New Jersey food blogger Nikki Marie learned to cook in her Italian grandmother’s kitchen. She was taught about the importance of using locally sourced products and seasonal produce. And, she says, “there is a constant ingredient threaded through my life that is still very prominent on my family table: pasta.”
In her new cookbook, “Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners,” Marie makes the case that pasta is among the most cost-effective and versatile ingredients. She includes recipes for main courses, side dishes and even desserts.
This one-pot dish comes together in less than an hour for a delicious dinner on a cool night.
ONE-POT CHEESY SPAGHETTI BAKE
I don’t know what I love most about this dish, the warm layer of toasted and melted mozzarella, the way the tips of the pasta crisp up ever-so-slightly when broiled or that it all comes together in just one pot. This recipe pairs beautifully with a warm slice of rustic bread and your favorite wine.
Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small onion, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth, plus 1 cup extra, if needed
2 teaspoons dry Italian seasonings (mix of garlic powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, savory, etc.)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti, broken in half
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese or more as desired
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or local cheese with a hard and sharp profile, to garnish
In a large enameled cast-iron pot (at least 5 quarts) heat the olive oil over low to medium heat until hot and shimmery. Add the red pepper flakes and cook until they are toasted, 1 minute.
Add the onion and sprinkle with salt. Saute, stirring often, until the onion is tender and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Remove the pot from the heat to add the wine, then return to moderate heat and scrape the bottom to deglaze any flavorful brown bits that may have accumulated. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.
Add the broth, Italian seasonings and salt and pepper to taste, then stir to mix. Bring to a boil and add the uncooked spaghetti. Stir often to prevent sticking. Keep extra broth on hand and add it if the spaghetti absorbs too much liquid.
Cook the pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, about 10 to 13 minutes. The pasta should be creamy with movement, not soupy. Add the butter and stir to mix.
Top the spaghetti evenly with the mozzarella and place the pot under a broiler set to high heat. Broil until the cheese is melted, bubbling and beginning to brown in some spots, 2 minutes or so; broilers vary, so keep a watchful eye.
To serve, scoop into individual bowls, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with grated cheese.
Reprinted with permission from “Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners” by Nikki Marie; Page Street Publishing Co.