Pasta and Rice

Italian “Drunken” Noodles (Courtesy of Suny :-) )

From An Olympic Sport for the Rest of Us

Serves 4

  • Olive oil
  • 4 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 3 ½ cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided
  • 8 ounces Pappardelle noodles

Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the spicy Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side. Once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment.

Add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary).  Once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning and cracked black pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers and allow those to sauté with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden. Next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced. Add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off.  Finish the sauce by drizzling about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half julienned basil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the noodles.

Prepare the pappardelle noodles until just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, bring sauce up to heat. Drain noodles and add to the sauce. Toss 1-2 minutes, giving the pasta a chance to soak up some of the sauce and it’s flavors.

To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil. Top with shaved Parmesan, and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Open the wine, turn on some curling, and share with good friends!

PASTA WITH VEAL, SAUSAGE AND PORCINI RAGU

Pasta con Ragù di Vitello,  Salsicce e Porcini

From Deja Food

(Bon Appétit, May 200)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 8 ounces veal stew meat, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 14§-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 pound fresh pappardelle or purchased fettuccine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 1 cup water and mushrooms to boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Let stand 15 minutes. Strain soaking liquid through paper-towel-lined sieve into bowl. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Set liquid and mushrooms aside.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, 1/4 cup parsley and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Push vegetables to side of skillet. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking up with back of fork, about 4 minutes. Add veal and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine. Increase heat to high and boil until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken broth; boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add reserved mushroom liquid. Simmer until liquid is almost absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor. Using about 4 on/off turns, process just until coarsely chopped. Return mixture to skillet. Mix in tomatoes with juices, bay leaves, sage, fennel seeds and porcini mushrooms. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, adding remaining chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. (Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.)

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add sauce to pasta pot and rewarm over medium heat. Add pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

*Dried porcini mushrooms are available at Italian markets, specialty foods stores and many supermarkets.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Orecchietti and Fusilli with Peas, Ricotta and Parmesan

From Smoke and Mirrors

Per one cup uncooked freshly made orecchietti and/or fusilli

  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup frozen baby peas
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt

Heat the butter and oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the leeks and tiny pinch salt and cook over medium low heat until caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. While the leeks are cooking, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water is boiling, add a few big pinches salt. Add the pasta and peas, bring water back to a boil and cook for 2-4 minutes or until the pasta is floating and al dente. (Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried).

When the pasta is ready, add the ricotta, cream and lemon zest to the leeks, along with 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and peas and add to the pan with the sauce. Add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for a minute or two until the pasta is coated with sauce. Turn the heat off, add the parmesan and toss well. Top with a grind of black pepper and serve in warm pasta bowl.  Sit back and enjoy your handmade noodles! Calories: approximately 550 per serving.

Pasta al Forno   Serves 8-10

From The Expiration Date

  • 4-5 cups tomato sauce with meat*

*You could certainly make your own from scratch, or you could do what I did and use a favorite jarred sauce as a base, then doctor it up. I sautéed onion, carrots and garlic, a good pinch of marjoram, and about a half pound each of browned ground beef and sweet Italian pork sausage. Then I added a jar of my favorite marinara, a good splash of wine, and a can of Italian cherry tomatoes, mashed up a bit. I brought it up to a boil, turned down to a simmer and cooked, covered, for about 30 minutes.

  • 1 ¼ lbs anelleti or other tube-shaped pasta like penne
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut up into 1” chunks
  • ½ lb (in one large piece) mortadella or ham
  • ½ lb fresh mozzarella balls (boccocini)
  • 1 cup frozen baby peas (optional)
  • ½ lb whole milk mozzarella, cut into thin slices

While the sauce is simmering, sauté the eggplant in a little olive oil (you could also roast it) and set it aside. Cut up the mortadella or ham into 1-inch cubes, and slice the boccocini in half.

Prepare the pasta according to package, cooking it to just al dente. It is going to cook a little more in the oven and you don’t want mushy pasta.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pasta, eggplant, cubed mortadella or ham, boccocini, peas (if you are using) and 4 cups of sauce in a large bowl.  Generously butter or oil the bottom and sides of your baking pan. Fill with the pasta mixture and smooth out so it fills completely. Top with slices of mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the spring form on a cookie sheet (makes it easier to get in and out of oven) and bake 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Let rest about 10 minutes, then carefully unmold the pan. Cut into wedges and serve with the remaining tomato sauce on the side.

Beet Gnudi with Brown Butter and Poppy Seeds

From Roots and Seeds

Makes about 40 gnudi, or six servings as a first course

  • 1 15oz. container of whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • 4 oz. cooked beets, grated (about two 2-inch beets)
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 3 TBSP dried plain breadcrumbs
  • 4 TBSP flour
  • ½ cup semolina for dusting (or flour if you don’t have semolina)
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP poppy seeds

Sprinkle the semolina on a sided cookie sheet. Mix together the first 9 ingredients until just combined. Scoop out a tablespoon of the mixture into your hands and roll into flattened balls. Place on the cookie sheet and roll around a little in the semolina to coat. Continue with the rest of the mixture. Cover and chill the gnudi in the refrigerator for at least a half hour*.

(* if you wanted, you could put the pan in the freezer and once the gnudi are frozen, stow in a freezer bag for future use. Just remember to defrost them before cooking, or they will fall apart as they cook.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Do NOT salt the water (the gnudi are salted already.) While you are waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a pan over medium high heat. When it starts to foam, turn down to medium and add the poppy seeds. Continue cooking, swirling pan until the butter is a nutty brown and fragrant. Keep a close eye on it so the butter doesn’t burn. Once the butter is browned, turn off heat.

When the water is boiling, carefully drop the gnudi in and cook at a slow boil until the gnudi float, about 1 minute. Do this in 2-3 batches if you are making the full recipe. The gnudi are very delicate (which is why they are so light and wonderful) so too rapid a boil and they will break apart. When they are just floating, remove with slotted spoon to a warm serving platter. Drizzle the browned butter and poppy seeds over and devour!  Calories: approximately 285 per serving.

Mixed Mushroom Sauce

From The Italian Journal: MILANO

This sauce is great over pasta, but if I wanted to be truly authentic to the foods of Milan, I’d serve it over soft polenta. It also makes a terrific topping for toasted bread (which is how I ate it this morning!)

Serves 2 over pasta or polenta, more if a topping for bruschetta, and can be easily doubled or tripled

  • 2 TBSP butter, in two pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TBSP minced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
  • 8 oz mixed fresh mushrooms (I like a combination of cremini and chanterelles), sliced about ¼ inch thick
  • 1/4 oz. of about 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1/3 cup boiling water for 15 minutes until soft. (DON’T throw out the soaking liquid – you’ll need it for the sauce.)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tsp olive oil in sauté pan. Add shallots, garlic and thyme and cook just until you can smell the garlic (about 1 minute). Add the sliced fresh mushrooms, and the soaked porcinis, giving them a quick squeeze to get some of the liquid out.  Don’t forget to saving the soaking liquid. Add in a few grinds of black pepper, a good pinch of salt and sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have given up all their water and the pan is relatively dry (about 10 minutes).

Once the mushrooms are pretty dry, turn up the heat and add the wine. Carefully pour in the mushroom soaking liquid, making sure to leave the grit in the bottom of the dish behind. Bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the pan, and add in the second tablespoon of butter and half the lemon zest. Turn down to low and simmer about 3 minutes. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. Add in the remaining lemon zest and chopped parsley.  Serve over pasta, polenta or toasted crusty bread. Buon appetito! Calories: about 185 per serving (for 2 servings).

Fresh Pasta with Basil Sweet Corn Sauce 

Makes one serving

From 366 Days, and Counting…

  • 1 small-medium ear of sweet corn (you’ll need about ½ cup kernels) – still in the husk
  • 4 oz. fresh pasta fettuccini or 3 oz. dry
  • 1-2 large leaves of basil, plus some chopped basil for sprinkling on top
  • 1 TBSP fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper

Wrap the ear of corn, husk and all in a paper towel and steam in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until it is just tender. Once it cools enough so you can handle it, remove the husk and silk (this is a lot easier once it’s been steamed), and cut the kernels off of the cob. You should have about ½ cup total. Set aside 2 tablespoons of corn, then put the rest, along with the goat cheese, butter and parmesan in a blender. Tear up the basil and add to blender. Add a pinch of salt and a few good grindings of pepper.

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, salt liberally (the water should taste salty) and stir until the salt dissolves. Remove 1/3 cup of water and add to the blender. Blend until you have a somewhat smooth sauce. You want a little texture. Put the sauce into a skillet and add the reserved corn kernels.

Now add the fresh pasta to the boiling water and cook until it is just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, turn on the heat under the sauce and bring to a simmer. When the pasta is done, add it to the simmering sauce. Don’t drain the pasta before adding, in case you need a little more water to thin out the sauce.  Toss the pasta well on low heat until it is completely coated in the sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Top with a little chopped basil.

Put into a warmed pasta bowl and dive in! Calories: about 475 per serving.

Granny Elsie’s Tarted Up Mac and Cheese

From My new bestie, Betty

Makes enough for 10. Ingredient portions are fully adjustable to taste. Just use a whole lot of everything; you cannot have too much cheese.

  • 2 pounds of elbow macaroni or other pasta of choice
  • 2 sticks of lightly salted butter
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 32 oz shredded cheddar (I prefer medium)
  • 16 oz ricotta
  • 16 oz gruyere
  • 16 oz lump crab meat

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse. In a 9 x 13 pan, combine pasta with softened butter, cheddar, ricotta and gruyere (set aside some cheddar and gruyere to top the dish). Gently fold in the lump crab meat. Pour in enough heavy cream to be level with your mixed ingredients. Top the mixture with generous portions of cheddar and gruyere. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes. If desired, broil for a final 5 minutes to create a nicely browned top.

Enjoy!

Spinach and Pea Manicotti

From A message from above…

This is a perfect recipe to make the components ahead of time, and then just assemble and bake when you are ready to eat.

Serves 2 as written (and easily doubled for 4 hungry Mouseketeers)

For the filling:

  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2/3 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 1 egg, separated – the yolk goes in the filling, save the white for the crepes
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus 2-3 TBSP for sprinkling on top

For the crepes: (makes 5-6)

  • 1 egg plus one egg white (use the white leftover from the filling)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP water
  • 6 TBSP flour
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare the filling:

Add the thawed spinach and peas to a food processor and pulse until a rough puree (you want a little bit of texture, not baby food smooth.) Remove to a bowl and mix in the ricotta, goat cheese, lemon zest, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Let sit at least 4 hours (overnight is fine) in the fridge so the flavors can meld. When you are ready to assemble the dish, taste the filling and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Add egg yolk and mix well.

Prepare the crepes:

In a blender, add the water, egg, egg white, a pinch of salt and flour. Blend until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes. Spray a nonstick 8” skillet or crepe pan with cooking spray (or wipe with a paper towel dipped in oil) and heat until a drop of water dances on the pan. Pour about 2-3 TBSP of the batter onto the pan and immediately swirl to cover the bottom. You can add a little more batter to fill any holes. Cook over medium heat until the edges start to curl (you don’t want these brown, just dry). Flip crepe and cook another 30 seconds or until the crepe releases from the pan. Put on a plate and cover with a sheet of waxed paper or cling wrap. Repeat until you have 5-6 crepes made. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. You will be filling and rolling them and covering them with sauce. If you are not using the crepes right away, wrap well and store in the fridge. I often double or triple the recipe and keep the extra crepes in the freezer (wrapped well) for the next time you want to make manicotti.

Assemble the dish:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a small baking dish (I used a glass 8” square one). Put ¼ cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Take one crepe and put about ¼ cup of the filling down the center. Fold the crepe in half, then roll up. Place the manicotti into the dish, seam side down. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. Pour the remaining ½ cup of sauce over the crepes and sprinkle with 2-3 TBSP of Parmesan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over top, then bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the sauce is bubbling. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Calories: approximately 435 per serving.

Simple Chicken Paella Serves 4-5

From God has a wicked sense of humor

  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb)
  • 4 -6 cloves garlic
  • ½ onion, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
  • 1 tomato, halved and grated and the largest holes of a box grater
  • 1 ½ cups medium grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 oz Spanish chorizo, sliced into thin coins (this is a hard sausage – don’t use the soft chorizo in casings found in the meat)

Cut the each thigh into 2-3 pieces, a little larger than bite-sized. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and paprika and set aside.

Lightly toast a pinch of saffron in a dry pan, then add ½ cup hot chicken stock and steep 15 minutes. Heat the remainder of the stock in medium saucepan. After 15 minutes, add the saffron stock to the rest. Taste the stock and adjust seasonings. It should be well seasoned so add salt if needed. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to add to rice.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the sliced chorizo and cook until just browned and the fat has been released. Remove the chorizo to a plate but leave the oil you’ve rendered. Add in the chicken and sauté until browned and cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add in the 1 TBSP olive oil and make the sofrito by sautéing the onions and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the mixture darkened to a deep red and is thick, 15-20 minutes. If it starts to stick to the pan, add a little water. (You can make everything up to this point several hours ahead and set aside.)

About 30-40 minutes before you are ready to eat, bring the broth back to a simmer and set the sauté or paella pan with the sofrito over your largest burner on medium high heat. Add the rice, stirring until it’s opaque, 1-2 minutes. Pour in 3 1/2 cups of the broth (reserve the rest) and stir or shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice. Distribute the chicken and chorizo in the pan. Do not stir the rice from this point on. Simmer vigorously, occasionally moving the pan to distribute the heat as evenly as possibly. When the rice is at the same level as the liquid, after about 8-10 minutes, turn the heat down to medium low. Sprinkle in the cup of frozen peas. Continue to simmer more gently, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed, about another 10-15 minutes. Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice; it should be al dente. If the rice is not done but all the liquid is absorbed, add a little more of the reserved stock or water and cook a few more minutes.

To create the socarrat (crust on the bottom, and a key factor of paella): Increase the heat to medium-high and, rotating the pan, cook for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelized, creating the socarrat. The rice will crackle, but if it starts to smell burned, remove from heat immediately.

Turn off the heat and let the paella rest, covered in foil, for about 5 minutes. Serve with right out of the pan with wedges of lemon.

From God has a wicked sense of humor

Vegetable Lasagna with Béchamel Serves 8-10

From Reaching Righteousness

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into ½” pieces (about 4-5 cups, sliced)
  • 3 TBSP plus 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • ¾ cup finely chopped carrots
  • 10 oz. package of crimini or button mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 bag baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 15 no-cook lasagna noodles, soaked 5 minutes in boiling water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Béchamel Sauce

  • 6 TBSP (3/4 stick) butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 5 cups milk (whole, or if you are feeling particularly righteous, 2%)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ¼ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the butternut squash slices in 1 TBSP olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-35 minutes or until the squash is tender and starting to brown on the edges. Cool slightly and mash a little to a rough puree. Set aside. Turn down oven to 375°F.

Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and there is no liquid left from the mushrooms. Remove to a bowl, cool and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper towel

Heat remaining teaspoon oil in same skillet. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, just until fragrant but no color. Add the spinach, a tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until the spinach is wilted and relatively dry. Set aside to cool.

For the sauce:

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until mixture comes to a boil, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and a tiny pinch of nutmeg.

Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking dish (I like using a glass dish for this.) Place the no-cook lasagna noodles in a bowl or dish and cover with very hot tap water. Let sit for 5-7 minutes to slightly soften. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough so you can handle.

Spoon 1 cup of béchamel into the bottom of the lasagna dish. Arrange 5 noodles atop sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon the mashed butternut squash over the noodles, distributing evenly. Spoon 1 ½ cup of the béchamel over the squash, and sprinkle ¾ cup parmesan over. Repeat with another layer of noodles, the celery mixture and the spinach, another 1½ cups of sauce and ¾ cup cheese. Top with the remaining 5 noodles. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top, making sure to cover all of the noodles with sauce. Mix the remaining cheese with the ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Place lasagna dish on baking sheet and put in oven. Bake on center rack until bubbling and the top is lightly browned, about 35-45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Calories: 500 per serving for 8 servings, 400 per 10 servings.

Stuffed Shells with Pea and Ricotta filling

From Scenes from a job interview

Makes 1 serving and can easily be doubled or quadrupled

  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tsp heavy cream
  • 3 TBSP homemade ricotta or whole milk store bought (don’t use low fat – the resulting dish will be too watery)
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ to 1 oz. fresh mozzarella plus 1 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup quick tomato sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 oz dry large pasta shells

Cook the peas and garlic in boiling salted water until they are soft. Add to blender along with a 3 TBSP cooking water – blend together until smooth. Let cool and add to the ricotta, cream, zest, cheese. Taste for seasonings – you will probably be fine with salt but need a few good grindings of pepper.

Boil 2 oz dry of shells (about 7-8 shells) until they are just shy of al dente. Rinse and run under cool water to cook off just a big so you can handle them. Pipe in the pea/ricotta mixture so the shells are full but not overflowing. Butter an individual gratin or baking dish. Put the stuffed shells opening side up in the dish – you can squish them a little so they all fit. Top with tomato sauce, then cheese combination. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, then the olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until everything is warmed through, the cheese is melted and the top is browned a little.

Calories: 550/serving

Quick tomato sauce

Makes 1 cup

  • 5 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled or unpeeled (the sauce will be chunkier if you don’t peel, which is fine too.)
  • 1 fat clove or garlic squashed but not so much that it doesn’t hold together
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried marjoram (use dried thyme if you don’t have marjoram)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, plus one big or two medium whole basil leaves
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • A small pinch crushed red pepper
  • Large pinch of salt, and a few good grinding of pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat (I use my nonstick – works well with this). Add in the shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook until the shallot softens a bit, add the squashed garlic clove, and cook for another minute until you smell the garlic. While you are waiting for the shallots and garlic, squeeze the peeled tomatoes into a bowl to break them up. (I suggest you do this in the sink, or it may look like you murdered someone in your kitchen – these babies squirt!)

Add the tomatoes, marjoram and chopped basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to the pan. Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Remove the garlic and taste the sauce for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

Hurricane Pasta

From Storm’s a brewin’…

Serves 3 very hungry hurricane survivors or 4 average diners, and can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd of basement bailers, fallen tree removers and helpful wine-bearing neighbors.

  • 2 cups dry short cut pasta (whole wheat or regular penne, rigatoni, or whatever you have at hand)
  • 2 tsps chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Portobello cap, gills removed, sliced in half, and then thinly cross-wise (you can substitute whatever mushrooms you like best)
  • 1 cup cooked bratwurst, Italian sweet sausage, or any mild sausage, sliced into ¼ inch coins
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP garlic oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup cooked corn kernels
  • ¼ cup blanched frozen peas
  • 3 TBSP soft mild goat cheese
  • 2 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 1 TBSP chopped parsley
  • ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil for the pasta. When the water is boiling, throw in a handful of salt and stir until dissolved (the water should taste salty). Add pasta and cook according to directions on box or to just al dente.

While the water is heating, heat butter and oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the sliced onion and cook for 1 minute. Add in the mushroom, thyme, rosemary, a good pinch of salt and a small pinch pepper. Sauté until the mushroom exudes all it’s liquid and starts to brown, and the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).

Turn up the heat to high; add in the sausage and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the sausage is warmed through. Add ½ cup white wine, bring to boil and cook until the wine is reduced by 1/3rd, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low, add in corn and peas and heat until just warmed through. Turn off heat until pasta is almost done.

When you have about 2 minutes left on the pasta, turn the heat back on under the sauce to medium low, and add ½ cup of pasta water and 3 TBSP goat cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and it comes together as a sauce. Turn heat off, stir in Parmesan and parsley. Add drained pasta into saucepan and toss until it is well coated.

Taste to check seasoning. You probably won’t need to add any salt (the cheeses and sausage are salty enough) but you will likely need to add a little pepper.

Pour a glass of wine, serve up in bowls, and toast your success in riding out a nasty storm. Calories: You don’t need to worry about the calories tonight, do you? And anyway, you need your strength to clean up the mess tomorrow…

“Rat Bastard” Mac ‘n Cheese (Serves one plus best friends)

From The S.O.A.B.R.B. Dinner Party

  • 8 oz pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2lbs pasta (elbow macaroni or other)
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 7 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • 8 oz grated gruyere
  • 8 oz grated emmentaler (jarlsberg)
  • 8 oz. fontina (Danish ok)
  • 8 oz. mascarpone
  • 1 cup + panko crumbs
  • 4 oz finely grated parmesan
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta till barely al dente.

Melt 1 TBSP butter over medium heat in large sauce pan (8 qt). Sauté pancetta in 1 TBSP butter; remove when crisp. Add onions; reduce to low. Cook stirring lots, till golden and very soft — about 20 minutes.

Add balance of butter to onions and melt. Whisk in flour; cook one minute. Whisk in milk slowly. Raise heat to medium and whisk constantly till mixture begins to thicken and bubble (5 min+). Add wine, salt and pepper. Bring to low simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce to low. Stir in all the cheeses except the mascarpone. When the cheeses have melted, stir in pancetta and mascarpone.

Mix panko, Parmesan and olive oil and set aside.

Mix pasta and sauce. Put into pan and sprinkle with crumbs. Bake till top is brown and cheese bumbling, 40-45 minutes. (Cover if browns too quickly.)

Let rest at least 15 minutes. DIG IN AND ENJOY!

Calories:  Really???? You REALLY want to know??  Even I’m not brave enough to tally this one up.  You are purging rat bastards….these calories don’t count; they get burned up in the exorcism.

Pasta with fresh tomato, feta and caper ‘sauce’

From A perfect summer day

Serves 2

  • 6 oz dry pasta — the sauce is pretty hearty and works well with the chewier pastas – bucatini is my favorite, penne works well too.  It also is terrific with whole-wheat pastas since they tend to have more bite.
  • 10 oz of fresh tomatoes, chopped (use a variety of reds, yellows, different sizes, whatever you like)
  • 1 TBSP capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½  oz. feta  (a piece about ¾ inch to an inch thick and 4 inches long), cut into cubes
  • 1 TSP lemon zest
  • 1 TSP pesto
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh basil or mint, plus a little more for sprinkling on top
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ TBSP good extra virgin olive oil (a flavorful one you’d dress a salad with works best)
  • 2 TSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TSP finely chopped garlic* (*Raw garlic and my stomach don’t get along well so I’m light on it here. If you like more, have at it.)
  • 2-3 TBSP water from the cooked pasta

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the water coming up to a boil, toss together all of the ingredients (except the pasta and pasta water). Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is al dente, add 2-3 TBSP pasta water to the tomato ‘sauce’. Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and toss. The dish can be served hot, or room temperature, and leftovers are a great picnic-ready pasta salad.Calories: approximately 430/serving.

Variations: You can use the tomato mixture as a salad, or bruschetta topping. For bruschetta, toast or grill some thick slices your favorite artisan bread (I like ciabatta, pain au levain or a sourdough baguette).  Rub the toasted bread with the cut side of a clove of garlic, drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.  Pile up the tomato salad on the bread and dig in!

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