Nikki Marie, blogger behind Chasing the Seasons, transforms everyone’s go-to pantry staple by using heirloom Italian methods to create complex flavours at home.
These 75 easy but elevated dishes will show readers how versatile pasta can be, and how simple it is to layer complex flavours for impressive, satisfying meals. Nikki Marie introduces simple techniques and unexpected twists inspired by her Italian family ties. Each dish is a perfectly composed meal, using a wide range of flavourful produce, tender meats and fresh seafood. Nikki’s creative dried pasta recipes quickly transform a pantry staple into a luxurious dinner—perfect for busy weeknights.
For weekend entertaining, readers can learn Nikki’s easy Basic Fresh Pasta recipe, and customize it with impressive flavours like pumpkin and spinach. With so much variety, there’s a pasta dish for any time of year. Lighten up with Spinach and Avocado Linguine, or indulge in Fresh Ravioli Stuffed with Ricotta and Fig. French Onion Penne is quick and comforting, while Fresh Chestnut Pasta with Pancetta and Sage makes family occasions extra special. With recipes like Leftover Pasta Frittata over Spring Greens readers can make the most of every bite.
Full of essential tips based on heirloom Italian methods, this book makes it easy to create complex flavours. Every dish is elegant enough to impress at a dinner party, and easy enough to throw together for a quick, satisfying family meal. Pasta has never been this versatile, or delicious.
Pasta Giada alla Olive (Pasta with Olives)
This is one of my daughter Giada’s favourite dishes and was therefore named for her. This recipe is reminiscent of a puttanesca sauce, in that it uses tomatoes, capers and olives—though I prefer a mix of varying types of olives and only roughly chop them. The irregular shape of the broken lasagna adds to the interest and the comfort of this dish.
Get the kids involved with this recipe—they’ll love breaking the noodles! A splash of red wine adds depth to the sauce and leaves its fragrance behind after it has cooked out. The only thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that the olive ratio should be slightly less than the liquids you’re using. The sauce should be fluid and loose and should not resemble a tapenade.
1 lb (454 g) lasagna noodles Kosher salt
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper (substitute with red pepper flakes)
1 small onion, diced 4 tbsp (56 g) tomato paste 1 large clove garlic, finely grated ½ cup (120 ml) dry red wine
1 (28-oz [794-g]) can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (including the juice), ends trimmed
1 tbsp (9 g) capers, rinsed and drained
1 cup (180 g) mixed olives, pitted and roughly chopped (Italian Castelvetrano, Greek Kalamata and black oil-cured)
Grated Parmigiano–Reggiano or local
Cheese with a hard and sharp profile, to garnish
Break the lasagna noodles into irregular bite-sized pieces over a large bowl and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, generously salt and then add the broken lasagna noodles. Continuously stir the pasta for the first 15 to 20 seconds as the flat shape of the broken noodles will try hard to suction together. Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the pasta water before draining. Drain well.
In the meantime, to a large 12-inch (30-cm) skillet with deep sides over low-medium heat, add the olive oil. When it is hot and shimmery, add the Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes) and onion. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is tender and translucent and has begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, careful not to let the oil smoke.
Push the onions to the sides of the pan to expose the hot center of the pan. Add the tomato paste to the centre, spreading it out a bit with the back of a cooking spoon, and let it sit until it begins to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir the onions and the tomato paste together to incorporate. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the wine. Return to low-medium heat and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze any flavourful brown bits that may have accumulated. Add the tomatoes along with the juices and use a square-head potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to roughly break and crush the tomatoes, stirring well to mix. Add the capers and olives, stirring again. Continue to simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes. If the pasta is not finished cooking, it’s fine to turn off the heat under the olive mixture at this point.
Add the pasta and ¼ cup (60 ml) of the reserved pasta water; toss until the flavors are well incorporated, 1 minute. If necessary, add a splash more of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pasta. The sauce should be silky and not sticky or pasty. Serve with grated cheese and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Reprinted with permission from Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners by Nikki Marie, Page Street Publishing Co., 2019.