For our June pasta spotlight, we sat down with food writer and blogger, Serena Cosmo. We got her take on her inspiration for new recipes, recommended food pairings, her favorite summer meals, and much more. Read on for all of her food and pasta insights!
1. We love looking through Rustic Plate for great recipe ideas and food inspiration. What inspires you to create a new Rustic Plate recipe?
My palate for starters! Taste is my ultimate driver …my desire to make something delicious so I can then eat it. Pretty primal, I know. I’ll often look on Pinterest or peruse food blogs and food sites I love for inspiration and then combine elements from different dishes to create something that I think (hope!) will taste delicious. But at the end of the day, I only cook things that I am excited about eating.
Just as importantly, I am also driven by my need to create meal solutions for my family. Like most folks, I have a busy schedule and look for dishes that my entire family can enjoy, because who has time to make four different dishes on a Tuesday night, you know? My grandmother, who had four children, fell in the trap of making something special for everyone and I think she left the kitchen once, in 1978. Children, as many parents know, certainly don’t make preparing meals an easy task. I’ve found, however, that if I stick to uncomplicated flavors that are nevertheless savory and tasty I can usually get everyone eating happily at the table.
2. Your How-To page presents a lot of great cooking tips for things people may not be sure how to do when cooking. Do you have any tips for cooking pasta you can share?
3. At Pasta Fits, we like to focus on keeping our pasta meals nutritious and delicious by cooking with light sauces and plenty of veggies and protein. What are some of your favorite pairings to keep your pasta light and healthy?
Creating mouth-watering pairings is one of my favorite things! Let’s see…off the top of my head I can think of a few, like:
Every combination has to include something that adds a little depth and extra savory flavor to the dish. Whether it’s browned fish or pancetta (or bacon) or a small amount of melted cheese, its presence is absolutely vital because it adds what I call the ‘bass’ note. Without it, a dish just floats around in your mouth, all bland and uninspiring.
Thanks a lot…now I’m hungry!
4. Barbecue season is upon us! What are your favorite meals to make or bring to a barbecue?
I love having lots of sides at barbecues, probably because while I enjoy an occasional steak or burger from time to time, I’m not a chewing-every-last-bit-of-meat-off-the-bones type of carnivore. Instead, I revel in vegetable- and legume-focused dishes that offer bright and festive colors, a mixture of textures, and wholesome, filling ingredients. I always ask myself whether I have the right amount of sides if a vegetarian were to make an unexpected appearance. I’m satisfied with my menu when I feel I have enough sides to satisfy even the hungriest of non-meat eaters.
As far as the types of dishes that I make for my own barbecues, I’m going to shamelessly plug Rustic Plate and give you six that you can find on rusticplate.com. They are: Lemon-y Lima Bean Mash; Potato Salad with Roasted Red Peppers & Bacon Drippings; Baked Black Beans with Red Pepper & Ham; Fennel, Orange & Kalamata Olive Salad; Apple Slaw; and Glazed Beet, Toasted Hazelnut & Goat Cheese Salad.
5. Finally, can you share one of your favorite pasta recipes with us?
Wow …that’s like asking me for my favorite movie when Terms of Endearment, Shawshank Redemption, The Joy Luck Club, The Green Mile and so many other excellent ones swim in my mind vying for my attention.
I’d have to say I really enjoy eating Spaghetti with Salmon, Leeks & Feta. Fist, I just love the experience of twirling spaghetti around my fork. It’s so satisfying. You have no idea how many times I’ve taught people (at their request!) how to do it without using a spoon. The dish also uses two of my favorite things, salmon and leeks, a combination that to me feels like the iconic American union of peanut butter and jelly. Browning the salmon adds that pleasant savory taste known as umami, the leeks contribute mellow sweetness, and the feta gently brightens the dish. And it comes together rather easily, with the most time-consuming part being washing and chopping the leeks.
About Serena Cosmo:
Serena Cosmo is a writer, food educator and blogger. You can find her on www.rusticplate.com and on Facebook at Rustic Plate. A native of the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, she lives in Auburn with her husband, two daughters, a dog, a cat, two goldfish, 1 fresh water snail, 1 African dwarf frog, and 27 wooden cooking spoons.