Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Angel Hair Pasta with Steak, Basil, and Almonds

My cousin, Jess, got me a Barnes & Noble gift card for my birthday and gave me the great idea to get a new cookbook with it, and that's just what I did. As many of you could probably guess, I got a recently published Giada De Laurentiis cookbook, Giada at Home (I promise I looked at cookbooks by other chefs, but there were just too many good recipes in this one that I couldn't pass up). I've already marked a handful of recipes I want to try, and tonight was my first try at one of them, a pasta dish with a fresh salsa-style sauce, crunchy almonds, and perfectly-seasoned steak. Just a word of sure you get beef tenderloin steaks and not some other cut. I accidentally picked up the wrong cut, seeing "tenderloin" written on the package, but not noticing the "chuck" also written on it, a.k.a. I got a much less tender and much cheaper piece of meat that was not nearly as tender as the real deal would have been. The dish was still good, but to get it right, you really need the proper beef tenderloin steaks.

Serves: 4-6
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Food processor

  • 1 lb. beef tender loin steaks
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • 2 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on the steaks
  • 8-16 oz. angel hair, spaghetti, or other long, thin pasta
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes and their juice
  • Approx. 2 cups (I used two, 2 oz. packs of prepackaged) basil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup smoked almonds (if you're like me and you can't find smoked almonds in your local grocery store, buy regular sliced or slivered almonds and toast them in the oven for just a few minutes at 350*F)
  • Italian cheese, like Parmiggiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, to taste

Move an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450*F. Place the steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and season both sides with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 10-12 minutes to get steaks to medium doneness (less time for medium rare, more for medium well). Remove the steaks from the oven and let them rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring a medium to large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package instructions (about 4-5 minutes). Drain and return to pot, drizzle with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking, then place the lid on the pot to keep the pasta warm. In a food processor, combine the dice tomatoes and their juice, garlic, lemon zest and juice, basil, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Blend until coarsely chopped. Pour the sauce over the warm pasta and toss to combine. Add the almonds (be sure they are either sliced, slivered, or crunched up into pieces) and toss to combine. Either serve the steaks whole, alongside the pasta, or slice the steaks into 1/4-inch pieces and toss with the pasta, then serve. Serve topped with Italian cheese if desired.

This dish is the sort of dish that can easily transition from a summer meal to a winter meal. The fresh, uncooked sauce (warmed through by the hot pasta), packed with crisp basil and bright tomatoes, adds a summery feel to the dish, but the smoked or toasted almonds add a warmth and nuttiness that makes it perfect for colder weather. The steak is the perfect compliment to this pasta, but chicken breasts, seasoned the same way, would work just as well in the dish.

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