“Waikiki Penne” and “Hawaii Kai Penne” are a few names I considered naming this dish, but I figured, ah heck with it, I’ll just be egocentric on this one and name it after myself. lol
As is the case with most types of refined types of cooking – even as simple as it may appear – preparing pasta dishes is all about steps and timing. Unlike roasts, soups and some stews, where you just throw everything in the pot on the stove or oven and forget about it until it’s done.
The former being the case, where I present to you today my “Revolution 2012“, health and fitness friendly Penne pasta dish, of my own creation. Notably it doesn’t have a sauce per se, but depends entirely on the earthy goodness that is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, along with a heavy dose of minced garlic, plus thyme and dill. Quite simple, yet oh so good!
Not only do you get them heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids from the EVOO, but you also get a full serving of whole grain from the 100% Whole Grain Penne Pasta, plus more fiber, along with an entire list of essential vitamins and minerals from from the long beans. And yes, plenty of mushrooms, as that’s what I LOVE using as my meat substitute.
First let’s take a look at the 100% Whole Grain Pasta box…
I didn’t know the Golden Grain Mission® brand pasta is made in Italy. That’s good to know, as usually I buy the Barilla brand.
See, even the manufacturer’s recipe is simple, only using Olive Oil as its “sauce”.
Let’s take a look at this here 100% whole grain penne uncooked out of the box…
What I love about Penne is that its hollow tube shape acts as a “capsule” that holds the sauce (in this case EVOO) within, so every bite explodes with flavor.
And get this: because this recipe has Olives (which I LOVE), I thought instead of throwing away that precious, tasty, salty Olive-flavored liquid, why not use it in the pasta water? Genius!
Which is why you see the cooking water has a brownish hue. I learned a lot about Italian cooking just by watching Molto Mario (Batali) on the Food Network, where for “Pasta 101″, he said the water should “taste like the sea”. To achieve that, simply add salt (in this case I use Hawaiian Salt) to the water and keep tasting it until it, well, tastes like sea water.
This is only the third time I’ve cooked 100% Whole Grain pasta, where I found like brown rice, it takes a little longer to cook. Although the instructions say to cook it 9-11 minutes, it took about 14 minutes for it to reach the level of al dente that I wanted it, which is just underdone, as I’m going to continue cooking it in the saute pan with the other ingredients. So I kept taking bites of penne to check it after the 9 minute mark. Here at this point it’s done…
I tell you, that Olive liquid worked out like a CHAMP, as you could taste the flavor penetrated right into each and every Penne.
To keep my pasta from sticking together while it rests, I give a toss with some EVOO just enough to coat them…
EVOO “Liquid Gold” right there, baby, Liquid Gold. I actually should have done this in a mixing bowl, as I lost some olive oil through the pukas (holes) in the collander. One of them “Podagee” moments. lol
Let me tell ya’, these babies are like little tubes of Olive-infused pasta delight just like that. No need anything else! Add a glass of Cab’ with it, and you could just as well pop these pupu style and call it a night!
But now we get to add more fun stuff to this Penne party…
From top to bottom row, left to right, we have:
• Shiitake Mushrooms, 1 package, rehydrated and sliced into strips
• Italian Five Cheese Blend: Mozzarella, Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan, about 1 cup (but no scade, add way more than that!)
• Fresh Crack Black and Hawaiian Salt
• Sweet Peppers, about 1 cup, sliced into thin strips
• Fresh Basil, about 3/4 cup, Chiffonade
• Cherry Tomatoes, about 2 or 3 handfuls worth, left whole
• Long Beans, about 3 handfuls worth, cut into 3-4″ pieces
• White Mushrooms, 1 four oz. tray, sliced
• Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin), peeled, seeded and sliced into wedges for plating presentation
• Minced Garlic, mixed with Thyme and Dill, about 3/4 cup
• Large Black Olives, 1 fifteen ounce can, reserved liquid for pasta water, chop Olives
• 100% Whole Grain Penne Pasta (or pasta shape of your choice), 1 box, cooked just under Al dente, and coated with EVOO
• Chardonnay White Wine (or grape of your choice)
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil (get the best one your budget allows, as this component is KEY to this dish. The Kirkland EVOO is GREAT!).
Earlier I mentioned pasta cooking is all about steps. Looking at the ingredients, you immediately see each one needs its own cooking time. Notably the Kabocha, which I discovered the HARD way in a previous attempt, that it goes from al dente to mashed potato consistency VERY quickly when I added it in with the pasta while it was cooking. Never again.
So this time around I let it steam with some Chardonnay in the saute pan and watched it carefully…
I covered it to prevent the wine from evaporating, where it took about 10 minutes to get the Kabocha to al dente consistency. Perfect. I also added salt and pepper, which you should do along the way with each component in the dish.
When done, remove the Kabocha and set aside on a plate, then in goes the Long Beans…
“Cooking 101″ will also teach you about deglazing, which is when you add a liquid to the hot pan to remove the “fond”, which are those tasty brown bits stuck to the pan. Here you see when I add the wine, it immediately deglazes the brown “good stuff” stuck to the pan….
The Long Beans cook pretty quick, where they were done in about 5 minutes for al dente consistency. Remove and set aside.
What time is it now? SHROOM TIME!…
Notice there’s a drizzle of EVOO, along with a couple generous pats of butter. Oh yeah, mo’ buttah, mo bettah! No hold ‘em, choke ‘em!
You see how much fond is in the pan at this point, which is a good thing, as the ‘shrooms are like sponges, absorbing whatever liquid you throw at it. After they’re sauteed to doneness, add more wine and deglaze again.
Once the mushrooms are almost done, add the Sweet Peppers and Garlic/Thyme/Dill aromatics and saute some more…
Note, keep that bottle of EVOO by your side, as you’re going to need to keep adding some, little by little to the pan as you cook, to keep everything “flowing” and not burning.
Here you see how I’ve almost completely deglazed the pan, where all those flavors are now locked into them shrooms…
It’s time for the Penne to join the party peeps…
Toss gently, being careful not to break the pasta, while on low heat.
We’re almost done. Add the cooked Long Beans, Olives and raw Cherry Tomatoes and saute for a few minutes more to heat through….
Again, toss gently, let all the ingredients heat through, then finish by adding the basil and cheese…
Adjust flavor with salt ‘n fresh cracked black, and voila, dinner is ready to be served, madame…
Plate ‘er up on a bed of the Kabocha wedges and serve with your favorite wine…
I added just a little extra cheese for presentation, but BELIEVE me, after taking that shot, I SMOTHERED this dish with more cheese, plus a generous dose of more EVOO. MORE EVOO!!!
And how is it? Awesome, of course!
The Kabocha is what totally NAILS it. That slightly sweet, starchy accent of the pumpkin, combined with the acidity from the Cherry Tomatoes, earthiness of the Olives, Olive Oil, Shiitake and White Mushrooms, green taste of the Long Beans, plus kick of the garlic, rounded out by the aromatic essence of the Thyme and Dill just hit this OUT OF THE PARK.
If there’s anything I’d do differently next time is perhaps try using a fruitier, sweeter, less acidic wine, along with adding large slices of sauteed red onions to it for added color contrast and depth in flavor. Otherwise, winner, winner, “Pomai’s” Penne Dinner! lol Seriously though!
Best of all, I made enough to carry me out for this upcoming work week’s lunch!…
In fact, here’s my lunch today, that took less than 2 minutes in the office nuker to heat up…
Just the visual of Kabocha Pumpkin smothered in melting, ooey-gooey good Mozzarella, Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan has my mouth WATERING. And believe me, it tastes freekin’ DELISH!
P.S. I thought this would make for an artistic photo of a burnt piece of Kiawe tree stump someone had left from the night before on the beach…
As for my weight, I lost 2 pounds from the previous, down to 182.3. Still attacking that stubborn visceral fat, yet dishes like what I presented here today should help. I also found Choi Sum and Pak Choy to be effective at weight management, and what I use more so than lettuce in my salads. Take it slow.