Tag Archives: pasta dinner

Another Great Dinner with Eggs as the Star!(serves 4)

Sometimes I wish I was one of those women I see in the supermarket (sometimes men, but truly not very often) pushing those giant shopping carts overflowing with a week’s worth of groceries. They usually have a big list and a pen and industrially check off whatever it is they tip into the basket as they go. Why can’t I plan ahead like that?

This is not me!

Well I just can’t because it is not me.  And now I know that it is ok and that my spontaneity when it comes to cooking a dish is why it is good. If I did plan a week ahead, would I lose that excitement about cooking? I don’t know for sure, but this particular dish would not have been made if my cupboard was overflowing with ingredients for my set menu plan. And that would be a tragedy because, this delicious feast was born out of happy desperation and was amazing!

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My Lovely spontaneous Dinner

The desperation was that I only had protein in the form of eggs and three thin slices of bacon, and cilantro was my green vegetable (actually the only vegetable, besides garlic, which I view more as a condiment so it is always on hand in my kitchen, much like salt). The only other thing I can safely bet on always having in my pantry is pasta of one kind or another. In this case it was spaghetti.

So, if you only have eggs in your fridge and you have to make dinner, try this, and breathe a sign of relief as you whizz by the supermarket on your way home!

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If you have Parmesan cheese, that is an added bonus!

You will need:

  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil (5-6 tablespoons)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped(as much as you like really. If you adore garlic, use more!)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro OR Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped (the bundle you get in the supermarket is good but if you have less, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3-4 slices bacon, cut into pieces (optional). If it is very fatty, trim it a little
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional, but amazing addition)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb pasta..so not the entire box (spaghetti works best but penne or any other pasta you have will work)

Method:

boiling spaghetti

Put pasta on to cook first (see Instruction 1. below)

1.Put pasta water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions while you continue with the rest of the dish (the pasta should be ready right when everything else is done if you time it right. So take into consideration how long the water takes to boil and how long the pasta will take to cook and use that to gauge when you think you will have completed the rest of the dish. This is ready in 20 mins from start to finish if you are efficient)DSC_0353

2. Put big saute pan on stove top on medium heat and let it warm up for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and after it warms add the and cook until it begins to get a little crispy. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and swirl everything together. Cook for about a  2 minutes before adding the chopped cilantro. Saute until the cilantro wilts into everything. Turn heat down to low and set aside.

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3. While the pasta is cooking and the rest of the dish is waiting in the big pan, start frying the eggs sunny side up in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to start (for two eggs) and add more as needed (it should be a generous amount  – look at photo above. My eggs are swimming in lovely oil!)

4. In the meantime, when the pasta is cooked, drain (do not rinse!) and toss directly into the saute pan with the garlic mixture. Toss everything together adding a little more extra-virgin olive oil if you like. Taste at this point for salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and as the eggs are done, place on top of the pasta and serve. If you have fresh Parmesan cheese: Splendid! You may drizzle with more oil or toss some fresh cilantro on top and a sprinkle of finishing salt

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Total Yumminess

 

 

Bright Lamb Sauce With Exotic Spices & Pasta (serves 6-8)

If you are looking for a rich meaty bolstering dinner, then here it is!

I found some great Australian ground lamb on sale and snapped it up. Some people find lamb too rich, but when you simmer it with complimentary spices and add some good toothsome pasta, the richness feels right.

jygkuyg

 A fabulously hearty lamb dinner

If you have a crowd coming over for dinner and don’t want to kill yourself cooking, then this is a pretty great way to go. It is not a bit laborious and you can sit down at the same time to eat as everyone else.

And for dessert, go with something  equally simple: Oranges and Cream!

Refreshing finish to dinner..

Refreshing finish to dinner..

So call up a few friends and make it happen!

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3 to 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion – large dice

4 cloves garlic – chopped

1/2 lb mushrooms (what ever you have or like) – sliced

2 lbs ground lamb (you could also try turkey or beef or combination of whatever you have on hand)

1 1/2 cups grated or matchstick carrots

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika (regular paprika will do in a pinch – hot or sweet

1 tsp chili flakes

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt (more to taste)

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 cups chicken stock

1 lb rigatoni or other large pasta like calamarata

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (more for garnish)

1 tbs lemon juice

Method:

1 – Put large saute pan or shallow casserole on medium heat (large enough to hold completed dish) and add about 2 tbs olive oil. When it has warmed up, add the onions, mushroom and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 or so minutes.

Saute mushrooms and onions

Saute garlic, mushrooms and onions

2 – Add all the spices (oregano, paprika, cumin, chili flakes, salt, lemon zest) and continue to cooking for another 5 minutes. Turn up the heat a little if you need to.

add spices

Add spices

*Put water on for pasta, adding salt to the water*

3 – Add the lamb and break it up and incorporate into the spice mixture. Turn the heat up to high and cook the meat, stirring often, until it begins to brown all over.

add lamb

Add lamb

*start cooking the pasta. reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining – may need later*

4 – Add the carrots and the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, letting the flavors meld. Add the stock and when it comes to a bubble, turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 12 to 14 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt to your taste. Add the lemon juice.

Add carrots, then tomato paste

Add carrots, then tomato paste

5 – Add the drained cooked pasta directly into the sauce and stir. Stir in the yoghurt and add some of the pasta cooking water if you want a looser sauce.

Add pasta, then yogurt

Add lemon juice, then pasta and stir in Greek yogurt 

Serve family style in a big serving bowl in the middle of the table with a nice crispy salad and more yogurt, and possibly hot sauce for anyone wanting some extra zing.

Serve alone

Serve alone

Or divide between warmed bowls or plates and let everyone add a condiment or garnish according to what they like!

or with a dollop of yoghurt (and a little hot sauce if you feel the urge!)

or with a dollop of yogurt (and a little hot sauce if you feel the urge!)

HERBY TURKEY MEATBALLS SERVED WITH RIGATONI & ASPARAGUS – SUPER DELICIOUS (serves 6)

I have been trying to like ground turkey more these days! Everyone nowadays, (including me) is making the effort to substitute red meat with turkey or chicken; proteins which are leaner and lower in everything that is bad for your body for one reason or another (for me, it is not part of my Blood Type Diet but for others it might be part of their fight against cholesterol). It has been a struggle because there is no substitute for a good juicy lamb or beef burger! I have always been disappointed when I order a Turkey Burger when eating out. More often than not, it tastes like a bland white sponge!

lyugkuyg

Herby Turkey Meatballs with sumptuous Pasta and veggies

Yesterday while humming and hawing at the meat counter at the supermarket, I began to eye the ground organic turkey, and it was on sale. That was it; I decided to challenge myself and make a little turkey meatball and pack it with pungent and traditionally stong-tasting fresh herbs. I didn’t want to make plain old spaghetti and meatballs as I wanted the meatballs to be so good that masking their flavor in a thick red sauce would have been a crime. When I spotted the luminously green asparagus, my mind was made up to make something that looked like Spring. Yes; I WANT SPRING!

Luminous asparagus

Luminous asparagus

This dish was the perfect introduction to Spring. It was light and delicate, and the colors were amazing. My little turkey meatballs were alive with flavor and I would have been content with just a big mound of them in a bowl for dinner. Anyway, this is a fantastic dish and I guarantee you, if you feel like I do about turkey and it’s lack-lusterness in the tasty department, I think this recipe will sway you too!

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*this is also a Blood Type A Diet recipe – omit the butter and black pepper. Soak the bread in a little water and you are good to go!*

For the Herby Meatballs:

2 tbs olive oil

1 large egg

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

1/2 tbs finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tbs fresh thyme leaves

2 sage leaves – finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 slices white bread

1/3 cup milk

all-purpose flour for rolling meatballs

For the Rigatoni & Asparagus Dish:

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 shallots – sliced (If you don’t have shallots, use 1 medium onion; any kind)

3 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 whole sage leaf

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

1 bunch asparagus spears (about 2 doz) – sliced into 2 inch pieces

1 cup matchstick carrots (or 2 medium carrots – thinly sliced)

1 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tsp sea salt (less salt if it is very fine) – more to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1 lb rigatoni pasta (or other big tubular pasta)

Make the Meatballs:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Soak the bread in the milk. While the bread is soaking, put the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl, except the olive oil and flour. When the bread is soaked, add it to the mixture squeezing out the milk as you go. Mix everything together until it is well-combined.

up close to the meatball

Make meatballs and roll in a little flour

2 – Put about 1 cup of flour in a shallow bowl and put a little olive oil on the palms of your hands and start making little meatballs. Roll into a ball between your palms (the oil will keep your hands from getting tacky with meat) and then roll in the flour. Place on a plate as you go.

Place in oven....no spitting pan to deal with!

Cook in oven….no spitting pan to deal with!

3 – Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on a large baking tray and grease the whole surface using your finger tips. Place in the hot oven for about 3 or 4 minutes (this will stop the meat balls from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the hot tray from oven and add a single layer of meatballs, remembering not to crowd the pan. Place in the oven for about 18 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Remove and set aside (covered) until ready to add to pasta dish.

Make the Pasta Dish:

*put the water on for the rigatoni. This pasta cooks in about 10 to 12 minutes so try and time it to be ready to add to your dish when it is cooked. In other words, put the pasta into the boiling water at step 3 (below). Do not rinse pasta, but rather add the drained noodles directly into your finished dish*

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra-virgin is good here). Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 4 or so minutes. Add the fresh herbs. Cook for another minute or two.

Cook onions, and garlic, add herbs

Cook onions, and garlic, add herbs

2 – Add the carrots and asparagus and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the veggies

Add the veggies

3 – Turn up the heat and add the wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half (about 3 minutes), and then add the broth. Bring to a boil. Add the butter and Turn pan down to a simmer. Cover with lid and cook for 4 minutes.

liyg

Add Wine, then broth

4 – Add the meatballs and continue to simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.

Add meatballs to broth

Add meatballs to broth

5 – Add the cooked rigatoni (or whatever pasta you are using) to your pan and stir gently.

Add cooked pasta

Add cooked pasta and serve

Serve in warmed shallow bowls and if you have hot pepper flakes or a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese available, then pass it around too!

ANOTHER TAKE ON RICH RAGU WITH CALAMARATA PASTA (serves 4-6)

Some nights I crave (in the biggest possible way) something like this! It has to be pasta, and that pasta has to be weighed down with something rich and luscious. There is no better combination of flavors and textures then a meaty pasta and sauce, (and of course a glass of good wine completes the picture of what my craving looks like!).

ragu with calamarata pasta

ragu with calamarata pasta

I discovered a new dry pasta that I have become addicted to, and look for ways and excuses to cook it as much as possible. When I was shopping in the pasta section of the infamous Eataly (read more on this wonderful Italian market HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE!) in NYC the for the very first time, I had never seen so many varieties of pasta since being in Italy. I choose a few different brands to try out and my very favorite was the Rigorosa brand. It is dense and chewy in the best possible way.

Bucantini

My favorite dried pasta brand, Rigorosa (love their Bucatini)

I now stock up on it every time I visit, but since I eat pasta more than I go to NYC,  I was very happy (and surprised) to discover that my mediocre supermarket stocked another brand that I also bought in Eataly. It is made by Garofalo and my favorite is their calamarata pasta, (or calamari pasta – aptly named!). It sops up sauce like no other and has a great toothsome bite. There is nothing remotely wimpy about this pasta and I would feel confident serving it to a table of hungry giants.

calamarata pasta

calamarata pasta by Garofalo

It handled this ragu marvelously, and if you can scour out a good thick-ringed brand of pasta like this, you should try the recipe too. It is served with a ragu, and this one, as with most of the ones I end up making, was determined but what I had to go with my big can of tomato puree (and you will see, I didn’t have much!). It was simple, but bursting with flavor and there wasn’t a scrap of leftovers!

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You will need:

3 tbs olive oil

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 lb streaky bacon  – cut into pieces (I use a scissors)

4 tbs tomato paste

1/2 cup white wine (or red is just as good if you do not have white on hand)

1 cup grated or finely chopped carrots

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 cup whole milk

1lb good quality big tubular pasta like Rigatoni or calamarata. A big shell type or fusilli would be great too.

Method:

1 – Put the oil in a big saute pan (big enough to hold the complete dish) and on a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute onions with garlic in butter and oil

saute onions with garlic in butter and oil

2 – Add the chopped bacon and turn heat up to high/medium. Cook until bacon starts to get crispy (could take up to 15 minutes), stirring frequently.

*Put water on for pasta and when it boils, cook according to instructions. When you drain the water, reserve about 1 cup in case you need it for later in the finished dish, and do not rinse the pasta under cold water. You will be trying to time the pasta to be cooked at the same time as your sauce*

add the bacon and cook until crispy

add the bacon and cook until crispy

3 – Add the butter, carrots and tomato paste and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the wine and cook until half of the wine evaporates.

add tomato paste and carrots

add tomato paste and carrots

4 – Add the tomato puree and stir. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover with lid and cook for about a 1/2 hour.

add tomato puree

add tomato puree

5 – Add the milk and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

add milk

add milk

6 – Taste sauce and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper flakes if you would like. Add the cooked pasta and stir gently. Add some hot pasta water if you desire a “looser” sauce.

serve with parmiagiano reggiano

serve with Parmigiano Reggiano

I served this with a good grating of Parmigiano Reggiano but you can eat it alone or with whatever you like!

What About Bob & Marie’s “Sunday Dinner”

Marie's Sunday Dinner

Marie’s Sunday Dinner

I asked my sister-in-law’s husband Bob to invite us to dinner! I never know how to introduce him; he is married to my husband’s sister and is “Uncle Bob” to my kids. But he is not technically my brother-in-law so do I say” hi, this is my sister-in-law’s husband” or “this is my husband’s brother-in-law” or “this is my kids uncle by marriage” or perhaps just “this is Bob” would be best. Yes, except that when you introduce people everyone needs clarification to feel comfortable. Like, “this is Mimi, my sister who lives in Ireland and thinks her winning dish is corn flakes with the perfect measure of sugar and milk” That way you know that this person is my sister, you know where she lives and that she cooks a mean bowl of cereal! People are more comfortable when they have a little information on someone new. Try going to a party and introducing someone by just saying their name and watch the awkward moment that follows! I guarantee the next question asked by the person left out in Limbo will be: “what do you do?” or “how do you know Tess?” We are odd insecure creatures.

Sister-in-law helping out

My Sister-in-law

So who is Marie now that you know Bob is my sister-in-law’s husband, my husband’s brother-in-law and my kids Uncle by marriage, oh and lives right next door. Marie is a person I never met but someone I have heard about over the course of 20 years, and in that time have pieced together a picture of this woman, Bob’s mother.

Every time I have heard her name it is always when Bob and I are talking about food. I don’t know if Bob and I have that much in common but the things that in the end give us ties that bind are family and food. Sometimes I think we share a sort of secret club of mutual understanding and empathy. We are both living away from what was familiar to us growing up (okay I suppose I win there being from Ireland and him being American). But we both have no family here and we are identified by our spouse’s family. I shouldn’t think of it like this because I love this new family-in-law for want of a better word, but when we are all gathered for Christmas or Thanksgiving, birthdays and sadly funerals, I see Bob and I, and then everyone else. It’s not a complaint and I do see the same thing when I get together with my family and how my husband looks “set apart”

Meatballs smothered in sunday Gravy

Meatballs smothered in Sunday Gravy

It is just what happens, the way that I have a nostalgic urge to continue to cook certain foods my mother cooked and not the food my mother-in-law cooked. It is the root of things that cannot be severed or relinquished. The piece of Bob that is integral to his make-up is the food that his mother made and the food he learned to cook himself through what must have felt like osmosis to him. The day in and day out of just being in the kitchen with her (whether he was helping with the meal or not), taught him how to cook her food. The familiar aroma that seemed to hang in the air of only his house became an association with her and her alone. When you grow up in a house where cooking is a nightly occurrence you can’t help but take that with you when you leave or when the parent who created all the smells and tastes dies. That is a very beautiful thing.

Bubbling Sunday Gravy

Bubbling Sunday Gravy

And it is that part of Bob’s mother that is very much alive for him. She grew up in an Italian/American household, lived in an Italian neighborhood in Newark New Jersey and married an Italian/American man who was from the same town (correct me if I am wrong Bob!). To me, the great thing about Italian food in American is how these expats. took the best of what their forbearers brought with them and held on tightly to those recipes. They made it their own of course but the backbone of certain dishes is very much Italian; like Sunday Gravy. Italy is one of those amazing places in Europe who is stubborn (in a very good way) about their food. They have not been lured by “fusion” even though the world itself has been fused together with people and countries mingling together creating a new kind of food culture and new kind of world in general.

Slow-cooked Italian Sausages

Slow-cooked Italian Sausages

When I lived for a few months in Italy last year the only food I ate, indeed the only ingredients I could find to cook with in the little Tuscan town (Cortona) I lived in was Italian food; all of the meat, the sausages, chicken, lamb, beef and all the mouth-watering cured meats were all local, as were the vegetables and of course the wine – all Italian! You could find a little more diversity in the big cities like Florence and Rome, but even their traditional Italian food reigned supreme. I did not complain (although I did pine now and then for some soy and sriracha sauce!).

The Piece de Resistance (Rigatoni with sunday Gravy)

The Piece de Resistance (Rigatoni with Sunday Gravy)

Getting back to Bob…a few weeks ago I bumped into him when he was waiting for his daughter (my children’s’ first cousin or my niece by marriage who is also my God Child – just to clarify) and I asked if he would make his mother’s Sunday Dinner and invite us. Brazen I know, but after 20 years I felt like I could ask and that he could go ahead and be a bit indignant that I had the nerve but I really don’t worry too much about stuff like that any more. And to be fair, Bob is a pretty easygoing fella so of course he willingly agreed to make dinner for us all! He sort of laughed and said it wasn’t anything special but a week or so later his wife (my actual sister-in-law!) called to say that Bob would be making “The Dinner” this coming Sunday – wow, he took my request as a serious one after all.

Bob and his long-cooked pot of Sauce

Bob and his long-cooked pot of Sauce

When you have the same dinner each and every Sunday for as long as you can remember then I suppose this dish is viewed as nothing special. I mean if I lived in Italy and had a cornetto and a cafe macchiato every morning for breakfast it would also become something ordinary ( I can only dream about that kind of ordinary right now). It is all relative, and since I grew up in Ireland on a diet of meat and potatoes the idea of eating  pork tenderloin, homemade meatballs and sausages that have been simmering all day in a rich red sauce and served with rigatoni pasta and a generous sprinkle of freshly chopped flat-leafed parsley, Parmigiano Reggiano and possibly a dollop of ricotta cheese seemed like a most glorious opportunity indeed.

Marie's Meatball Mix

Marie’s Meatball Mix

I had never experienced anything close to this kind of food growing up in Ireland. Loath though I am to admit it the first time I ate spaghetti with red sauce was from a tin. It never occurred to me that you could eat it any other way. I had never seen dried pasta in the supermarket namely because it was not sold in any supermarket in Ireland before 1983 ish. I’m guessing on the date but to impress upon you how rare it was to find pasta and even rarer to find someone cooking it instead of potatoes, I remember being in a very fancy supermarket in Dublin in about 1984 and in one aisle there was a whole shelf of dried spaghetti with a big SALE sign that said 1 penny! So even the supposed sophisticates of the country had no notion what to do with the stuff!

The Salad

The Salad

When I took some home and cooked pasta for dinner, my father said “this is great but where are the potatoes?” After that I always served pasta with a dollop of mash on the side. Even today, in every Chinese restaurant in Ireland you can have chips with your Beef Chow Mein!

Another combination (meatballs, gravy and rigatoni

Another combination (meatballs, gravy and rigatoni

Which reinforces the idea that even though the world has immersed itself in each other’s food we tend to stick to what we grow up with for the most part. Why do you think that Bob was still cooking a deep rich red sauce with his mother Marie in his kitchen in Newark in the 70’s and 80’s, which of course was handed down directly from some relative who came over from Italy. Preserving recipes is part and parcel of preserving a culture. Sometimes it is the only thing that helps distinguish one culture from another. 

Bob said his mother never made less than 2 lbs of pasta for any meal, even if it was only dinner for two!

Bob said his mother never made less than 2 lbs of pasta for any meal, even if it was only dinner for two!

When I was growing up in Ireland and had the chance to go away on holidays when my friend Siobhan we would either don backpacks and stick out our thumb and hostel around the West of Ireland or go to France. France was easy as you could take a boat from Rosslare in County Wexford to Cherbourg or Le Havre. Getting to Italy required a little more planning and money of which the latter was in short supply. I never made it to Italy until last year (click on “Italy” to the right of my blog to read about my trip) so my introduction to Italian Food was in the States. I knew it had taken on a life of its own, as it should, but the essence was the same. It was all about big robust food centered around family.

Italian parsley - the best garnish in the world

Italian parsley – the best garnish in the world

Bob had talked about his mother’s Sunday Gravy a number of times before I asked him what it was. I felt kind of silly that I didn’t know what it was, because when I thought about gravy it was brown, thickened with flour or thinned out with meat juices. I was very far off the mark as it was Italian red sauce but essentially it served the same purpose as the gravy swimming on my plate every Sunday; it bound the food together and colored the flavor of everything you put into your mouth. I think Sunday Gravy is more important to Italian food than brown gravy is to the Irish kitchen (after all there is also White sauce!) and is the one component that every Italian or American-Italian has an opinion on. Some argue that garlic is imperative while others insist on fresh oregano or it just won’t be authentic. Bob’s Sunday Gravy is something I wondered about and the only way to taste it was to invite myself over to try it!

See What I mean (about the parsley!)

See What I mean (about the parsley!)

Bob did not cook this dinner every Sunday, far from it. It took on a more celebratory status when he made it because he had to be in the kitchen for hours watching the pot, stirring regularly and making the other things that in Marie’s time were part and parcel of the meal; like her meatballs, salad, cheeses and herbs. People don’t spend as much time in the kitchen on Sundays as they used to because there are so many other distractions and obligations, so while Bob laughed at how excited we all were (well me for sure) about a meal he could have prepared with his eyes closed there was no getting away from the fact that it brought everyone together under one roof; the in-laws, the cousins and the Granny!

Dig in!

Dig in!

The conversation drifted from food to family and back to food again. My mother-in-law wondered if having the smells of his childhood in his kitchen and all of the people milling around made him think about his mother and make him miss her? It didn’t seem so and I think he was comforted not saddened while going through the familiar motions of shaping the meatballs and checking the sauce. He was amused by my questions about how the sauce tasted to him, and if the Sunday dinner always has a bowl of ricotta cheese on the table, but I could see that he also enjoyed talking about the food and his mother and thinking about all the Sundays he spent in the kitchen with her. Up to that Sunday I had always wished I had met her, but now I feel a little like I did.

Thank you bob for giving us this most wonderful feast

Thank you Bob for giving us this most wonderful feast

Quick Weekend Pasta Dinner (Rigatoni with Savory sausage & Sweet Onions) – Serves 6

I don’t know what your weekend is like but for me I always move a little slower on Saturdays. The weekdays I am up early, busy all day and fall into bed exhausted each night, and so Saturday I think my body and brain go on strike in order to recoup. This means that making an easy dinner fits right into the relaxed pace I am in dire need of.

The easiest dinner in the world!

The easiest dinner in the world!

This is a family day for me, a day when I try to avoid having anyone over for dinner (unless of course it is a “weekend guest” weekend!) preferring to close the door on all things that are a hassle on Friday night. I love having friends over Friday as I am in work mode anyway and it is a great way to celebrate the beginning of a couple of days that are different from the rest.

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

If I go grocery shopping on Saturday I make sure to buy some very convenient items with an eye on making my dinner prep a breeze. This Saturday I found some great seasoned sausage and knew it would be all I would need to flavor the whole dish (save for throwing a few fresh herbs snagged from my garden).

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire lenght of the sausge adn sliding it off. then it is easy to cut or break the sasge into your pan

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire length of the sausage and sliding it off. After that it is easy to cut or break the sausage into your pan

 A good pasta dish can be one of the most delicious things in the world to eat if it is mixed with the right combo of flavors. It was so good that if I had happened to get in over my head and invite people to dinner it would have worked out very well indeed.

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You will need:

3 to 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbs unsalted cold butter

1lb savory sausage (I used an apple and onion sausage, but any flavor combination that appeals to you and is available will do!) – removed form casing

3 small/medium sweet onions – diced

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional – I always like a bit of heat!)

1/2 tsp salt (but taste dish before adding)

4 cups chopped greens (spinach, kale or chard work great)

1lb rigatoni (I use Barilla brand with ridges)

1/2 to 3/4 cup pasta cooking water (this is water reserved after cooking the pasta)

Method:

*Place the water on for the pasta. Rigatoni takes between 12 to 14 minutes to cook so plan on timing it to be ready when the rest of the dish is cooked. BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA WATER SCOOP OUT ABOUT 1 CUP AND SET SIDE.

1 – Place large pan (large enough to hold the entire finished dish) on low/medium heat and add 3 tbs of the oil. When it has wormed, Add the onions and garlic and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, until nice and soft. Add the herbs and pepper flakes (if using).

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

2 – Add the sausage either by cutting it was a scissors or breaking it off with your hands into the pan. Break it up further with a wooden spoon as it is cooking. Turn the heat up a little and cook until the sausage begins to brown a little and is cooked through (depends but anywhere up to 15 minutes).

Add sausage

Add sausage

3 – Add the spinach and stir quickly. Turn heat off, taste for addition of salt and add if you think it needs it.  Cover with lid. until the pasta is ready.

Add greens

Add greens

4 – Add the pasta directly from draining into the pan (DO NOT RINSE PASTA UNDER COLD WATER), al with 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and cold butter. Replace lid and after a minute stir everything gently.

add cooked pasta and pasta water

add cooked pasta, cold butter and pasta water

Serve in warmed bowls and pass the cheese if you have it on hand. A few extra pepper flakes wouldn’t go astray either!

Did I menton how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmiagiano reggiano!

Did I mention how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmigiano Reggiano!

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