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Posts tagged “Pasta

A Do-Ahead Dish Italian Style

Whether it’s a wedding or just Tuesday night, this baked mostaccioli is a winner because it can be made in advance and either frozen or refrigerated, then re-heated to make a casserole as delicious as lasagna.  Whatever the occasion calls for, it can be made in quantities or in just one pan.   The hardest part is cutting up the vegetables.  For one 13″x 9″ casserole you will need the  following:

  • 1 pound pene rigate pasta, cooked al dente and drained (reserve 1 cup pasta water)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped100_1175
  • 1 large carrot in tiny dice
  • 1 large rib of celery in tiny dice
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar traditional spaghetti sauce.
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese divided in two equal portions
  • 6 oz.  grated Monterrey jack cheese
  • 2 or 3 slices of bread pulsed in the processor to fine crumbs
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

100_1176First, prepare the pasta and drain.   Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid and set them both aside.  In the pot saute, the diced vegetables in a little olive oil until the onions  just begin to brown a little.  Add the ground beef and brown it off well.  Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and heat through.  Add the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and simmer a few minutes.  Add the pasta and a little of the pasta water if the sauce is too stiff.  Stir everything until the noodles are well coated.  Add one half of the Parmesan and all of the Monterrey jack cheese and stir it in until it’s melted.

Dump the contents of the pot into a 13″x 9″ baking pan, press the noodles down with a large spoon and smooth the top.  Mix the bread crumbs in a plastic bag with the 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining Parmesan, season with salt and pepper and shake the contents of the bag until the crumbs are coated with oil.  Break up any clumps.  Coat the noodles with the crumbs and bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes and serve with a wide spatula.

This dish is great for a crowd.  One pan serves 10 to 12 guests.  4 standard 2″ deep steam table dishes could easily feed 100 guests. Whatever size party you pesent this easy dish to, you will not only be feeding them a super delicious meal but a meal already containing four vegetables, less fattening cheese than lasagna and far less fuss.


When it’s 12° Only Soup Will Do

100_1038In the Region of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy the tortellini was born.  It is unclear why it is named tortellini; perhaps because of the architectural structures using a tortoise shell for inspiration but also the pasta is called little navels (ombelico) reminding some of the navel of Venus.

This divine reference is perfect for how this tortellini soup tasted and warmed us through and through tonight.  I think Venus herself might have relished this soup.   Just smelling it cook gives one a feeling of warmth.

If you would like to warm up the same way just gather these ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced100_1042
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 scallion, sliced thinly
  • a pinch each of salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb pork sausage or ground turkey (turkey will need Italian seasoning)
  • one 15 oz. can diced regular or roasted tomato
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 3 cans (from the tomatoes) water
  • 1/2 package thawed frozen spinach
  • 1/2 lb fresh 3 cheese tortellini

First, in a dutch oven or stock pot saute the onion, m100_1045ushrooms, garlic and scallion in olive oil until the onions brown a bit. Brown off the meat, add seasoning if necessary, then add the tomatoes with the juice to 100_1048deglaze the bottom of the pot.  Add the stock, cans of water, and bouillon cubes and stir.  When 100_1046the spinach is thawed remove half from the box and put it on a paper towel.  At the sink squeeze out as much liquid as possible, open the towel and place the spinach in the pot and stir until it breaks apart.  Let the soup come to a boil, add the tortellini and 100_1047let it boil for about 5 minutes or until the tortellini it is tender.

This only takes a little more time than boiling a big pot of water but instead of just hot water you get a delicious, nutritious body warming soup with such a depth of flavor you won’t believe could happen so fast.  It will fill you up as well.  On a chilly January night what more could one ask?



A Lovely Lasagna

This is a dish I make much too infrequently.  Partly because of the amount of time it takes to prepare, and the calories per serving, but also because it wouldn’t be as special if I made it all the time.  Even so, it is one of those dishes that makes my family go wild.  Lasagna night is a night they love so much, that they’ll do the dishes and wipe down the kitchen to the floor while I enjoy the rest of the night upon my pedestal…like I said, much too infrequently.

In the following photos I will reveal the secret method to such honors.  First the list of ingredients:

  • 9 pieces of lasagna pasta
  • a large pot of boiling salted water
  • 494411 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 large carrot sliced very thinly
  • 2 ribs of celery also sliced thinly
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup each sliced black olives and mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, thyme)
  • a  6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 &1/2 jars (24 oz) of traditional spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, or ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Begin by boiling the noodles keeping them on edge to prevent them from sticking together and allowing them to cook evenly for ten minutes.  4944349458Drain and set aside, reserving a cup or so of the pasta liquid.  In the now empty pot saute the vegetables in olive oil, move them to the side when 49465the onions are almost clear and put the ground beef directly on the metal of the cleared spot.  As the meat browns mix it in with the vegetables, add the diced tomatoes and dried herbs and stir together,  Now add the tomato paste and sauce.  Let this simmer a while to help marry the many different flavors.

4946749471In a 13″ x 9″ baking pan, ladle some of the sauce in to coat the bottom.  Place three lasagna noodles 49473lengthwise to cover the sauce.  Use a bit of the pasta water to loosen the noodles without tearing if they are stuck together.   Now for the first layer.  Ladle enough sauce to cover the noodles, dollop the cottage/ricotta cheese around using only half.  The other half will go in the next layer.  sprinkle a generous layer of mozzerella, about a third of the Parmesan, and a pinch or two of parsley flakes all around.

49477Repeat these steps for the second layer, but for the top layer, ladle on sauce, omit the cottage/ricotta cheese, and only top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Bake 45 494784949149493minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden and bubbly.  Allow it to cool slightly before serving.  Makes 9 to 12 servings.

Now kick back and enjoy your night on the pedestal.  49494…And enjoy49496…And enjoy!

Creamy Penne With Cauliflower Tomatoes And Black Olives

This one is a great Spring and Summer dish for a few reasons… One thing, it won’t heat up the house too much while making it.  Also, it’s fresh and tasty and takes no time to put together.  You will need:

  • 1 lb penne pasta cooked al dente and drained
  • a cup and a half of cauliflower florets (bite size)
  • 1/2 can drained black olives
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup light cream, plus 1/2 cup milk if needed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, juice and all
  • a few dashes each of salt  and black pepper
  • two round tablespoons of pesto sauce

Just before the penne is done, throw in the cauliflower for about a minute and drain everything, reserving a bit of the pasta water for later.  Pour the noodles back into the pot and immediately add the cream and turn the heat to high until the cream bubbles then reduce to medium.  Add the cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and stir in.  Add the milk and pasta water if necessary to keep the sauce creamy.  Add the whole can of tomatoes and then the black olives.  Check the spices and it’s ready to serve.

The pasta picks up the sauce nicely, the cauliflower has a good amount of crunch in it, and it goes well with the briny olives.  We try to have at least one meatless meal a week and this one is a real hit.  We’ll do this one again!

A Pasta Dish Without Cheese But With Yum

I’ve had a little one feeling under the weather this week…lots of tummy troubles.  Sometimes dairy products aggravate these kinds of troubles so I needed to come up with a few dishes with out our beloved cheese, butter, cream, milk, sour cream… tough it was!   Going without dairy was a particular challenge for this cheese loving bunch.  I needed to get my daughter to eat something, and could see that the little peanut had lost a bit of weight.  There isn’t that much there to begin with, so this is what turned her lack of appetite around…Angel hair pasta with mushrooms, leeks, and tomatoes in a chicken broth based sauce.  I was happy to see her eat a nice little bowl of it.  It was the first thing she didn’t turn down or just pick at, in a few days.

I started by boiling the pasta for about 7 or 8 minutes in a pot of lightly salted water.  In a skillet I got the leeks and mushrooms going in a little olive oil.  Then I added a bit of dry white wine…just a half cup, some chicken broth, about a cup and a quarter of that, and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.  A seasoning of salt, pepper, a shake or two of garlic powder, and about a teaspoon of dried parsley flakes went in.   I used about a teaspoon of arrow root powder to thicken the sauce, so everything simmered and reduced by about one third.  At the end, the sauce had a little more body and the flavor was very nice.  Over the now drained angel hair pasta, everything went.  I stirred it all together and served my hungry little girl.   Not eating a proper meal in a while, she fairly gobbled up her supper.  I couldn’t resist, I had to add a little parmesan to the top of mine.

Tasty Pasta From Out Of Nowhere

I STILL haven’t gone to the store but I’m sure I can scrape together another delicious meal.  Today I look in the pantry and see pene pasta…a pound of that will go a long way. I have diced tomatoes…as always until the genuine article comes from the little back yard garden.  I have another leek in lieu of onion, a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, some tomato paste left from yesterday.  There was also a few pieces of cooked chicken breast left over as well…maybe 4 oz. total,  a little bit of half and half and a little block of parmesan cheese which I will grate at the end.

I boil the noodles in lightly salted water (1 tsp) and drain them quickly but not until they are bone dry.  I place them back into the pot with a dollop of tomato paste and about one cup of cream, enough to get the noodles wet again.  I’ll set this aside while I get the vegetables going.  I’ve thawed the frozen ones under cold water for a few minutes and let it train.  In a skillet, I get the leeks cooked in a tablespoon or so of olive oil then add the frozen veggies.  I add the diced tomatoes, some garlic powder and Italian herbs…oregano, basil, thyme, and parsley, and let everything bubble a while on high until everything is nice and al dente.  Then I throw the contents of the skillet back into to noodles.  I find a chunk (approx 2 oz.) of pepper jack cheese in the fridge, grate that up and toss it with the pasta, then I crank up the heat again on the big pot and stir until everything is nicely blended and hot.  The veggies are perfect the noodles are too, now all I do is serve it up in a bowl each one getting some diced chicken, and grate some of that lovely cheese over the top.  Time to give thanks and dig in

Celebrate Love With Pasta Con Broccoli

Just because it has broccoli in it and no meat, doesn’t mean it won’t stick to your ribs.  This is a rich dish that you can make as a reward for being good all week.  I love fettuccine, but only have it once in a great while as there is pasta, olive oil, and at least a cup of half-and-half.  In the words of the executive chef at a fancy restaurant where I once was employed, “Fat equals flavor.”

Darned if it isn’t true.  Well, it has been a lean week and I think a feast is in order.  After all my Jeff and I will be celebrating our anniversary this weekend so a special dinner like this will be lovely, with candles lit, music playing, and the kids downstairs watching a movie.  Usually we host a block party to commemorate our anniversary where we go all out.  That’ll be next week though.  So this night is just for us. 

I warm up some Italian bread in the oven.  Then I assemble these ingredients which come together pretty quickly.

    • A bag of wide egg noodles which I boil in salted water for 10 minutes and drain 
    • Broccoli that I steamed in the microwave (about 1 cup of small pieces)
    • A diced small onion
    • About 10 grape tomatoes halved
    • Three or four sliced button mushrooms
    • One tablespoon olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • About a cup of half-and-half cream
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)     

      First, in a stock pot I cook the pasta and drain it.  At the same time I steam the broccoli in about 1/3 cup of water with a lid loosely over it for 3 minutes in the microwave on high power. 

      Then I get the other vegetables going.  In a skillet I pour about a tablespoon of oil, throw in the veggies, season with salt and pepper and let them get tender and golden brown around the edges.  Yum! 

      The pasta is cooked and drained, so I throw it back into the pot 

with about a cup of half-and-half, or enough to completely cover the bottom of the pot about a centimeter deep.  I add the parmesan cheese, the garlic powder and a little more salt and pepper.  At this point I just let it sit on top of the noodles until I turn the heat up to high and let the cream bubble up between the noodles.  When the cream is bubbling up is the time to stir the parmesan and seasonings in.  Now the pasta is coated with a thick and creamy Alfredo sauce.  The vegetables are nice and brown and the broccoli is just al-dente.  I pour the broccoli in, even all the water in which it was steamed.  Then all the browned vegetables go in after it.  Giving everything a good stir, I then check the seasoning.  It might need a touch more salt.  This batch is OK. 

The final touch is to garnish it off with some parmesan fresh from the grater.  It gives an elegant touch and clues you in on what delicious flavor is about to hit your taste buds.  I toss together a little leaf salad with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, grated parmesan and Italian dressing.  It’s now time to light the candles, turn on the music, and celebrate our ten years of amore vero (true love).