Keith Schroeder Keith Schroeder
February 17, 2014

Here's a great new way to cook pasta. It borrows from rice pilaf and risotto recipes, in that we sauté uncooked pasta in hot oil, provoking the Maillard reaction (the process responsible for making things taste roasty-toasty). We then gradually add stock rather than put the pasta in a boiling bath. The toasted starches slough off into the simmering liquid, creating a creamy sauce that elevates rather than masks the flavor of the pasta. Through this slow, gradual cooking process, the pasta achieves a perfectly even al dente texture without the unpleasant snap that sometimes accompanies not-quite-cooked-enough boiled pastas.

It's a flexible method. Play with other short pastas and liquids, like fresh tomato juice or a wine-water mix.

Skillet-Toasted Penne with Chicken SausageHands-on: 55 min. Total: 55 min.(Save the recipe on MyRecipes.com.)

Here's a saucy, creamy pasta dish without a lick of cream or milk and only a wee bit of cheese. The trick is to cook the pasta like risotto, which releases starch into the liquid that becomes the sauce. The toasting step adds nutty, rich character and is a step we don't advise skipping.

6 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)2 tablespoons olive oil, divided8 ounces uncooked penne pasta1 cup sliced sweet onion13 ounces Italian chicken sausage, casings removed2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon minced Calabrian chiles or hot red chiles¼ teaspoon kosher salt0.5 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 tablespoons)Oregano leaves (optional)

1. Bring stock to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pasta from pan.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, and sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage mixture from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return pasta to pan. Add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is nearly absorbed before adding the next (about 35 minutes total), stirring frequently. Stir in sausage mixture, juice, chiles, salt, and cheese. Garnish with oregano, if desired.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 cup)CALORIES 411; FAT 14.6g (sat 3.1g, mono 8.4g, poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 22.3g; CARB 46.1g; FIBER 2.4g; CHOL 63mg; IRON 6.4mg; SODIUM 620mg; CALC 74mg

Skillet-Toasted Penne with Bacon and Spinach:Follow steps 1 and 2. Substitute 4 chopped center-cut bacon slices for the sausage, and ½ cup sliced shallots and 8 sliced garlic cloves for the onion. Substitute 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and ½ teaspoon grated lemon rind for the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Substitute 6 ounces baby spinach for the chiles.(Save the recipe on MyRecipes.com.)

SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 cup)CALORIES 394; FAT 11.8g (sat 3.1g); SODIUM 601mg

Atlanta chef Keith Schroeder's Cooking Light cookbook comes out this fall.

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