Shrimp Scampi


Shrimp Scampi is one of those simple dinners that doesn’t take long but requires fresh and high quality ingredients to make it truly delicious. 

Ingredients 

  • 3/4 – 1lb peeled and deveined shrimp 
  • 3/4 lb pasta (linguine, spaghetti or capellini)
  • 4TBSP quality olive oil 
  • 4TBSP butter
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chopped 
  • White wine–whatever you like 
  • Half of lemon, juiced 

Instructions 

– Put pot of boiling water on and salt heavily. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile… 

– Put 2 tbsp butter and 2tbsp oil in pan on medium heat. Add red pepper flakes. 

– Add shallots and garlic, sauté for 3-5 minutes. 


Add shrimp and cook until pink. 


Remove shrimp before fully cooked and set aside. 


Put the rest of the butter and oil in the pan and add white wine and lemon juice. Reduce for a few minutes. 


– Add the shrimp back in the pan and cook another 2 minutes or until done.  


– Add fresh chopped parsley. 
– Pour contents of pan over bowl of pasta. Option to add toasted breadcrumbs with a little olive oil and/or parmesan cheese and more squeezed lemon juice. 

Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

Homemade Ravioli

I’ve wanted to try homemade ravioli ever since I figured out how to make homemade pasta. A Valentine’s Day with wind chills in the negative degrees provided a perfect opportunity to stay home and accomplish this somewhat scary goal– and the hubby even helped! The pasta part really is a two person job. It is also time consuming but SO worth it. The best part is you can use any filling your heart desires. I couldn’t decide what to do so I made 4: 1) mushroom, truffle & goat cheese, 2) spinach, arugula and basil, 3) broccoli rabe and 4) ricotta and basil. This recipe made us about 50 ravioli. Keep in mind they are great to freeze so if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make a lot!

Ingredients:
For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

For the fillings:

Make sure you buy high quality cheese–fresh ricotta if you can. This will make a big difference in the final product.  
Truffle Mushroom & Goat Cheese:

  • Sautee one package of mixed mushrooms in oil and truffle butter. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Put the mushrooms in a blender and pulse. Then put in a bowl and add about 3 oz of goat cheese and some fresh parmigiano cheese.      

Broccoli Rabe & Garlic

  • I bought fresh roasted broccoli rabe and garlic with red pepper flakes from A&S fine foods in Stamford. I can’t make a better broccoli rabe and it takes out a few steps. If you are going to do it yourself you should par boil the broccoli and then sautee. Then put it in a blender and pulse. I added ricotta and fresh parmigiano cheese.  img_4879

Spinach, Arugula & Basil

  • Sautee spinach and arugula in some olive oil. You have the option to add chopped garlic as well. Put in processor and pulse. Add ricotta and parmigiano.  img_4881

Directions:

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. This process takes a while. Be patient- you will probably think you did something wrong because the flour isn’t combining right away. Just keep working it.


Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough with your hands. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands until it smoothed out.

 Then place it in a bowl, put a dash of  olive oil on it and rub it all over the dough. Then cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rest.

My great grandmother used to roll the dough with a large rolling pin when she made pasta every week. That, I can’t imagine! I use my grandmother’s pasta machine which is much easier. I feed the pasta through twice on 8, twice on 6, twice on 4 and once on 2.

Although now they do make machines to do it for you–whichever way you choose is fine. pasta maker
When you are ready, roll the dough into a log and cut evenly into pieces.

You may want to cut only one piece at first to make sure it’s the right width. Making ravioli isn’t a science but I can already tell that the more you make these, the easier it will become.

Spoon out your mixture on to the pasta sheets. We learned after a few times that pressing the filling down to flatten it out will make a better ravioli.
  

We started by making square ravioli which we were messier to eat but it’s really just a matter of preference.

I don’t have fancy ravioli tools so I grabbed a pizza cutter and a fork. It worked!

What worked even better was when we found a small glass jar to cut the round ones.

I placed them on parchment paper with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

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To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. You don’t want a very high boil as it could damage all the work you just did! They cook in roughly 3 minutes.

For sauce: I found truffle butter and parmesan cheese on the mushroom ones were amazing! I also made a white wine and butter sauce with shallots and parsley that was delicious. And we had a few with tomato sauce. You can’t go wrong!


The cooked product! Yum!

And some with sauce…. Yum, yum, and yum!


  

 

One year later on Christmas day we made these again. It’s such a fun family activity–I highly recommend it! This time we made a pesto sauce and a red sauce. Mmmm mmm mmm!

 

 

Nanny’s Homemade Manicotti

Growing up, Nanny often made manicotti for the holidays and special occasions. Soft crepe like tubes, stuffed with ricotta cheese, topped with sauce and more cheese; it’s quite heavenly. Don’t confuse it with cannelloni which is more of a pasta type dough that is stuffed typically with meats and baked in a bechamel sauce.

Each year for Christmas day, Mom and I like to take on a cooking challenge. We have all day, we aren’t getting out of our pajamas, so why not cook something fun? We made just under 100 manicotti and of course froze some for Nanny and other family members. In my opinion, if you are going to put in the work, you might as well make a lot. We paired them with roasted racks of lamp chops (recipe to come later) and sautéed zucchini–a well-balanced holiday meal that hit the spot! These delicate cheesy bites of heaven will satisfy any crowd and you can have fun doing it!

Note: We altered Nanny’s recipe a little as she traditionally puts mint in her ricotta stuffing. We opted to put parsley, basil and mint which worked out well!

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Ingredients & Directions:

Stuffing-

  • 4 lbs of riccota cheese
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Fresh chopped basil, parsley and mint

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Manicotti Batter- (should make roughly 100)

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of milk

If you want to cut the recipe down to 74, us 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Place your ingredients in a bowl and set your mixer to 15 minutes on a low speed.

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The batter should be on the thin side and smooth. Now here comes the tricky part… making the manicotti.

Mom and I wish Nanny was with us to help guide us through the many batches of trial and error. It takes a certain technique. Is it thin enough? It’s too thick. It’s too long or it’s not fat enough. Eventually we got the hang of it. Don’t lose hope.

Heat your griddle or flat pan to about 300 degrees. Nanny says grease it once and once only. The batter will cook fast but you don’t want it to brown/burn. It will bubble slightly and should easily come off the griddle with a spatula.

We used a metal spoon and poured the batter in a horizontal line and using the back of the spoon pushed the batter around in the shape seen below.

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Next to your stove lay out some cooling racks. Transfer your finished manicotti to the cooling racks for a few minutes. You should have lined your counter with wax paper which you will then move the cooled manicotti too (seen below).

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Next comes the stuffing! Don’t be skimpy. Place the filling at the edge and then loosely roll it shut. Don’t roll it tight like a burrito.
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If you are going to freeze some for leftovers, place them in a box on wax paper.
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For the ones you are eating. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the manicotti, top with sauce and parmesan cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Mangia!

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Turn Zucchini Into Linguine

I bought a new kitchen toy! And I am REALLY excited about it. For $35 you can make pasta out of vegetables, too! This is a great way to eat pasta guilt-free and perhaps for the Moms out there, a great way to hide vegetables from your kids! And if you are gluten free this is a great substitute for pasta–certainly more nutritious AND tasty !

The machine I bought is made of plastic–this isn’t a high quality piece of kitchen machinery. If I’m being 100% honest, it was not the easiest to clean (according to Kyle). I’m sure you can buy a nice stainless steel one for a few hundred bucks. But this one does the job and the results were perfect. I highly recommend it! I can’t wait to try more vegetables and use all the different blades provided! Of course, more reviews and recipes will come 🙂

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So for starters, you are going to have to buy one of these. 

It’s really quite simple. I started by making a quick meat sauce. I have plenty of different pasta sauce recipes you could use for this. A pesto would even go really well!  Something to learn from my experience: we are used to making pasta and having the noodles soak up a lot of the liquid in our sauce. The vegetable will not do this, therefore I recommend making a thicker sauce than you might otherwise.

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Wash your zucchini and cut off the ends.

Insert the zucchini as shown and turn the handle. As you are turning the handle you will have to continually push the handle in so the zucchini stays locked into position. It’s not hard work. I used 4 zucchini, it took me about 10 minutes and it made dinner for two and leftovers for 2.

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As you are turning the handle, the zucchini will come out the side. I actually used kitchen scissors to cut some of the long strands or you would be twirling your fork for hours!

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Then I boiled it in salted water. I also added a dash of oil just in case the veggies wanted to stick together. I cooked it for maybe 3 or 4 minutes and then put in a strainer just as you would pasta.

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I topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, of course!

Try it for yourself and let me know how it goes!!

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Chicken Sausage, Veggies and Tomato Sauce Over Whole Wheat Pasta

What to do when you are craving pasta but you’re trying to be good? Instead of having the pasta as the feature of your meal, use a portion more equivalent to a side. I had some Whole Foods Italian chicken sausage in my fridge and all I could think about was putting it over a large bowl of pasta and covered in parmesan cheese. With this recipe, you can have your cake and eat it too. I satisfied my craving by using lots of protein and fresh vegetables and didn’t overdo it on the carbs and fat.

This recipe yields 3 servings: Dinner for Kyle and I and lunch for me the next day!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 links Whole Foods Italian Chicken Sausage
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce (I used Jerry’s because it’s the only jarred sauce I will buy, it’s simply amazing! You can use your own sauce, or some canned diced tomatoes.)
  • 3 slices, fresh mozzarella

Instructions:

Put a pot of boiling water on, salt it and add your pasta. When your pasta is done, portion it out into the bowls and put a spoonful of sauce on each one so the sauce sticks to the pasta.

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You can choose to saute all of your ingredients in a pan, or grill all of your ingredients. Out of personal preference, I grilled the sausage and peppers and sautéed the onions and garlic in a pan.

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This is not a necessary step but I am funny about sausage. I like it to have a nice crunchy outside so I sliced it up and threw it on a pan to crisp up the edges.

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Do not dice your veggies into small pieces as you might normally would, instead cut them into larger bite sized pieces so they don’t get lost in the pasta. Remember, veggies and protein are the feature of this dish!

Now add your veggies to the pasta.

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Then add an even number of sausage pieces into each bowl. Finally, add some spinach to each bowl–as much as you’d like.

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Add a few more spoonfuls of tomato sauce to each bowl.

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Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Since all the ingredients are already warm, put the bowls under the broiler until the cheese turns golden brown and bubbly.

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I cooked two and put the third in the fridge to save for lunch tomorrow. When they come out, top with some fresh chopped basil and enjoy!

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The Real Deal Bolognese Sauce

A Father’s Day Inspiration…

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This isn’t your typical meat sauce. This isn’t your typical ground beef cooked in a bland tomato sauce. This is the real deal meat sauce; the cook all day Sunday sauce; the shredded, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth sauce that comes gently tossed in a fresh pasta like pappardelle.

The idea of making this sauce started because I knew my dad loves these kinds of sauces, the ones I often seen in authentic Italian restaurants–the ones that won’t let you put your fork down until the last bite is gone. So I started thinking… how could I make this at home for my dad on Father’s Day?

Simple: take the barbacoa recipe and insert Italian ingredients–like soffritto (combination of onions, carrots and celery). Also, add some other kinds of meats to inject a lot of flavor into the sauce. Mom and I set out to the grocery store in search of the perfect ingredients to make our version of this sauce. You can use any combination of meats and ingredients you would like and make this recipe your own! Here is (generally) how we made it. As usual, my measurements are rough. You can make this in a dutch oven like I do with the barbacoa, but since I didn’t have it with me at my parent’s house we made it on the stove without any problems!

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3.5 lbs boneless chuck roast
  • 1 veal osso bucco
  • 3 carrot sticks
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1-2 onions (we used a red and a yellow)
  • 8 or so cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups red wine (chianti suggested)
  • Salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 large cans san marzano whole tomatoes
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • Parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano is preferred)
  • 1.5 lb of your favorite pasta

We made this for 5 people and had tons of the leftovers…just the way we like it 🙂 It was amazing for lunch the next day.

Instructions:

Start by bringing all the meat to room temperature and seasoning them with salt and pepper. Then saute your meats on high heat to get a nice brown coloring on all sides. If your pan isn’t large enough, sear your meat in batches. They need space to cook.

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Next you will place the veggies in the pan. If you don’t have a pan large enough, temporarily take some of the meat out so your veggies have room to cook. Season the veggies with salt & pepper and let cook 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic.  (We ended up sauteing the garlic in a separate small pan to really fry and brown them up nice) Let cook for another few minutes.

Put the heat on med-high and add the red wine; let the liquid reduce by half.

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Using your hands take the tomatoes out of the cans and squeeze them, gently breaking them apart before putting them in the pot. Add the sauce from the cans as well. Season with salt & pepper and add fresh chopped basil. (you can also add some red pepper flakes, which we did) Place the lid on very tight. If you think air can get out, put a sheet of tinfoil on top and then seal the edges of the lid with it.

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Let it cook on low heat (the sauce should bubble slightly) or in the oven at 250 for 4 hours or until the meat can easily pull apart with a fork. Remove the chicken skins and any excess fat you see.

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It’s easiest if you take the meat out of the pot and place on a separate dish. Shred the meat using forks or tongs. Take the chicken off the bones. Place the meat back in the pot and bring the sauce to a low boil for a few minutes while you are preparing the pasta.

Cook your pasta al dente and pour into the pot to really absorb the flavors of the sauce. Top with more fresh basil and fresh parmesano reggiano cheese. Mangia!

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Linguine with White Clam Sauce (Linguine alle Vongole)

For mother’s day I wanted to cook my mom a delicious dinner with the fam. We had trouble deciding what to make but once we did we were both very much looking forward to this meal after a long and unsuccessful day of shopping in New York. On our drive back to Connecticut we called every single fish market and grocery store we could think of and none of them had the baby manila clams. Another disappointment! Our last ditch effort was to stop by the SoNo Marketplace because I remembered they had two fish stores. With fingers crossed we waited in line for what seemed like an hour (5 minutes) at Bloom Brothers and discovered they did not have manila clams either. At this point we just had to laugh and we happily took the available cherrystone clams because they were fresh. And really, all that matters when making a dish like linguine alle vongole is that the seafood is fresh! I’m sorry I don’t have more photos to share with the instructions!

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Mom and I

bloom brothers

SoNo Marketplace

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2-3 shallots, chopped fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 dozens clams (manila are preferred)
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

clams

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente.

Heat the olive oil over medium flame in a deep saute pan with a lid. Add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add the clams, wine, butter, most of the parsley and lemon juice. Cover with the lid and shake the pan periodically until all the clams open, about 7-8 minutes. Discard any clams that have not opened.

This is an optional step I like in order to add more texture to the sauce (and prevent you from having to work so hard for your food!). Remove about 12 clams, chop them up fine and put them back in the pan.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add linguine to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add more butter if necessary. Toss the pasta with the clams to its nicely coated. To serve place in large bowl and top with the rest of the fresh parsley. Mangia!

PS- a note for the cheese lovers out there: Italians do not put cheese on top of any pasta dishes with seafood. It’s simply frowned upon because they believe it overcomes the subtle flavor of the seafood. Your choice but I left it off this dish!

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Weeknight Bolognese with Whole Wheat Shells

Meat sauce is a great Sunday dinner: you can make it in the afternoon and let it simmer all day until you are ready to eat. The flavors only get better the longer it cooks. But meat sauce can also be a quick and easy week night meal that you can throw together after a long day. It’s hearty and chunky and extremely satisfying, especially on a cold night. This is a healthier and easier version I make during the week versus a Sunday sauce. I cut out some of the prep work and ingredients so I can make it faster, this time in about 20 minutes. Shells are the perfect pasta for this dish because they hold the meat sauce well.

It starts with your ingredients. I bought 3/4 of a pound of very lean all natural beef. For some extra flavor I added a 1/4 lb of ground pork. I used about 3/4 lb of whole wheat shells so we could enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

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Saute 1/2 a white onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (If time isn’t an issue for you, add finely chopped carrots and celery for more flavor.)
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Add some fresh chopped basil and red pepper flakes for some heat.

Add the meat into the same pan and using a potato masher, gently separate the meat.

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Brown the meat on medium to high heat. When most of the pink is gone, add  a can of san marzano tomatoes. Season again. I also added a tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken up the sauce a bit. If you want more saucy and less chunky, add in a small can of tomato puree in addition to the chopped tomatoes.

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When your 1lb of whole wheat shells are al dente, mix all ingredients together.

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Add in parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. Pair with a glass of red wine and enjoy a great ending to your day.

Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce

My friend Sarah participated in a CSA this year that gives her locally grown produce every week. She gave me a bag of tomatoes she couldn’t get through that were absolutely delicious. It’s rare to get a really good tomato anymore so when I do, I will usually just sprinkle salt on it and eat it like an apple! But since I had this big bag of beautiful tomatoes and not much in the fridge, I decided to make a quick sauce for lunch this weekend. It’s fresh from the garden- a little bit sweet and creamy balanced by a dash of spice!

I will apologize in advance for the photo quality as my iPhone camera has taken a turn for the worse. Hopefully this will be remedied soon!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Whole Wheat Penne
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2-3 cloves, garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp (or so) vodka (could substitute with white wine or red if you take out the balsamic)
  • dash of cream or half and half
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice your onions very thin and put them in a pan with oil. Cook on medium to high for 30 or so minutes. The longer they cook, the sweeter they will get!

  • Put a pot of boiling water on for the pasta. When it comes to a boil add the penne and cook until al dente. It should take about the same amount of time to finish the sauce.
  • Add your diced tomatoes to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Grate one carrot into the pan. It will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes and add hearty flavor. (I often throw a whole carrot in my pot of sauce while its cooking and remove it before serving.) Then add the chopped garlic.

  • Pour in vodka and raise the heat, let it come to a boil and then lower to simmer and reduce. Add balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a few minutes.

  • Add a spoonful or two of water from the pasta if you need some more liquid in the pan. Put the sauce on low.
  • Pour in a touch of cream and stir.
  • Add in the pasta to the pot of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Fettuccine con Pesto

In continuing my theme of using ingredients from the garden, my friend Alex and I recently made pesto sauce. It’s a great time of year to make pesto and it is extremely easy to make. You can switch up ingredients depending what you have on hand making it a very versatile recipe.

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My favorite kind of pesto is a mixture of basil and arugula. Sometimes I use parsley or spinach but since I have a huge fresh basil plant, I wanted that to be my primary ingredient today. I also happen to have a small bagful of arugula in my fridge which I added. Pesto is great on pasta and you can easily add it to proteins such as grilled shrimp or chicken. You can marinate them in pesto or brush it on after it comes off the grill.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (remember the garlic is raw so the flavor will pack a punch and you don’t want to overpower the pesto)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil depending on how much pesto you are making. You want your mixture to be smooth.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Directions

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta. In the meantime, prepare your pesto.

Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they start to produce an aroma and turn golden brown.

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Using a small food processor add the basil, arugula, pine nuts, red pepper flakes salt and pepper. Blend for roughly 15 seconds. I don’t have a machine that allows you to pour olive oil in while it is running. If you do, this is a great time to use it. If not, just simply add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Finally add the cheese and blend until smooth again.

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When your pasta is al dente strain it and set aside until your pesto is ready. Toss all together in a large bowl and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

If you have leftover pesto, put it in a small glass jar in the fridge and use it as seasoning on future meals. For example, the next morning I had a nice piece of Italian toast and put 2 slices of tomatoes on top from the garden. I then added a smear of pesto to each tomato. I topped the sandwich with a fried egg over easy. When you cut into the egg it will warm the pesto and you have yourself a fresh and delicious breakfast.

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Italian Pasta Salad for your next BBQ

It’s easy to get bored of the same old pasta salad with celery and mayo. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious and I make it all the time but when you start spending your summer weekends at one or two BBQs, you want something new.

This is a very simple recipe that relies on fresh ingredients.

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INGREDIENTS:
-1lb pasta
-Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
-Fresh arugula
-Fresh basil
-Mozzarella cheese, cut in small pieces
-Olive oil
-Red wine and balsamic vinegar (few tbsps of each based on your preference)
-Salt and pepper
-Fresh garlic, finely chopped (or garlic
powder)

INSTRUCTIONS:
-Cook pasta al dente in boiling, salted water.
-Put tomatoes and arugula in a large bowl.
-Add salt, pepper, garlic, oil and vinegar. Set aside to marinate for a while.

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-When pasta is ready, set aside to cool for a few minutes. You can spray it with olive oil if you are worried about it sticking.

-Add the cheese to the mixture.

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-Place cooled pasta in the bowl and mix together with all ingredients. Add fresh chopped basil. Taste the pasta to be sure it is seasoned well. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.

Pasta with Broccoli

Easy. Low cost. Delicious (IF you love broccoli).

Pasta with broccoli has a long history with our family. Growing up, my mom made it often as a side to a meat focused dinner. We typically use the farfalle or “bowtie” pasta as we called it as kids. This meal can be made so many different ways and with different accents. Below is my favorite version but you can also consider using lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, and certainly butter if you aren’t trying to keep it too healthy. It’s an easy weeknight dinner when you don’t have a lot in your fridge, it’s a great side to a protein and it’s delicious leftover hot or cold. I usually make extra so I have leftovers for lunch the next day. The hard part is refraining from eating it all!

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For a healthier option steam your broccoli in water and chicken broth instead of using olive oil. It will still be tasty and u can drizzle a tiny bit of oil on top for finishing. You can also skip the blender to remove an extra step when you are pressed for time. I like it because it makes the sauce a little thicker. Think of it as a broccoli pesto.

INGREDIENTS:
-2 heads fresh broccoli
-2-3 cloves garlic
-2 shallots
-few tbsps Parmesan cheese
-olive oil
-red pepper flakes
-chicken broth as needed
-pasta (whole wheat penne used here but I encourage the bowties)
-salt & pepper
-fresh basil or parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Place a large pot of water on high heat. Bring to boil.

Sauté garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes in olive oil.

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Place half of your broccoli in blender And blend until the big chunks are gone.

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Add the mixture to your pan with the remaining broccoli that you chopped into bite sized pieces. Add salt and pepper.

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Add chicken broth as needed so you have enough liquid for your pasta. Let cook for a few minutes. I don’t like mushy broccoli so as soon as it gets soft I take off the heat. Mix in a large bowl with pasta. Add cheese, more fresh basil and serve.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

A classic recipe and one of my absolute favorites. I order this at Strada 18 in Norwalk almost every time we go and I finish the entire ginormous bowl. It does cost $18 however so this Saturday night I thought we could save some money and still enjoy a delicious meal at home. I was right! (Post updated with new photos 3.23.17)

After a trip to Fresh Market in Westport, the broccoli rabe was $4, the orecchiette was $2 and the hot italian sausage was $4.50. So, two of us will enjoy this meal for only $11, or $5.50 per person AND we will get to have the delicious left overs tomorrow for lunch.

I like a little spice so I opted for a hot Italian sausage but you can certainly go sweet if that is your preference (or do 1 of each!). Those who are trying to stay on the healthier side can opt for a fennel chicken sausage which would be a great substitute. But for a Saturday night dinner, I’m going all out, no substitutions please!!

Kyle’s review of the night: “This is the best pasta dish you have ever made, ever. It has the perfect amount of heat, the flavor is incredible, the bread crumbs add such a nice crunch and this is superior to restaurant quality!”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup or so of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. orecchiette
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs and/or whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe
  • 2 links Italian hot sausage, 2 links chicken sausage removed from casings
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until the stems are tender, roughly 2 to 3 minutes. This takes some of the bitter bite out of the broccoli. Then put in a strainer and set aside.

In a pan over medium-low heat, warm 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. I added in some fresh chopped parsley I had on hand.20120310-221830.jpg

 

In your pan warm olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes and break up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with the sausage. Season with salt.

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Add the pasta to the boiling water until al dente. (The pasta will absorb the vitamins and minerals from the broccoli and take on some extra flavor which is nice!) After you put your pasta in, add your chopped broccoli to the pan.

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When the pasta is ready add to your saute pan (reserve some of the water in case you need to add it in). Add cheese and stir well over low heat to combine. Top with the bread crumbs, cheese and maybe a drizzle of more good quality olive oil and serve.

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Mangia! Buon Appetito!
Here’s our dog Kona taking a nap while we eat. So cute I had to share.

What to do with that leftover meatloaf?

Since I made my Monday meatloaf on Sunday night, on Monday I had to figure out what to do with this:

(leftover meatloaf, bleh!)

So I made it into this:

Pasta with Meat Sauce! (yum!)

Chop up the meatloaf with a wooden spoon in a pan on the stove, add some left over tomato sauce, or canned tomatoes (then I would add more garlic) and serve with whole wheat pasta and fresh grated cheese. (I do recommend using the medium sized whole wheat shells but I was out). I added some red wine and dried herbs since I was out of fresh basil. Any of your favorite spices will do.

Another option to consider: If I had fresh bread I would have cut the meatloaf into 1” slices, put it in a frying pan to crisp up the sides, and put it on a sandwich with mayo and lettuce! That is one of my favorite home made sandwiches.

If you would prefer Mexican over Italian, add some tomato sauce, ancho chili powder, oregano, cumin and other Mexican spices. Cook it down for a few minutes and make tacos! Don’t forget to top with non fat sour cream and cheese.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Mushroom and Chicken

During the busy week I managed to throw together a  tasty pasta dish packed with protein,  healthy fresh vegetables and some cheesy pasta.  This dish is really easy to throw together and it can be modified to your liking!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 package chicken tenders, cut thin and bite sized
  • 1/2 package baby bella mushrooms
  • Garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2lb whole wheat angel hair pasta
  • Fresh grated parmesan Cheese (few tablespoons)
  • Fresh grated gruyere
  • White wine (half a cup)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:   

  • Put a pot of boiling water on. You will cook pasta until al dente.
  • Slice up your mushrooms and zucchini very thin so it will go well with the angel hair pasta.
  • Saute garlic, mushrooms, zucchini and chicken in olive oil on medium-high.  Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  After a few minutes add the white wine and let reduce.  (If you want, here would be a good time to add a tablespoon of butter. I didn’t but it sure would add some more flavor.)
  • Add the milk and turn the heat down to very low.  Grate in the cheese (as much as you want to make it nice and creamy!)
  • When the pasta is done add it to your saute pan to let it absorb the flavors of your sauce and mix it together well.
  • Serve topped with some more parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley (or basil).

Mac n’ Cheese

What’s better than hot, cheesy mac n’ cheese with a nice crunch on top? Try this recipe and know it’s just as delicious leftover!! It’s up to you what cheeses to use- there are so many options! In my experience, Trader Joe’s has a huge selection for the best prices.

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Photo Courtesy of Snap Photography

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2lbs Cavatappi (make sure you pick a noodle that can hold the cheesy sauce)
  • Milk
  • Stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups) I used two different kinds of gruyere
  • 8 ounces white Cheddar, grated
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pancetta chopped up real tiny, sauteed in olive oil with garlic clove (to be removed later)
  • Bread crumbs (I use half panko and half italian bread crumbs. The panko is great for the crunch)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Truffle oil to top it off!
This made 7 ramekins. If you aren’t as lax with your ingredient amounts as I am, check out Ina Garten’s recipe which I modified: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe2/index.html

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Put on a pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook just short of al dente. I don’t like mushy pasta and remember it will keep cooking after you take it out of the water and put it in the oven.

3. Saute pancetta in olive oil until crispy (not burnt) and set aside. Save the olive oil to wet bread crumbs with later.

4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, some parmesan and salt & pepper. Add the pasta and stir well. Pour into a casserole dish or the ramekins seen above.

5. Chop fresh parsley and mix together with the breadcrumbs. Pour in the pancetta and olive oil. Combine and sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese. You can always add some melted butter for extra flavor! Instead, I topped it with truffle oil for a luxurious twist. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

ENJOY!!

Shabbat Zuppa di Pesce

Tonight we went to my parents for a family dinner and the Jewtalians enjoyed a delicious Italian meal; zuppa di pesce, of sorts.

Mom bought all sorts of fish and you can feel free to select your favorites.

Ingredients

  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Can San Marzano tomatoes (chopped or whole)
  • Imported Italian Linguine
  • Mussels
  • 1 Lobster Tail
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Sole

Instructions

  1. Saute garlic, shallots, parsley and red pepper flakes in olive oil.
  2. Add in chopped tomatoes, season with S&P.
  3. Begin adding fish in order of cook time. We especially don’t want to over cook the lobster or shrimp or it will get chewy.
  4. When you put the mussels and clams in, put a lid on the pan to steam them for a few minutes. If any shells do not open, throw them out.
  5. Top with parmesan cheese and serve!

Roll Your Own! (Lasagna)

A twist on regular lasagna that is slightly less time consuming. Feel free to substitute your own creative ingredients!  I’ve also made this recipe with eggplant and zucchini or with meat sauce!

Ingredients
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Mint
  • Oregano and/or basil
  • Prosciutto
  • Spinach
  • Egg
  • Tomato Sauce (make your own fresh or use leftovers!)

Instructions

  1. Boil water and add noodles. Cook al dente (They will cook more in the oven)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a mixing bowl add ricotta (reduced fat), mozzarella (I try to use part skim) and parmesano reggiano cheese. Add s&p, fresh chopped mint and 1 egg. Mix together well.
  4. Take first noodle and add spoonful of cheese mixture. Add some prosciutto and spinach and roll into a ball, then lay into casserole dish. Repeat until dish is full.
  5. Pour tomato sauce over entire dish, top with mozzarella and parmesan. Cover with tinfoil and cook for about 40 minutes- you want the sauce and cheese to be bubbling!  Take the tinfoil off for the last 10 or so minutes to get the cheese finished off nice.  Top with fresh basil or oregano.
  6. It’s easy to serve with one roll per person! (or 2 if you love it as much as me)

Additional notes

You can make this for two in a small dish, or make in 2 dishes, freeze one for later and eat one tonight!

Shrimp, tomato and arugula pasta

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Kyle loves this easy to make shrimp pasta! Feel free to substitute arugula with spinach if you prefer.

Makes 3-4 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • Pasta of your choice (I usually use whole wheat penne)
  • Tomatoes (2-3)
  • Arugula
  • Garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes (as much as you want!)
  • Chicken Broth (1/2 a cup or so) and/or white wine
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Shrimp (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put pot of boiling water on for pasta.
  2. Add olive oil to saute pan and add shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes. Pour in chicken broth.
  3. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. place tomatoes in pan and cook for another minute. (Using the chicken broth rather than more olive oil will keep this meal figure friendly!) Then add al dente pasta to the pan and incorporate.
  4. Add a few bunches of arugula and mix together with low heat for a minute or two. After everything has combined serve with parmesan cheese on top!