Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Caramelized Onion & Yogurt

Genius Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Yogurt

Here’s a genius trick I can take absolutely no credit for — make a big batch of caramelized onions and freeze them to use in all sorts of yummy things like this simple, yet amazing pasta dish. Continue reading

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Cacio e Pepe, A Taste of Rome

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe collage

Learning how to cook an Italian classic.

 

This is one of those recipes that is so easy it hardly even needs a recipe. It has a list of 3 ingredients (maybe four, but more on that later) and is just only slightly more complicated than boiling pasta. But despite it’s basic-ness Cacio e Pepe one of the most delicious and satisfying pasta dishes ever dreamed up. In fact, when my husband and I were in Rome this last summer we of course made it a point to eat as much great food as possible (no surprise there). Despite the many absolutely amazing meals we had, the one we returned to on our last night (and we were both in total agreement) was a bowl of Cacio e Pepe, a slow-roasted porchetta sandwich, a simple salad and a glass of wine from a little stand down by the Tevere which was set up as part of a summer festival along the river. Last meal in Rome? No contest. Okay maybe dining al fresco by the light of a full moon, bathed in the special magic of one of our favorite cities had something to do with it, but the food really was perfect.  Continue reading

Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus & Mint

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I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.

BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!

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Sicilian Pesto Trapanese

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese | A Little Yumminess

One of our favorites as far as pasta sauces go is summery, bright green pesto Genoevse (basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil). When we start to see cherry blossoms on the trees and get a whiff of spring in the air (like right about now….) I start counting down the days until we begin to find giant bunches of fragrant Italian basil at the farmer’s market. My kids have gotten past the aggressively green hue of pesto Genovese and happily scarf it up and I always keep a special, secret little hoard in the way back of my freezer just for me.

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Michael Ruhlman’s Tomato Water Pasta

If you can dice a tomato and boil water then this pasta is for you, courtesy of chef Michael Ruhlman. More of a technique than a recipe, it’s the perfect way to showcase a few gorgeous end of summer tomatoes. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you, this is real-deal pasta. We’ve heard it’s one of Chewbacca’s favorites when he has friends around for dinner. Like Chewbacca, I love the technique of macerating the tomatoes and making a sauce from their juices fortified with a little butter, then tossing in the chopped tomato at the last minute to keep that fresh tomato flavor and texture. You can put this one together in just minutes, your kids will scarf it up — what’s not to love?

Invite some friends and serve this with some garlicky sauteed shrimp our favorite zucchini carpaccio and you are set for a great summer supper!

Get the recipe and a how-to video right here from Michael Ruhlman’s website.

Pasta with Broccoli and Breadcrumbs

Here’s a recipe that has saved the day at Casa Stacie on more than a few occasions. Breadcrumbs on pasta may sound kind of weird, but trust me, it’s major yum. The breadcrumbs provide both crunch and a delectable toasty-ness, a nice change of pace from the usual sauced pasta. I also love this recipe because it’s quick and super frugal. You’ll feel like a hero when you throw it together on one of those days when you never managed to make it to the market and there’s nothing but a head of broccoli staring back at you in the refrigerator. The other ingredients are so basic, you’ll probably find them in your pantry: pasta, breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil, a lemon and some parmegiano reggiano. [PS: here’s a good trick on keeping lemons fresh]

Pasta with Broccoli and Breadcrumbs

DIY Breadcrumbs — Homemade breadcrumbs really do make all the difference so if you can find the time to make them, it’s worth it. Just chuck leftover bread crusts and slightly stale pieces in a freezer bag. When the bag is full, let them thaw and blitz them in food processor until you have coarse crumbs. If you want a little extra nutritional boost, you can throw in some wheat germ or golden flax seed with the bread. Then toast the crumbs on a cookie sheet until they are crisp and dry. Approx 10 minutes at 350. Make a bunch and store them in an air tight container — your pantry will thank you!

  1. Toss breadcrumbs with good olive oil and a few pinches of salt to taste. Use at least 1 cup of crumbs per pound of pasta. I always like to make a little extra because they’re so, so yummy. Toss the olive oil-coated crumbs in a hot pan until they’re nice and toasty.
  2. Wash and trim broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Cook until tender crisp (steam, saute or even microwave with a a few tablespoons of water).
  3. Cook your pasta until al dente in well-salted water.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, mince several cloves of garlic and saute in olive oil until they just begin to turn golden.
  5. Immediately add the cooked pasta and broccoli and toss. Sprinkle with half the breadcrumbs and toss well again. Add a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a generous grating of parmegiano reggiano. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can add a few spoons of pasta water if you want a moister dish.
  6. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs (a little minced parsley would be good too, but it’s totally optional). You can reserve some crumbs for sprinkling at the table if you like along with some parmegiano, good olive oil and lemon wedges.

Tortellini in Brodo

Have you ever had one of those ultimate meals — one your mind wanders back to, even years later? Tortellini in brodo at a little restaurant in Bologna (I can’t even remember the name of the place!) ranks in there as one of the best things I have ever eaten. A few humble tortellini swimming around in some broth — but somehow impossibly delicious. Tim says his grandmother’s cousin Alina used to whip up homemade tortellini for lunch whenever they came to visit her in Lucca, Italy. I regret that I never had the chance to sample them. You can’t get much better than homecooking from an Italian nonna!

So, peeking into my refrigerator the other day and seeing a half of a package of gyoza wrappers and a few pieces of prosciutto, I got the inspiration to take a try at tortellini. It’s really not too hard but it does take some time, so better saved for when you’re not rushed to get dinner on the table. You can do some of it in advance (the broth, the filling) and it’s a nice way to use up extra roasted meat you might have on hand.  This definitely falls into the category of something extra special to cook for people you love! Most kids love simple, uncomplicated food, so this should be a big hit.

This will make 100+ tortellini. You can freeze the extra tortellini on a cookie sheet  lined with waxed paper and transfer to a freezer safe container once they are frozen.

Shopping List:

  • 1/2 pound chicken (breast or thigh, your choice)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • Several slices proscuitto and/or mortadella
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ~100 Fresh pasta squares (wonton wrapper will do)

Extra Chicken-y Broth

I got a little inspiration in the broth department from Charlie Trotter’s “Egg Drop Soup with Ginger-Braised Chicken” recipe from the “Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home” cookbook. He makes a super flavorful broth by simmering chicken in stock and using the resulting braising liquid for the final dish.

  • In a hot pan, sear the chicken for a few minutes on both sides until golden.
  • Roughly chop 1 small onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk and add to the pan, cooking 5-10 minutes until caramelized.
  • Add 2 quarts chicken stock and simmer 30 minutes or so or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken.
  • Put the stock through a strainer and skim off the fat. Or to make things easier make the stock the day before, strain and refrigerate, removing the fat after it has cooled.

Tortellini:

  • Remove skin/bones from the cooked chicken and finely mince. (BTW: In lieu of or in addition to the chicken, you could substitute any combination of cooked meats you might have on hand… a good opportunity to use up leftovers)
  • Add a few slices of minced prosciutto and/or mortadella, one egg yolk, and a cup or so of grated parmesan cheese, and just a teeny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. You could add well-drained ricotta or whatever herbs or seasonings you desire.  Mix until well combined. Since all but the egg yolk is cooked, definitely taste and adjust the seasonings — you could even mix in the egg yolk after tasting if you’re concerned about it.
  • Fill each pasta square with a tsp of filling. Lightly wet the edges and fold in half to form a triangle. Press to seal making sure there are no air pockets. With the triangle point facing up, bring the 2 bottom corners together around your finger and pinch to seal. Gently fold back the triangle point (the one that was facing up). Place on a kitchen towel without letting the tortellini touch. I used circular gyoza wrapers just because I had them and it worked out fine. Homemade pasta if you really have some time on your hands, would be phenomenal, of course.
  • Here’s a video if you want a quick little video tutorial on folding tortellini.

Serve

  • Heat the broth. If you want you can throw in a handful of peas and some steamed, diced carrots (I know, not traditional, but I’m always trying to get more vegetables on the table).
  • Cook the tortellini in well-salted water for 8-10 minutes.
  • Spoon the cooked tortellini into bowls and ladle the broth (with the optional vegetables) over. Add some grated parmesan cheese on top.