Recipe: Pasta Bolognese

Servings: 2-4

Prep. time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 strips prosciutto, cut into small pieces
  • 6-8 oz. lean ground beef*
  • Approx. 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • White wine (cooking/dry)
  • Marsala wine (cooking/dry)
  • Chicken stock
  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 8 oz. pasta**

*I prefer 90-93% lean.

**I used medium shells. Papadelle and other long, wide noodles are great with this sauce, but small pastas, like shells or orchiette, are great too.

Directions

Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat, then add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate covered in paper towels to drain. Add a little butter and olive oil to the bacon fat in the pan and add the onion and carrot, cooking until tender and fragrant, then add the prosciutto and continue to cook. Add the beef and cook, breaking the meat up as it cooks. Add a splash of marsala and splash of white wine and the garlic and continue to cook, letting the wine reduce and the beef continue to brown and cook. Crumble in the bacon strips and add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, then cook for approx. 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, a little more of each wine, and reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Add in a pinch of cinnamon (a quick whiff of the sauce should let you know it’s there, but don’t add too much; 1-3 tsp. is probably enough) and paprika (1-3 tsp.), as well as some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, covered. While the sauce is cooking over low heat, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until al dente, then drain, and add the finished pasta in with the sauce, tossing to coat. The finished sauce should be a brownish-orange color, scented with cinnamon and paprika, and it should be somewhat thickened.

The sauce, as it's cooking

The sauce, as it’s cooking

Pasta Bolognese

Cook’s Commentary

There are many different ways to make a bolognese sauce—some recipes call for plum tomatoes while others call for just tomato paste, some use ground beef and veal while others use ground beef and pork, some suggest pairing it with long pasta noodles while others encourage the use of smaller pastas—I looked at many of these differing recipes and went my own way. Beef is the bulk of the meat in this dish, while the bacon and prosciutto add a little texture and saltiness to the sauce. Cinnamon and paprika add a heat and sweetness that balances the tanginess of the tomato paste and the salty-savory flavors of the meats. Chicken stock and wine create a sort of brothy sauce that soaks deliciously into the pasta noodles. It’s a hearty meal perfect for cold weather, and the sauce is delectable sopped up on a piece of bread at the end of the meal, and absolutely perfect paired with a red zinfandel or other sweet red wine.

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Recipe: Romesco Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1, 1 inch thick slice of fresh, crusty bread, toasted and pulled into chunks
  • 1/2 cup whole, unsalted almonds
  • 1 large tomato
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, skins on*
  • 1 to 2 red bell peppers, halved, seeds and cores removed
  • 1 to 2 fresh cayenne peppers, stems removed**
  • Approx. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Splash of sherry or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder, if desired

*Cut of the little bit of root end from the cloves to make it easier to remove the skins later.

**Substitute with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375*F. Place the almonds on a smaller, ungreased baking sheet and roast for 3-6 minutes, until fragrant, then remove and set aside. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray (like Pam). Place garlic, tomato, bell pepper, and cayenne pepper on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Roast for approx. 20 minutes, until the skins of the tomato and bell pepper blisters and everything is tender. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then pull the skins off of the tomato, bell pepper, and garlic cloves and toss the skins. Add the roasted ingredients, bread, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, and salt and pepper to a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve as a dip, spread, or sauce. Sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Makes approx. 1.5-2 cups.

Pasta with Sauteed Shrimp, Mozzarella, Basil, and Romesco Sauce

Pasta with sauteed shrimp, mozzarella, basil, and romesco sauce

Steak sandwich with romesco sauce and arugula

Steak sandwich with romesco sauce and arugula

Cook’s Comments

I am in love with making all kinds of pesto—spinach and walnut, basil and pine nut, mint and pistachio—and this sauce is a lot like a creamy pesto. Roasted almonds give it a nutty flavor and slightly gritty (in a good way) texture. Bell peppers and cayenne peppers add heat, while sweet and tangy tomato help mellow the heat. This sauce is incredibly versatile—perfect with just about any meat, great tossed with pasta or slathered on a piece of crusty bread, and lovely as a sandwich spread. It’s easy to make, absolutely delicious, and one of my all time favorite sauces.

Recipe: Key Lime Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup and 3 tbsp. honey graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks*
  • 1&1/2 tsp. key lime (or reg. lime) zest
  • 1, 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup key lime juice** (approx. 1 bag, or approx. 20-25 key limes)
  • Whipped cream or lime wedges for garnish, if desired

*If you’re worried about wasting egg whites, save them and try making meringues, souffle, omelets, or angel food cake.

**If you run a little short on key lime juice, use a little regular lime juice.

 

Directions

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350*F. Stir together crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl until well-mixed (should look a bit like wet sand). Press evenly into the bottom of an 8-inch, oven-safe baking dish. Bake for approx. 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown and slightly dry, then let cool completely.

For the filling: Keep the oven at 350*F. Put the zest and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with a whisk) and mix on high speed until the mixture is thick, creamy, and pale yellow (approx. 4-6 minutes). Reduce speed to medium and slowly pour the condensed milk into the mixture in a steady stream. Raise the speed to high again and mix until thick (approx. 3-4 minutes). Reduce the speed to medium and slowly mix in the lime juice until just combined. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and spread it evenly all over. Bake for approx. 10-12 minutes, until it is set (wiggles ever so slightly) and is just faintly golden around the edges. Let cool completely and then cover and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Serve with whipped cream, lime wedges, or a drizzle of chocolate or caramel. Eat within 3 days.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Key Lime Bars

Cook’s Comments

I bought key limes on a whim the other week and, after noticing them languishing in my fridge a week later, I went on a frantic search for recipe ideas. Dessert bars are fast, easy, and delicious and the key limes worked perfectly in this application. These were a hit at work and at home—tangy, sweet, and creamy. Best in the summer time, but not bad on an unusually warm October day.

 

Recipe: Roasted Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Approx. 8 medium-to-large tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • A handful of misc. vegetables*, cleaned and cut into chunks
  • 5-10 cloves garlic, root ends cut off, unpeeled
  • 1 (fresh) cayenne pepper
  • Dried thyme
  • Dried basil
  • Dried parsley
  • Dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray

*This sauce can handle some extra veggies to give it a little extra body and flavor. I had a small eggplant left over from the farmer’s market and I peeled that and added it to the bunch. In other recipes I’ve found, I’ve seen people call for carrots, celery, or squash. I’d stick to one of the aforementioned ingredients—no broccoli, spinach, radishes, etc. Nothing with too strong of a flavor or too much texture.

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Cover a large baking sheet/pan with foil and lightly spray the foil with cooking spray, like Pam. Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic, misc. vegetables, and cayenne pepper on the tray, drizzle in olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning (about 1 tsp. each), and toss to coat. The vegetables should glisten with the olive oil, but not be drenched (you can always add a little more as it’s cooking). Put the tray in the oven and cook for at least 1 hour (preferably 2-3) for maximum flavor. Once cooked through and fragrant (but not burnt), remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Peel the skins off of the tomatoes and pop the garlic cloves out of their skins (cutting the ends off at the beginning should make it so that you can squeeze the cloves right out of their skins and discard these skins/peelings. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, or use a stick blender, and blend together the ingredients until smooth. Serve hot with pasta or other dish, or freeze and use at a later time.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 min.

Cooking time: 1-3 hours

Roasted Tomato Sauce ingredients

Ingredients for the sauce

Pasta and Chicken with Roasted Tomato Sauce

The sauce, tossed with farfalle and chicken

 

Cook’s Comments

My absolute favorite thing about this sauce is the amazing aroma that fills my apartment while it’s cooking. It doesn’t take much longer than 10 or 15 minutes for the smell of sweet onion, warm garlic, and tangy tomato to fill the air, and the longer you let this cook, the better the aroma and flavor. This is an easy sauce to make—perfect for a weeknight meal or a day when you’ve got work to do around the house (because you simply throw everything on a pan, put it in the oven, and forget about it for a few hours while you do your thang). It’s tomato sauce, so it works in a variety of dishes—pasta sauce, pizza sauce, lasagna, and probably even as a tomato soup base.

Recipe: Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients

Biscuits

  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 4 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sharp (yellow) cheddar cheese, shredded*
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Dash of salt

*Better/higher quality cheese will yield better results. Sharp cheddars have more flavor, and full fat is also better.

Butter mixture for biscuit tops

  • 3 tbsp. salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • Dash of paprika

Directions

Preheat oven to 400*F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet (with Pam or butter) or line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, then set aside. In a medium bowl, add together Bisquick and butter and use a pastry cutter (or fork) to cut the butter into the Bisquick—the butter should be broken up into pea-sized chunks through the Bisquick. Add the shredded cheese, milk, garlic powder, and dash of salt and gently mix together by hand—don’t over mix, because it will make the biscuits tough. Drop 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto the cookie sheet, being sure to keep each biscuit a few inches apart so they don’t expand into each other while baking. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly golden brown. While the biscuits are baking, stir together the warm, melted butter with parsley flakes, garlic powder, and a dash of paprika. Brush the butter mixture onto the tops of the fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits, and sprinkle with just a bit of salt, if necessary.

Yields: 1 dozen

Total cooking time: Approx. 20 minutes

Cheddar Biscuits

Cook’s Comments

When I was a kid, Red Lobster was a near-weekly dinner staple (along with Olive Garden and Max & Erma’s—clearly, we dined high class in small town 1990s Indiana). I loved getting a big ol’ batch of popcorn shrimp with a baked potato (I’d scrape all of the salt off the side of the potato, and let the butter from the potato pool on my plate so I could dip the shrimp into it); however, it was those fluffy, cheesy, garlicky Cheddar Bay Biscuits that really made my night. This recipe I shared here is pretty spot on and it’s very easy to make. Do yourself a favor and go whole hog on this—get a good, sharp cheddar cheese (I am actually quite fond of Cracker Barrel brand) and don’t try to cut calories with margarine or skim milk—your taste buds will thank you.

These biscuits are fluffy on the inside, slightly crunchy on the outside, and absolutely perfect fresh out of the oven, right after the luscious melted butter mixture has been brushed on (in fact, I’d argue that the butter on top is what actually really makes these shine).

Blog Updates & Maintenance, Sept. 2013

Hello readers!

This afternoon, I finally utilized the “Import” tool and imported all of my old posts from my previous blog, Reading, Writing, and Ravioli. I had tons of recipe posts over there and I didn’t want to lose those just because I’m writing on a new blog now. So, as of right now, they are all imported and able to be viewed. I am currently working on editing tags and categories, as well as checking formatting on each post, to make sure they all look good and work properly here on WordPress. I have deleted any old posts (imported here) from the old blog that didn’t include recipes (I’m keeping the old blog up for now, so they can be found there). Please bear with me while I make some changes and please, go check out the old recipe posts. They’ve got a bit of a different feel than what I’m posting now (especially the earliest posts, where I’m still trying to figure out how to post and format), but they’re all quite good, if I do say so myself.

Recipe: Cheesy Polenta with Sausage and Chicken in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed, pulled into small pieces
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes or small slices
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Approx. 14.5 oz. canned tomato sauce or diced tomatoes*
  • Red wine (cooking wine)
  • Heavy cream
  • Dried basil
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 package instant polenta (serving size at least 4)**
  • Italian cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino-Romano, or a mixture)
  • Garlic powder

*I prefer Hunts brand and I used sauce that I had leftover from another dish.

**I used Delallo brand (they’re based in western PA, where I’m from, and have great products). I cooked the entire 9.2 oz. bag and, after John and I each got a serving, there was enough left over for 2-3 more servings.

Directions

Heat some butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and sausage to the pan, season with a little salt and pepper (and garlic powder), and cook for a few minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and continue to cook until the onions are soft and the meats are cooked through, then add the tomato sauce/diced tomatoes and a splash of red wine. Reduce the heat to medium low, add a little dried basil, then add heavy cream to the mixture and stir it in—the mixture should be a creamy orange-red color (it actually looked almost like an Indian dish to me); 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream should be enough. Bring water (and chicken stock) to a boil for the polenta (I sub in 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock in place of some of the water—it adds more flavor to the polenta). Towards the end of cooking, stir in some butter, a little heavy cream, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Italian cheese. Remove from heat—the mixture should be creamy and the add-ins should be well-mixed in. Serve the polenta in bowls, topped with the meat and sauce mixture, topped with a little Italian cheese.

9-17-13

Cook’s Comments

I kind of have this thing for heavy cream—it makes just about everything better (heavy cream to me is a little bit like butter to Paula Deen). A splash in this dish’s tomato sauce adds a velvety texture and rich flavor. A drizzle in the polenta helps keep it smooth and creamy. This is definitely a comfort meal with rich, delicious flavors—the polenta is thick and cheesy and soaks up the creamy tomato sauce (which gets a bit of a kick from the crushed red pepper flakes). My boyfriend suggested adding both chicken and sausage, and, boy, was that a great idea—two great textures and flavors that mix together beautifully. This dish reheats well (I had a lovely lunch of leftovers today) and if you have any extra, plain polenta, you can always cut it into chunks and saute it in butter and serve with another meal.