Showing posts with label pasta and noodles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pasta and noodles. Show all posts

04 December 2014

Easy Meat Sauce With Mushrooms

I promised The Husband bolognese for supper, but came home too tired and hungry to follow through by preparing my favorite, albeit time-consuming, bolognese recipe. While the mushroom and meat sauce I ended up with is not a proper bolognese by any stretch of the imagination, it is pretty darn tasty and will certainly do it a pinch.

Most importantly, The Husband enjoyed it!

Easy Meat Sauce With Mushrooms

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 25 mins.
Cook time: 30 mins.
Total time: 55 mins.


  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 8 oz grass fed ground beef [Nature's Promise Organic]
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 14.5 oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 tsp beef stock base [Penzeys]
  • ½ cup Cabernet Sauvignon [Jacob's Creek]
  • ¼ grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys]


  1. Spray large French/Dutch oven with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, beef and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, beef base, Italian seasoning and cheese. Bring pan to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally.
  3. Serve over spaghetti with additional parmesan.

Obviously, use whatever red wine you enjoy cooking with! The Jacob's Creek was leftover from Thanksgiving and needed using up.

01 June 2014

Picnic Time: Pasta Salad

While trying to push beyond our comfort zone and learn to socialize like "real adults do," we recently attended a picnic thrown by one of my coworkers. Because I didn't feel comfortable showing up empty-handed, I asked if I could bring a pasta salad (it turned out everyone felt the same way, anyway, and also brought something). Since I wasn't sure how hot it would be that day or what the food storage situation would be like (didn't want to poison anyone), I made "Pasta Salad with Summer Vegetables" from The Best Light Recipe by the detail-driven folk at Cook's Illustrated.

This is a flavorful mayonnaise-free pasta salad I've made several times now. Every time I make it, I mean to experiment and try one of the variations provided, but I always end up sticking with the tried-and-true. The basic version is delicious, so why mess with a sure thing?

Ingredients: penne, green beans, cherry tomatoes, carrot, red onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil, parsley, Dijon, red pepper flakes, Parmesan, salt, black pepper.

I used Ronzoni SmartTaste penne to keep the salad looking "normal" while somewhat improving its nutritional values. Not that it's an unhealthy salad to begin with, what with all those beans and tomatoes!

26 March 2014

Delicious Leftovers

Using Up Leftover Ingredients

I had some ingredients leftover from this month's Improv Challenge and decided to make a lazy sausage parmigiana. First, I cooked the sausage patties in a skillet with a double handful of sliced mushrooms. Then I removed the sausage to a broiler-safe pan, topped them with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, and broiled them until the cheese was all melty and gorgeous.

Meanwhile, I added some leftover bruschetta to the still-hot skillet and stirred it 'round until everything was heated through. Plated the sausage, topped it with the mushroom and bruschetta mixture, and garnished it with fresh basil. Served it with a little penne in tomato sauce and it was pretty darn good (and pretty!) for something that took less than 20 minutes to prepare!

17 February 2014

Totally Unfancy Valentine's

Valentine's Day, The Husband was too sick to go out and I was still feeling a bit blarg myself, so we scrapped our plans and stayed home, watching Major Crimes and eating what was meant to be Saturday's supper -- roasted pork tenderloin with broccoli and mac 'n' cheese. It was actually a rather nice night, but every night with my sweetie (even when we're both coughing and sniffling) is a good night.

Valentine's Day Supper

  • Campbell's Kitchen's "Fastest Homemade Mac and Cheese" made using sriracha, dehydrated chives, and shredded Italian cheese blend.
  • Roasted broccoli florets -- tossed a bag of broccoli florets with olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and Penzeys Tuscan Sunset and roasted at 425°F for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  • Pork tenderloin rubbed with sea salt and Penzeys Tuscan Sunset and roasted alongside the broccoli.

23 January 2014

Italian Pasta Salad

I'm not really sure that mozzarella and salami necessarily an Italian salad make, but I didn't know what else to call this dish. Everything-That-Needed-Eating-Up Salad? That would certainly be true, but also very prosaic.

"Antipasto" salad

Italian Pasta Salad
Serves 3 as lunch with fruit

5 oz mini farfalle pasta
4 oz baby spinach
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 small red onion, chopped small
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped small
6 Tbsp sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
3 oz thin-sliced uncured salami, sliced into strips
5 leaves fresh basil, rolled and sliced thin
Fresh ground black pepper, as desired

Cook pasta as directed by package. Drain. Toss warm pasta with spinach so the leaves wilt a bit. Add in remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve while still warm.
Ingredients like chopped canned artichokes, chickpeas, and olives would make tasty additions to this salad.

"Antipasto" salad

20 January 2014

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup

We couldn't be bothered leaving the house on Sunday for nonsense like food when there were chunky books like The Crow Trap to be read, but it's hard to concentrate on who might be a murderer when your insides are full of rumblings and grumblings.

So, I made soup. A warming, comforting soup that was sure to quiet any body's rumblings and grumblings. And, more importantly, a fast soup that didn't take me away from Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope for too long.

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup @ Savory Tart

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup
Serves 6

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb loose-pack sweet Italian pork sausage meat
1 large carrot, quartered and sliced
2 large celery stalks, halved and sliced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
8 oz sliced mushrooms
5 oz small twist pasta
40 oz lower-sodium fat-free beef broth
8 oz chunky tomato sauce
1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large heavy pan like a Dutch or French oven. Add the sausage and cook, bashing about with a spoon to break up the sausage, until no pink remains.

Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined colander and let drain. If there's a lot of fat at the bottom of the pot, pour it off until only a tablespoon remains.

Add the carrot, celery, onion, peppers, and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Add in the broth, tomato sauce, and pasta. Give everything a good stir and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Portion into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if desired.
You could use a a can of diced tomatoes instead of the chunky tomato sauce. I just happened to have leftover tomato sauce that needed eating up. The variety I used, Simply Enjoy (Stop & Shop's house brand), was ridiculously chunky -- more like a big jar of diced tomatoes someone had added a little puree to. It worked fine in the soup, but was too chunky for the pasta dish I'd originally meant it for and I had to smooth it out a bit with my immersion blender. The flavor was good, though. A fresh, bright tomato flavor with lots of garlic bits.

The pasta will keep absorbing liquid so, when you take any leftovers out of the fridge, you may find your soup is now a stew. Just add a little broth to the pot when reheating or, if (like me) you enjoy stewy soups, leave it as it is.

24 November 2013

Lazy Sunday Meat Sauce

Earlier this week, I thawed a packet of ground beef with the vague plan I would do something with it over the weekend, but then it was Sunday afternoon and I still had no idea. I asked The Husband what he'd like me to do with it and, no surprise, he asked for bolognese. Happily, I knew he actually meant "meat sauce with lots of mushrooms and garlic" and that's what I made.

Lazy Sunday Meat Sauce & Pasta @ Savory Tart

I used sherry in this sauce, because I happened to not have any red wine on hand that was appropriate for cooking. Shocking, I know, but I've been drinking a lot more cider and beer lately. The only time I think about red wine is when I need it for cooking! And then I reach for the sherry, because it works pretty well in place of red wine in something like a pot roast or meat sauce.

Also, since I understand bolognese should be a smoooooth meaty sauce, I used my immersion blender to smooth out the chunks of beef and mushroom before adding the milk. This isn't a necessary step, and one I don't usually take, so I did not include it in the recipe below. (The Husband opined that, while he appreciated the even consistency of the sauce, he did not feel it was necessary).
Lazy Sunday Meat Sauce
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup grated carrots
1 small red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
8 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 lb 85% lean ground beef
[Full Circle Grass Fed Organic]
3 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Whole Spice]
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 6.35 oz jar tomato paste [Lowell Foods]
½ cup sherry [Taylor]
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
¼ cup freeze-dried diced bell peppers
2 14.5oz cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 dipper honey (How much is that? Maybe, a tablespoon?)
½ cup whole milk
Salt & pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large French/Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and celery and cook for a few minutes. Shove everything toward the edges of the pot and add the ground beef to the cleared middle. Sprinkle with the salt-free Italian seasoning blend and parsley. Cook for a few minutes until browned, then break up and stir into the vegetable mixture.

Add tomato paste, sherry, and Worcestershire and stir. Add peppers and tomatoes and stir. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes. Drizzle in a dipper of honey. Stir in milk, cover, and let simmer 30-60 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
In a perfect world, I would serve this over tagliatelle, but since I cannot find tagliatelle locally, we ate it over impulse purchase of curlicue pasta and it was fine. (I think, at this point, I need to write up a grocery "wish list" then chuck a cooler in the car and drive around the state until I've acquired everything on the darn list).

21 October 2013

P/F/G Challenge: Lasagna

Lasagne. It seems fancy, but really it's not. Or it isn't the way I make it, which is as a vehicle for using up stuff (making it the perfect dish for the P/F/G Challenge). I use the directions on the back of the Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne noodles as my guide, substituting whatever sauces, meats, vegetables, and cheeses I have on hand.


This time 'round I used:
  • 32 oz container Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm lamb bolognese, thawed
  • 6 oz pureed fire-roasted diced tomatoes (leftover from making personal pizzas)
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (combo of light cheddar and various cheese blends)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 12 Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne noodles
(No vegetables in this one as the barley vegetable soup I made the other week took care of all the open bags and then some).

I served the lasagne with steamed green beans and thick sliced Wave Hill Breads Caramelized Garlic Country Loaf smeared with buttered and toasted under the broiler. It was a yummy meal

And now there's room in the cheese drawer for new cheese! Quick, to the cheesemonger's!

19 September 2013

Improv Challenge: Pasta & Cheese

My participation in the 2013 Improv Challenge has, sadly, been a bit sporadic. Many of the 2013 ingredient pairings have struck me as more sweet than savory and I just haven't been in the mood for sweet. Happily, September's ingredients are "Pasta and Cheese." Other than a lokshen kugel (noodle pudding), I don't know how pasta and cheese could be anything but savory! (Prove me wrong, Improv-ers).

Because we are supposed to be eating more healthfully here at Chez Savory Tart, I did not whip up a beautiful bacon-wrapped meatloaf stuffed with macaroni and cheese, but made a pretty (and decidedly more healthful) warm pasta salad using whole wheat pasta, blue cheese, beets, arugula, and pecans.

Warm Pasta & Arugula Salad

While I recommend using a mild blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Danish Blue, feel free to substitute fresh goat cheese if even the merest thought of blue cheese gives you the horrors.

If you don't have flax seed oil, olive oil will do fine. I just find flax seed oil gives greens a lovely nuttiness.

And, yes, feel free to go Martha and roast your own beets!
Warm Pasta and Blue Cheese Salad
Serves 2

4 oz whole wheat penne
3 oz fresh arugula
1 oz mild blue cheese, crumbled
[Gorgonzola or Danish blue]
Half 8 oz pkg cooked beets, drained and diced [Melissa's or Love Beets]
1 oz pecans, crushed
1 Tbsp flax seed oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the arugula in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta until al dente (or however you like your pasta). Drain pasta and pour, still hot, over arugula. Toss until arugula wilts a bit. (If your arugula looks like it isn't wilting, cover the bowl with a tea towel and go away for a few minutes).

Add blue cheese, beets, pecans, olive oil and balsamic, and toss again.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide between two plates. Nom.

Warm Pasta & Arugula Salad

21 August 2013

Cheesy Chard & Pasta

Many of the chard recipes I make use only chard leaves so I usually have a bunch of stems hanging about. While they're yummy pickled or simply used as a celery substitute, there usually comes a point where I have so many stems on hand I just want to chuck them all in something and be done. So, yay for pasta! The ingredient that disguises many garden excesses.

Steak w/ pasta & chard

In an oven-safe skillet, I sautéed chopped chard stems and minced red onion in olive oil until the chard was tender, then stirred in a generous splodge of tomato paste, grated Parmesan, salt-free Italian seasoning blend, and two servings of cooked whole grain pasta. I covered it all with shredded low-fat mozzarella and broiled everything until melty.

Overall, I think this pasta bake was a good start. Next time, though, I'd add garlic and cherry tomatoes to the chard-and-onion sauté as it definitely needed a little something more.

12 August 2013

Cheesy Pasta with Summer Vegetables

This started out as a Betty Crocker recipe ("Cheesy Rigatoni with Eggplant Sauce"), but I didn't have all the right ingredients and there were other ingredients I wanted to use, because it was the weekend and time to clean out the fridge.

Pasta & Summer Vegetable Bake

My pasta dish came out much less saucy than Betty Crocker's -- probably because I used fresh tomatoes and a slightly pureed can of diced tomatoes instead of the actual tomato sauce called for in the original recipe.

Chopped Vegetables

I also peeled the eggplant, because I don't have a lot of experience cooking eggplant and most of the recipes I've seen say to peel the eggplant so I just went with majority rules. (This is my first year growing eggplant and, since my plants seem prolific, I hope/expect to be a dab hand at eggplant cuisine by the time autumn comes).

While I thought this dish was pretty delicious -- cheesy and well-seasoned with lots of yummy vegetables -- The Husband declared it merely okay (for something full of aubergines and courgettes and completely lacking in meat). So, as always, ymmv.
Cheesy Pasta with Summer Vegetables
Serves 4 generously

7 oz uncooked whole grain rotini
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup diced red onion
3 small eggplants (Fairy Tale Hybrid), peeled and cut into chunks
1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
½ large red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
14½ oz can diced tomatoes, lightly pureed
[ my immersion blender]
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1 oz grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper, as desired

Heat oven to 350°F.

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package, using minimum cook time.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large deep skillet (I used my chicken fryer). Cook onion, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini in oil, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Stir in tomato sauce and pasta (this is why you want a big skillet).

Cover your skillet (foil or a lid) and bake for about 15 minutes. Uncover, top with cheese, and broil for about 5 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Pasta & Summer Vegetable Bake

17 March 2013

Why-Isn't-It-Spring-Yet? Comfort Food

Grey. Cold. Blah. Winter had me craving some serious comfort food last week -- braised cabbage, macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf with brown gravy. And I fed those cravings. All of them. Took two meals, but they were satisfied.

Midweek Comfort Food

I can't think of anything I'd rather pair with macaroni and cheese than braised red cabbage. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. I used the Vegetarian Slow Cooker's recipe for "Bavarian Braised Cabbage" and it was so good! And easy! The Husband was disappointed the recipe was meatless and did not eat any ... which was fine by me. I ate the whole pot in a day.

The beautiful macaroni and cheese was by Kraft. Yes. Hearty Four Cheese Kraft Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese Dinner mostly made as the bag directed ... I couldn't read the silver lettering on the bread crumb and cheese powder packets and ended up throwing bread crumbs in when I wanted cheese. This mistake turned out pretty okay as the breadcrumbs helped thicken the sauce. I did tart the macaroni and cheese up with a thick layer of shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp before I put it in the oven and, oh my, the cheesy goodness.

Heck Yeah Meatloaf

I know, I know. Homely! But comfort doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to be comforting. And delicious. And it was. Enough so that there wasn't any leftovers. I used Coconut & Lime's easy recipe for "Peas & Carrots Meatloaf" and I recommend you give it a try! I would stress grating the carrots finely, as the recipe directs, because I grated mine quite coarsely and they didn't blend well with the other ingredients -- which might be why the meatloaf fell apart, come to think of it.

The gravy's just a basic beef-stock-and-herbs reduction and the potatoes are instant. Yes! Cooked with chicken broth instead of water and tarted up with lashings of heavy cream and melted butter, they're nothing to sneer at.

21 December 2012

Cleaning Out the Cupboards: Lunch

I was up to my elbows in flour, baking for tomorrow's Geek the Library big cookie giveaway, when there was a rumbly in my tumbly and I realized it was hours past lunch time. Clearly, grue needed feeding and fast. Conveniently, I had a bunch of opened bottles, jars, and bags of stuff hanging around that all seemed like they could go together to make something fast and delicious.

Lunch-in-a-hurry: Orzo Stuff

I think I succeeded pretty well, although The Husband was less impressed (artichokes not being one of his favorite things).
Artichoke-Chicken Stuff

3 cups turkey broth
3 oz orzo and ditalini (any small pasta will do)
3 Tbsp julienned oil-packed dried tomatoes, well drained and chopped small
2 bottled water-packed roasted peppers, chopped small
6 bottled marinated artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped small
3 oz Tyson Grilled & Ready® Fully Cooked Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast Strips
2 handfuls baby spinach
Freshly ground pepper, as desired

Bring broth to boil. Add pasta, tomatoes, and chicken to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes or until orzo is desired tenderness. Remove from heat. (At this point, I fished out the bigger chicken strips and chop them into smaller pieces).

Add peppers, artichoke hearts, and spinach to pot. Stir. Cover. Let sit 10 minutes or until spinach is tender. Season as desired and eat.

Lunch-in-a-hurry: Orzo Stuff

10 September 2012

Zucchini, Pasta, & Stuff

I'd planned on stuffed zucchini for Sunday dinner, but one of my zucchini developed a horrible squishy spot and could no longer fulfill its duties as a boat for holding delicious sausage, cheese, and mushrooms. So, instead, I made pasta sauce from all the stuffed zucchini ingredients and served them over whole grain penne!

Sunday Night Pasta

Maybe not as awesome as stuffed zucchini, but still quite tasty and filling.
Very Vegetable Tomato Sauce

9.6 oz pkg Jimmy Dean pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced small
2 small zucchini, diced small
1 cup sliced mushrooms, chopped
8 oz can low-sodium spaghetti sauce
14 oz can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
2 cups whole grain elbow macaroni, cooked as you like
½ cup grated Parmesan

Saute shallot, garlic, mushrooms, and carrot in a little olive oil until fragrant and shallot is translucent. Add zucchini, sausage crumbles, seasoning blend, fire-roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Stir in pasta and a quarter cup of Parmesan. Serve sprinkled with remaining Parmesan.

Serves 4.

27 August 2012

Pasta & Tomatoes Two Ways

Also known as how-fast-can-supper-get-in-my-tummy?!

Pasta & Tomatoes

Thaw two fully-cooked chicken sausage, slice into coins, and set aside. Toss four cups cherry tomatoes with olive oil, four crushed garlic cloves, and salt-free Italian seasoning blend. Roast @ 400°F for about 30 min.

Slice two fully-cooked chicken sausage into thick coins. Add sausage to tomatoes and roast 15 min more. Toss with cooked egg noodles. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and season with freshly ground black pepper, as desired.

Pasta & Tomatoes

Core, seed, and dice five large tomatoes. Heat a small splash of olive oil in a skillet until fragrant. Add diced tomatoes, minced red onion, pressed garlic, and salt-free Italian seasoning blend. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have broken down and onion is translucent. Add one cup cubed cooked chicken and cook, stirring, until chicken is heated through. Season with Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. Toss with cooked pasta.

02 May 2012

Another Cookery Catch-up, Or, "Food, We Ate Some"

It's not been all cupcakes and grilled cheese sandwiches here at Chez Savory Tart, you know. There have been proper meals at proper times. There have been vegetables and the counting of Weight Watchers Points+. Oh, yes. Not that anyone in their right mind should calculate out the Points+ values of grilled cheese sandwiches. Particularly not on a day where you've eaten two of those delicious darlings, plus some stray bacon that just happened to be loitering in the kitchen.

Anyway, proper meals:

Stroganoff-ish Mushrooms Over Pasta

Sliced mushrooms cooked with garlic and minced shallots in olive oil until tender and all liquid evaporated. Then splashed with a bit of red wine vinegar and cooked until vinegar evaporated. Tossed in some goat cheese crumbles, salt-free Italian seasoning, parsley, and black pepper. Stirred until cheese was thoroughly worked in. Served over whole grain pasta with garlicky green beans.


Caesar Salad -- chopped romaine hearts, grated Parmesan, garlicky croutons, black pepper, Newman's Own Creamy Caesar Dressing.

Cheesy Artichoke Chicken -- Freebird fully-cooked breaded chicken patties spread with a mixture of Newman's Own Creamy Caesar Dressing and diced artichoke hearts, topped with a slice of provolone, and reheated as directed.


Fish -- frozen tilapia fillets, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt-free lemon pepper seasoning blend, and roasted with asparagus.

Asparagus -- trimmed asparagus stalks tossed with olive oil, salt-free lemon pepper seasoning blend, garlic cloves, and cherry tomatoes and roasted at 42°F about 15 minutes. Served with rice.

Sunday Breakfast

Alton Brown's scrambled eggs with sauteed halved cherry tomatoes, Heinz baked beans ("The British Bean"), and buttered toast. Just needed some mushrooms and orange marmalade to be The Perfect Sunday Breakfast.

15 March 2012

Eating the Alphabet: C is for Chickpeas

I knew I wanted to use chickpeas in this month's Eating the Alphabet Challenge and so was pleased to find Oxmoor House's "Lemony Fusilli with Chickpeas, Raisins, and Spinach" posted on This was a warm pasta salad made from whole wheat pasta, lemon juice and zest, chickpeas, baby spinach, and golden raisins. With all that yellow and green, it seemed like an excellent recipe to welcome Spring!

Lemony Fusilli with Chickpeas, Raisins, and Spinach

I made this salad twice and the second time through I changed up the amounts of seasonings (the first iteration was a bit bland) and subbed fresh goat cheese crumbles for the shredded fontina as, while fontina is a tasty cheese, I thought this salad needed a tangy-sweet creaminess to balance the lemon. Also, I really like fresh goat cheese crumbles!
Pasta With Chickpeas, Spinach, and Golden Raisins

3 cups uncooked whole wheat rotini
2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (9-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
¾ cup golden raisins
¼ cup (1 ounce) goat cheese crumbles

Cook pasta as directed.

While pasta cooks, zest lemons and squeeze juice from lemons to measure 4 teaspoons zest and ¼ cup juice. Whisk zest, juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic together in a really big bowl. Add spinach, chickpeas, and raisins; toss well. (I think you could do this an hour or two ahead of time to really let the spinach, raisins, and chickpeas pick up as much flavor from the dressing as possible).

Drain pasta and return to hot pot. Immediately add the spinach mixture, stirring until spinach wilts. Taste for salt. Serve warm sprinkled with goat cheese crumbles. Serves 4.

07 March 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Spaghetti & Red Sauce

PhotobucketAs soon as I saw that March's Crazy Cooking Challenge was for spaghetti and red sauce, I knew I was on the lookout for a Bolognese sauce, because we love a good Bolognese sauce. And by "good Bolognese sauce" I mean something that resembles the classic Bolognese sauce registered by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, which is made with skirt steak, pancetta, carrot, celery, onion, tomato puree, milk, white or red wine, salt and pepper. Experience tells me it must be served with a splodge of ricotta and sprinkle of shredded fresh basil. Ideally, it should be served on a bed of tagliatelle, but I find that impossible to buy locally.

I found many promising recipes and actually went so far as to try a few, but even though I dallied with others, I knew "Spaghetti Bolognese" by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen was the recipe I would go with in the end. It had everything I wanted -- even the splodge of ricotta -- and dried mushrooms.

This was proper Bolognese.
Spaghetti Bolognese by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen (reproduced with permission)

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
¼ pound pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
1½ pound ground pork [2 pounds lean ground beef]
1½ pound ground beef [1 pound ground pork]
2 cups milk [heavy cream]
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry red wine [Little Penguin Merlot]
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
1 handful fresh basil leaves
Fresh ricotta cheese

Bolognese Ingredients

Reconstitute the mushrooms in boiling water for 20 minutes until tender, drain and coarsely chop.

Making Everything Smooth

Puree the mushrooms, pancetta, onion, celery stalks, carrots, garlic, together in a blender. [I used my food processor and whizzed it all 'round until it looked like pate].
In a heavy-bottomed pot add olive oil, bay leaves, herbs and cook gently until fragrant, then add vegetable puree and continue to cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes. [I wasn't sure whether to leave the herbs in or take them out, so opted to leave them in].
Pureed Pancetta & Vegetables
Raise the heat a bit and add the ground pork and beef; brown until the meat is no longer pink, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon [it is very important to break the meat into the tiniest clumps possible as, despite being full of meat, this sauce should be very smooth].
Meat & Cream
Add the milk and simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Slowly simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring now and then, until the sauce is very thick. Taste again for salt and pepper. [Remove bay and rosemary].
Bolognese Sauce Before Reducing

When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm. Drain the pasta well and toss with the Bolognese sauce.

Spaghetti Bolognese Redux

Serve with a good scoop of fresh ricotta cheese and garnish with some shredded basil, grated Parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fabulous, just fabulous. A little labor intensive, yes, but well worth it. Lots of flavor, very meaty and rich, and it made the whole house smell delicious as it cooked. The recipe makes an enormous amount of sauce -- especially if, like me, you're "only" cooking for two -- but that's fine because that means there's plenty of sauce left for lasagna, English muffin pizzas, and freezing for later!

25 February 2012

One Meat Sauce, Two Meals

Some celebrate Washington's Birthday with cherry pie, but I celebrated with a big pot of "Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce" from The Nourishing Gourmet. It's one of the many "spaghetti and red sauce" recipes I've pinned while searching for the perfect recipe for March's Crazy Cooking Challenge. Ah, Pinterest ... I know you could be so much more, but I'm content to treat you like a beautiful version of delicious and fill you with board after board of recipes.

Anyway, "Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce" is a good recipe -- simple and delicious, with rich tomato flavor and a perfect ratio of meat to sauce. It makes a lot of sauce for a two person household, but I put the extra to good use later in the week when I made a lasagna. (Yes, I made a lasagna in the middle of the week. No-boil noodles are the best thing ever, I tell you).

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce, Ingredients
All the ingredients ...

Spaghetti w/ Slow Cooker Meat Sauce
became this Monday night ...

Fast Weeknight Lasagna
and this Wednesday night! Yum!

To make the lasagna, I mixed together an egg, leftover ricotta, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan, parsley, and black pepper. I layered the cheese mixture with leftover sauce and no-boil noodles until both were used up, then covered the lasagna with foil and baked it in a 375°F oven for an hour. Broiled it for a few minutes to make it brown and bubbly, then let it set for about 15 minutes -- plenty of time to make the garlic bread and do the cucumbers.

02 February 2012

Fast Mac 'n' Cheese 'n' Greens, Yum!

There's been a can of condensed "cheddar" cheez soup lurking in my cupboards since Noah built the ark and I really wanted to be rid of it. I found a recipe on Campbell's Kitchen for "Fastest Homemade Mac and Cheese" and thought I would give it a try as it was only five ingredients (if you count water as an ingredient) and the pasta cooked in the sauce. One pan macaroni and cheese! Woo!

Fast Mac 'n' Cheese Ingredients

While not the best macaroni and cheese I've ever eaten, it still tastes significantly better than the boxed stuff and doesn't take much more time. I used 5 scant ounces of "Mexican" blend cheese (pepper jack, colby, and muenster) in this recipe, because that is what I had on hand but I expect most any cheese blend could be used in this recipe. Watch out, open bag of "Pizza" cheese blend, I'm coming for you next! Although ... that would necessitate purchasing another can of cheez soup. Hmm. Might well be worth it.

Fast Mac 'n' Cheese & Greens

I ate this macaroni and cheese with mixed greens (Sylvia's, because it tastes good) and it was so very tasty -- the slightly spicy, cheesy, creamy pasta paired so well with the slight bitterness of the greens. Greens 'n' mac 'n' cheese is one of my favorite food combinations. While I had it first at a barbecue place and still associate the combination with barbecue, I am perfectly happy to eat the two on their own whenever I can. Which would be tomorrow, provided I can get my hands on another can of cheez soup.

(I took a "pretty" photo for you, but I usually mix everything into a messy heap of deliciousness before I eat it!)