Posts Tagged ‘italian’

Alton Brown’s Homemade Pizza Dough

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
I don’t have very exacting pizza tastes. I like frozen pizza and thick crust pizza and thin crust pizza. I like Pizza Hut and Aurelio’s AND Lou Malnati’s. I like pizza from a box.
David on the other hand, is a bit more picky. Though he also likes Aurelio’s and Lou Malnati’s. He’s not that into my pizza from a box, and he’d rather not eat frozen pizzas. Of course, when he wanted us to make pizza from scratch, he went to Alton Brown’s recipe. I have mixed feelings about this recipe. We’ve struggled with the recipe a little bit–once it was way too sticky, another time, the dough didn’t really rise or stretch. (Could be due to the age of the active yeast we used, though). You also have to prepare the dough way in advance…it needs to rise in the fridge for about a day.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with this pizza dough recipe, but I’m holding out for one that’s a little bit easier to work with.
Alton Brown’s Pizza Pizza Dough
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups bread flour (for bread machines)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Olive oil, for the pizza crust
  • Flour, for dusting the pizza peel

Directions

Place the sugar, salt, olive oil, water, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and remaining cup of flour into a standing mixer’s work bowl. Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer on low and mix until the dough just comes together, forming a ball. Lube the hook attachment with cooking spray. Attach the hook to the mixer and knead for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Tear off a small piece of dough and flatten into a disc. Stretch the dough until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if the baker’s windowpane, or taut membrane, has formed. If the dough tears before it forms, knead the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Roll the pizza dough into a smooth ball on the countertop. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Place the pizza stone or tile onto the bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its highest temperature, about 500 degrees F. If the oven has coils on the oven floor, place the tile onto the lowest rack of the oven. Split the pizza dough into 2 equal parts using a knife or a dough scraper. Flatten into a disk onto the countertop and then fold the dough into a ball.

Wet hands barely with water and rub them onto the countertop to dampen the surface. Roll the dough on the surface until it tightens. Cover one ball with a tea towel and rest for 30 minutes.

Repeat the steps with the other piece of dough. If not baking the remaining pizza immediately, spray the inside of a ziptop bag with cooking spray and place the dough ball into the bag. Refrigerate for up to 6 days.

Sprinkle the flour onto the peel and place the dough onto the peel. Using your hands, form a lip around the edges of the pizza. Stretch the dough into a round disc, rotating after each stretch. Toss the dough in the air if you dare. Shake the pizza on the peel to be sure that it will slide onto the pizza stone or tile. (Dress and bake the pizza immediately for a crisp crust or rest the dough for 30 minutes if you want a chewy texture.)

Brush the rim of the pizza with olive oil. Spread the pizza sauce evenly onto the pizza. Sprinkle the herbs onto the pizza and top with the cheese.

Slide the pizza onto the tile and bake for 7 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. Rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Note: As far as toppings go…go nuts. This time, we had some tomato, basil & feta pizza for Leah, while Dave and I stuck with a more traditional tomato sauce-sausage-mozzarella combo. Do what you like. :)

We were happy with the pizza stone method described in the recipe, and I do recommennd that you go that route if you’re going to make your own pizzas. Even our inexpensive one has made a vast improvement over pan pizza.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, & Artichoke Lasagna

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

This vegetarian lasagana was one of the dishes I made in my pasta-making class. Though I’m not normally one for vegetarian anything, and I never would have expected to like artichokes, this dish was surprisingly good.

I used a basic pasta dough recipe to make my own lasagna noodles, but you could use dried pasta if you want, just be sure to cook the pasta first–there’s not enough liquid in this lasagna to cook dried noodles.

lassagna

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Artichoke Lasgana

  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles, cooked (or fresh & raw)
  • 16 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 & 1/2 cups pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 cup marinated artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 glass pan with cooking spray.

2. Spread a thin layer of pesto on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with sheets of pasta. Spread with pesto, followed by ricotta cheese, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.  Top with another layer of pasta and repeat, finishing the dish with a final layer of cheese.

3. Baked, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until heated through. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: Like I said, I’m not much for vegetarian dishes, but this was very good. If you feel the need to add meat, I think grilled chicken would go very well in this lasagna.

Pepperoni Parmesan Pasta Salad

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I’m going to attempt to share a recipe for pasta salad with you. I say attempt, because pasta salad is so often a “little of this and a little of that” kind of dish. I’ve had requests for this pasta salad recipe before, and not been able to explain it or share it properly. This time, I tried to pay pretty close attention to exactly how I made it.

One of my favorite things about this dish was these new mini pepperoni (Hormel Pepperoni Minis) we found at Costco. They’re perfect for pasta salad! And probably English muffin pizzas, and regular salads. I’ve also used them in fake lasagna, and bubble-up pizza casserole. I think they’d go really well in those pepperoni pinwheels, too.

Pepperoni Parmesan Pasta Salad
Makes 6-8 servings

  • 1 pound small pasta (shells, bowties, corkscrews, etc)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pepperoni, diced (I used these mini pepperoni)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water (or refrigerate) until pasta is cold all the way through.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic, olive oil, and Italian dressing.

3. Place pasta in a large bowl; drizzle with dressing mixture. Stir to combine.

4. Add basil, cheese, tomatoes, and pepperoni. Mix completely.

5. Serve chilled, with extra parmesan for garnish.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara? Yum!

I feel like I need to invoke Joey from “Friends” to really capture the greatness of this dish:

Noodles? Good.

Cheese? Good.

Bacon? Goo-od.

Carbonara’s a really fun dish to make. It looks impressive, it sounds impressive, but honestly, it couldn’t be easier. And it tastes delicious. This recipe for carbonara is by far my favorite out of the few that I’ve tried.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Adapted from The Amateur Gourmet

  • a box of dry spaghetti
  • pancetta or thick bacon
  • two raw eggs
  • freshly grated parmesan
  • freshly ground pepper
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled
  • white wine
  • roughly chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Cut the bacon or pancetta into small cubes. I use about 6 slices of bacon, but you can use less or more, depending on your tastes.

3. Add the cubes to a non-stick skillet with some olive oil and the garlic cloves. Turn on the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden brown  and then remove the garlic from the pan. Keep cooking the bacon/pancetta until it’s crispy and drippings are visable in the pan.  Once the bacon/pancetta is crisp, add one glass of white wine. It will bubble up and then begin to simmer. Continue heating this sauce over medium low heat until the liquid reduces and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

4. When the water begins to boil, salt the water then add the box of spaghetti noodles.

5. While the pasta boils and the sauce simmers, crack two eggs into a large bowl. Grate in at least one cup of Parmesan cheese (more if you like, I probably use closer to 1 1/2 cups). Grind black pepper over it all and then stir it together with a fork.

6. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and add it directly to the large bowl with the egg and cheese mixture.

7. Stir very quickly. It is important that you begin to stir immediately and continue stirring until the mix covers all of the noodles. The heat from the pasta is cooking the eggs for you, but if you don’t stir well, you could end up with something closer to scrambled eggs than pasta sauce. (As Alton Brown would say, “That’s not good eats.”)

8. When all of the noodles are coated with the egg/cheese mixture, add the bacon and sauce to the pasta and stir again. To finish, stir in the chopped parsley, and sprinkle a little more cheese on top.

Note: I like Spaghetti in this dish, but fettuccine or even orecchiette would work well. It just needs to be something that can be coated easily with the sauce mixture. Sometimes, we make this with grilled chicken–I just cook the chicken separately, then add to the bacon/wine mixture while the wine is reducing. If I add chicken, I usually use a little less bacon.

Ravioli Lasagna Fake Out

Friday, March 6th, 2009

I like lasagna. And who doesn’t? What I don’t like about lasagna is all of the work involved. I just don’t have the patience for all the layers, etc., especially after working all day. But rather than relegate the whole lasagna concept to the weekends, when I have the time and energy to bother, I started making this quick lasagna casserole dish. Affectionately, we call this “Fake Lasagna,” and it’s really quite good. All the flavor and none of the fuss!

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Ravioli Lasagna Fake-Out (Fake Lasagna)

  • 16 ounce package of cheese ravioli, frozen. (We use the Kirkland brand from Costco)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 regular sized jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound Italian sausage)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot full of salted water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the frozen ravioli. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until the ravioli float to the top. Drain and reserve.

2. In a large skillet, season the ground beef with Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, and garlic. Brown and drain. Return to skillet. Stir in the jar of spaghetti sauce.

3. Spray a 2 or 2 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add a spoonful of the spaghetti sauce mixture and spread across the bottom of the dish in a thin layer. (This keeps the pasta from sticking to the dish when you scoop it out later).

4. Place a single layer of ravioli on top of the sauce. Cover the ravioli with a ladle of the sauce/meat mixture. Sprinkle with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Begin a new layer of ravioli, top with sauce and cheese. Continue in this way until the casserole dish is full. I usually end up with at least 4 layers, but this will depend on how thick your ravioli are. You should end with a final layer of mozzarella cheese.

5. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella cheese. You like cheese, right?

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

When I was in college, I worked as a server at The Olive Garden. One of the staples of my diet while I was there was soup (the other was breadsticks!). One of the problems with working in a restaurant like that is you learn to like all sorts of dishes, but when you visit the restaurant as a “civillian,” you have to choose just one thing.

Luckily, now that I can make Zuppa Toscana and Pasta e Fagioli at home, I can at least remove the soup or salad choice from that dilemma!

zuppa_toscana_3752

I may have stolen that picture from the Olive Garden website, but I promise–mine was just like the real thing!

Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet bulk Italian sausage (or links, with the casings removed)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 4 quarts chicken stock (homemade or from a box; don’t substitute broth)
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 6 c water
  • 1/4 tsp ground aniseed
  • 1 bunch kale, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 large russet potatoes, sliced
  • 1 large onion white, finely chopped

Directions

1. Bring chicken stock & water to a light boil & add potatoes.

2. In a large skillet cook bacon until somewhat done & remove from the pan. Crumble the bacon and reserve for later.

3. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat until the onions are a golden brown color. Add to boiling stock & potatoes.

4. In the same skillet add olive oil, garlic and crumbled Italian sausage. Cook over medium high heat until the sausage is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. When sausage is cooked, add the contents of the skillet to the boiling stock & potatoes.

5. Continue to cook at a light boil until the potatoes are fork tender. When they are done reduce heat and add cream, crumbled bacon, kale, salt, anise, red pepper, black pepper. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

Note: I made this as listed the first time I tried it, and it was good, but I found that we all picked around the kale, so I left that out the second time. That’s another reason to recreate restaurant favorites at home–I only have to add the parts I like!

Sun-Dried Tomato and Sausage Risotto

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Here’s another of our favorite risotto recipes. This is the one David always makes when he takes over the dinner preparations. It starts as a basic risotto milanese, with arborio rice, chicken stock, garlic, white wine, and parmesan cheese. We add to this classic flavor combination with Italian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes, which play nicely against the creamy texture of the risotto and the tang of Parmesan cheese.

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Sun-Dried Tomato and Sausage Risotto

  • 3.5 cups Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth (stock is better)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 pound bulk Italian sausage (or about three links, casings removed)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil/from a jar, diced
  • 2 teaspoons sun-dried tomato oil, from the jar
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil.
  2. Saute Italian sausage with garlic in a medium skillet, until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Drain and put aside, reserving about a teaspoon of the  drippings in the skillet.
  3. In the same skillet, add sun-dried tomato oil and arborio rice and cook over medium high heat until grains start to turn translucent and shiny at the edges. You want to make sure that all of the grains of rice get coated, so if there’s not enough fat in the pan, you can always add a teaspoon or so of extra virgin olive oil. Don’t add too much–coating the rice is good, but extra grease will make the final dish extra greasy.
  4. Begin to add chicken stock mixture, one or two ladles at a time, until the rice will no longer absorb the liquid. Stir often. When it is finished, the rice should have a creamy texture and be tender, with a little bit of bite to it (just slightly al dente).
  5. When rice is finished cooking, remove from heat, and stir in cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and cooked sausage. Serve immediately.

Note: As I’ve said before, we make risotto often around here. Risotto is more about the method than anything else, and once you get that down, you can do just about anything with the flavors and ingredients. You’ve seen Mexican Risotto here, but we also do a similar dish to this one with chicken, a tomato based sausage risotto, cheddar risotto arancini, sausage arancini, etc. Like I said, once you get the method down, you’re really only limited by your imagination.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Chicken Parmesan doesn’t need much explanation. You all know what I’m talking about. Crunchy chicken breast, tomato sauce, cheese. Usually with pasta. This recipe is a little different from how I usually make Chicken Parmesan–adapted from the Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts that I’d made earlier in the week. I topped these chicken breasts with provolone cheese for a change from the more mild mozzarella.

If you’ve never tried gnocchi before, they’re Italian potato dumplings–like little nuggets of pasta. I like the ones stocked by Trader Joe’s, but you can usually find them in the pasta aisle of your regular grocery store.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi
Adapted from EatingWell Magazine

  • 4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 package gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place both kinds of breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Stir in Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Dip each chicken breast in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Top each chicken breast with 3 Tablespoons of spaghetti sauce and one slice of cheese. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

4. While the chicken bakes, boil gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. In a medium sauce pan, stir cooked gnocchi, remaining spaghetti sauce, and pesto together and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, alongside chicken.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Bell peppers are not my favorite vegetable. I’ve gone most of my life avoiding them completely. No peppers, no onions was a kind of motto of mine.

Then, while visiting David’s family in Wisconsin, I was tricked (TRICKED!!!) into eating bell peppers on a salad. They were red peppers, and they were diced like tomatoes, and I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late. Only…I kind of liked them! Go figure.

Roasted red peppers followed, first in a dish at the Olive Garden, then in the form of hummus. And once in this roasted red pepper aioli I made, but I guess that’s another story. Even though I’ve eaten Pepper Steak for a long time, I’ve picked around the peppers themselves for as long as I can remember. But as it turns out, David likes peppers a lot, and sometimes, you learn to like things for someone you love. I guess.

Stuffed Peppers seemed like something David would really like, and that’s ultimately why I started making them. I mean, I’m happy with the insides, and when it’s a whole pepper, it’s easy enough to pick around the pepper. Even Leah, who shares my general dislike of all things pepper has become a fan of these. I find myself liking the peppers a little more each time, though, so I suppose eventually, I’ll eat the pepper themselves, instead of treating them like a bowl or wrapper. Probably not just yet, though.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers, cleaned, with the tops cut off and the seed pod removed. (We usually use green, but red was on sale this time around)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup of rice, prepared according to package directions (Brown rice is what I prefer, but use what you like, even if that’s instant)
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6-8 ounces of cheese, either shredded or thinly sliced (think white, Italian, and melty, like provolone, mozzarella, or fontina. Again, use what you like.)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bell peppers and cook until peppers soften at the very edges but are still firm and crisp throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place into a baking dish with deep sides.

2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat. Drain beef and return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, italian seasoning, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.

3. Turn heat to low and add prepared rice. Stir to combine. Scoop the beef & rice mixture into the bell peppers, filling them completely. When we have extra of the filling, I put it into the baking dish around the stuffed peppers, but the amount left over depends on the size of the peppers I use.

4. Once in the baking dish, cover the peppers and any remaining filling with the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, until the filling is hot all the way through.

Note: I like the cheese to get crispy, but if you don’t, you can bake the peppers without cheese, and add the cheese for just the last 10 minutes. If you want to go crazy with the cheese, you can sprinkle parmesan over the top as well. I call these Italian Stuffed Peppers, because those are clearly the flavors I use, but I’ve heard of Stuffed Peppers being made more like meatloaf (think breadcrumbs and ketchup) or with cheddar cheese. All I can say is I like them this way, and so do David and Leah. If you like green peppers on your pizza, I’m sure you’d like this dish as well.

Pepperoni and Parmesan Pinweels

Monday, January 19th, 2009

While my friends were in town, we had a rather elaborate dinner on Saturday night. As is usually our way, by the time I started making dinner, everyone was already starving–and these quick & easy little appetizers were the perfect stop-gap. They were simple, tasty, and kept everyone happy while I made dinner. Exactly what you want from an appetizer!

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Pepperoni and Parmesan Pinwheels
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey-Dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces packaged sliced pepperoni (about twenty-four 1 1/2-inch-diameter slices)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

1. Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Cut puff pastry crosswise in half to form 2 rectangles. Spread 1 tablespoon mustard over 1 puff pastry rectangle, leaving 1-inch plain border at 1 long edge. Place half of pepperoni in single layer atop mustard. Top pepperoni with half of cheese mixture. Brush plain border with egg.

2. Starting at side opposite plain border, roll up pastry, sealing at egg-coated edge. Transfer pastry roll, seam side down, to medium baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry rectangle, mustard, pepperoni, cheese mixture, and egg. Chill rolls until firm, about 30 minutes, or wrap and chill up to 1 day.

3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Cut each pastry roll into about thirty 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Transfer pinwheels to prepared sheets. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to platter; serve.

Note: These were delicious, and as I’ve already said, very simple. I did not have any honey Dijon mustard on hand, so I mixed 2 tablespoons of the American Dijon mustard we had with a tablespoon of honey. The original recipe called for Asiago cheese, but Parmesan is what we had on hand, and it worked perfectly. Next time, I think I would double the layer of pepperoni–we put down a single layer of pepperoni on the puff pastry, but more would’ve been good. They might have turned out prettier if I had cut the slices a little thinner, but they turned out nice enough as it was.

I’ll definitely make these again sometime. It’s a great go-to appetizer for when you need to throw things together quickly. Also, a shout-out to Jeff, who did most of the assembly on these while I worked on actual dinner. Thanks!