Tag Archives: pasta

Wherein I disregard a popular maxim

I’m planning on making the baked macaroni and cheese I’m about to tell you about next week. Originally, I thought about waiting to get some better photos before sharing the recipe with you. But, to do so seemed cruel.

It’s that good.

I admit, I had my doubts. Midway through preparing it, that maxim about testing out recipes before making them for company came to mind. The texture of the sauce suggested that the egg had not been tempered properly. The liquids weren’t thickening. I mixed in the pasta and it was a soupy mess.

Andrea, who was helping me cook, suggested that we taste it. The flavor was good. We comforted ourselves with that. And, baked the first batch of it since, really, there were twenty people coming and although the bean salad was good, that wasn’t going to be enough for the vegetarians.

Once it finished baking, I realized the genius of the dish. The sauce is just soupy enough to ensure that the final baked product is perfectly creamy while the pasta remains perfectly cooked. And, the topping? Seriously, the best part. Crunchy and golden and I couldn’t make a second batch fast enough for all of my guests. Many were waiting by the kitchen for the second batch to be ready.

The macaroni and cheese recipe doubles easily, so it’s the perfect hearty dish to serve to a crowd as the weather gets cold.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
6 TBS butter, divided
3 TBS flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

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[filler]…[tomatoes]…[more filler]

Consider yourself warned: this post is going to be short.

My initial draft went something like this:

[Filler].

Something about a whirlwind trip to Texas for work.

[More filler].

Musings about the heat in Texas and the dryness of the land.

[Even more filler.]

Segue into having too many tomatoes.

With a little bit of time, it would have been great: funny, charming, well-thought out. I had high hopes for it. And, then, my flight home got delayed, and I got caught up in catching up with my family before the holiday.

*For the proverbial record, I had plans to come up with some honeyed apple cake for Rosh Hashona, too, but, there’s always 5773 for that. Also for those of you observing, consider this my way of saying L’Shana Tova, since there will be no dedicated post.

So, I’m simply going to say that I’m making good on a promise that I made earlier this week: another use for the tomato soup recipe that I shared. Namely, minestrone soup.

A few years ago, minestrone soup became one of my go-to comfort foods, and this version is my favorite. You start by boiling pasta and potatoes in the tomato soup, allowing the starch to thicken it. I’ve included my recommendations for other additions, but the beauty here is that it’s one of those catch-all recipes, where you can add in whatever you have on hand. Given how much filler has been in this post, it seems somehow appropriate it.

Minestrone Soup

6-8 cups of tomato soup
1 cup pasta, such as dried small shells
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
1 cups kidney beans
3 celery ribs, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 cups broccoli, diced into small pieces
1 cup leafy greens, like kale (optional)
2-3 diced tomatoes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the tomato soup to a simmer and add in the pasta and potatoes. Heat for 6-7 minutes, until the pasta is tender, then add in the remaining ingredients. Heat until the potatoes and kale, if including, are fully cooked, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as main course, 6-8 as an appetizer

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Variations on a Theme

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Milk Bar between needing to buy treats for my friends’ birthdays and looking for reasons to buy myself birthday cake truffles.

Each time I’m there, I can’t help but be a little sad that I didn’t come up with the concept of Franken Pie myself.

Seriously, it’s inspired: a mash up of all different varieties, so you don’t have to commit to just one. It’s gluttony at its finest.

In other words, not particularly sustainable, healthwise. But, the mash-up concept is.

So, here, is another mash-up, inspired in spirit by the pie, where in I combine several of my favorite foods as of late, including but not limited to broccoli rabe (I’ve only recently become a convert), pasta, and this sauce. If forced, I’d probably still go with the pie, but it’s nice to know that mash-ups can be healthy[ish], too.

Whole Wheat Penne with Tomato Braised Broccoli Rabe

1 pound broccoli rabe, rinsed and cut into approximately 1″ long pieces
2 cups whole wheat penne
14 oz tomato puree
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
Parmesan cheese, for garnishing

Blanch your broccoli rabe, setting aside.

In a large pan over a medium heat, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted completely. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for approximately 2 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown. Add in the tomato paste and simmer for 5 minutes, allowing flavors to combine, then add in the broccoli rabe and reduce the flame. Cook for another ten to fifteen minutes, braising the broccoli rabe until it is tender.

While your sauce is simmering, cook the penne in well salted water, approximately eight to ten minutes. Once the pasta is al dente, strain out the pasta, reserving the pasta water, and add it to the pan with broccoli rabe. Stir and simmer for one to two minutes, adding the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce as necessary.

Divide the pasta into four servings and garnish with parmesan.

Serves 4

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A quick one

I had the best intentions of writing a long post about what I’ve been up to, regaling you with stories from these last few weeks, but, well, you know what they say about intentions.

So.

It’s been a busy few weeks, filled with birthdays: both my own and that of a dear friend and other happy things.

And, it’s been a series of weeks marked by adjustments of all kinds, most signifcantly of the professional sort. Last week, I spent a good twenty minutes attempting to pull a report that should have taken me maybe two. Afterwards, what I should have done was obvious, as it usually is. Needless to say, that’s a mistake I’m not likely to make again.

So, we learn by doing. I’m sure you can appreciate why I haven’t wanted to spend too much time outside of work in front of a computer. But, I have been busy cooking.

Stay with me here, I’ll be sharing the rest of the backlog of recipes soon.

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Cannelini Beans

1 pound broccoli rabe, cut into 1″ pieces
4 strips bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBS red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups pasta water, reserved
1 can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
salt, to taste
1 TBS lemon juice
2 cups rigatoni or other short pasta

In a large pan over a medium heat, heat the bacon until it is crisp and the fat has rendered. Take the bacon out of the pan, setting it aside and strain the pan, leaving about 2 TBS of bacon fat.

Heat the bacon fat and add the red pepper flakes, onion, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent. Add the lemon juice and deglaze the pan.

Add the broccoli rabe to your pan and then cover with the chicken stock, allowing it to come to a simmer, stirring periodically.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your rigatoni according to the instructions.

As the broccoli rabe braises, add approximately 2 cups of the pasta water, and simmer. Add in the canellini beans, and stir.

Once the pasta is al dente, strain out the pasta, reserving the pasta water, and add it to the pan with broccoli rabe. Stir and simmer for one to two minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. If the pasta is too dry, add more of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce.

Divide the pasta into four servings and garnish with the reserved bacon.

Serves 4

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So simple

This is one of the easiest tomato sauces you’ll ever make.

Don’t let that fool you.

It’s also one of the best.

How to explain it? In this case, the key is in the simplicity of it. The three (yes, you read right, three) ingredients work in perfect harmony, complimenting each other until they become something greater, richer.

It’s safe to say that I could eat it by the panful.


No doubt a good thing since, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by the lapse in posts, time has been scarce here, so simple dinners are in order.

I’ll be back in full swing soon enough, I hope, perhaps making fresh pasta along with this sauce. Until then, I hope you have more time than I do. But, if not, this recipe comes together in a flash.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet

1 onion, halved
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
4 TBS butter

Add butter, onions, and crushed tomatoes to a large saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer and heat covered for 45 minutes.

Remove onions, taste and add salt if necessary. Serve over pasta.

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Ode to a Kitchen Gadget

Here’s the thing about being known as someone who loves to cook amongst your friends and family: whenever a gift-giving occasion comes along, you’ll surely be given gift cards to specialty cooking stores. Mind you, I think this is fantastic.

But, when it comes to birthday gifts, I’m a bit of a stickler. I think that the gift card purchase should be something gifty.

Sure, I may need a new vegetable peeler, but where’s the fun in that?

This largely explains my recent acquisition of—and subsequent need to find uses for—a mechanical pastry bag.

It also explains the pasta maker. Now it’s possible to have fresh pasta in, um, much more time than it takes to boil pasta!

Ridiculous, I know. But we were a little giddy in Williams Sonoma and the pasta really is that much better. Trust me on this one. Or, better yet, make it yourself.

And, stay tuned for some homemade sauce recipes…

Fresh Pasta
Recipe courtesy of Mario Batali

The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour. Next time I make it, I’m going to use a semolina for a more authentic flavor. That said, the all-purpose flour version was great.

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs

Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the eggs.

Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.

Note: the kneading and resting portions of this recipe are essential for making a light pasta. Do not skip them.

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Easy Does It

I never much cared for tomatoes growing up. There was the taste, which all too often simply wasn’t of much, and then there was the texture, which was far too occasionally mealy. It was only when I met a man with a membership to a local CSA that I fell in love.

And, can you blame me? Finally, tomatoes that tasted like, well, tomatoes. Firmly fleshed, fragrant, deep red. Had I had these growing up, I’m sure that I would have felt much differently. It was early September and suddenly I wanted to eat them at every meal, including breakfast, while they were still in season.

Then again, I remember my father eating beefsteak tomatoes, garnished with a touch of salt and pepper, as if they were apples throughout my childhood, so, really, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

pasta with oven roasted tomatoes

In the summer, when the crops have reached their peak, I like to prepare them simply as well—my go-to summer salad consists of tomatoes with a splash of lemon juice, cucumbers, red onions and some salt and pepper, that’s it—but it’s not quite summer, yet. And, while the farmer’s markets around me are (finally!) showing signs of Spring, the tomatoes aren’t quite there.

So, what’s a girl to do to get her tomato fix?

tomatoes

Three words: oven roast them

The low heat enhances the flavor, getting every last bit of out. As a quick snack, it’s perfect served with some crusty bread. But, it’s even better with pasta.

What I love about this dish is the ease with which it comes together. You can make it while you’re busy doing something else—chopping up the tomatoes and shallots takes literally no time at all. Then it’s up to the low heat to do most of the work for you. All you need is patience (noticing a theme here, are you?). I like to take the tomatoes out of the oven while they’re still a bit juicy, and use the juices they give off to coat the pasta, but if you leave them a little longer, the pasta water can thin down the sauce as well.

See what I mean? This pasta is forgiving in that way—the perfect dinner for a week night, really.


before after

Perfect, too, for bulking up. Simply add more pasta, tomatoes or beans and you’re well on your way to feeding a crowd.

If you’re looking to bulk the dish beyond that, play up the tapas inspired flavors by adding in some chorizo and topping with grated manchego. Then, ask one of the members of that crowd you’ve ill-advisedly invited over for dinner to bring the Rioja. It’ll be almost like you’re in Spain.

rigatoni

Rigatoni with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

About the tomatoes: I used campari. They’re already sweet and about medium sized. You could certainly use cherry or grape, just half them instead. Or, if you’re using bigger tomatoes, cut them into smaller pieces. They key here is really to keep the size of the pieces fairly uniform so that they cook consistently.

1 lb rigatoni
0.75 lbs tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1 TBS sherry vinegar
1 tsp oregano
1 can (15.5 oz) cannelini beans
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a glass, oven-safe dish with olive oil, and place the quartered tomatoes in it. Add the oregano, shallot and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and heat for approximately 1 hour, until the tomatoes have shriveled and the shallots have begun to caramelize. Add in the sherry vinegar and stir. Leave in the oven at a low heat until your pasta is ready.

In the last ten minutes of cooking your tomatoes, cook your pasta in well salted water.

Once the pasta is al dente, remove the tomato mixture from the oven. Drain the cannelini beans and add them to the tomato mixture.

Drain the pasta, preserving a cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the tomato and bean mixture. Stir. If the sauce is too thick, add some of your pasta water to thin it out. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4

Click here for a link to a printable version of this recipe.

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