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Pasta: The Right Time Is Any Time

June 20, 1996|MARIE SIMMONS | Simmons is the co-author of "Lighter, Quicker, Better" (William Morrow)

Pasta is a food for all seasons.

It nurtures and sustains us through the cold of winter and then, when spring arrives, we pair it with the first tender asparagus and tiny green peas.

And when we find ourselves surrounded by stunning summer produce, there is no easier or more delicious meal than a big bowl of pasta tossed with a no-cook sauce of ricotta cheese, fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic.

The many charming shapes and variety of sizes of dried pasta provide the canvas for any number of sauces, no matter what the season or your mood. Just remember to match the sauce to the shape of the pasta as illustrated in the two following recipes.

The farfalle or butterfly-shaped pasta is perfect with the pieces of salmon, cooked onion and peas or asparagus. The "wings" of the farfalle catch the seasonings to provide a taste of all the sauce ingredients in every bite.

On the other hand, long tubular pasta--like penne or ziti--is paired with thin wedges of tomato and strips of basil. Bound together with ricotta cheese and olive oil, the thin wedges of tomato and strips of basil match the shape of the penne.

Choose either recipe depending on what looks great in your market and what your mood dictates. Pasta is such a filling main dish that I usually serve it without accompaniments and followed with a simple dessert of store-bought fruit sorbet.


2 (1/2-pound) salmon steaks, about 1 inch thick

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh dill

4 cups thin wedges onions

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh shelled peas or thawed frozen peas or 1 to 2 cups cooked diagonally sliced asparagus spears

1 pound farfalle or butterfly-shaped pasta

1 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid

You can use leftover grilled salmon or cook salmon to order to mix with the pasta.

Sprinkle salmon steaks generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon fresh dill. Broil until salmon is browned, about 8 minutes. Carefully turn and broil about 2 minutes longer or until cooked through. Cool slightly. Remove skin and bones. Break salmon into 1-inch chunks.

Meanwhile, cook onions and olive oil in covered large deep skillet over medium-low heat until golden and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Stir in peas and heat through, about 3 minutes.

Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until firm to the bite, about 15 minutes, depending on shape and size. Ladle out 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and reserve. Drain pasta. Add pasta to skillet and mix with caramelized onions and as much of pasta cooking liquid as needed to keep mixture moist. Add salmon and remaining lemon juice and dill.

Makes 4 servings.


1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound penne, penne rigate or ziti

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Whisk ricotta cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and pepper in large serving bowl.

Combine tomatoes, olive oil and salt in separate bowl.

Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente or firm to the bite, about 15 minutes, depending on shape and size. Ladle out 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid and stir into ricotta mixture until blended. Drain pasta.

Add pasta to ricotta mixture along with tomato mixture. Stir to blend. Serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

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