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COOKING FOR TWO: Toasted breadcrumbs finishing touch of pasta dish

by Aaron Hutcherson, The Washington Post | June 9, 2021 at 2:02 a.m.
Pasta With Artichokes, Capers and Toasted Breadcrumbs (For The Washington Post/Laura Chase de Formigny)

I'm a big fan of salt and savoriness, so it's no surprise I love brined things. Brining infuses food with extra flavor and also helps to preserve it, which is why items like marinated artichoke hearts and capers deserve room on your pantry shelves. And while you're there, grab a box of pasta and some breadcrumbs and you're ready to cook this recipe.

You'll start by making some seasoned panko breadcrumbs. Sure, you could use any seasoned breadcrumbs that you might have on hand, but I like to buy plain ones because they are more versatile and then I can season them as I see fit. In this recipe, we toast panko, Italian seasoning and garlic powder in some olive oil until golden. The breadcrumbs add a nice crunchy topping to the pasta, but to be honest, they're so good I would eat them sprinkled on just about anything.

The sauce for the pasta, if you can call it that, begins with sauteed artichokes and capers. I like nonpareil capers mostly because I think their small size makes them cute, but they also offer the best flavor and texture. Any capers you have around will work in this recipe. Since the artichoke brine is already full of flavor, some of it is added to the pan along with a spoonful of honey, for balance.

You might notice that I didn't add salt outside of boiling the pasta and a pinch with the breadcrumbs. That's not a mistake. The artichokes and capers contain plenty of salt already, and I found this recipe to be perfectly seasoned, so be careful about going on autopilot and accidentally ending up with an overly salty dish.

Pasta With Artichokes, Capers and Toasted Breadcrumbs

  • 8 ounces spaghetti, or any other long pasta
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • ½ cup panko or other breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the panko, Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the panko is nicely toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove.

Drain the artichokes, reserving ¼ cup of the liquid. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the artichokes, capers and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes start to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the honey and reserved artichoke marinating liquid and cook for about 1 minute. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until coated, adding the reserved pasta water as needed, if the mixture looks too dry.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual bowls, sprinkle with the panko mixture and serve.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each of four servings contains approximately 450 calories, 10 g protein, 19 g fat, 55 g carbohydrate (3 g sugar), no cholesterol, 521 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 4

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