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Archive for the ‘Pasta & Sauces’ Category

The glamour shot.

So many things to tell you dear readers!!

I’ve recently been MIA due to a new gig I’ve picked up.  In an effort to pay off my student loans before I’m 60 (yes that’s a gross exaggeration) and to stimulate my mind & spirit (since the cube has become dull & repetitive, after 6 years, that tends to happen, ugh) I have a part-time job now at wait for it…  Williams Sonoma!   YAY!

I used to go in there on weekends, and just stroll around the store, touching fabulous cookware, dreaming about the day I might finally register for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, a set of All-Clad (yeah, right), or and endless collection of cookbooks. (That I would most likely only peruse for fun and continue to Google recipes much like I do now.) Being the week before Christmas I’ve been super busy between the cube and the pre-holiday retail rush.  I’ve been there every night this week until 11 or later.  That means not much time for cooking!  It also means that hopefully I’ll have some fun gadgets to share with you or experiences at the store.  And, it means that I have to be very strategic in my meal planning.

This week I made a lasagna for dinner Monday, and to have the leftovers for lunches.  For a quick dinner each night before heading to the mall I’ve heated up some squash soup that I made a batch of a couple of weeks ago and froze.

Onto the main event: Lasagna Bolognese.  I didn’t intend for it to be gluten free- but, my roommate is GF and I always feel bad making things that I can’t share with her.  And, by default, Whole Foods seemed to be out of any other kind of lasagna noodle that night.  The DeBole’s No-Boil Rice Lasagna noodles worked perfectly! Just make sure to handle your grocery bags with care or you’ll end up with more pieces than sheets… oops.

In the end it worked out because I used a smaller, oval casserole dish and had to use the broken pieces to fit.

For the main sauce I used the last and final frozen container of the big fat bolognese.  Dang that was a lot of sauce!  I was racking my brain for what else to use it for- I’d done just the sauce & pasta, stuffed peppers- lasagna was the last iteration I could come up with!  (Now if that isn’t a 25 cent word, I don’t know what is.)

I of course Googled lasagna bolognese and lot of folks use a bechamel sauce as well.  I wasn’t feeling that adventurous, and, if it was going to be gluten-free I would have had to make substitutions.  Instead, I mashed together a few recipes and came up with a layer of ricotta mixed with one egg (to help bind), thawed frozen chopped spinach, chopped crimini mushrooms, (more veggies to off-set the cheese), and shredded mozzarella.

I lost track of the order of my layers, but it went something like this:

Sauce, noodles, cheese

Noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, mozzarella. (I think.)

Into the oven it went!

Now that is a thing of beauty.  Mangia!

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I’m having a blog obsession these days.  I’ve been following Joy the Baker for a couple of years now, and though I love her recipes, I think what I love the most is her writing.  She’s a smart sassy gal, with a good head on her shoulders and I thoroughly enjoy her little bits of life advice.  Especially her Halloween post last month, amen sister!  There’s something about the way she writes and communicates her feelings toward food and how she cooks that I find myself repeatedly thinking, “Yes! Exactly!”

I’ve made two of her recipes in the past couple of weeks so I decided to share them both here.  One was her Big Fat Bolognese sauce, and the second was Banana Cranberry Bread.  Make both now and have a fantastic weekend.  While I type this I’ll admit, the banana bread is in the oven and my oh my, does my kitchen smell amazing!!!!!!!!  Thank you Joy! Keep doing what you’re doing!

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1-2-3-Pasta!

1.Basil 2.Tomatoes 3.Garlic

This is by far, I think, the tastiest quick & low-maintenance meal I’ve ever made.  (Microwave dinner doesn’t count.)

I was inspired by dinner at my friend J’s house last week.  We hung out, had a very worldy discussion about foreign politics, terrorism, and then had dinner and watched Bachelor Pad.  Everything in moderation right?  We are two intelligent, (both post-grad degrees) hard working ladies, but we all need our down time right?  Mine happens to be trashy TV as of late.  Lot of Bravo.  Lot of “reality” TV.  Something about it makes me feel better about myself… as in “well, at least I’m not crazy-pants like that nutbag!!”

Anyway, J made us dinner, a real quick pasta dish of spaghetti, fresh tomatoes, basil & garlic.  I’ve also seen Giada make a version of this super fresh & simple sauce, and always wanted to try it.  It’s nothing short of amazing considering how easy it is!

I've finally mastered measuring out the right amount of dry pasta.

I started with spaghetti… then got my “sauce” ready

Grape tomatoes and 1tablespoon olive oil, salt & pepper

 

Wait a couple of minutes before adding the garlic, you don’t want it to burn. Then continue to cook for about 7 mins until the tomatoes start to break down, then help them along with a masher or a wooden spoon. I also added a dash of red pepper flakes to jazz it up a bit.  I like jazz. And flair.

Once the pasta is ready, add about 1/4-1/3 cup of the starchy water to the tomatoes before you strain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat.

I topped mine off with a bit of chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  It was SO GOOD. It’s a great pick for the first time you invite that special someone to dinner, he (or she, whatever floats your boat) will be super impressed and have no idea that all you had to do was boil water!!

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What to do with leftover arugula? Make a salad? Boooooring.

All ready to go! Arugula, garlic, walnuts & olive oil.

Actually, I do love an arugula salad, lil’ goat cheese. oh delish.  But I wanted something more substantial so I decided to try something I keep seeing- arugula pesto.  Arugula instead of basil, and walnuts in place of the pine nuts.  What could be wrong with that? Absolutely nothing!! I followed directions from Elise, the only thing I changed was to slightly dial back the garlic, which I’m happy I did, it was very strong with only 5 cloves!

So pretty!

Night one it mixed with spaghetti, diced tomatoes and topped with ground rosemary chicken sausage:

Later in the week I made a toasted open-faced sandwich with baked chicken, tomato sauce, and topped with a wedge of Laughing Cow garlic & herb cheese- WOW. SO GOOD.

I’ve been a bit distracted this week- busy dog-sitting my favorite dog, Ellie!

sleepy pup!

 

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Amazingly, I laughed and said, "grab a fork"

You can’t win ’em all, right?  Guess my pizza cockiness finally caught up with me… however. I have an excuse. I was not in my own kitchen and therefore did not have all the tools.  I brought cornmeal in my lil’ mini container, but it wasn’t enough.  Still tasted good though…

Poor lil' guy never had a chance

On the heels of this loss I was looking for something easy, didn’t want to be challenged a whole lot, and needed to do something with the copious amounts of mozzarella cheese I had left over, as well as basil, and mushrooms.  More often than not around here you probably have come to learn that my cooking is a result of what is left in my fridge and cupboard rather than the other way around.  At the moment, cheese is king.  Usually that’s a good thing, but most of it isn’t exactly snacking cheese or cheeses that go well together.  Current inventory:  small block of mozzarella, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, nearly full container ricotta cheese (which will become a pie this weekend) a small wedge of blue cheese, shredded parmesan, a small block of parmesan, still leftover cojita, and finally, a wee bit of port salut, which is actually, perfect for snacking and my most favorite summer cheese.  Anyway, the mozz & the ricott are stealing the show right now.  That led to me either lasagna (too hot for that) or mac n’cheese or some sort.

I asked Google to find me italian mac n’cheese recipes and I found this lil’ number* from the people of the great state of Wisconsin.  Only thing I changed was to add mushrooms to up the veggie count and I used whole wheat fusilli because it’s what was in the cupboard.  I also used 1% milk and it came out great all the same.  Warm, gooey, tasted like Italy in a bowl.  The basil added a nice freshness and the tomatoes & mushrooms made me feel not so bad about eating mac n’cheese.

 

*Best website ever. I will be coming back for more cheese inspiration!!

 

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As October winds down, I’m still making sure I get all my fall favorites in.  Tonight’s selection: Pumpkin Ravioli w/Mushroom Pumpkin Sauce.  Yes. That’s right. More pumpkin.  Remember the trip to Wilson Farm recently?  I finally found an occasion & sauce recipe to use the pumpkin ravioli.  They’ve been chillin’ in my freezer patiently.

E came over for dinner and to catch up.  It’s not quite as good as the old days back at the Osgood, but we still manage to keep in touch and hang out.  And, extra bonus, I don’t have to impress her.  Which is good. Because in my multi-tasking, I managed to nearly ruin dinner.

It began, as all things do, with good intentions… the shallots were in their butter bath

I stepped away and then very quickly, they went from golden to, well, burnt.  Oops. I am to ashamed to show you the photo evidence, I was ready to throw in the towel and call for take-out.  However, a quick taste test proved that it was still edible. So we forged ahead, though without the necessary chicken broth  (I swore I had some in the fridge, apparently not). It’s ok though, I substituted with water and added a touch more salt for good measure.  And, I don’t think the dried chanterelles reconstituted correctly.  My head was not in the game tonight!!

I’ve used this sauce before in its original form, home-made pumpkin gnocchi (with a real roasted pumpkin nonetheless- that was an ambitious meal) and all.

Sauce is done & ready for ravioli

If you’re going to use this recipe with something other than the gnocchi, start at step #5.  It’s a hearty and complex sauce and it complements pumpkin so well- with plenty of sage, butter and a bit o’cream.  Last night’s version used only about half of everything since there were just two of us, but it was as good as I remembered it.  The original with the gnocchi is a very heavy meal. It sort of just sinks in and takes over, this wasn’t as intense, but still good!  I only wish the weather had been more seasonal.  We’re experiencing a wacky Indian Summer of sorts here in New England.

Anyway, I’ll be heading to suburbia again this weekend, look out for a recap of my Mom’s Birthday dinner sometime next week!

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Ciao amici!!

I’ve been craving red sauce.  It’s a weird thing to crave, but I just for some reason wanted a solid meal built around a savory tomato sauce.  The pasta was not so important, it was all about the gravy.  Maybe it’s the re-runs of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, or the fact that Julia Roberts eats what looks like some of the most amazing Italian food in Eat Pray Love which I saw last week.  Either way, it had to happen.

So it did.  This weekend I made a batch of sauce and then 2 subsequent dinners.  Saturday, appropriately enough, after dinner, my friend E & I walked down to the North End for gelato & St. Anthony’s Feast festivities.  There is nothing like a cool, zesty, refreshing cup of lemon sorbet on a warm summer night.  It was a great night, surrounded by the true italians of Boston, it was loud, there was food everywhere, the line to Mike’s Pastry stretched all the way around the block.

On to the food however. I altered a recipe for tomato sauce  that I’ve used before, and added some prepared potato gnocchi, a bit of mozzarella and baked it until the cheese just melted.  I topped it off with a touch of basil and there it was.  I also tried my hand at a olive oil dipping sauce as an appetizer with some ciabatta bread.

This time for the sauce, I started with a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of minced garlic, added a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, about 1/2 – 3/4 cup water, only 2 tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, a dash of oregano, and the onion and let that simmer away.

True italian love in a baking dish, I think Nonno would be proud of this one.

A couple nights later, I baked chicken filets in a bit of the tomato sauce, again topped with a bit of mozzarella. I had a side of large whole wheat shells too.  I guess it’s not really tomato sauce two ways, I only really changed what it was sitting on, but hey. I’m still learning here.  And it also happens to be another scorcher here in Beantown so I wasn’t going to sweat over the stove.

It's not going to win any beauty contests, but it was great.

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