Monday, January 14, 2013

Lemon Artichoke Pasta

This is a great pasta dish in the heart of winter. It has a light, fresh, but creamy sauce that will remind you a spring, but warm you up from the chill outside now. All of the ingredients are things that are very readily available and I usually have most of these things available in the fridge/freezer already. That makes this a wonderful, last-minute meal that feels like you've been planning it all week.  It may seem strange, and they would not appreciate this move on Top Chef, but I thickened the sauce with a dollop of light cream cheese. This way I get the flavor and sharpness without butter, cream, or other cheese. It keeps the sauce light, but satisfying. The fresh squeezed lemon adds a tart burst and the pine nuts bring a needed texture. I used orecchiette pasta, which is suppose to look like little ears.  As appetizing as that sounds, it is actually a fantastic pasta with little ridges that soak in the sauce.  Another tip to take this pasta over the top is one that I learned from y girl, Lidia Bastianich.  Cook the pasta until it is still very, very al dente.  Then finish it cooking in the sauce.  Then the pasta soaks up the flavor of the sauce and makes the dish so much more flavorful.
Lemon Artichoke Pasta
1/2 lb. orecchiette pasta
3 garlic cloves
1 small onion
12 oz. jar artichoke quarters or hearts
1 lemon
1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 Tbs. parsley
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Boil water in a large pot and salt the water well.  Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package.  While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.
2.  In a dry pan, add pine nuts and heat over medium heat to toast lightly.  It will take between 5-8 minutes to toast.  Keep an eye on them so they don't burn.
3.  Finely chop the garlic and onion.
3.  Remove the artichokes from the jar and discard the liquid.  Coarsely chop the 'chokes so that they are manageable, bite-sized pieces.
4.  Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Sweat for 2-3 minutes and then add the chopped artichokes.
5.  Cook together for 2 minutes and add the juice from one lemon.  Cook for another minute and then add 2 ladle fulls (about 2/3 cup) of liquid from the pasta water and cook on medium heat.
6.  When the pasta is still very al dente, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce.
7.  Allow the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce for another 3-4 minutes.  Add additional liquid if needed.
8.  When the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add the cream cheese.  Stir in.  The heat from the pasta and sauce will melt the cream cheese into a thickened sauce.

9.  Toss chopped parsley and pine nuts into the dish.
Serve up and enjoy.
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