Posts Tagged ‘italian’

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. I’m going to say that again, because you’d never expect it from the title, and it definitely bears repeating. This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. It was very tasty, but somehow manages to be good for you (relative to other alfredo recipes, at least.

The sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I would’ve liked, so I may adjust the amount of flour next time. Using bacon drippings for a roux was a nice touch, as it added a smoky, salty flavor that wouldn’t have been included in the traditional butter. Normally, you don’t need a roux, of course, but it helps to compensate for the 1% milk in the place of the more traditionally heavy cream.

This wasn’t the best alfredo sauce I’ve ever had, but it was absolutely the tastiest “light” alfredo sauce I’ve ever tried. We’ll be making this again.

Photo from cookinglight.com

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, January 2010

Ingredients

  • 1  (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine (I substituted a high-quality dry pasta)
  • 2  slices bacon, chopped
  • 1  teaspoon  minced garlic
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • 2/3  cup  (about 2 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, and pepper.

Note: Even with all that cheese, the sauce wasn’t terribly thick. The original recipe suggested using some of the starchy pasta-cooking water to make the sauce, but I skipped it because I was afraid the results would be too watery. I think that was the right call. We had some leftover grilled chicken, so I threw that on top, but it would be fine without the chicken. whatever you prefer.

A Gnocchi Fiasco

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I am a pretty good cook, and I don’t mind saying so. I don’t think I’d be blogging if I wasn’t. Often, my friends will make comments like “Of course it’s good, you made it!” or “Everything you make tastes good, Teri.”

I’m here to tell you that that is not always the case. Sometimes…things happen. Like with these gnocchi.

We’ve got this Meatless Monday thing going on, as you know. So far, we’ve had Chipotle Bean & Cheese Burritos, Fake Lasagna (Cheese only, obviously!), and Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Panini with Fresh Mozzarella. I’m still struggling to find a meal where David truly doesn’t miss the meat, but we’ve been doing pretty well with the dishes we’ve tried. Last week, I attempted a dish from the “Hearty Pastas” section of Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta: Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce. It sounded delicious, and Giada made the gnocchi sound almost simple. The pictures were beautiful, and I really like gnocchi in general, but have never tried to make them. I thought with a crusty Italian bread and a Caesar salad, we’d have a pretty good meatless meal.

And if the gnocchi had worked out at all, we probably could have.

I’m not sure what went wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing. The dough came together, I rolled it out like play-dough snakes and cut the gnocchi into one-inch pieces. The recipe sounded so simple. Giada promised they were worth the work, even though gnocchi are available at your regular store. She lied to me.

Most of the gnocchi just crumbled in the water. They crumbled further when they hit the butter sauce. I ended up with a saucepan full of extra-gummy, gluey, greasy-from-all-the-butter mashed potatoes. Yuck. (I also tried to use light butter, which was a mistake. It melted way wrong, and tasted worse than margarine! I can’t blame Giada for that part, but the damage was already done.) We ended up ordering a four cheese pizza from Homemade Pizza Company. They saved dinner!

I’m posting the recipe from Giada below, in case anyone with real gnocchi experience has some ideas on how to correct the recipe, or maybe a more trustworthy gnocchi recipe to share. I’ll admit, I’m a little leery of trying gnocchi again–seemed like a lot of work, and in this case, all for nothing. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that.

In the meantime, I will take comfort in the fact that over at the Food Network website, two people seemed to have failed at this recipe for every one person that made it work, so it’s not just me.

Here's what the gnocchi should have looked like, from The Food Network

Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (1-pound) russet potato
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

Directions

Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside.

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Microwave the potato until tender, turning once, about 12 minutes. Cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well. Mash in the salt and pepper. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the egg; discard the remaining egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a wooden paddle with ridges or over the tines of a fork to form grooves in the dough.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the hot thyme-butter in the skillet. Toss to coat.

Spoon the gnocchi and butter sauce into shallow bowls. Top with the Pecorino and serve.

Note: Absent some expert advice (and I don’t think Giada is reading!), I don’t think I’ll be trying this again. Just too much work to risk it not turning out again. And I can get gnocchi off the shelf anywhere, including my local supermarket.

Lasagna Burgers

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I’ll admit that the idea of this burger came out of Everyday with Rachael Ray. I thought it was a good idea, but only skimmed the recipe. When it came time to try my hand at the lasagna burgers, I didn’t have the recipe handy, so I basically just threw it all together. Here’s what you need:

Lasagna Burgers

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 4 good-quality sandwich buns (recommended: ciabatta)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • garlic salt
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1  cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and salt and pepper. Use your finger tips to mix, then score into four sections and shape into four patties.

2) Grill as you would hamburgers (we used a grill pan on the stove), using a little bit of olive oil or nonstick spray to keep the burgers from sticking.

3) While the burgers are cooking, melt the the butter in a small glass dish in the microwave. Stir in the garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Brush onto both halves of each sandwich bun and toast in a toaster oven or under a broiler until golden and crisp.

4) While you toast the bread and cook the burgers, combine the spaghetti sauce and remaining ricotta cheese in a small sauce pan over medium-low. Cook until the cheese melts into the sauce and the mixture is warmed through.

5) When the burgers are done, it’s time to assemble! Take the bottom half of a toasted sandwich bun and spread it with 2 tablespoons of the cheesy sauce mixture. Top with a burger patty and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Finish with the other half of the garlic toasted sandwich bun.

And there you have it–a burger with all the classic flavors of a cheesy lasagna with garlic bread.

Stuffed Shells

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

This is a great healthy Italian dish. It’s classic stuffed shells, but lightened. The combination of cottage cheese and ricotta cheese makes a rich, cheesy stuffing that melts beautifully. (If you aren’t a fan of cottage cheese, don’t worry–this doesn’t taste a thing like cottage cheese) Though you could serve this meatless, and I’m sure it would be good, I added a spicy chicken Italian sausage, which was delicious.

Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 pound cooked pasta, jumbo shells, approximately 24 shells
  • 1 pound cooked Italian Sausage (I used Amy’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375̊°F.

Mix together cheeses, salt, garlic powder, oregano and pepper. Spread a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on bottom of a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.

When cooked shells are cool enough to handle, fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in baking dish. When all shells are in dish, spoon remaining tomato sauce over shells. Cover pan and bake for 20 minutes. Yields about 4 shells per serving.

Note: I’m sure we’ll be trying this one again. It was very tasty, though a little too saucy. Next time, I think I’ll cut back on the sauce a bit. The Italian Sausage I used was precooked, so all I did was slice it and saute it in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

This was a nice, quick recipe that we enjoyed quite a bit. I butterflied or normal extra-thick pork chops, which cut down quite a bit on the cooking time, and made these a nice weeknight dinner. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentis from the Food Network. This recipe was super-easy and will be a nice addition to our regular pork-chop rotation (There are only a handful of ways that we normally have pork chops, but I think this made the list). The lemon juice added a surprisingly delicious tang to the chops.

parmesan crusted pork chops

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis’ Everyday Italian

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Spaghetti Sauce

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I’ve been crazy-busy at work lately, traveling at least a couple of days a week. That’s why the blog’s been so quiet–between the actual being on the road part, and the being exhausted when I get home part, there hasn’t been a lot of noteworthy cooking going on. There also hasn’t been a lot of grocery shopping going on. Much of what’s happened lately has been thrown together at the last minute, based on whatever’s in the cabinet.

Which led me to make my own spaghetti sauce. We had tomatoes, tomato paste, shallots, garlic—just no actual spaghetti sauce. I could’ve gone to the store, I guess. But instead, I took the “lazy” way and made the sauce from scratch. It turned out to be quite tasty!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine

Heat the oil and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, red pepper and wine. Simmer 30 minutes or more over very low heat, stirring occasionally. For meat sauce, add one pound of browned ground beef or cooked Italian sausage. Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.

Bruschetta Grilled Chicken

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This simple recipe was the perfect weeknight meal: very quick, easy cleanup, and delicious. I love the tomato/basil/mozzarella flavor combination just about any time I come across it, so this was sort of a no-brainer to throw together. Marinated chicken is flavorful and juicy when grilled (or cooked in a grill pan, for us apartment-dwellers!), then topped with fresh tomato salsa-style sauce and a bit of mozzarella. The result was kind of like a Chicken Parmesan, but much lighter (both in a caloric sense, and in the sense that it’s June, and it’s hot outside, and Chicken Parmesan sure feels like a winter dish). For a quick and easy side, I tossed warm penne pasta with olive oil, garlic, a bit of the fresh tomato “salsa” and some Parmesan cheese.

Bruschetta Grilled Chicken

  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigarette salad dressing, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

1. Pour 1/4 cup of dressing over chicken in a ziploc bag, refrigerate 20 minutes.

2. Grill chicken over medium heat on a grill or in a heavy-bottomed grill pan (about 6 minutes). Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil and remaining dressing.

3. Turn chicken over, top each piece of chicken with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle a bit of cheese over the top of each chicken breast. Cover, and cook an additional 7-8 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Note: I used a new Basil & Parmesan vinaigarette by Kraft to marinate the chicken, and it was very tasty, but any Italian style dressing that you like would work here. Because we don’t have a grill, or a lid for our grill pan, I stuck the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes to melt and crisp up the cheese. Totally optional.

Baked Rigatoni with Cheese & Italian Sausage

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Last week, I handed David a cookbook and asked “What should I make for dinner?”

I should not have been surprised when he thumbed to the Pasta chapter for inspiration.

Nor should I have been shocked to hear him suggest variations on the theme of noodles, cheese, and sausage.

I wasn’t surprised. I really wasn’t. I ended up making this Rigatoni with Cheese & Italian Sausage from the Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh cookbook.

Side Note: don’t think I’ve talked much about this cookbook before, and I really should. I picked up it up at Costco in a two book set (bundled with the Bon Appetit Cookbook). I like both books. Though they don’t have pictures of every recipe, what it lacks in illustrations it makes up in volume. Each book contains hundreds of recipes. The one we’re talking about today is broken down into sections on Starters, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Pasta & Rice, Chicken/Poultry, Salmon, Shrimp, Meat, Potatoes, Vegetables, Breakfast, Quick Breads, Frozen Desserts, Cookies & Brownies & Pies & Cakes, Custards & Puddings & Fruit Desserts, and Drinks.

Food Network Magazine has divided its recipe sections into weeknight cooking and weekend cooking. I really like that distinction. I love to cook, but there are things that just don’t make sense for a Wednesday night, and I appreciate the ability to flip through recipes knowing that I have the time and energy to prepare any of them. This set from Bon Appetit really makes the same kind of distinction. While I like both books a lot, the Fast Easy Fresh cookbook is really for weeknight cooking. The Bon Appetit Cookbook is more weekend fare. (P.S. Not to oversell it, but for the price of either book, you also get a free subscription to Bon Appetit magazine. Not a bad deal at all, if you’re into that sort of thing. And I am!)

Now, back to David’s pasta.

The Rigatoni with Cheese & Italian Sausage is just what the title of the book promises. The recipe came together fast, and uses just enough prepared ingredients (the marinara sauce, sausage) to be simple–without compromising flavor. Freshly grated cheese and fresh herbs bring a brighter, fresher taste to the dish than the pasta we’d normally throw together on a weeknight.

rigatoni

Rigatoni with Cheese & Italian Sausage
Adapted from the Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh cookbook. (4 servings)

  • 1 pound box rigatoni noodles
  • 8 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cook rigatoni in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Saute sausage in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking up into crumbles as it cooks. Add garlic, stir 2 minutes. Drain off excess drippings and return to medium-high heat.

3. Stir in marinara sauce, crushed red pepper, and cooked pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to 9×13 inch broilerproof baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan over top.

4. Place under broiler until cheese melt and begin to brown, watching closely to prevent burning (about 1 1/2 minutes). Sprinkle rigatoni with fresh parsley and drizzle with olive oil.

Toasted Ravioli

Monday, May 11th, 2009

When I was about 7 years old, an Olive Garden opened near our house. Of course, by “near our house,” I’m pretty sure I mean almost an hour away. Which to a 7 year old, seemed even longer.

When we got to the restaurant, there was the longest wait for a table that I had encountered in my young life. I didn’t really go out to dinner all that often, so that isn’t surprising. And a brand new restaurant, one that doesn’t take reservations? Of course, everyone should’ve seen that coming. I remember waiting impatiently with my parents and grandparents for our table. It felt like standing in line at Great America. I was hungry, and thirsty, and tired. My sister, who couldn’t have been older than 2 or 3 was of course eveb more crabby than I was. We waited and waited and waited.

The one bright spot in this endless wait was when the host brought out appetizers for the full lobby. They were just samples, a show of good faith, a thank you for sticking it out through the long delay. But I remember them, in part because I was starving, and in part because they were delicious.

Toasted Ravioli.

My mind boggled at the thought. I’m pretty sure the only ravioli I’d eaten actually came in a Chef Boyardee can. Maybe a frozen tray. Nothing against the food I grew up with (there are plenty of great cooks in my family) but ravioli wasn’t something that we ate with any regularity.

Toasted ravioli, though. That was something I could get excited about. They were hot and crispy, with spicy marinara sauce for dipping–just like a mozzarella stick. I don’t think we would have ever tried them if the host hadn’t been passing them around. It sounded too weird, and we didn’t really order appetizers back then. I’m glad we got the chance to try them though, because everyone liked them. My mom will still order them for her entree at the OG, and when I worked there as a server in college, they were a favorite of mine.

These days, though, I can make them at home. It’s super easy.

Toasted Ravioli

  • 1 package refrigerated bite-sized cheese ravioli (if you want, you can use frozen, but be sure to thaw them completely first. You can also use any flavor you like, but I like the cheese ones for this).
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. You want the oil to shimmer, but not smoke. If it starts to smoke at all, turn off the heat and let it cool down before trying again.

2. Place beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs and cheese in a second shallow dish.

3. Dip ravioli in eggs to coat, and then dredge in bread crumb mixture until covered completely. I usually do this in three separate batches. Let the ravioli sit for about 5 minutes, to make sure the coating really sticks to the pasta.

4. Place ravioli into preheated oil in a single layer. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown. Remove to a large plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all ravioli has been fried. If you’re making these for a large group (they’re great for that!), cooked ravioli can be held on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven to keep them warm and crisp. Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Spinach Fettuccine with Proscuitto, Peas, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

This was the third dish we made at my pasta making class, and it was the one I liked the best. Of course, it being a pasta making class, we made our own fresh spinach pasta, but you could certainly use a store-bought variety here.

This was a really quick and tasty dish, with bright, fresh flavors. I was impressed with how delicious it was, especially for how quickly it came together. I’m sure you could add grilled chicken, but I didn’t feel it was necessary at all. The original recipe called for roasted red pepper strips in place of the sun-dried tomatoes, but I like the sun-dried tomatoes, so that’s what I used.

Spinach Fettuccine with Proscuitto, Peas, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 lb spinach fettuccine, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces diced prosciutto
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook your spinach pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain, and keep in a warm place.

2. While pasta is cooking, brown proscuitto in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the edges begin to get crispy, add the cream and simmer until reduced by half–about 10 minutes. The cream sauce will be considerably thicker.

3. Add tomatoes and peas and continue cooking until heated through, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Toss with hot pasta and Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Note: Ideally, you want to finish the pasta and the sauce about the same time. The timing will depend largely on whether you use fresh pasta, which will only take about 3-4 minutes to cook,  or dried pasta, which will take at least 9-11 minutes to cook. If your timing is off, don’t stress–just keep the pasta as warm as possible, and keep the whole dish over heat for a bit once you add the pasta to the sauce.

Also, I bought some kind of weird dried/fresh pea hybrid meant for soup instead of fresh peas. I won’t make that mistake again.