Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Joys of Carbo-Loading

I am a big fan of carbohydrates. Despite all the low-carb fanatics out there with their low-carb brands forcing regular restaurants to make specific sections of the menu for their low-carb customers (I'm not bitter or anything...), I'm still a big fan of carbohydrates. There is just this innate comfort in a warm toasted bagel, a hearty stack of pancakes and especially, a steaming bowl of pasta.

In high school I ran on the cross country team and every Friday before a meet we had a Pasta Party in hopes of "carbo-loading" our digestive systems by converting pasta to power. Sometimes we'd congregate at Olive Garden to take advantage of their "Never Ending Pasta Bowl," but mostly we took turns hosting the team at our houses and asking our parents to prepare boatloads of pasta to feed a team of hungry girls. It was always a good time.

In light of the whole Atkins hubbub, I don't know if "carbo-loading" is still the preferred method of preparation for running anymore, but as far as I'm concerned, nothing brings people together more than pasta - and I'm not even Italian!

A few months ago, my boyfriend found a recipe for Broccoli and Bow Ties on the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. (Actually, he scribbled it down on the front and back of one of those pink "While You Were Out" notepads that seem to be the only pieces of paper in his apartment ever.) Sounding simple enough, he cooked it for me one night and it was delicious. The recipe calls for a full lemon zested plus juice and the refreshing flavor dances perfectly with smooth olive oil and fresh grated Parmesan. Since his first attempt, it has turned into a classic fall-back for nights when we want to cook but don't want to work too hard. We've added chicken, asparagus and I'm sure that shrimp (he doesn't like seafood) would be great too! When we made it this weekend, we used angel hair, but I'd recommend sticking with smaller pastas like bow ties and penne so the sauce really clings to the noodle.

It's a very versatile dish and the unique lemony flavor just keeps me coming back for more.

Broccoli and Bow Ties
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Food Network


Kosher salt
8 C. broccoli florets (4 heads)
1/2 lb. farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. good olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C. toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional


Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis and cheese, if using, and serve.

To toast pignolis, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.