Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creamy pasta with peas & carrots

What a week for sports we're having all over the world!  First, the US pulls out a last-minute win yesterday in the World Cup.  But what's more interesting to this girl is that nearly 10 hour yet-to-end Wimbledon quarterfinal match between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.  I haven't played competitive tennis in years, but I can recall the longest match I've ever played clocked in around 3 1/2 hours.  Ten hours of my beloved sport just seems unfathomable to me and probably everyone else.  I remember taking bites of a Power Bar on a changeover break; these guys have been eating those, whole bananas, and who knows what else.  And, after the 9:00 evening darkness delay, I'm sure they went home to carbo-load like their lives depended on it (in a way, they do, at least as far as Wimbledon is concerned).  Naturally, it's only fitting that I, too, needed to load up on carbohydrates after being so enthralled by this match.  Hey, emotional/mental exhaustion deserves some street cred, too :)

So, it's only fitting that after watching such a grueling display of athleticism and sheer will that my dinner was a delicious pasta dish.  Oh, but I can't take credit for this feast.  Nope, it was Laura's week to host dinner, and let me tell you, what an ambiance she had going!  She must have remembered that I'm the ultimate sucker for the dining experience as much as the food.  I walked in to the musical stylings of Glee playing in the background, a faint smell of garlic, the tiniest cans of Coca-Cola I've ever seen, and a "Happy Day!" cookie cake.

What a coincidence that I actually watched this episode of Giada at Home a few weeks ago and made a not-so-reliable mental note to make this at a later date.  She made the dish for her infant daughter's first birthday party, but it was clear that the adults enjoyed it just as much as the kids.  The prep was so easy (this observation confirmed by the cook) and the resulting dish was fabulous.  The cheeses made for such a creamy, smooth and lightly sweetened sauce along with the adorable farfallini pasta, and the fresh peas and carrots (courtesy, I'm told, of a Pittsburgh area CSA).  And the garlic bread was a perfect tool for sopping up the extra sauce.  While eating, we were talking about the recipe and how it was meant for kids... and decided that we'd sit at the kids table (tiny chairs, too) anytime if it meant we got to eat this dish.

Pasta with Peas and Carrots
(adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis on Food Network)
-serves 4

1/2 pound (8 ounces) farfallini, or other small-shaped pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed (Laura used fresh)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until to your desired firmness (I like mine softer, some like al dente), about 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta, but be sure to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water for later.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent and soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the carrots and chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender.  Stir in the cooked pasta.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce.  If sauce is a bit thick, use the reserved pasta water to thin, adding one tablespoon at a time and stirring until desired consistency is reached.  Season with salt, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped basil, if using.  Serve with garlic bread for cleaning your plate... after all, that's what good kids would do.

(Oh, and if you're wondering, that cookie cake was the bomb!  No pictures, unfortunately, but it was a perfect snack while watching the hilarious train wreck otherwise known as the NHL Awards Show last night after dinner.  Thanks again to Laura for a great dinner date!  I've got until next week to think of something for my turn...)

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