Tag Archives: pasta

A Day of Pizza

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I am really going all out with pizza today. But not in the traditional sense.  I am taking the expected ingredients–marinara, cheese, and pepperoni–and using them in strange ways. First up this afternoon was pizza biscuits. I took the regular whomp biscuits, cut slits into them, and slipped in a spoonful of marinara sauce, spoonful of ranch sauce (why not?!), a pepperoni or two, and a large pinch of cheese. Then I sealed up the edges and baked them like normal biscuits. Henry said: Can you make these always forever? (not the child, the adult).  Needless to say, they were a hit.

Tonight, I am turning those same ingredients into Pizza Pasta. Here’s the breakdown.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta, your choice of style. I used penne.
  • some meat sauce I had in the freezer. Several cups? Use however much you’d normally use for a pound of pasta.
  • 1/2 cup ranch mixed with 1/2 cup ricotta
  • Grated cheese
  • Pepperonis

Method:

1.  Boil the pasta, but do not cook it all the way. Leave it a little raw. It will continue to cook in the oven.

2.  Layer the pasta down on some meat sauce in a baking dish. Half of the pasta goes down. Put down a sprinkle of cheese and all of the ricotta/ranch mixture. Then add the second half of the pasta, and the meat sauce on top of that. Then more cheese, and then your pepperonis.

3.  Bake it at 425 until it’s done. 30-45 minutes, I think. 

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My go-to meal

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I think it’s important to have a fall-back meal. The meal that you always have the ingredients for on-hand. Inexpensive, filling, and versatile. For me, that meal is pasta with red sauce. I always have pasta–several different styles.  The same goes with canned tomatoes. I prefer to use crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and no-salt-added tomato sauce. What else do you need? Well, the mood and level of commitment you are feeling has a direct correlation to the outcome of your sauce. It can be good, solid sauce–or with a couple extra ingredients and a couple hours, you can take it to exceptional.

Henry and I have been putting off Christmas all week. We got our shopping done, put left the presents in piles on the floor. We got a tree, but didn’t decorate it. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding the holidays, especially for me, and putting off preparing and watching Food Network seemed like the better choice. Until the Food Network started airing Christmas specials. Then I couldn’t avoid Christmas any longer.

These were the circumstances from whence this pasta sauce was born. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “whence” before. Anyway, after trimming the tree, wrapping presents, and cleaning, I just didn’t feel like cooking.  But a pasta sauce, once you do the prep work, simmers and cooks itself. It’s basically a hands off endeavor if you do the prep. So here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 1 20 (I think it was 20) ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I always make sure to get the least salty. Especially when you’re putting several cans of salted food into your sauce, there is no way you can control the flavor or salinity. So it’s super important to read the labels and get no-salt-added if you can.
  • 1 small can of tomato paste and 1 small can of no-salt-added tomato sauce.
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups of red wine
  • 1.5 pounds of browned hamburger
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano, basil, crushed red chili peppers
  • 1 cup or so of water
  • 1 tablespoon or so of sugar

Method: Brown the meat and drain it. Add the onions and garlic and spices and saute until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.  This caramelizes the paste and gives a big depth of flavor. Add the tomato sauce and simmer briefly. Then add the wine and let that boil off.  Then add the rest of the tomato product, water, sugar, simmer for another five minutes and then adjust for salt.  I simmered this for two hours and let it deepen in color and reduce.

To go with the sauce, I boiled some whole wheat shells and made some garlic bread.  It was the perfect meal for a couple of Christmas procrastinators to eat while watching Scrubs.

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Orange Autumnal Stew

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Henry got up this morning at 6:30.

We went round and round before bed last night–one of those arguments that never go away, but just need to be accepted. In those moments, when our backs are against the wall, we are so incredibly similar. Stressed. Tired. Defensive. But sleep always smooths over the rough edges of the night and circumstances really do seem a bit brighter in the morning.

He got up at 6:30 and didn’t say anything. I was awake, too. I stayed in bed and tried to listen to what he was doing. I heard the rustle of coffee filters. The water from the tap ran. A pan scraped against the stove’s heating element. I got up and stood in the kitchen, watching him with bleary, puffy eyes. He was at the stove, making me eggs in a basket. He said: I was going to bring it to you in bed, but you got up. He handed me a cup of coffee and we started our day better than we ended it.

The kids got back today and it’s our week with them. We cleaned and shopped today and by the time lunch rolled around, we were starving. This is what I rustled up.

Ingredients

  • one onion, diced
  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • a handful of baby carrots, chopped
  • one stalk of celery, diced
  • 4 cups of chicken stock or veggie stock
  • 1/2-2/3 of a cup of red lentils…estimation…I just poured “some” in
  • 2 cups of rotini whole wheat pasta…more estimation
  • tsp of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • bay leaf
  • 8 ounces no salt added tomato sauce

Method:

Saute veggies until soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Add rosemary. Add lentils, tomato sauce, and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils soften and thicken the soup. Add the pasta. I am not certain how much I added. The pasta absorbs a lot of liquid, so if you want it soupier, add less. Boil until the pasta is al dente. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Delicious, quick, healthy, and a beautiful color. Perfect for a chilly September day.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • half of large onion, or one small onion, diced
  • lots of torn basil
  • fresh shredded mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, wine to taste

Method:

Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Salt them a bit. Add tomatoes. Simmer for awhile, then taste. If it’s too salty because your canned tomatoes were salty, then add a pinch of sugar and a splash of wine or balsamic vinegar. That’s my trick for homemade tomato sauce. They always taste a bit off at first, but with the right combination of salt, sugar (or honey), and vinegar or wine, it’ll be amazing. Simmer, simmer. Add some torn basil. Boil your pasta half as long as you normally would because it’s going to be baked in the oven.

When the pasta is done enough, drain it, and add sauce. Grab a casserole dish and layer the pasta, mozzarella cheese, and basil until you’re out of ingredients. Sprinkle the top with a generous amount of Parmesan.

Cover and bake in the oven on 350 for 20-30 minutes. Take the cover off, crank up the oven, and brown the cheese after your 20 or 30 minute mark.

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Chicken Sausage, Feta, and Grape Tomato Pasta

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I really didn’t do much today. No homework or yoga. I did sweep the kitchen floor and I did go to Market of Choice. I took a nap. See? I’m embarrassed to even reveal how lame my day was.
But, I had a plan for dinner. So, in my twisted little brain, I do feel like I accomplished something today. Dinner was a success. I highly recommend this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh Italian chicken sausage
  • 1 pint of yellow grape tomatoes
  • 1 package of feta
  • half of an onion, diced
  • four cloves of garlic, minced
  • mixture of herbs, minced with the garlic (parsley, thyme, rosemary)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • half of a cup of chicken stock
  • half of a pound of whole wheat pasta

Method: Brown the sausage in some olive oil. I threw them in the pot whole, instead of squeezing them out of the casings. After they were sufficiently browned, but perhaps not cooked all the way through, I set them aside. Next, I sauteed the onion, zucchini, garlic, and herbs in the oil from the sausage. I added the whole grape tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and let it cook together until the tomatoes popped. I kind of squished them, too, so that they would release their juices to make a sauce. I sliced the sausage, added it to the tomatoes, diced the feta added it to the sauce, and added the stock. I simmered it all together until the pasta was cooked. Threw it all together. The end.

In other news, Sriracha Ice Cream Sandwich!

Lemon Chicken Kabobs and Lemon Parsley Pasta

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I am forever trying to find interesting, healthy, and kid-friendly recipes to cook. Having kids to feed has really tested my cooking abilities. I’ve been used to, in my adult life, to cook food for adventurous eaters. Then when I got with this little family, the biggest one would rather eat Spaghettios than mostly anything else. The little ones aren’t always the best eaters. Some days, they are adventurous. Some days, they just want scrambled eggs and nothing else. So, to adjust, we have Spaghettios in the cupboard and dozens of eggs in the fridge. I’ve got the usual recipes in my repertoire: meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, chili, spaghetti, pancakes and other breakfast things, pork chops, grilled fish,  tacos, etc.

Last night for dinner, we had lemon chicken kabobs and lemon parsley pasta. The chicken was my own recipe and the pasta came from Martha Stewart. The chicken was simple. I cut it up into kabob-sized pieces and marinated it in a fresh and bright marinade.

Kabob Recipe:

  • four boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • five crushed cloves of garlic
  • lots of olive oil
  • several sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped from the stems
  • one sprig of rosemary, stripped from stem and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed pepper flakes
  • juice of a lemon

The pasta was simple parsley, Parmesan, salt and pepper, lemon zest, garlic, and a bit of lemon juice. Easy and delicious. Here’s the recipe. I followed it exactly, except I halved it.

The great thing about these dishes together is that the marinade would go well with any protein or vegetable, and I used angel hair pasta–but you could use orzo, cous cous, or even rice.

In other news, we went to Turtles for brunch yesterday and it was amazing. I got chicken fried steak and it was absolutely perfect. Crisp and juicy with a well-seasoned gravy–and Henry had smoked salmon hash and he nearly licked the plate clean. I have to go out and find some good smoked salmon so I can recreate this dish at home. I think we could eat it every day.

Chicken Piccata

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Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • flour
  • egg white
  • some combination of white wine, chicken stock, and lemon juice (I wasn’t happy with the ratios I came up with. I didn’t change Giada’s recipe much, but the sauce was just too sour for me. The boyfriend says it tastes like normal piccata sauce, but…)
  • 1/4 cup of capers
  • 1/4 of an onion, minced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • spaghetti
  • ricotta
  • parsley and basil

Explanation:

So, I started by pan frying the chicken breasts, after dredging them in the egg white and flour. When they were mostly done, I took them from the pan and rested them on a plate. Then, I sauteed the onion and garlic in the pan I fried the chicken in. I also added a bit of the dredging flour to the pan after the onions were soft. Next, I added the lemon juice-wine-stock combination, along with the capers. I reduced the sauce, tasted it, and wasn’t terribly excited with how sour it was.  I scowled and pouted a bit,  but the boyfriend insisted that it tasted like it was supposed to.

While the sauce reduced, I boiled some pasta. When it was done, I added a few tablespoons of ricotta and the herbs to the noodles, along with a few tablespoons of the piccata sauce.

With the sauce finished, chicken resting, tomatoes out of the oven, and pasta made, I plated everything. I’d definitely make this again. I think I prematurely freaked out about messing up the meal before I even finished it. I ended up spooning some of the sauce over the chicken that I sliced and it was actually pretty delicious. As long as I didn’t drench everything in that sauce, it was fine. More of an accent than anything–a pungent brightness that tied everything together.