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Weekday dinner inspiration: Rigatoni Alla Toto and more

Mon | Going meatless

Black Bean Soup With Rice is a quick meatless meal that starts with canned black beans. Heat 2 cans of drained and rinsed black beans with 1 cup vegetable broth, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ chopped onion and 1 teaspoon (or to taste) ground cumin. Simmer until onion has softened, about 15 minutes. Puree and serve with cooked rice, chopped onions and hot sauce. Hot buttered Cuban bread on the side.

Tues | So simple

Make Crab & Avocado Salad and serve it in Boston lettuce leaves. Use canned crab or lump meat, whatever your wallet will allow, and mix it gently with finely diced celery and red onion plus avocado cubes. Dress with mayonnaise and lime juice, and season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Soft-baked breadsticks on the side.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Carve the bird and serve it with Roasted Broccoli and Garlic. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix fresh broccoli florets with several chopped garlic cloves, extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. When it's done, squeeze lemon juice all over and sprinkle on some grated Parmesan. You'll never cook broccoli in water again.

Thurs | Pastabilities

Fennel seeds give Rigatoni Alla Toto (recipe below) a distinctive sweet anise flavor. Crush the seeds in mortar and pestle or chop them on a cutting board. The recipe only calls for a pinch, so if you want to leave it out, go ahead. It's likely the sweet Italian sausage will have fennel in it.

Fri | Tailgate warmup

Get ready for football season with Lemon-Pepper Wings. To make the wings, combine ¼ cup lemon-pepper seasoning and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives on a plate. Dip wings — you'll have enough seasoning for 2 dozen — in olive oil then roll in lemon-pepper mixture. Let sit for 15 minutes. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently. Serve with your favorite potato salad.

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>>easy

Rigatoni Alla Toto

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

1 cup dry white wine

A few fresh basil leaves

Pinch of ground fennel seeds, if using plain sausage (see note)

1 ½ cups heavy cream

Salt

1 pound rigatoni

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Regina cheese for serving

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it up and browning on all sides. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the basil, ground fennel (if using) and cream, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until al dente. Drain well and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately with the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top.

Note: Grind whole fennel seeds by crushing them with a mortar and pestle, or chop them on a cutting board with a large knife.

Serves 5 to 6.

Source: Rome, At Home by Suzanne Dunaway

Weekday dinner inspiration: Rigatoni Alla Toto and more 09/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 5:30am]

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