Tag Archives: Parmigiano-reggiana

Something Fantastic Made With Leftover Chicken Stock or Rich Penne with Chicken Sausage (serves 4-6)

ah yes (glad I didn't throw that stock out!)

ah yes (glad I didn’t throw that stock out!)

Have you ever cooked a chicken or some other meat (either roasted or boiled) and after dinner still have a couple of cups of liquid left over? The thing that I hate the most in this world is to waste perfectly good food. People go to the trouble of making dinner and then after dinner something strange happens: the thing that was so enjoyed a few minutes earlier gets relegated to the category of waste or scraps. Why do we regard the part of the dish that has not been eaten as somehow inferior to what we just oohed and aahed over moments earlier? It’s time for you to start saving that cooking liquid and stop buying pricy cans and cartons of broth that is not half as good as the stuff you throw out after dinner!

as unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock for a cooked chicken!

As unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock from a cooked chicken!

What you see in the picture above is what I had leftover after a chicken dinner the other night. I had roasted a chicken with some basic veggies and added liquid to my pan halfway through to get a pan sauce without actually making one. After dinner, the chicken was gone (along with everything else) but this was left in my roasting pan. Most of the time this gets thrown out – admit it! it is so much easier to scrape this into the garbage than it is to put it in a container and store it in the fridge. When you throw something like this away you are throwing out the backbone of so many dishes that can be made in a hurry with delicious results if only you had saved what looks like a congealed mess.

The Ultimate Cheese!

The Ultimate Cheese (If you have a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in your fridge at all times, it can be the savior of many a pasta dinner!)

I made this dinner merely to prove my point, and this is only one use. It can be used in a soup, in simpler pasta dishes, or added to a rice dish as the stock. You can also add water to it and discard the cooked veggies (using a sieve or small colander) and substitute it anywhere broth is called for in a recipe. It will taste far superior to its store-bought counterpart.

the backsteps

The back steps are beginning to look a little more Summery and I can’t wait for my garden to become lush and alive with herbs and flowers.

Of course you can still make this dish with bought stock! I guarantee you that I most definitely do not have stock in my fridge every time I need it and resort to bouillon cubes and water more often than using precious saved chicken juices. I just wanted to let you know that the thing you have been throwing away after some of your dinners could be put to good use!

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You will Need:

1 lb sausage (chicken, turkey or pork will work – it can be a seasoned or flavored sausage), removed from casing

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp chili flakes

4 to 6 cups chopped spinach (we love spinach so used 6!)

1 1/2 cups leftover stock (it can have stuff in it like onions, carrots, garlic, celery and herbs) OR 1 1/2 cups chicken broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water

1/2 cup tomato puree

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 lb ridged penne pasta (I used Barilla Brand mini-penne)

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (if you have it)

Method:

1 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the chopped garlic and the chili flakes. Swirl around and cook for about 1 minute.

cook garlic and chili flakes

Cook garlic and chili flakes

2 – Add the sausage in bits (I broke it into the pan right out of the casing). Cook until the sausage is browned and nearly cooked through (about 12 minutes). You will need to stir and break sausage up with wooden spoon intermittently as it cooks.

add sausage

Add sausage

*Put the pasta water on (add about 2 tsp coarse salt to the water) and when it boil cook pasta according to instructions. Your aim is to have the pasta cooked by the time you reach step 6. Scoop out about 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. You may need it to thin out your sauce. Do NOT rinse the pasta when it is drained*

3 – Add the leftover stock (or whatever broth you are using) and let it come to a simmer. You may turn heat up slightly while you add the liquids.

add leftover stock or broth

Add leftover stock or broth

4 – Add the tomato puree and stir into the sausage mixture before adding the cream. Add the cream and let the sauce come to a slight boil.

add tomato puree and cream

Add tomato puree and cream

5 – Add the spinach and stir. Cover pan with a lid, turn heat down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes at a low simmer.

Add spinach

Add spinach

6 – Turn off heat and add the cooked penne to your sauce and stir. You may also add a tablespoon of cold unsalted butter at this time if you want more glossy creaminess. If you like a thinner sauce or want to loosen the pasta a little, you may add some of the reserved pasta water until you are satisfied. You may also taste for addition of salt and pepper.

add cooked penne

Add cooked penne

Divide between bowls and pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano and more red pepper flakes if you so desire.

serve

Serve

Really Great Turkey & Bacon Ragu (serves 6)

 This was a great mid-week dinner. Wednesday is the day my kids are a little tired of the school week but in the evening are beginning to look forward to the weekend (I know that’s wishing their young lives away, but this is a hard lesson to teach little people who think they will live forever!).

This was a great mid-week treat

This was a great mid-week treat

I put this sauce together the moment I got in the door and that left me free to do all of those other things that needed to be taken care of (science project panic!). I wanted to use a lighter meat for the ragu and I had some turkey that I though would work. It was not ground, but that didn’t bother me (Ragu is made with ground meat but f you don’t have it, don’t worry about it).

I was a little concerned with the meat not having as much flavor as say lamb or pork, so I added some bacon. I think bacon is the secret ingredient that waylays lots of disasters!

It was really lovely and made the hum-drum feeling that Wednesdays can bring fade away.

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* This ragu sauce can be made the day before (or in the morning) and reheated slowly on the stove-top while the pasta is cooking*

You will need:

1 tbs olive oil

8 strips bacon (streaky), sliced into 1 inch pieces (approx.)

1 lb turkey cutlets, cut into bite-sized pieces (thin sliced turkey breast – if you can only find whole fillets, slice it yourself)

1 medium onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic,

1 carrot

2 or 3 tender inner celery ribs, including leaves

1 28 oz can tomato puree (894 grams)

2 tbs tomato paste ( sun-dried or smoky varieties are fine to use)

2 cups water

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

6 cups freshly chopped spinach

1 1/4  lbs rigatoni pasta, or another hearty pasta like bucatini, ribbed penne or shells (I use Barilla brand)

1 1/2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated (optional)

Method:

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and chopped bacon. Cook until bacon starts to get crispy (anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes).

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Season the turkey with the salt and several grinds of black pepper and add to the pan. You will have to turn up the heat slightly. Cook turkey until it takes on a white color (about 5 to 8 minutes). Stir occasionally.

add turkey

Add turkey

3 – While meat is cooking, prep the veggies: slice carrot, onion and celery into chunks and add to a food processor with the garlic cloves. Pulse until it resembles large rubbly bits.

chop veggies in food processor

Chop veggies in food processor

4 – Add the veggies to the pan and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes (adjusting the heat down slightly).

add veggies

Add veggies

6 – Add the tomato paste, tomato puree, water, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil. When it boils, turn it down, cover and simmer at a bare bubble for about 2 hours. Check every 1/2 hour (or less) and give it a stir. If it gets very thick, add a 1/2 cup of water at a time to adjust consistency. However, it should be very thick.

add liquids adn spices

Add liquids and spices

7 – Add the chopped spinach and stir. (*at this point put the pasta on and cook according to instructions – do not rinse pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining to add to sauce if necessary*)

add chopped spinach

Add chopped spinach

8 – Cover and cook for a further 12 or so minutes, stirring once during this time. Turn off heat. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary (salt, and/or pepper). If it is thicker than you would like, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir butter (if using) into sauce.

cook a little more adn adjust seasonings

Cook a little more and adjust seasonings

Divide pasta between warmed shallow bowls or plates and top each with a helping of Ragu. Pass some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper flakes at the table.

Turkey & Bacon Ragu

Turkey & Bacon Ragu with lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Late Dinner of Penne with Parslied Olive Oil & Garlic (serves 4)

After we got home from our momentous visit to Pisa and Lucca in the province of Tuscany, it was late, and I was tired. I was also hungry, so dinner had to be made despite my lack of enthusiasm.

The cathedral at Pisa (along with a strange leaning tower in the background?)

As I struggled to figure out what I could make in lightening speed, my man Dave (who had lingering in town to grab a bottle of wine), walked in followed by two buddies, Chris and Shawn. Hmmm….judging by the bags and bottles of wine under their arms I sensed an Aperitivo was imminent.

The earth on each side of this beautiful marble path (which joins the two buildings which house the graves of affluent and important Pisa citizens) contains 5 shiploads of soil from the Holy Land, making this some of the most holy ground in Italy.

For those of you that don’t know; an Aperitivo is a little party before dinner with drinks and appetizers. The drinks traditionally served in Italy are Campari, Aperol, Negroni, and sparkling drinks like prosecco. They are often mixed to make aperitif cocktails (see my post on Aperol Spritz).

The beginning of our impromptu Aperitivo

We made some spritz-y drinks, had a couple of bottles of great red wine (which Chris splurged on!), and an array of cheeses and cured meats.

By the time I got dinner started it was very late indeed. I managed to cook something that can be ready in about 12 minutes (if you are not distracted by friends, chatting, and alcohol). It was the perfect dinner to soak up all of those lovely drinks, and I wouldn’t hesitate doing it all over again.

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You will need: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon), 2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, (use 1 tsp if you are shy of heat), 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, 4 eggs (optional), more seal salt, black pepper & hot pepper flakes to taste, 1lb Penne (I used Barilla brand).

1 – Put pot of water on for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook according to instructions. Before draining scoop out a 1/2 cup of pasta water, and reserve.

2 – While pasta is cooking, quickly get the rest of your dish together. (The object is to have this done by the time the pasta is ready). Put a big saute pan on low/ medium heat and add the oil. When it warms, add the oil and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the parsley and cayenne pepper flakes.

Pasta with strong flavors

3 – When pasta is cooked and drained, immediately toss into the oily pan, along with the salt and several grinds of black pepper. Swirl together, and toss in a little of the pasta water to loosen everything up.

* If you want a softly fried egg with this (I did!), fry it in a little olive oil just before the pasta is cooked.

It is great topped with a softly fried egg and some cayenne pepper flakes

Divide between shallow bowls and dress with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some more pepper flakes, black pepper, AND a fried egg.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (serves 6)

If you have read my post about the Italian dinner I made just before taking off for my adventure to Italy, you have probably been waiting on this recipe!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

There could be nothing simpler than Spaghetti alla Carbonara, but there is no way in the world I would have thought of making this dish.

It is so simple in fact, it can be overlooked. Not by the Italians however. This dish is a mainstay in this country’s cuisine, and if you can master it, you have begun to scratch the surface of why Italian cooking is so superb.

I make the Carbonara with egg yolks only. It is not the typical method (the whole egg is used), and I’m probably breaking all sorts of rules, but, I love the results. I find the sauce glossy and smooth.

We ate our spaghetti from shallow bowls but I would have been just as happy to stand by the stove with a fork and eat from the pan; Yes, it was that good.

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You will need: 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 lb Italian Pancetta (bacon will do in a pinch), 1 1/2 cup grate Parmigiano Romano cheese, 6 egg yolks, beaten slightly, 1 lb spaghetti (I used Barilla brand), sea-salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

1 – Prep everything that needs to be on hand (separate eggs, grated cheese, chop pancetta).

Put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of pasta water right before you drain the cooked pasta, and reserve. *It is important to time the pasta to be ready right before you are ready to eat. Gauge about 5 minutes for the water to come to a boil, and about 8 or so minutes for the spaghetti to be cooked*

cook spaghetti

2 – Put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the pancetta, and cook until beginning to crisp. Take pan off of heat and set aside.

Cook pancetta

3 – When spaghetti is cooked, add the reserved pasta water and spaghetti immediately to the pancetta. Add the egg yolks and cheese and toss quickly (with tongs or two wooden spoons). Add some cracked black pepper and sea-salt to taste.

ready

Serve immediately in warmed shallow bowls.

Parmigiano-Reggiana

The Ultimate Cheese!

After making a wonderful Pasta Carbonara last night I am still thinking about the cheese……is there anything better than Parmigiano-Reggiana? To be true Parmigiano this cheese can only be made in certain provinces in Italy and the rind has to be impressed with the words Parmigiano-Reggiana (so if in doubt – look at the rind!). My husband’s brother-in-law is of Italian descent and said that when he was growing up there was always a chunk of this cheese on the dinner table. It was treated with the reverence of gold and when someone was using it all eyes at the table monitored how much was shaved off so everyone had a chance for a piece.

Look at the rind to make sure it’s the real deal..

I only discovered this cheese in my twenties and will always regret the years I could have been using it in sauces, grating it on pastas, stuffing into omelets and laying in gratins…. It is expensive but a little goes a long way in flavor. It has a salty, grainy tang that pairs well with so many foods. A thin sliver of it after dinner is also a treat. I am in love with this cheese.