Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for.....PASTA!

Ha!  Not what you expected me to say, was it?  Not that I don't have ice cream recipes...I do, but that's more of a summer topic.  So, anywho, who doesn't love pasta?  I know, I know, we should all be cutting back on carbs, and we have in my family.  Plus, I only buy whole wheat pasta, which makes my husband NUTS.  He really doesn't like it, but tough.  I have found that Target brand Whole Wheat pasta is the brand he will tolerate best, in case anyone else out there has a complainer on their hands.  And my kids LOVE pasta.  They would eat it for dinner every night if I let them but I keep it to once a week, if even that and it's never just pasta and sauce.  I always make something more substantial so the pasta is kind of secondary, if you know what I mean.  So, here are some of the favorites in our house.

Spaghetti with Peas and Pancetta

1/2 pound spaghetti
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta or thick-cut bacon, diced
1 onion, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup sweet peas, frozen or fresh
1 ounce goat cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, hand-torn

In a large stockpot, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes; it should still be a little firm.

At the same time, heat a 2-count drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta, and stir it around. When the fat starts to render, after about 3 minutes, add the onion and bay leaf. Cook and stir until the onion caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Now add the peas and cook for 2 minutes just to heat them through.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water for the sauce. Fold the goat cheese into the hot pasta and give it a toss so it melts. Scrape the pancetta, onions, and peas into the pasta pot (toss the bay leaf). Add the Parmigiano, parsley, and lemon juice. Slowly pour in the reserved pasta water to dissolve the cheese and thin it out to a sauce consistency. Hit it with a healthy dose of olive oil and quite a few turns of freshly ground black pepper to give it bite. Return the noodles to the pot and gently toss to coat in the sauce. Split the pasta between 2 large bowls and shower it with the shredded basil.

Notes:  This recipe is made for 2 people so in my house, I double it.  Despite the seemingly exotic ingredients, both of my kids LOVE this and have since they were very small.  The one thing I do differently is that I make the sauce completely in one pan.  I don't add anything to the pasta itself.  I add all the sauce ingredients together in one pan and then add the pasta to that.  But, you can do it Tyler's way too!  One last note is both the pancetta and the onions have to be cooked a bit longer than the recipe says.  You want the pancetta nice and crispy and the onions nice and caramelized.

Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
1 pound orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound turkey Italian-style sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 1 minute. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool, saving the cooking water. Bring the reserved cooking water back to a boil.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, when the reserved cooking water is boiling, add the orecchiette and cook until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Strain the broccoli rabe and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir in the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Notes:  After I made the recipe the first time, I used it as a base.  A lot of the time, I substitute a 10 ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach for the broccoli rabe.  I thaw and and drain it before I add it.  I also add a bit of white wine to the pan after I brown the sausage and add the garlic and red pepper flakes...maybe enough to go once around the pan or at least cover the bottom.  And most of the time I use penne pasta since I have a hard time finding orecchiette.

Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage and Ricotta Cheese

1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle pasta (or other wide, long pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound frozen peas, thawed
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. 
Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. 

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-sized bits. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese along with the cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding the pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, if needed, to make the pasta moist. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, Pecorino Romano cheese, and salt. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

Notes:  I used spaghetti when I made this (whole wheat, of course).  I also used turkey sausage and part skim ricotta.  It came out fine.  I also added a bit of white wine after I smashed the peas.  I want to note than when I saw Giada make this recipe, she didn't remove the sausage from the pan.  She moved it to the side and smashed the peas in the other side of the pan so that's what I did.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
 5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

Notes:  You can obviously use whatever sauce you want with these.  I usually do make the arrabbiata sauce using my homemade tomato sauce.  I have used canned, well drained artichoke hearts in place of the frozen ones with no issue.  This is another hit in this house.  My 6 year old asked me to make it every week for Sunday dinner.  Uhhhh, sorry honey, it's not a very hot weather friendly dish and we live in Florida!

So, if you're looking to expand on pasta, try some of these out.  You won't regret it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comfort Foods

I asked some of my readers (OK, my FRIENDS who are readers) if they had any requests for recipes.  And I got a couple specific requests and it all kind of boiled down to comfort foods.  With winter coming, people love to cook and eat foods that remind them of growing up and foods that warm them to the core.  So, I picked a few of my favorites and I have a few more to try that I'll post later.

My friend Maureen requested a recipe for chicken and dumplings.  And honestly, this recipe has been sitting beside my computer FOREVER>  I thought I had posted it at some point but it turns out I haven't so, here you go, Maureen!  I've adapted this to make it easier and I'll add my notes at the end.

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and stock:

1 (3 to 31/2 pound) whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the equator
2 tablespoons salt
Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

For the stock:

Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water.  Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.  Skim the surface of fat and scum as it cooks.

When done remove the chicken to a cutting board.  Strain the stock and shred the meat into big pieces - the stock will be used for the sauce and the chicken will be folded into it.

For the dumplings:

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold.  Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

To prepare sauce:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Notes:   OK, to make this easier, I DO NOT make my own stock or even cook a chicken.  I use a rotisserie chicken that I removed the skin from and shred.  One grocery store (well, Costco in our case) chicken is perfect for my family of 4.  And then I just use box stock, usually fat free and reduced sodium.  Second, I use LESS stock...probably closer to 4 cups but I eyeball it.  If you use 6, it really doesn't get thick unless you thicken it with cornstarch or use more butter and flour in the beginning for the roux.  But I think 6 is too much in general.  Third, I half the dumpling recipe.  I make this in a 7 1/4 quart Dutch Oven and half the recipe covers the top perfectly.  I've also made the dumplings with scallions when I didn't have chives.  This is a HUGE hit at our house and when I made it for my in-laws, my father-in-law asked for the recipe and he has made it a few times himself.  It's comfort food at it's best.

Macaroni and cheese is another food I consider a comfort food.  I LOVE homemade macaroni and cheese but my kids and my husband...not so much.  For whatever reason, they prefer the stuff out of the BOX!  *Shudder*  I have 2 recipes I use depending ont eh amount of time I have but both are really good.

President Reagan's Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 lb macaroni
1 teaspoon butter
1 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup milk
Boil macaroni in water until tender and drain thoroughly.  Stir in butter and egg.
Mix mustard and salt with 1T hot water, and add to milk.  Add cheese, leaving enough to sprinkle on top.
Pour into buttered casserole; add milk, sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until custard is set and top is crusty.

Notes:  Now, I don't put cheese on top.  I usually put crushed crackers, cereal or even tortilla chips on top.  This is the one I use when I don't have a lot of time.  You really just throw it together and bake...very easy.  My next one takes a bit more time and is a bit more creamy. 

Easy, Creamy Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

1 pound box dried elbow macaroni
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 cup milk
2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Put a covered stock pot of water on to boil over high heat. 

Meanwhile, over low heat melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. While butter is melting, measure out and combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard in a small dish or bowl. When butter has melted, add the flour mixture to the butter and use a whisk to combine to make your roux. Continue whisking and slowly add the milk, whisking to combine all the ingredients. Turn up the heat slightly (don't go higher than medium-low) and whisking often, thicken the mixture. You may see occasional bubbles, and that's OK, but you do not want it to boil, just to thicken. When thickened, remove from heat and add the shredded cheese, using the whisk to combine until melted and homogenous. 

Drain the macaroni (do not rinse, the starch helps the cheese stick to the noodles) and place in a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir to coat well. Serve while hot.
Notes:   This is great as it but if you want a baked mac and cheese, you can put it in a casserole, add something crunchy on top and bake it a 350 until the top is crusty.

This last recipe may not be a conventional comfort food but I find it warm and comforting and a bit spicy.  And it's made in the crockpot so it's super easy.  And I associate crockpot cooking with comfort foods.  You can serve this over rice or in tortillas.

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup green tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Place chicken breasts in Crock Pot.

In a mixing bowl combine everything except sour cream. Pour sauce mixture over chicken.

Cook Low 6 - 8 hours or High 3 - 4 hours.

Add sour cream just before serving.

Note:  If you like it spicier, like I do, you can add a bit of cayenne or a chopped jalapeno or two.

Well, I am off to look through my other recipes so I can make my menu for next week.  Enjoy!