• Categories
    Foodie Blogroll

    Gifts for the Gourmand.

    Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

    Baked Ditalini and Cheese

    There is nothing more comforting than a plate of “Mac and Cheese” well at least where I’m concerned. I was looking to update this old favorite adding a little twist to the standard dish. Finding the right mix of cheeses can be daunting specially when it comes to cheddar cheese as it tends to be oily when baked. I’ve found that Kerrygold Cheddar worked perfectly along with BelGioioso Gorgonzola and Mozzarella make for a great taste sensation. Instead of the usual elbow macaroni I used Ditalini for an added twist.

    You will need:

    Ditalini — One pound, dry.
    Milk — One quart. I used a 3 to 1 mix of milk and half and half but milk alone will do just fine. I wouldn’t add cream since it tends to make too rich and somewhat off putting.
    Flour — ¼ cup
    Butter (unsalted)— 5 TBSP
    Salt— 2 tsp
    You will be using the above 4 items to make a Bacic Bechamel Sauce
    Gorgonzola Cheese — 6 oz. crumbled
    Mozzarella Cheese — 6 oz. shredded
    Cheddar Cheese — 6 oz. shredded
    Bread Crumbs — 1 cup (I used Panko)
    Parmesan Cheese — ¼ cup shredded.

    In a large stock pot add at least 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil and add the pasta, cook according to package instructions. While the pasta cooks prepare the Bechamel. Once it starts to thicken incorporate the cheeses, one at a time, stirring at each addition until the cheese melts. Drain the pasta, do not rinse, fold the cooked pasta into the Bechamel/Cheese sauce until completely combined.

    Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking dish/casserole, combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, pour the cheese mixture into the casserole dish and spread it out to an even thickness. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan/Panko mixture. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, uncover and continue to back until the topping is a golden brown. Enjoy!

    Stuffed shells with roasted vegetable sauce

    Another Oldie but Goodie this one was developed in the Chicago Tribune test kitchen.

    Preparation time: About 45 minutes – Cooking time: 25 minutes – Serves 4

    You will need:

    Shells

    1 16oz. container ricotta cheese, drained.
    1 large egg
    ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    2 TBSP chopped parsley
    ½ teaspoon kosher or to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    16 large (3½ inch long) pasta shells, cooked according to package, drained.

    Sauce

    3 strips bacon, coarsely chopped
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 large clove garlic, minced
    3 TBSP olive oil, or as needed
    3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped.
    1 ear corn, roasted or grilled, kernels removed. You can use frozen corn just sauté until lightly charred.
    1 green bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped.
    1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
    ½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    Grated Parmesan Cheese

    1. – Heat oven to 350°. For shells, combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan, Parsley, salt and pepper, stir well. Fill cooked shells with chease mixture. Place shells in single later in a 13 by 9 inch baking pan; set aside.

    2. – For sauce, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon; set aside. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add oil and tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes fall apart and form sauce, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in corn, bell pepper, basil, salt and pepper. Heat through, about 2 minutes, adding water if too thick.

    3. – Spoon sauce over shells, cover with aluminum foil. Bake until heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

    Seared duck breast with orange and currant couscous

    This is the first in my new series “Oldies but Goodies”, recipes garnered from newsprint over the years. I’ve given credits when found. The majority of these were cut from daily newspapers published in Chicago, my home town, all but a few cut by my mom’s hand.

    Preparation time: 20 minutes – Marinating time: 4 to 12 hours – Cooking time: 15 minutes – Serves 6

    You will need:

    For the marinade:

    ¼ cup orange juice, strained
    Coarsely chopped zest of one orange
    2 TBSP red wine vinegar
    2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
    ½ red onion
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    ½ freshly ground pepper
    3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
    2 or 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
    6 boneless duck breast halves

    For the couscous

    1¾ cups water
    1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    2 cups couscous
    ¼ dried currants
    6 orange sections pith removed, cut into 4 pieces
    2 TBSP finely grated orange zest
    3 TBSP fresh orange juice, strained
    3 TBSP fresh mint
    1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

    1. – T make the marinade. In a large bowl or shallow baking dish, mix all the marinade ingredients together. Put the duck breasts in the marinade and turn several times. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 4 to 12 hours.

    2. – To make the couscous. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boi8l and add the 1 tsp olive oil, salt, couscous and currants, stirring to mix. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Using a fork and your fingertips, fluff the couscous to separate it. Taste and adjust for salt. Stir in the oranges, orange zest, orange juice and mint. Set aside and keep warm or let cool to room temperature.

    3. – Remove the breasts from the marinade and pat dry. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the breast and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Transfer to a cutting board and cut each breast into ¼ inch thick slices. Arange each sliced breast in a fan shape on a warm dinner plate accompanied by the couscous. Serve immediately.

    NB: Add the marinade to the pan in which you cooked the duck, heat to a boil scraping the brown bits from the pan and cook for 2 or more minutes until slightly thickened. Pour over duck breast and couscous.

    Veggie Lasagna

    I’ve been asked several times to add more vegetarian recipes to my repertoire so I dug into the basement of my brain to see what I had produced in the past but for whatever reason never put them to print. I remembered this one that I used to prepare for the vegetarian counselors from my camp days. Most of the work is in the preparation, however, it is well worth your while.

    You will need:

    Eggplant — 2 LBS. approx. I used the Italian variety but the classic will do just fine.
    Zucchini — 2 LBS.
    Mushrooms — 2 LBS. Button work fine but crimini will give you a more earthy flavor.
    Red Bell Peppers — 1 LB.
    Green Bell Peppers — 1 LB.
    Onions — 1 LB. Use a sweet variety such as Walla Walla or Vidalia.
    Bechamel Sauce — 1 Quart. Here is an easy recipe to use.
    Italian Tomatoes — 2 32oz. cans diced or crushed. Try to use San Marzano.
    Ricotta Cheese — 1 LB.
    Eggs — 2 well beaten.
    Mozzarella Cheese — 2 large balls
    Lasagna Noodles — 1 LB package. You can use either the cook or no cook variety. If you use the cook version prepare according to directions on the package however you want them just under al denté.
    Basil — 2 TBSP dry or 4 TBSP fresh.
    Oregano — 2 TBSP dry or 4 TBSP fresh.
    Sea Salt/Cracked Pepper — 2 tspn each.
    Olive Oil 8 TBSP which equals 1/2 cup

    I usually don’t peel the eggplant for this recipe but that’s a personal choice, either way won’t affect the taste. Cut it into 1 inch pieces place in a collander over a bowl and salt liberally toss to coat set aside. Cut the zucchini into 1 inch pieces, set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees then place the bell peppers on a cookie sheet and roast until soft and partially blackened. When they are ready, remove from the oven, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, set aside. Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces, set aside. Dice the onions into 1/2 inch pieces place in a strainer and rinse well, set aside. Using the large holes on a grater grate the mozarella cheese, set aside.

    Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a sauté pan until shimmering. Place the eggplant into the pan and cook just until browned, put cooked eggplant into a large bowl. In the same pan add 1 more TBSP oil and sauté the zucchini until browned add to the bowl of eggplant. Add 1 more TBSP oil and sauté the mushrooms until browned add to the bowl. Add 1 more TBSP of oil and sauté the onions until opaque, don’t let them brown then add to bowl. Peel the skins off the roasted peppers chop into 1 inch pieces and add to the bowl. Sprinkle one TBSP each basil and oregano and 1 tspn salt and pepper over the cooked vegetables and stir to combine, set aside. In another bowl place the ricotta cheese, egg and mozzarella cheese and stir until well combined.

    Lightly oil a lasagna pan then coat the bottom with crushed tomatoes, just enough to make it about 1/2 inch deep. Add a layer of lasagna noodles then spread enough Bechamel Sauce to cover, then add a layer of the mixed veggies then a layer of the cheese mixture. Add a layer of crushed tomatoes sprinkle with some of the basil and oregano. Repeat this process until all of the ingredients are used ending with the crushed tomatoes as the last layer. Cover the lasagna dish with foil place on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 45 minutes, checking occasionally to avoid burning. After you remove it from the oven let it cool for about 20 minutes before service.

    I usually have enough left over to cut into nice sized portions and freeze for another day. ENJOY!

    Gnocchi Marsala

    Sometimes things just pop into my head and sometimes something I’ve sampled brings a flood of ideas. This one is a combination of the two. At a demonstration one of the store managers cooked up a large dish of dumplings with mushroom sauce somewhat of a European entrée. I thought about making a similar item and came up with this offering.

    You will need:

    Gnocchi — 1 LB. — If you make your own that’s great however for those that either don’t have the time nor knack there are a few frozen varieties that can be purchased at most stores. If you can’t find frozen some manufacturers make a dried version.
    Mushrooms — 1 LB. — Use either button or crimini or a combination of the two.
    Marsala Wine — 1/4 cup (approx)
    Stock &#151 chicken, veal or vegetable depending on your personal taste, I wouldn’t use beef as it would overwhelm the mushroom/marsala taste.
    Heavy Cream — 1 cup (approx.) — if you want a lighter sauce you can use half and half or milk.
    Shallots — 1 TBSP finely diced.
    Butter/Olive Oil — 1 TBSP each

    Depending on which gnocchi you use timing here is flexible. You want the gnocchi to be ready just as you are about to finish the sauce which will take about 15 minutes or less to prepare.

    Clean the mushrooms of any excessive dirt and cut into pieces that are about the same size as the gnocchi. In a saucepan large enough to hold all of the mushrooms heat the oil and butter over medium/low heat, add the diced shallots and cook just until they turn a little translucent, don’t overcook them. At the mushroom pieces and cook until they give off most of their liquid, add the marsala wine and cook just long enough to burn off the alcohol. You want the sauce to be a little liquid so if it gets a little too dry add some of the stock. Turn off the heat and add the cream/milk stir to combine then add the cooked gnocchi. Enjoy!

    Baked Ditalini

    I had a half empty or is it half full box of ditalini sitting on the shelf where I keep all sorts of pasta extruded pastas. I decided to use it for dinner and went to the freezer where I knew I had left over sausage and mushroom ragu thinking to bake some sort of baked item and all I was missing was the cheese. I walked to my nearest grocer, not my favorite but didn’t feel like getting in the car for only a couple of items. They DO have a nice cheese department and decided to get some ricotta, parmesan, asiago and romano as all of them work well in baked goods.

    When I got home I realized that after opening the container I had purchased Ricotta con Latte instead of Ricotta. I had never used it but seeing the creaminess of the cheese I thought it would work. The end result came out pretty good and I think you and especially your kids will find it well worth the effort

    You will need:

    Ditalini &#151 1 pound
    Ricotta Con Latte — 1 16 oz container.
    Sausage/Mushroom Ragu — you can substitute 1 LB ground beef or pork and tomato sauce just sauté the meat and combine with the tomato sauce.

    Prepare the ditalini according to package instructions, strain but do not rinse. Return pot to heat and add the ragu or meat/tomato sauce mixture and heat until thoroughly warmed, remove from heat. Add the ricotta to the mixture and combine completely then add the pasta and combine thoroughly. Place mixture into a lightly oiled, oven proof baking dish, cover and bake for 30 minutes. I think you will enjoy the finished product.

    Easy Squash Ravioli with Sage/Cream Sauce

    First in our Holiday Series. You can use the search box on this site to find other Holiday recipes.

    Making a great squash ravioli can be a daunting task. Making homemade pasta isn’t in most peoples repetoire so here is a simple way to enjoy the great taste of homemade without the hassle.

    What makes this so easy you may ask, simple we used won ton wrappers instead of homemade pasta. Won Ton wrappers after all are a flour based product not unlike Italian pasta just a tad thinner. The only thing you need to worry about is keeping them covered when using so they don’t dry out, simply put a damp towel over the exposed wrappers then when finished wrap the unused portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    At the bottom of this recipe see a couple of alternative seasoning options for a totally different ravioli.

    NB: The ingredients list do not show quantities as the portions will depend on the size of the squash you are using.

    For the filing:

    • Wonton Wrappers
    • One medium sized Butternut squash
    • Ricotta Cheese — enough to equal ⅓ the volume of squash.
    • Olive Oil
    • Fresh Nutmeg
    • Sea Salt/Pepper
    • Pecan Pieces

    For the sauce:

    • Heavy Cream
    • Fresh Sage — chiffonade
    • Sea Salt/Pepper
    • Fresh Nutmeg

    A medium sized squash should produce 3 dozen ravioli.

    Using a very heavy knife cut off a small slice on the round bottom of the squash. Place the squash upright on a board and carefully cut it in half down the middle, lengthwise. Butternut squash has a thick skin so it might take a little muscle. With a spoon scoop out all of the seeds, coat lightly with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Place the squash in a preheated 350° oven and bake until it is very soft, the time needed will depend on the size of your squash. While the squash is baking place ricotta cheese in a strainer and place over a bowl to remove excess liquid. When the squash is fully baked remove from the oven and let cool completely.

    In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients add the squash, the cheese, ¼ cup pecan pieces, Fresh Ground nutmeg (use sparingly so as not to overpower the squash) about ¼ tsp. Mix well. On a flat surface place two rows of wonton wrappers, place one tablespoon of the squash mixture in the middle of each wrapper in the first row, with a brush or your finger coat all of the edges with water. Take a wrapper from the second row and place over filling pressing down around the filing to eliminate any air pockets. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling.

    At this stage you can either cook the ravioli and add to the sauce or place on a cookie sheet, freeze for future use.

    In a stock pot large enough to hold the ravioli, boil well salted water, add the ravioli and cook until they float. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ravioli place heavy cream and heat until it simmers slightly, add a dash or two of fresh ground nutmeg, the sage and continue to cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Once the sauce thickens add the cooked ravioli spooning the sauce over each.

    Alternative herbs and seasonings.

    • Replace the nutmeg in the mixture with fresh ground ginger.
    • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with crushed Amaretti Cookies.
    • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with curry powder

    Ragu alla Bolognese

    One of my all time favorite sauces for pasta is a rich bolognese. Originated in Bologna, Italy the traditional version incorporates beef with pancetta and according to Accademia Italiana della Cucina there is an official recipe that should be followed. My version however kicks it up a bit by mingling beef, veal and pork which to me creates a distinct taste and texture.

    One of basic items used is a basic battuto or you may have heard it called sofrito which is a simple combination of onion, carrot and celery, not unlike the French Mirepoix it’s used to give a sweet underlying flavor.

    As with some of my other recipes this one is great to make a large batch as it freezes well and can be used in a lasagna or as a gravy for pasta such as tagliatelle or rigatoni.

    You will need:

    Beef Chuck — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, you can purchase pre-ground but I find the texture too smooth.
    Pork Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium in a food processor, again you can purchase pre-ground.
    Veal Shoulder — One pound, ground to medium or pre-ground. Alternatively you can use ground turkey
    Onion — One large sweet or about one cup, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia
    Carrot — Two large or about one cup
    Celery — three stalks or about one cup
    Garlic — Two cloves
    Tomato Paste — four TBSP
    White Wine — use a good dry such as Chardonnay, two cups
    Whole Milk &#151 Two cups
    Dried Oregano &#151 One TBSP
    Olive Oil &#151 Two TBSP
    Sea Salt/Pepper — Two tsp each

    Rough chop the onion, carrot and celery, place in a food processor and grind to a fine dice, set aside. In a large bowl place the beef, pork and veal/turkey and mix until well combined. Dice the pancetta to about ⅛” dice, set aside.

    Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the protein to medium high add the olive oil. Sauté the meat(s) until most of the pink is gone. Remove the meat from the pan and strain out all of the juice left, set aside. In the same pan add the pancetta and sauté until crisp then add the battuto and sauté until translucent.

    If there isn’t enough fat left from the pancetta add a little olive oil. Make an opening in the center of the pan and add the crushed garlic, sauté until the garlic is just softened. Stir well to combine, make an opening in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste, sauté until it loosens up a bit and then stir all to combine. Return the meat to the pan, add the oregano and mix well, sauté until warmed through. Spread the meat out into a level layer and add the white wine. Cook through until the wine is dissipated add the milk and cook until most of the milk is gone. If there isn’t enough liquid in the sauce you can adjust with some pasta water.

    Serve immediately reserving some to cool and freeze for another day. Enjoy!

    Lasagna Bianco

    I’ve prepared this dish on several occasions and always enjoyed this alternative to my other lasagna recipes. It’s versatile in that you can use either chicken, turkey or pork depending on your taste.

    You will need:

    Lasagna Noodles — one pound
    Bechamel Sauce — I’ve included an easy recipe in the preparation below. Or look for one on the drill down menu from Rouxbe after the recipe. You will need to double the quantity.
    Ground Chicken — 2 pounds. It’s best to grind your own meat. Purchase some chicken thighs (boneless or de-bone yourself) then put in a food processor and pulse chop until you get a coarse grind. Alternatively use pork or turkey.
    Fresh Oregano — 3 or 4 ounces
    Fresh Sage — 3 or 4 ounces
    Spaghetti Squash — one medium size, if you can’t find this unique squash you can replace with yellow squash although the texture and taste will differ slightly.
    Button Mushrooms — one pound
    Parmesan Cheese — approximately one cup
    Ricotta Cheese — one pound
    Olive Oil
    Sea Salt/White Pepper — approximately one TBSP each.

    If you are going to use dried lasagna noodles soak them in warm water just until softened, if you are going to use the no cook variety skip this step. Prepare Bechamel Sauce, here is an easy recipe to use. Cool, finely chiffonade the sage and stir into the sauce. Place ricotta cheese in a bowl and stir to loosen then finely chop the oregano and stir into the cheese.

    In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ground meat (chicken, turkey or pork) add a film of olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Cook the meat until some of the pink color is gone, you won’t need to cook it all the way through since it will finish cooking when the lasagna is baked. Cool and set aside. Place the squash in a 350° preheated oven and bake until softened. Cool on a rack and once cool enough to handle cut in half lengthwise, remove seed pod, and using a fork pull the flesh away from the skin, it will look like cooked spaghetti, thereby the name. If you are using yellow squash there is not need to precook however slice them to ¼” thick on the bias. Set aside.

    Now that all the prep work is done it’s time to assemble. Lightly oil a lasagna pan which is large enough to lay the noodles down lengthwise. Pour ½ cup of the bechamel sauce and spread evenly over the bottom. Place one layer of lasagna noodles over the sauce and then spread another ½ cup of sauce over them. Spread one or two cups of the meat over the sauce then add a layer of the cheese. Add a layer of noodles then spread half of the squash over the noodles, add a layer of bechamel then cheese. Repeat this process ending with a layer of the bechamel on top of the final layer of noodles, sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350° oven for one half hour, remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is nicely browned.

    As with my other lasagna recipes you should be able to get 12 servings by cutting it in 4 equal sections lengthwise and 3 equal sections width wise.

    Enjoy!

    Vegetable Lasagna

    When I think about comfort food one of the dishes that comes to mind almost immediately is a good lasagna. I’ve developed several adaptations that seem to get rave reviews. I didn’t classify this one as vegetarian due to the fact that carnivores will enjoy it as well as those of you who prefer not to eat meat. It does however contain cheese so that might limit your desire to give it a try.

    The preparation time might seem onerous to some but I think you’ll prepare this dish more than once. After all good things are well worth the wait.

    You will need:

    Lasagna Noodles – one pound, you can use no boil or dried pasta the difference will be shown in the preparation below.
    Eggplant – the quantity is determined by the type you use the difference will be shown in the preparation below.
    Zucchini – approximately one pound
    Yellow Squash – one pound
    Button Mushrooms – one pound
    Bechamel Sauce – I’ve included an easy recipe in the preparation below. Or look for one on the drill down menu from Rouxbe after the recipe.
    Ricota Cheese – one pound
    Parmesan Cheese – 6 oz.
    Italian Tomatoes – two 32 oz cans either crushed or whole
    Fresh Basil Leaves – 6 oz.
    Fresh Oregano Leaves – 6 oz.
    Salt/Pepper – you will need both table (¼ cup) and sea salt to taste. It sounds like a lot of table salt but you will see why in the preparation below.
    Flour &#150 enough to dust the eggplant.

    Prepare Bechamel Sauce, here is an easy recipe to use. If you are going to use dried lasagna noodles in a container large enough to hold the noodles, length wise, add warm salted water. Add the noodles, one at a time, and let sit until the noodles are just soft. If you are going to use the no cook variety eliminate this step.

    If you are going to use the standard variety of eggplant cut them into slices ⅜ inch thick. If you are going to use another variety such as Japanese, cut them into the same thickness but on the diagonal. Put a layer of paper towels on a cookie sheet or sheet pan, liberally salt one side of the slices, place salt side down on the paper then liberally salt the other side and cover with more paper towels. Place a second cookie sheet or sheet pan on top and weight down with a can of tomatoes. Do the same thing with the zucchini. “Why am I doing this?” you query. By salting these vegetables you take some of the bitterness and extra liquid out of them so that your final product will not be too runny. After about 15 minutes check the vegetables. If the paper towels are thoroughly soaked, enough moisture has been removed.

    In the interim place ricotta cheese in a bowl stir well to loosen, chiffonade the basil and mix ½ into the cheese, set aside. Once the Bechamel is cooked, let cool and mix the other ½ into the sauce. Do the same with the fresh oregano leaves. Slice the mushrooms into ¼” thick pieces, set aside. This next step can be skipped however it does add a little extra flavor to the dish. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the eggplant in a single layer. Lightly dust each slice with flour and sear well on both sides, you might need to do this in batches.

    Now that all the prep work is done it’s time to assemble the dish.

    Lightly oil a lasagna pan, put one cup of crushed tomato including the juice on the bottom. Place a layer of noodles on top of the tomatoes. Put another cup of tomatoes on top then a layer of eggplant then bechamel then mushrooms on top then a layer of noodles. Put another cup of tomatoes on top, then add zucchini slices then ricotta cheese then more tomatoes. Reserve two cups of tomatoes. Continue layering in the same rotation until all of the ingredients are gone finishing with the reserved tomato. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil making sure that it’s sealed completely so as not to let any steam escape. Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for approximately 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

    Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes, this will allow the cheeses to reset and become easier to slice and serve. You can get 12 servings out by dividing the pan into four sections length wise and three sections width wise. This lasagna freezes well just let it cool completely then wrap each portion in plastic wrap and place into a freezer bag. This way you can determine how many portions to that for the next meal.

    Great Chef Resource Books
    Take this quick quiz, it’s fun.
    Hard to find tomatoes.
    More great recipes.
    Close

    Loading ...

    Sorry :(

    Can't connect ... Please try again later.