Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Open-face Garlic Bread

I love garlic bread.  From the old-school foil pouch of soft French bread, sliced and slathered with butter, wrapped in foil and baked, all the way to thick, crunchy chewy slices of buttery Texas toast, and pretty much everything in between.  Years ago, my mom introduced our family to a new twist on garlic bread.  Not only is it delicious, but it is super-fast to create, and can be whipped up if you remember at the last minute that your pasta and salad meal is missing that all-important accompaniment. 

The only caveat is that it can (and occasionally does) burn if you aren’t watching it like a hawk.  A lower broiler setting and a lower shelf can prevent scorching, while encouraging the cheese and butter to heat and bubble nicely.

Open-Face Garlic Bread

1 large loaf bakery-style French bread, split open lengthwise (if using a thin baguette, reduce the amount of butter, garlic and cheese accordingly)
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter, softened to “smear” texture
1-2 cloves (1-2 teaspoon diced) garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; more to taste
Fresh diced parsley

Heat broiler to high (if you dare) or low); place rack one  notch away from broiler.  Mix butter, garlic and Parmesan together.  Spread evenly on bread.  Sprinkle with diced parsley.  Place under broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the bread has toasted and the cheese is bubbly.  Slice into one- to two-inch slices and serve.  Makes 8 servings; you can easily cut the recipe in half and use the rest of the loaf for French toast or something else.

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Recipe of the Week: Spicy-Sweet Pasta alla Vodka

This week’s recipe is inspired by a recipe on the back of my box of Morton’s Kosher salt;  I’ve changed it to suit our tastes.  Vodka sauce can be made with or without vodka (I’m not sure exactly WHAT it adds to the sauce, since it has no taste, and the alcohol burns off during cooking.)  Shrug.  This sauce uses canned red peppers instead of the token pepper flakes most recipe calls for; it’s distinctly good enough that I’m going to figure out how to can my own red peppers next year, because at four bucks a jar, it’s worth it to DIY.

This recipe makes 6 to 8 “hearty” servings, and reheats well as long as you are mindful of the cream in it – overheating can cause it to curdle.  It’s an excellent choice for a meatless meal; in fact, my diehard carnivores didn’t miss the meat.

Sweet-Spicy Pasta alla Vodka

16-20 ounces dry pasta (penne, rigatoni and linguini are all good, traditional choices for this sauce)
1 jar (32 ounces) tomato & basil or marinara sauce (I like Giada de Laurentis’ sauce from Target)Gaiada de Laurentis sauce from Target
1 jar roasted red peppers, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup sour cream (you can substitute Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup half and half (or more to taste)
1/2 cup vodka (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan or Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, shredded

Bring large pot of water to boil.  Add a dash of salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain and rinse; set aside.

In a large saute or chef’s pan, bring the marinara sauce, vodka (if using) and pepper slices to a simmer.  Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.  Ladle some of the hot sauce into the sour cream and half and half; stir until smooth, then return to the saucepan (this added step prevents curdling the dairy products.)  Season with pepper sauce, salt and pepper to taste.  Place pasta in large shallow serving bowl and spoon sauce over, tossing gently to coat.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve.  You may also want to garnish with some fresh, coarsely chopped basil or scallions.

Serve with a salad and breadsticks and enjoy!

Happy eating!

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The pasta lineup

Many of my formative years were spent immersed in a melting pot of Italian and Mexican culture and cuisine.  And I’ve always been a macaroni girl (it’s as patriotic as Yankee Doodle, right?  I mean he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni…)


Apparently the pasta thing really stuck.   It’s why low-carb diets and I are star-crossed and doomed to fail.

In my pantry at any given time, you will find – without fail – several basic dry pastas, including elbow macaroni (big and/or small), spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagna and penne pasta. These days, the last three are whole wheat or tri-colored as we try to eat a little healthier. With those staples (plus a few cans and jars of tomato products) at hand, I know I can throw SOMETHING for dinner no matter what.

Then there are the seasonal pastas: ditalini in the colder months (for pasta e fagioli) and rotini or fusili in the summer, for pasta salad. The other day I found squiggly radiatori for BLT pasta salad since true fusili (spiral not corkscrew) is rare in these parts.

Occasional guest stars include bowtie, shells (big and small), linguini, mezze penne, mostaccioli which means “little moustache” and is a little hard to get these days); gnocchi, large egg noodles and Amish noodles (small and big), orzo and manicotti.

For whatever reason, wagon wheel pasta has never been on my list of go-to pastas.  Maybe because most of my encounters with it have been mushy.  But I hear Barilla has a miniature version of rotelle or ruot, so maybe I’ll have to give it a try one of these days.

In case you’re wondering if I skipped it, no – ravioli is not  found on my pantry shelves, ever.  Not since my kids outgrew canned pasta, and they sometimes ate it despite my groans.  I’m a snob when it comes to ravioli – it must be fresh (or frozen) and preferably homemade.  Occasionally I’ll pick up a package of fresh tortellini.  Most of the fillings aren’t quite what I’d put in my own, but I’m too lazy to make it myself.

I guess you can tell, we love our pasta, in pretty much all shapes and sizes.

While typing this post, I took a peek in my pantry.  And this is what my pasta shelf (yes, I have a shelf of pasta – doesn’t everyone?) looked like.

The “just-moved-in” look

Oh dear.

I confess, I can get a little gung-ho about pantry organization. Surely it didn’t look like that when we moved in a few months ago, did it?

But daily use does tend to wear off that just-moved-in, everything-in-its-place look.  A box or container comes out, then goes back in; new boxes come home and get tucked in wherever they’ll fit.

Before you know it, it’s a jumble.

After I got a look at it through the objective eye of the camera lens, I did a quick assessment of what I had already, determined the number of various sizes I would need, and made a dash to the store to pick up 6 or 7 canisters to put everything in its own matching stackable storage container.

Now it looks like this.

Having everything matchy-matchy isn’t particularly frugal or necessary.  But before you dismiss it as frivolous (and a little OCD), consider these reasons for using a set of mix-and-match modular storage containers:

  • This is front-and-center when you open my pantry.  It needs to stay tidy, regardless of how I do it.  Otherwise, I can’t find what I’m looking for and wind up buying a second or third box of this-or-that.  Been there, done it.
  • These stacking modules by Rubbermaid are designed to create tidy and accessible pantry storage.  Everything is the width of the shelf and can be stacked.  No more peeking and peering around the front row to see what lurks back behind.
  • Aesthetics and accessibility aside, with everything out of boxes and sealed up, if critters should appear in one tub of pasta, they can’t easily migrate to the others.  (Unless you cook your pasta almost as soon as you bring it home, you are bound to encounter some hibernating stowaways at some point.  Gross, but true.)
  • I can even argue for cost-effectiveness.  A box of pasta can run anywhere from $1 to $6, depending on brand, type and size.  The containers were a one-time investment of about $4 each.  Cutting down on accidental over-buying and eliminating the risk of having to clear out all the pasta if it gets buggy can pay for the containers over time.  (That’s my rationale, and I’m sticking to it.)

So now that you’ve seen mine, do tell:  what are your must-have pasta shapes? And what do you store them in?

Happy cooking!

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Recipe of the Week: Homemade Raviolis

Last week, I bragged on my sister-in-law Donna’s spaghetti sauce.  A very dear friend (also named Donna) showed me how to make raviolis the way she learned from her Italian mother and extended family.  I try not to think of how many years ago that’s been since we stood in my mom’s kitchen and made these!

Making raviolis is a labor of love, but they freeze well, so if you find yourself with an afternoon (and a few like-minded friends or family members handy), try making a batch or two.  If I mention we’re having raviolis for dinner, my family’s eyes light up because this is one of their ultimate comfort foods, right up there with chicken and homemade noodles, or tamales smothered in chili verde (green chili and pork stew.) 

The Other Donna’s Raviolis

Filling Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canned spinach, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery  (dice it small)
1 teaspoon parsley
3 or 4 eggs (3 if large/extra large; 4 if using medium)

Pasta ingredients
5 cups flour (I use at least half semolina)
5 eggs
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Brown beef, drain.  Add other ingredients in order given and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Knead the pasta ingredients together and roll out 1/8-inch thick.  Cut into small (1 1/2-inch) circles.  Place a small amount of filling in center of each circle; fold over to form a half-circle and seal edges with a fork.  (you may need to moisten the edge with a little water to get a good seal. ) Allow to dry for a half-hour, then freeze or cook immediately.  (I place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour, then transer to plastic ziplock freezer bags in batches of 12 raviolis per bag.)  To cook, drop into boiling water and cook until done – usually about 8-10 minutes from frozen (they will float and the pasta will become al dente.)  Serve with good marinara or meat sauce.  Makes appproximately 4-5 dozen raviolis.

I confess I no longer roll mine by hand – a pasta press is a wonderful tool.  I run the pasta through to create strips that are the proper thickness, then plop on the filling; cover with another strip of dough and cut into squares instead of the cute half-moons in her original recipe.

Happy cooking!

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Recipe of the Week: Spaghetti Sauce

I confess, I rarely make my own from-scratch spaghetti sauce – I either use a mix and some tomato paste, or a jar of vodka sauce.  (Heresy, I know.) 

But when I do make sauce from scratch, this is my go-to recipe.  It was shared with me by my sister-in-law Donna, who is an excellent (if irregular) cook and a gracious and talented dinner hostess.  I think her sauce has a perfect blend of seasonings, and it’s easy to mix together with staples I always have on hand; in fact, we had enjoyed it last night on a break from our low-carb dinner plan.

Next week I will post another Donna’s recipe; it’s for homemade raviolis, which a longtime friend (and maid-of-honor in my wedding) showed me how to make many many years ago.

And  in case you’re wondering, yes – the two recipes can be used together and become doubly delicious.  Thank you to both Donnas for our long friendships and sharing these recipes with me.

Donna’s Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes (I used stewed with Italian seasonings; I also puree them before adding to the sauce)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon onion flakes
2 cloves garlic

Brown ground beef and drain.  Add other ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.  Serve over warm cooked spaghetti noodles or other pasta.

Happy cooking,

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Recipe of the Week: Chicken Tetrazzini

Several years ago, a college professor and mentor invited a group of us to dinner at her house. She served a scrumptious baked pasta dish and later shared the recipe with me. She explained the original recipe was for a mushroom dish,  but she preferred chicken. I like both in mine!

It is a terrific dish to make for a crowd, as it is easily doubled, holds well, and can be prepared ahead of time and baked just before serving. It also reheats decently.

Kay’s Chicken Mushroom Tetrazzini

1 package (12 ounces) fettucine noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 – 3 cups milk
1/4 cup sherry (cooking sherry is acceptable, but it is very salty, so adjust your seasonings accordingly)
20 ounces sliced provolone cheese; tear or shred 12 ounces

Coat a 9×13 glass dish with cooking spray and place half the fettuccine noodles in the bottom. Sprinkle with half the chicken and set aside.

In large saute pan, melt butter, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add flour; stir well until bubbly. Slowly add milk, sherry and 12 ounces of shredded/torn cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts (mixture will be gloppy.) Pour half the sauce over the chicken. Layer the remaining noodles, chicken and sauce. Arrange remaining cheese slices over top.

At this point, it can be refrigerated overnight or baked for immediate serving. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes; uncover and bake an additional ten minutes or until top is golden and bubbly. If baking from refrigerated state, add at least 5-10 minutes to the covered baking time.

Happy cooking!

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Recipe of the Week: Ranch Noodles

Disclaimer:  unlike the vast majority of recipes I post here, this is not a hands-down favorite among my family.  In fact, the yeas and nays split along gender lines, and the male members of my family don’t care for this side dish as a rule.  However, *I* like it, and so does swimmer girl when she’s carb-ing up during swim season.  Occasionally I throw out a cook’s prerogative card and make it, despite the less-than-stellar reviews it generates from my family.

I think it pairs particularly well with Garlic-Lime Chicken, and the creaminess nicely balances any piquancy from the peppery rub.

Creamy Ranch Noodles

1 package (8 ounces) fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup ranch dressing (I prefer Hidden Valley Ranch in this, but a store brand will do in a pinch)
1/2 cup fresh coarse grated Parmesan cheese
Coarsely  ground pepper


In medium to large saucepan bring water to a boil, add salt and noodles; boil until al dente (usually about 12-14 minutes).  When noodles are done, drain and rinse.  In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except pepper.  Add well-drained noodles and stir to coat; cheese will become soft and a little stringy.  Sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Serve warm. makes 4-6 servings.  Leftovers can be reheated gently, but they aren’t as good the second time around.

Happy cooking!

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