Pasta Risotto & You

by Nancy Caivano


No More Boring Barbecues!


My brother Michael's birthday is at the end of May, and his birthday usually kicks off the summer grilling season for us. of course, May itself does so for everyone else as well, as Memorial Day is usually considered the start of the summer. Pools open, beaches open, and everyone is firing up their grill. It was Mike's 30th birthday this year, so we all got together and bought him a brand new grill. It's a lot bigger than his old one, with all kinds of racks and knobs and side burners. He was very happy, to say the least. The day of his birthday we surprised him with a barbecue at his own house and even though it was his day, he never let anyone else in front of that grill.

No More Boring Barbecues!The reason I tell you about this, is that, for those of us in the northern parts of the country, grilling season is something to be elated about. It means all kinds of great things, eating outside, long summer days that stretch to 8 or 9:00 at night, and foods that we wouldn't normally eat except for on the grill. Why can't you just make your hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and corn inside during the colder months? Well, because they just don't taste the same. Part of the greatness of grilling season is just being outside, smelling the delicious smells of your barbecue...and all the neighbors too. Sitting back with a burger and a cold drink, watching the kids run around the that is a perfect day.

So what exactly does grilling have to do with pasta and risotto? Well, both of these dishes can have grilled components that totally change them from good to spectacular. Who would want to serve spaghetti and meatballs at a barbecue? It just doesn't sound right. But, how about Pasta with Grilled Marinated Chicken and Grilled Vegetables? That sounds a whole lot better. Three or sometimes four months of eating hamburgers and hot dogs can be tiresome. But, if you shake things up here and there, the hamburgers and hot dogs start to taste good again. You don't want to play anything out, especially considering we only have a few months of prime grilling weather. Those of you in the South and Southwest have lots of time to grill and have months to plan. Us Yankees have to fit all of our grilling wishes into three (or sometimes up to five) months! So my goal for July and August is "No More Boring Barbecues!" Rev up your summer outings with fabulous, delicious and innovative pasta and risotto recipes. They can be used as hearty sides or main courses, or part of an outdoor barbecue buffet—whatever suits your needs.

Let's start with the pasta. I have two vegetable pastas and a seafood pasta, all of which could play any role—like a baseball utility player. First up, Pasta with Grilled Vegetables, Gruyere and Breadcrumbs is a wonderful pasta, especially if you have a garden. This is the type of dish that can use pretty much any vegetable, so if you happen to have a bumper crop of something, use it here. The vegetables get a light marinade of balsamic vinegar and are then cooked on the grill to get that fire roasted flavor. They are then combined with more vinegar, lemon zest and just a touch of cream and butter for a light, creamy coating and added to hot pasta with zesty Gruyere cheese and toasted homemade breadcrumbs. This is a dish to make all summer long.

Next, Pasta with Greens, Grilled Potatoes, Peppers and Tomatoes might sound strange, but it is a fabulous combination of flavors. Yukon Gold potatoes, red bell peppers and sweet tomatoes are grilled for flavor and then combined with escarole (or any green) and cooked with garlic and hot red pepper flakes. This is all combined with pasta and has extra virgin olive oil and Romano cheese added just at the end so you can really taste the fabulous flavors. You can do almost all of this dish ahead of time, just heating the vegetables and making the pasta the day you serve it.

Pasta with Grilled Scallops and Spicy Garlic-Paprika Cream Sauce is a bit more elegant than the other pastas. This dish seems suited to a beautiful evening spent with your significant other, although the kids might love it too. Sea scallops are seasoned with paprika and grilled, then combined with pasta and a delicious cream sauce flavored with more paprika, wine, garlic, and hot red pepper flakes for a luscious combination of flavors.

Now, we move on to the risotti. Again, I have three varieties for you, and they are all utility players. First, we have Risotto with Grilled Vegetables and Spicy Toasted Walnuts. This dish can also use just about any combination of vegetables, or even one vegetable that you are particularly fond of. The vegetables are grilled, then combined into a traditional risotto for a colorful, creamy dish. At the very end, spicy sugar toasted walnuts are tossed in with Romano cheese for added crunch and flavor.

Risotto with Toasted Sweet Corn and Crab simply tastes like summer. Sweet corn is cut off the cob and toasted in a pan to a golden brown. This gives the corn a superb nutty flavor. It is then combined into the risotto with sweet, fresh crabmeat, onion, tomatoes, white wine and herbs for really fabulous dish. This would make a terrific first course or lunch entrée, or a very upscale change from potato or pasta salads.

Our last risotto, Risotto with Mushrooms, Grilled Chicken and Sausage is definitely a main course dish. It is full of bold flavors and very hearty. Chicken breasts and Italian sausages are grilled, then combined into risotto with onion, peppers, garlic, Romano cheese and herbs. Feel free to experiment with different sausages, such as Chorizo, Chicken Apple sausage, or even a combination of sausages. You can also use boneless chicken thighs here instead of chicken breasts, for an even bolder taste.

As a special treat, I have prepared a recipe for a superb summer dessert. Just the presentation alone will make your guests swoon, and the taste will send them over the edge. Grilled Coconut Pound Cake with Kahlua Spiced Peaches and Coconut Whipped Cream is an amazing dessert. A rich, flavorful pound cake is sliced and spread with butter and sugar, then grilled to crunchy, buttery perfection. It is served with peaches that have been flavored with Kahlua, brown sugar, vinegar and citrus zest, plus a creamy coconut flavored whipped cream. A stupendous ending to any outdoor celebration.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and have many memorable outdoor dinners, lunches and parties. I will see you in September when we talk about simplicity.

Nancy Caivano


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Copyright © 2001, Nancy Caivano. All rights reserved.


This page created July 2001