Tag Archives: pasta

On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

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The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

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On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

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The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

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Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

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Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

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OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

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We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

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Birthday Dinner Recipe: Fresh Pasta

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When Rem and I were on vacation, we celebrated my 55th birthday with a delicious home-cooked dinner.  I haven’t made pasta for years and years but love the slightly irregular, slightly chewy fresh noodles and knew it was part of my desired menu.  We also had flat roasted chicken, asparagus, and a yummy chocolate cake for dessert.

This was a fresh spinach and herb pasta which made beautiful, springy, green noodles but the flavor was pretty mild.  I will try it again with more herbs next time.

Here is a little slide show made from pictures of mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting the pasta, and cooking it (some of the same photos are throughout the recipe as well).

Fresh Spinach & Herb Pasta

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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3 cups fresh spinach and herbs (any combination of spinach, arugula, green onion, chive, basil, green onions or other fresh greens and/or herbs will work fine – we used mostly spinach,  with some very finely minced rosemary, thyme and some dried basil because we didn’t have fresh)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling out pasta

2 large eggs, room temperature

You may need 1 or 2 Tablespoons water

Optional: Cornmeal for rolling out pasta

Directions:

Wash and dry your fresh greens and/or herbs.

Coarsely chop the greens and herbs and place in a sturdy bowl and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Use a pestle, dowel or other implement to grind the salt and herbs together into a wet paste. (I used a metal spoon) and set aside.

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Mound the flour on your work surface.  Make a well in the flour with your fingers and crack eggs into well.  You can start with a fork but I just used my fingers to start mixing the eggs and flour together.

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Add the herb paste to the flour and egg mixture and continue mixing.  You may need to add a tablespoon or two of cold water to form a rough dough with no dry flour left on the counter.  However, I didn’t need any water.  The dough will be fairly stiff.

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Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Note: you may also choose to do this in a stand mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle. If you use your bread machine, cancel the cycle after about 10 minutes of kneading, and remove the dough.

Divide dough into 4 pieces.  With a rolling pin, roll out 1 portion of dough at a time on a large cutting board lightly sprinkled with flour or cornmeal, rolling dough quite thin, about 1/16th of an inch, although I don’t think mine was that thin.

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Cut into narrow strips, or roll up the whole sheet and then cut.

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In these pictures, when I rolled the whole sheet of pasta before cutting, it should have been in a looser roll.  Be sure to unroll the cut pasta.

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Toss strips lightly with a little flour or cornmeal and allow to dry for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

If you aren’t going to use all the pasta, you should dry it for a few hours before storing.  I tried making nests, but my pasta was on the thick side and ended up sticking to itself.  I should have left it just spread out (or maybe hanging over a broom handle!)

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Drop the pasta in and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, testing for doneness after 3 minutes.

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Drain the pasta, add a simple sauce or just butter and Parmesan cheese and serve.  We used a splash of heavy cream (left over from another recipe), some butter, Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

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Mangia!

Thanks for your visit.  Still to come: flat roasted (or spatchcocked) chicken and chocolate cake.

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Walking Sea Ranch & Turning 55

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I’ve celebrated another birthday at Sea Ranch and so far 55 agrees with me. Yes, I’m falling apart…

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…but slowly.

I managed a zipline course just days before my birthday which included both fear and fun in exhilarating measures.

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I decided to walk the length of the Sea Ranch bluff trail while on vacation, something Rem suggested and reminded me I’d done a few years ago. With my Fitbit I could log my steps and mileage and Rem agreed to drop me off and pick me so I wouldn’t have to backtrack. It is a beautiful way to experience the coast.

Sunday, March 1

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Walking north from the Sea Ranch Lodge on the first day I soaked in the gorgeous ocean views, the soothing sound of the waves, and the familiar smell of salt air and sage-like plants along the trail.

The trails here often seem like something out of a fairy tale, with bridges crossing small creeks, tunnels formed from wild hedges and seals barking on the rocks and in the water below the bluff.

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Rem and I weren’t sure our cellphones would work so I’d picked a spot to meet about 4 miles up the coast, where a short trail linked the bluff and the end of the aptly named (and currently blooming) Wild Iris street, near the White Barn.

Distance: 4.21 miles. Steps: 8,600.

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That afternoon, Rem and I baked my birthday cake, using the recipe I’d previously made as cupcakes: Chocolate Cake with Guinness. I remembered it being a delicious, moist cupcake, not too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavor and a slight earthy quality from the stout.

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Monday, March 2

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We started my birthday by driving down to Shell Beach (the beach closest to the house) to watch the sunrise. Low clouds thwarted that idea but once up and out, I decided to walk south from Shell Beach to meet up with where I’d ended the day before, Wild Iris. There are numbered trail posts that help to match your location with the map, though they don’t indicate distance, which is too bad.

Rem headed back up to the house and I headed down the coast for the first of two walks that day.

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Walking along I enjoyed some of the Sea Ranch architecture. Houses are in shades of grey and brown, like driftwood. From the street side, this one is tucked down into a berm and the grassy roof helps it to blend into the surrounding landscape.

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From the side you see skylights and the grass roof.

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From the ocean side it looks more conventional, with more skylights and plenty of windows to enjoy the view.

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Another house reminded me of photos I’ve seen of African rondavels.

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This house has a wall that is almost all glass. A little greenhouse-type structure in the corner protects the hot tub from chilly coastal winds while retaining the view.

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Once again, Rem and I met at Wild Iris. Back at the house I made one of my favorite breakfasts: a fried egg sandwich with bacon on a toasted English muffin, and Rem gave me the birthday card he’d made.

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Cheeky. But he can get away with it since 1. I love that he makes me laugh and 2. He gave me a spa day at Imperial Spa  in San Francisco for my gift.

Sitting in the window seat reading and crocheting on my very-slow-growing scarf was an important part of my morning.

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…as was putting together my birthday cake. I split the two cake layers to make four thin ones and layered them together with semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

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Buttercream frosting with instant espresso powder was the finishing touch. I did a crumb coat (thin layer of frosting to keep the crumbs in place), let it sit in the fridge a bit before swirling on a ridiculous amount of frosting. The leftovers went into the fridge to eat sandwiched between graham crackers.

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After lunch (open faced tuna melt with Swiss cheese), I went on the next bit of my walk. I started at the trail head by Shell Beach and headed north again.

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Rem and I met at the corner of Tide Pool and Sea Drift, not far from the Del Mar Center.

Distance: 4.73 miles. Steps: 10,728.

I brought The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman along on the trip and picked out “Flat Roasted Chicken” for my birthday dinner but instead of the tiny potatoes she fixed with it, I’d been wanting to make hand cut pasta for ages. So we did! I’ll write another post soon with more details on the spatchcocked chicken and fresh herb pasta. Suffice to say, it was a red-letter day dinner.

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It was ambitious and we were both tired after the busy day, but it was fun cooking together and both dinner and dessert were delicious. Rem surprised me with another gift certificate (for art supplies) and we finished the day with a soak in the hot tub.

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Tuesday, March 3

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Walking north from the spot I reached on Monday, I noticed the different textures of the landscape I was passing through.

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The views are often breathtaking and the path continued to unfurl like a story, hiding then revealing portions as I walked.

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I passed one of my favorite Sea Ranch homes, one whose interior I’d love to see, as well as others that caught my eye for their charm or quirky design.

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This huge play fort is carved out of trees and hedges and is large enough for me to stand in without stooping.

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For the 50th Anniversary of The Sea Ranch, historical trail markers such as this one have been added alongside the path.

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Although it isn’t part of The Sea Ranch, I wouldn’t consider this bluff-trail walk complete without a coda: the portion in Gualala Point County Park. I gave a small mental cheer when I passed the last numbered trail post, but continued on.

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I thought of my dad along this last section, remembering one summer when we both had our bikes at the house. We rode at different times of day, and would leave small offerings for each other at the last sign on the path just before reaching the beach. A pine cone or two stacked pebbles would be arranged for the other person to find on their next ride.

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I looked for pebbles to leave and thought about all the feathers I’ve found since he died. I hadn’t seen any feathers on the bluff, although until then I hadn’t been looking for them, and thought it would be nice to find at least one small feather.

Sure enough, I found just that: a tiny white bit of down, about the size of my thumbnail. I kept looking and found a second and then third itty bitty little feather. It made me laugh because if you asked my dad for a small portion at a meal, he would dish up about a teaspoon of lasagna or a single strand of spaghetti. Somehow, those three tiny feathers made me think he was saying, “One small feather? Here you go, is this small enough?”

Coming to the last curve, I took in the last gorgeous views.

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I found several small pebbles and left them at the sign by the beach.

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Walking back to where I was meeting Rem I saw several clusters of daffodils I’d missed before. We have daffodils blooming at home in San Rafael in two planter boxes on our patio. There are also daffodils in bloom in front of the Sea Ranch house and many other homes here, which makes me happy because they always remind me of my birthday.

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Distance: 4.66 miles. Steps: 10,323. (The extra part, in Gualala Point County Park, was 1.46 miles and 7,011 steps, which is reflected in my total distance).

This walk felt like a gift to myself that I unwrapped as I walked along.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Chicken, Spinach, and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Bowl of Pasta

I wanted pasta for dinner the other night because I’m still eating a bit cautiously after oral surgery last week and the idea of tender pasta was appealing.  Actually, I love pasta and I’m happy to eat it even when my mouth is fine.

We had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a box of spinach in the freezer, so I did a quick search online for recipes using chicken, pasta and spinach and found this recipe on Healthy. Delicious.  Of course you could cook up a chicken breast or two and start with a big bag of fresh spinach but for me this recipe is about a yummy and easy dish with stuff I had on hand.

Chicken, Spinach and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Adapted from Healthy Delicious

Ingredients:

8 ounces pasta – a big, chunky shape worked well

3 tablespoon butter, divided

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup half and half

1 1/2 cups milk – I used 2%  because that’s what we have in the fridge

4 ounces feta cheese

2 cups shredded chicken

1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach – thawed with moisture squeezed out

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

zest from one lemon

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

I was rushing with the photos so I completely forgot to show the butter, milk and flour.  Or the oregano.  Oops.  I wanted to share this recipe here because it looked like a winner, but I also wanted to get dinner made and to sit down and eat it. The lemon zest I decided to add later, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of the lemon.  Sorry.

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While it is cooking, proceed with the sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes, so it is a nice, toasty color.

Put the half and half and milk in a microwave safe bowl or large, glass measuring cup and heat.  My microwave isn’t super powerful and 1 minute was enough so the mixture was warmish.  It could have used another 20 seconds.  You don’t want it to boil, just to warm it up before adding to the butter/flour roux.

Add the warm milk mixture to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes or until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently.

The pasta, meanwhile, should be about done.  When pasta is done, drain in a colander, and return to the pot.  Toss with remaining tablespoon of butter.

Stir chicken and spinach into pot with pasta.

When sauce is cooked, remove from heat.  Stir in crumbled feta cheese, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and lemon zest.

Pour sauce into pot with pasta and stir to combine.

Serve.

Delicious!

Creamy Feta-Sauced pasta

All the flavors and textures worked well together.  If I’d been a little more organized, I would have saved some of the lemon zest for garnish and made prettier pictures, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.  It was very good and something I’m sure I’ll make again.  I hope you give it a try.

Thanks for your visit.

 

 

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Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Big Pan of Pasta

Two of my nieces mentioned “grown-up mac n cheese” on Facebook in the last few weeks and after the second mention, I wanted to know what it was.  I knew what it wasn’t: little elbow pasta with some milk, some butter and some orange powder.

They both wrote that it was put together with whatever looks good.  For example: Leah recently made it with aged Gouda and chanterelles.  Miriam mentioned Gruyere, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.  Yum!

I decided on some guidelines for my own version: I would use an interesting shape of pasta, pick out some really good cheese (not the conveniently grated stuff – this is the time to grate your own), put in some vegetables and why not add some sausage?  I grocery shopped before I got Miriam’s recipe with bacon as an ingredient.  The only thing about that is that I think bacon can become soft in a casserole.  But maybe if I put the bacon on top I can get good bacon flavor and keep the bacon crispy. This time I made it with sausage.

In the meantime, this is the recipe I adapted from Miriam Faw who adapted it from Alton Brown.  Use it as a springboard to make your own version of Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. Or if your a purist who thinks adding anything much past macaroni and cheddar cheese to a pan of Mac & Cheese is wrong, call it “Baked Pasta”.  Because it’s really yummy and worth making.

Mac & Cheese Ingrediments

Miriam’s recipe called for 8 oz. of pasta but I decided to make a pound of pasta so that Rem and I could each have our own version (mine has cauliflower and mushrooms), so keep in mind my pictures show a larger batch of pasta.  I’m writing out the recipe for one 2-quart casserole.

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

8 oz. pasta (I used campanelle pasta, little bells, that I think look like little trumpets, but how about rotelle or wagon wheels? Or try some cavatappi pasta – ridged, corkscrew shapes)

2-3 cups greens such as spinach, kale and/or chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 large egg

12 ounces cheese, combination such as smoked Gouda, Jarlsberg, Gruyere, and Parmesan, shredded

1/2 teaspoon paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.  When it is nearly done, drop the greens in with the pasta.  They just need a minute or two.  Drain the pasta with the greens.

Pasta with Greens

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the sausage.

Browning Sausage

Remove when done, leave the grease in the pan and sauté onions a few minutes, then add cauliflower and sauté a few minutes more, then add mushrooms and garlic and saute until everything is tender and cauliflower is golden brown.

Sliced Mushrooms

(Note: I roasted the cauliflower in the oven because I intended to use half in this recipe and have half for snacking on.  If you want to go that route, put the cauliflower florets on an oiled backing sheet and bake in a 400 oven for about 25 minutes until it looks kind of toasty and is tender.  Another options is to drop the cauliflower into the boiling pasta pot a few minutes before the greens)
Roasted Cauliflower

Remove all veggies from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and melt the butter in it, over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add Flour to Butter

Stir in the milk and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in some of the hot bechamel to temper it.  Stir this mixture into remaining sauce in pan.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Grated Cheese

Cheese into Sauce

Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Before baking

If desired, combine panko crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.

 Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Closer Mac & Cheese

The days are shorter and even though we’ve been having sunny weather, it is colder at night and this delicious pasta will provide all the warmth and comfort of the macaroni and cheese of your youth.

Pear Candles

I’ve heard that my other niece, Caitlin, also prepares an awesome mac and cheese, so maybe I’ll try her recipe another time.

Pasta and Salad

Speaking of awesome recipes, I’m so proud of Miriam!  She entered a cooking contest on The Sam Livecast which is a cross between a radio talk show and a TV cooking show, filmed in Sam’s home in San Diego.  The whole family was thrilled when she was picked to cook her recipe, Lamb and Feta Burgers, on the show.

The eight contestants were paired up and they did an episode with each pair.  I don’t know how many entries they had for the contest, “Cook Your Way to Kauai”, but Miriam got on and you can see the episode here!  At the end of all the rounds, the winner will earn a trip, along with a guest, to Kauai with the Sam Livecast team.

OK, you should still watch the episode, but she WON her first round and went to the semi-finals. In this round they had to feature eggs and Miriam only knew two days ahead of time.  She prepared giant ravioli (made from won ton wrappers), stuffed with a ricotta, herbed goat cheese, Parmesan and raw egg yolk (it cooks just enough while the pasta is cooking) with a brown butter, bacon and sage sauce. She practiced her recipe all of ONE TIME before cooking it ON CAMERA on the show.  Did I mention they have 30 minutes to fix their dish? Whew.  Watch her semi-final here.

Have you watched it yet?  Because she won that round too!  For the Grand Finale, still in only 30 minutes, they had to feature fish and pineapple, no shellfish and no stir fry.  Miriam prepared Goat Cheese Crusted Halibut and Pineapple-Cilantro Risotto. Watch the final here to see if she won.

I have not yet tried any of these delicious looking and sounding dishes, but here is a link with all the finalists recipes for you to try yourself.

Thank you for stopping by.

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‘Make This Pasta’ Update

Over a year ago I wrote about a delicious pasta dish, Pappardelle with Broccolini, Feta, Pine Nuts and Lemon, a favorite from a cooking class taught by Tom Hudgens, author of The Commonsense Kitchen cookbook.

In my post I mentioned making it a year earlier for my friends, Carson and Ian, who were new parents at the time.

Well, when we saw our friends in Seattle, we made the Pappardelle Pasta for dinner and Carson suggested an addition that she had made to the recipe: prosciutto.  She also suggested using Lemon Pepper Pappardelle if you can find it (which we found and bought at Trader Joe’s), it’s perfect for this dish.

We made a double recipe of the pasta and added a 4 oz. package of sliced prosciutto that I cut into pieces and frizzed up in a pan with a little olive oil.

That little baby?  He’s now this grown up guy, digging into the pasta.

While I was running for my camera to get a photo of the finished dish, he was grabbing the tongs and helping himself!

Before vacation was over, we made another double batch at the last place we were staying.  Broccolini or Broccoli were not favored by some of the guests, so I added spinach to the pasta and though it wasn’t the best substitute, it was still very tasty.  Asparagus or zucchini would have been better choices.  I also cooked some broccoli and served it on the side instead of in the pasta.

If you tried it before, you might want to try it again with (or without) the addition of some fried prosciutto.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should make this pasta!

Here’s how.

Not pictured: Olive oil, prosciutto, red pepper flakes, black pepper

Pasta with Broccolini, Feta Cheese, Pine Nuts & Lemon

(Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen, Tom Hudgens)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
8 oz. pasta (Pappardelle or other shape)

salt (for the pasta water)

1 lb. broccolini, or sprouting broccoli, or broccoli

2 to 4 oz. pine nuts I love this pasta for dinner by itself so use the greater amount of nuts.  If you are serving it as a side dish, you can use fewer pine nuts.

extra-virgin olive oil

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (see note about feta, below)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

2 to 4 oz. sliced prosciutto (cut each slice into quarters) (optional)

black pepper to taste

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

A note about feta:  I can sometimes find an Israeli sheep’s milk feta called Pastures of Eden at Trader Joe’s. It is creamy, tangy and salty and wonderful in this recipe.

Directions:

Cut the broccolini into large bite-sized pieces – in half lengthwise and crosswise is enough.

If the pine nuts aren’t dry-toasted , toast them in a dry pan over medium heat until they are golden brown.  (Trader Joe’s has dry-toasted pine nuts).

Bring 1 1/2 gallons of water to a rolling boil, and add a heaping tablespoon of salt. Throw in the pasta, and boil, stirring frequently, until the pasta is almost, but not quite, cooked through. Add the broccolini to the pot and cook until pasta and broccolini are tender.

While the pasta and broccolini are cooking, zest the lemon (I love my microplane grater for this task) then cut lemon in half.

If using the optional prosciutto, fry it up crispy in a bit of olive oil.  Set aside.

When both the pasta and the broccolini are cooked, scoop a bit of the pasta water out of the pot and set aside. Drain pasta and broccolini.

In a large bowl (or I like to use the pot in which I cooked the pasta), combine the pasta and broccolini with a splash of olive oil, a bit of the pasta water, 2/3 the feta cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, squeeze on juice from one or both halves of lemon as desired, add red pepper flakes if using, and black pepper to taste.

Now put it in the serving bowl, top with remaining feta and crispy prosciutto, if using, and serve.  You can also set aside a bit of the lemon zest and pine nuts and sprinkle those over the finished dish.

Thanks for the visit.

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You Should Make This Pasta!

Pappardelle Pasta with Broccolini, Feta, Pine Nuts and Lemon.  Last summer I took a wonderful cooking class with Tom Hudgens, author of The Commonsense Kitchen and a College of Marin colleague and friend.  Every class culminated with a shared lunch of all the wonderful, creative, seasonal food that Tom had just taught us how to make.  This pasta is so easy and so delicious that it became part of my regular repertoire of dinners for but then I forgot about it for awhile.  I saw pine nuts at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago and remembered this pasta.

A note here, this is really Tom’s recipe – I’ve hardly changed it at all.  I just like it more lemony than the original which has lemon zest but no lemon juice, so I’ve added lemon juice.  This is a great one-pot dinner because the broccolini goes into the same pot as the pasta to cook.  I use more pine nuts than the original recipe but if you are serving it as a side you can go with the smaller amount.   I usually don’t use the chile pepper flakes – but I include them for those of you who want a little more bite.  The recipe is wonderful exactly as written but it’s also great if you don’t have pappardelle pasta.

I made it last week with bow tie pasta and broccoli. Although the recipe calls for broccolini it is equally yummy with broccoli.  In fact, I’ve even substituted toasted, slivered almonds for the pine nuts and even though it isn’t quite as good as the original, it’s really still a very satisfying combination.  What is crucial in my opinion is pasta, feta cheese, lemon zest, olive oil and a green vegetable plus some toasty nuts.  It makes a big, comforting bowl of pasta.

Pasta with Broccolini, Feta Cheese, Pine Nuts & Lemon

(barely adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen, Tom Hudgens)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
8 oz. pasta (Pappardelle or other shape)

salt (for the pasta water)

1 lb. broccolini, or sprouting broccoli, or broccoli

2 to 4 oz. pine nuts I love this pasta for dinner by itself so use the greater amount of nuts.  If it is part of a larger meal, you can use fewer pine nuts (Trader Joe’s has dry-toasted pine nuts)

extra-virgin olive oil

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (sheep’s or goat’s milk, if possible)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

black pepper to taste

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Cut the broccolini into large bite-sized pieces – in half lengthwise and crosswise is just about right.

If the pine nuts aren’t dry-toasted , toast them in a dry pan over medium heat until, they are golden brown.

Bring 1 1/2 gallons of water to a rolling boil, and add a heaping tablespoon of salt. Throw in the pasta, and boil, stirring frequently, until the pasta is almost, but not quite, cooked through. Add the broccolini to the pot and cook until pasta and broccolini are tender.

While the pasta and broccolini are cooking zest the lemon then cut lemon in half.

When both the pasta and the broccolini are cooked, scoop a bit of the pasta water out of the post and set aside. Drain pasta and broccolini.

In a large bowl (or I often use the pot in which I cooked the pasta), combine the pasta and broccolini with a splash of olive oil, a bit of the pasta water, 2/3 the feta cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest, squeeze on juice from one or both halves of lemon as desired, add red pepper flakes if using, and black pepper to taste. Now put it in the serving bowl, top with remaining feta and serve.  You can also set aside a bit of the lemon zest and pine nuts and sprinkle those over the finished dish.

When I make this dish I use one of my very favorite kitchen tools, a microplane grater.  It is incredible for getting loads of zest off a lemon and if I splurge on a chunk of good Parmesan cheese the microplane grater makes a fine, snowy pile.  It is also a good tool for grating fresh ginger.

I made this pasta for my friends, Carson and Ian, last year when I went visit them with their new baby boy, Eamon.  Here is Eamon from that night in June of 2010.

One last note: I usually buy fat-free feta cheese and have used that in the pasta recipe, but Tom recommended some Israeli sheep’s milk feta from a place called “Pastures of Eden“.  He found it at Woodland Market in Kentfield and said it was probably the best feta cheese he’d ever tasted.  I bought some today and it is incredible!  It is creamy yet still crumbly, tangy and salty.  It was marvelous in this dish.  If you are looking at a specialty shop for feta cheese, keep an eye out for it.

UPDATE: I found the Pastures of Eden Feta cheese individually packaged at Trader Joe’s.

Thank you for stopping by.  Now go make that pasta!

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