Recently I took a little trip to New York for the JFR Lerner Fellowship. There were some fabulous meals and snacks to be had in an entire new part of the city that I had not explored (the Upper West side around Columbia). One of the restaurants that we ate at was called Becco. It is located just off of Broadway in the Theater District.
The outside of Beco
All in all the food was very good a Becco. We were a large group so we had a preset menu, but at one point I looked at the rest of the restaurant and it looked as though the entire restaurant may be preset. One thing that automatically made the meal wonderful was excellent conversation with the Croatian teachers that came to the fellowship whom we tried enthusiastically to teach how to be Southern/Texan. I was a bit envious of the friend next to me who ordered a glass (or two) of Prosseco. I really enjoy the Italian sparkling wine and it would have matched well with the variety of food we had. I do not remember much about the anti pasta we were given. It was marinated artichokes and red bell peppers and marscapone cheese with some sweet glaze that I felt would be better suited for dessert. The salad was mixed greens in a typical house dressing even though we were supposed to have Caesar until too many people complained about anchovies in the dressing not realizing that most Caesar dressings have anchovies. On to the unlimited (yes I said unlimited) servings of pasta. There were three types and I do not remember much about one of them. The other two were mushroom ravioli and oreichette with cauliflower. The ravioli was good and had a very nice sauce that complimented the dish well, but for me the real winner was the oreichette with cauliflower. All of the pasta was homemade and some of the shell shaped pasta had a tendency to stack together making a larger pasta filled bite (which I loved). The cauliflower was a little soft, but had good flavor when tossed with a really light and smooth tomato sauce. Topping all of this off with a good dose of Parmesan really made the dish come together. I rather enjoy the way that Parmesan acts as a last minute "binder" for lighter pasta sauces. I came home and duplicated what I ate!
We try to eat a lot of veggies and this was a new way to prepare them. I took zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots and using my vegetable peeler cut slivers of veggies. This was all sauteed with finely sliced red onion, garlic, olive oil, and a bit of fresh ground black pepper! Really good and fresh tasting.
I boiled the pasta (I used rigatoni at Matt's request) and used the steamer basket to steam chopped cauliflower. I took the cauliflower after it was "al dente" and sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic.
All real pasta dishes need lots of fresh basil. We roughly chopped this and tossed it when we were mixing all of the pasta together. The basil will wilt just enough from the residual heat of the pasta and sauce. We have found that it tastes a lot fresher and makes the basil much more noticeable when not cooked in the sauce.
For the actual sauce I took a shallot and half a red onion diced and sauteed that with a couple cloves of chopped garlic. When everything was translucent I added one large can of diced tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a bit of Italian seasoning. After letting it mellow and blend a bit, I tasted and adjusted my seasoning. We like sauces like this sometimes because it is super fresh and almost raw in that it is not your all day simmered marinara or meat sauce. It is great for the summer time!
We tossed it all together with Parmesan and topped with sauteed chicken (this is when you add the fresh basil)!
A word about your chicken. Mattie and I sometimes buy vinegar based salad dressings that we end up less than thrilled about. When this happens, we keep it in the fridge and use it for a quick marinade on our chicken. Just because you don't like it on your salad doesn't mean that it won't impart wonderful flavor on your poultry!