Sunday, April 22, 2012

Italian Trail Mix?

If you happen to be my friend on Facebook, you may have seen this photo that I uploaded the other night of my latest recipe creation. I call it "Italian Trail Mix". Everyone was all gung-ho for it until I said it was pasta with tomatoes, nuts and raisins.

If you decide to make it, take a picture of it and I'll send you a dollar. It takes some courage to put nuts and raisins in a red sauce with pasta. People always think I'm Italian and I think this dish speaks pretty clearly that I'm actually not. :) But it's good, I promise.

Italian Trail Mix was born out of desire to use up some of the stuff that's been sitting in my kitchen cabinets taking up space for Godonlyknowshowlong. Like a huge unopened box of raisins that I'm sure I bought for a specific purpose at some point, less than half a bag each of walnuts and almond slivers and a lonely can of chickpeas.

Here's what I used:

(1) box of bow-tie pasta (you could use whatever pasta you have on hand)
2 or 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
3 or 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1/2 cup of chopped nuts (I used about a 1/4 cup each of walnuts and almond slivers, you could use whatever nuts you have sitting around or omit them all together) 
(1) can of crushed tomatoes
(1) can of chickpeas, (rinse and drain)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Anywhere from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depends on your preference for heat, I probably used about a 1/2 teaspoon and it had just enough of a kick without being super hot)
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Some parsley to give it a little color, it definitely lacked color

Here's what I did:

1. Put a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, add salt as recommended on the pasta box, bring the water back to a full boil and then add pasta. Cook as per directions, 10 or 12 minutes. While you're waiting for the water to boil, put 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and warm on low heat. Then add 3 or 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic, cook and stir 3 or 4 minutes, until it starts to smell really yummy and gets darker in color. Then add chopped nuts, stir and give the garlic and nuts a few minutes to get jiggy. I had never cooked garlic and nuts together before, and let me tell you, it looks and smells divine.

2. Next add a can of crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir it all up and let it simmer about 15 minutes. Before you drain your pasta, dip a measuring cup in scoop out a cup of the starchy water. You'll probably need it to thin out the dish when it's done. Drain pasta.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to skillet, stir and continue to cook for a few minutes, just long enough for the raisins for soften and the flavors to blend. Turn off the heat and add pasta to skillet. Stir it up to combine, add pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce. I used about a half a cup. Top with parsley to give it a little color. Next time I think I'll use tri-color pasta and maybe throw some spinach in to give it some color.

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