Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 01

Episode 101: Pasta for Supper

Welcome to the companion site to my public television series, Sara’s Weeknight Meals, which started airing in April 2008. This show is based on my last cookbook, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, and it’s all about getting quick tasty meals on the table during the work week. The series is made up of 20 shows. I’m flying solo in 14 of them. The other six feature great guests, including Madhur Jaffrey, Jasper White, Andrew Carmelini, Roberto Santibanez, Corinne Trang, and Michael Psilakis. The show was produced by my dream team – the folks I most enjoyed working with during my years at the Food Network.

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Tips, Tools and Ingredients

Tips. Be sure to cut the breakfast sausages while they are still frozen. Once thawed, they flatten out when you try to cut them.

The best way to store fresh herbs is to trim the bottoms of the stems and place them upright in a glass of water as you would flowers and set them in a cool place on your kitchen counter or in the fridge. If you need to substitute dried herbs for fresh, the ratio is – for every tablespoon of fresh herbs you will need 1 teaspoon dried.

The next time you make a pasta dish, undercook your pasta slightly. Then drain it, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, and add the pasta right to the pot of sauce. Let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce, adding some of the pasta cooking liquid if the mixture seems dry. The pasta will pick up more of the flavor of the sauce if you finish cooking it this way. Also, the pasta cooking liquid, which has some starch in it, will help to bind the sauce to the pasta.

How much pasta do you need to buy for a meal? 1 pound is enough for 4 people for an entree.

Wonton skins freeze well and they can be used in any recipe you would have used fresh pasta.

Tools. The new Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener takes all the worry out of opening a can. No more sharp edges to cut your fingers; this new tool leaves no dangerous edges on either the rim of the can or on the lid. Available where housewares are sold and on line at www.oxo.com.

Ingredients. Breakfast sausage differs from most other fresh (not cured) sausages in that it is mildly seasoned with sage. Traditionally it was made with pork but today you can find it made with beef, turkey, or chicken. If you prefer, you can use sweet or hot Italian sausage or any other sausage of your choice.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in Northern Italy from cow’s milk. Pecorino Romano is made in Southern Italy from sheep’s milk. Both are hard cheeses that were brined during production and are delicious for grating and eating straight up. Pecorino is a bit saltier than Parmigiano-Reggiano.

In the market, you will find both Danish and Italian Fontina Cheese but they are very different in character. The Danish is mild and semi-soft, the Italian is firmer and more flavorful. I call for the Italian in this show and it is worth looking for it in a gourmet market if your supermarket doesn’t carry it. If you can’t find it, a Gruyere or Emmental is a better substitution than the Danish Fontina.

Ricotta Salata is made by aging ricotta cheese. It is similar in flavor to Feta but sweeter and less salty. If you don’t like the saltiness of Feta, give this a try.

I have just discovered the fire roasted version of Muir Glen Tomatoes. I liked them anyway (they are organic) but I especially love this fire roasted version because it adds a big smoky flavor to any sauce. They are available in many supermarkets, including Whole Foods.

An ice cream scoop, and they come in many sizes, does double duty as a tool for measuring dry ingredients. You can use it to drop cookie dough on a sheet pan or to form meatballs or to scoop up gnocchi dough as we have done in this ricotta gnocchi recipe.


Thanks to

Sara's Weeknight Meals is produced by Silver Plume Productions and WETA Washington, DC, and distributed by American Public Television (APT) to public broadcasting stations nationwide. Corporate funding is provided by Best Buy, Gallo and King Arthur Flour. |