Walnut Pesto. This dish takes advantage of the beautiful cherry tomatoes that are available right now. They are combined with shrimp and a brightly flavored Parsley-Walnut pesto, which is just the right combination of parsley, lemon and toasted walnuts. It is also a beautiful looking pasta, the colors of the pink shrimp, red tomatoes and green pesto combine for a stunning presentation.

Last up, we have Pasta with Roasted Eggplant, Ricotta and Roasted Peppers. This is a rich tasting dish. When roasted, the eggplant takes on a creamy richness that combines perfectly with the creamy ricotta cheese and succulent roasted peppers. This is a fabulous dish that would compliment any menu it was served with.

Now we move on to this month's Risotto. These are 4 fabulous dishes that really show the spring bounty to its fullest. First, we have Risotto with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions. This is a lovely, vegetarian dish. Using spring baby artichokes in this dish makes it really fabulous. When caramelized, the onions take on a delicious smoky-sweet flavor that permeates the entire dish. That flavor, combined with the lemony flavor of the artichokes, makes this a truly spectacular combination of flavors.

Next up, we have Risotto with Chicken, Spinach and Lemon. This is a luscious and fragrant dish. The scent of the lemon infuses the dish as well as your kitchen. Chicken is sautéed until golden brown, then combined with spinach and lemons for a fabulous, bright dish. This would be perfect for a baby or wedding shower luncheon.

Risotto with Roasted Peppers and Goat Cheese is another way to use those abundant bell peppers that will be all over the market. You can vary the color and amount to what is available to you. If you don't want to roast the peppers, you can also grill them and then use them in the risotto. The fresh goat cheese gives just the right accent to the smoky flavor of the peppers. The different colors mix together to make a lovely presentation. This dish also makes fabulous risotto cakes with the leftovers—if there are any!!

Lastly, we have Risotto with Rosemary Marinated Chicken and Asparagus. The chicken is marinated with Apple cider vinegar and lots of rosemary that infuses the entire dish with flavor. Lightly steamed asparagus is added to give the dish a fabulous taste and texture—a great dish to eat outdoors on a warm night. You can grill the chicken, make the risotto indoors, and eat outside. Just combine it with a big green salad and some warm bread.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. If you ever have any questions, or comments—I would love to hear from you. Feel free to email me any time. Have a wonderful month, and I will see you again in June.

Nancy Caivano

 
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