Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday night supper club

If your refrigerator is starting to get empty and the week is wearing you out, you could use a simple meal from stuff you probably have on hand.

I'm not a fan of Rachael Ray's too-cute lingo -- all that "yummo" leaves me yawn-o -- but her recipes are simple with solid flavors. I found this one in her newest book, "Rachael Ray's Book of 10" (Clarkson Potter, $20) and liked it because it's so adaptable. You could change the pasta, swap Canadian bacon for almost anything (bacon, proscuitto, slices of chicken sausage) or skip the meat all together, and trade out the Parmesan for any grated white cheese, such as part-skim mozzerella. Even the flat-leaf parsley is skippable.

Walnuts, Ham and Cheese
1 pound bow-tie pasta
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 slices Canadian bacon or breakfast ham, cut into thin strips
2 large cloves garlic,. chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup freshly flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a little salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick. Set aside 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the walnuts and toast them for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the olive oil and the Canadian bacon, cooked 3 to 5 minutes or until it just starts to brown. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook until reduced by half. Add the drained pasta, toasted walnuts, lemon juice and parsley, tossing to coat the noodles with all the ingredients. Cook a couple of minutes, until the pasta has soaked up almost all the liquid.

Remove from heat, add the butter and grated cheese and toss until the butter is melted. Serve with extra grated cheese on the side.