Unfortunately, my blog has been affected by a delay in  recent posts. The cause: writer’s block brought on by the silencing of my creative voice. The post attached to this recipe was about my time spent as a Supposed Mafia Princess. It only saw the light of day for 10 minutes before being stifled by maternal control. My anguish over this lost legendary anecdote (you thought I was going to go for the alliteration) had rendered me unable to post the recipe.

Today, that ended when the epiphany came; this recipe is one that needs to be shared and by doing so I can hack away at the beaver dam that is my writer’s block. There are ten or so recipes caught upstream. So please forgive me for not sharing the story of my faux Italian heritage and prepare for the flood that is about to come.

Pasta Bolognese

 pasta

This recipe comes from the spiky haired brain of Anne Burrell. Some may not love her new show but the recipes are awesome. This is great for a lazy weekend day (because we all have so many of those). The effort you put in is definitely worth the result. I left the directions in her voice because I think it is very important to getting the correct results. Make sure you take the time to brown and develop the flavors in the veggies, meat, and tomato paste.

Alex rates this dish a 9 and I rate it a 9.5. The sauce is everything it should be. Creamy and favorful; it clings to the pasta like an pyscho ex-girlfriend.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Directions

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.

Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

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Time Out Food

January 5, 2009

In this house, there are some meals that are referred to as “Time Out” food. This is for the simple reason that my lovely, adorable, and slightly psycho kitten ends up in time out before the preparation of the meal is over. You may think it is a little silly to put a cat in time out, but most of you have never met Spike. He is lucky he does not live in time out especially after the banana in the Christmas tree incident of two weeks ago. But, I digress.

These shells are amazing. They were the first dish to succumb to the hungry masses at Family Dinner and have since been made twice because someone had to have them. They are one of those dishes that will be forever in protective plastic sleeve of the sacred three of binder of my recipes. But, this recipe is not without its downside and that downside’s name is Spike.

You see, I make one change to this recipe; I do not throw the chicken into the food processor with the other filling ingredients. No, I shred the oven roast chicken and then fold it into the creamy, cheesy filling. This is where it happens. Every since Spike got a taste of poultry on Thanksgiving (by his own means of scaling the cabinets and settling next to the resting bird in perfect ninja execution) he cannot get enough of it.

So we play this game, the shredding gets done on the kitchen table (because of my inadequate counter space) usually by Cindy, my sister and Spike waits. He lays at the other end of the table and twitches his tail back and forth almost counting down the seconds to his attack. You watch him with one eye because you are aware of the carnal terror that is coming. Then, your brother in law starts doing a impression of a penguin and you are distracted by the laughter caused by his waddling and Spike attacks. Chicken goes flying and by the time you look up Spike has returned to his previous place on the table, but now he has this smug look of victory. What he does not realize is, it is this look that lands him in time out. I can handle theft and deception but I cannot handle mockery.

Another note: Do not attempt to sample the shred chicken your sister is producing after Spike’s stunt or you will find yourself in time out with him. She is a mean kindergarten teacher.

Stuffed Shells stuffed-shells-024a

Courtesy of Blogchef.Net

Ingredients:
1 box jumbo uncooked pasta shells
6 garlic cloves (minced)
2 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
1 (30 oz) container ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
6 basil leaves (torn)
1/3 cup half and half
28 oz pasta sauce
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Rinse with cold water, separate and set aside.


Step 2:
Combine garlic, chicken, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, half and half, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil and parmesan cheese in a food processor. Process until combined. If you don’t have a food processor, mix well with a spoon.


Step 3:
Pour half of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish. Stuff shells 1 by 1 with the chicken/cheese mixture and place in rows into the baking dish on top of the sauce. Top the shells with shredded mozzarella and pour the over half of the sauce over the top of shells. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
(Makes 4 servings)

Notes: Every time I have made this, the recipe has produced more than 4 servings and that is with Alex’s appetite. Also as mentioned, I do not put the chicken in the food processor. I fold the shredded chicken into the ricotta mixture.

I will be submitting this recipe to Joelen’s Foodie Films: Big Night-Italian Blog event

My Super Power

November 8, 2008

As most young married couples do, Alex and I discuss the future and what each of us sees in it. In the beginning, we saw a different number of little people running around in our future. We have since comprised and resolved this issue, but the possibility of what could have been still haunts me to this day.

You see, Alex comes from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 5 children and he wanted to mirror the parent to child ratio in our family. I, on the other hand, come from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 2 children and was quite content with our little number. My opposition to the family of 5 was rooted in logic and mostly monetary but honestly, I was and still am scared.

If history repeated itself, I would end up with a large number of boys and in this imaginary family of 5, our children, while loving and kind possessed the not so stellar qualities of their parents.  Intelligent, sarcastic, opinionated, stubborn; you name it and these kids had it in spades. And the recurring vision I was having while envisioning this happy future was my husband coming home to find that the children have outwitted me. Tied to a chair, probably some prisoner of their imaginary game, completely helpless in enforcing any type of discipline; destruction and anarchy were running the house and I was forced to watch from the comfort of my dining room chair prison. The thought still sends shudders down my spine.

Do not worry this fate should hopefully not become mine. Alex and I have comprised to a magic number that will hopeful allow me to keep chaos from reigning. But, I also discovered that I have a super power, if my boys are anything like their father I can lull them into a state of calm with my food; just like putty in my hands. I think I will start saving recipes in the For Emergencies Only file and this pasta is definitely going in.

Tonight’s recipe comes from a blog I frequent almost every day: Good Things Catered

Baked Chicken Sausage Pasta with Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce
chicken-meatballs-041
Ingredients:
1 box pasta of choice
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links of chicken sausage with spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (I use chicken sausage meatballs see below)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, crushed with back of spoon (I add another 15oz can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
splash heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 c. fontina cheese, grated
1/2 c. garlic and her bread crumbs

Directions:
-In large Dutch oven of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to directions to just al dente (still firm).
-Transfer pasta to large colander and set aside to drain.chicken-meatballs-031a1
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In Dutch oven, now empty, add olive oil and bring up to almost smoking.
-Add chicken sausage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
-Add garlic and crushed pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add diced tomatoes and salt and stir to scrape up all browned bits
-Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
-Add cream, stir to combine, add pasta and parsley, toss for one minute.
-Sprinkle on cheese and then bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Tip: Often I do not or cannot find Chicken Sausage. So I make my own

Chicken Sausage Meatballs

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped up into chunks

1 package of frozen spinach defrosted and drained (make sure all the water is out)

½ cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
2 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic minced

To taste: Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, Basil, and Parsley

Pulse in the food processor until chicken is minced and all is combined. Sometimes I will also add a little half and half if it is not wet enough.  Then form into balls (I use a small ice cream scoop) and sauté in a pan with a extra virgin olive oil until brown and cooked through.chicken-meatballs-022chicken-meatballs-001

There are so many memories that clutter the halls of mine and Alex’s courtship. Ranging in emotions, there are humorous ones like the time he called me the wrong name; absurd ones, that would be when he attempted to put my car on blocks as a joke; sad ones like when he held me after my beloved Gus Gus died, but my favorite memories are the ones where our love shines through. The way our love appears may be retarded or corny, but it is there, like the time he first made dinner for me.

I will confess that I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen, maybe in other areas too, but definitely the kitchen. I would also assume that this over-observance when someone else is in my kitchen might make someone anxious when cooking for me. And I will concede that this was probably the case when Alex made me his Cajun Chicken Pasta. 

The recipe was simple enough. Cook pasta and drain. Cook chicken in a pan with spices such as red pepper flake and pour a jar of Ragu Alfredo sauce over the concoction and serve. There was just one problem. The sifter lid on the red pepper flake was missing. I was not given the opportunity to tell him because I had been banned from the kitchen. (Not my fault) The result about 4 tablespoons of red pepper flake went into the dish.

Completely unaware of the hiccup, I began to eat the pasta like a dutiful girlfriend and I attempted to put on the greatest show. I may have been successful too, but you see I am somewhat of a light weight when it comes to heat. I hang out in the shallow end of the Scoville scale. Through my comments of delight, my body began giving me away. I became red all over, big fat tears began falling from my cheeks, and I began gulping down my Coke. Alex jumped into action and began to wash off my chicken pieces, hoping to rid them of flake while he profusely apologized. But it was too late, the damage to the sauce was done and the pizza man was called. We spent the rest of the night recovering and laughing and I realized a few things:

 Alex was a man I could let take care of me for the rest of my life

 Our love was a real; it all of its dorky glory it actually existed

 I was a really big baby when it came to heat

 And I needed to find a Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe quickly

I found one and it has become one of our favorite meals. For the food and the story behind it. It is not health food; I warn you of this now, it is all I want to do after is sleep because it was so good and I ate too much food.

I got the recipe from Guy Fieri on the food network. Enjoy!img_0005a

Tips: I put the sun dried tomatoes in the food processor to get them a little bit smaller. I also only use about a ½ cup. You really need to blacken the chicken if you do this indoors turn on your hood. I use Emeril’s essence because the Paul stuff, you cannot find and if you do there is a warning not to use it inside.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup blackening spice (recommended: Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup roughly chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups heavy creamimg_0004b
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cooked fettuccine
1/2 cup sliced scallions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dredge the chicken breasts in the blackening spice and place in a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Blacken both sides of the chicken and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Slice in strips on the bias and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add garlic and lightly caramelize. Then add the sun-dried tomatoes and the chicken slices. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream, increase the heat to a simmer, and reduce the cream sauce by half.

When the cream sauce is to desired consistency, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and pasta.img_0021a

Nest the pasta on large rimmed plates, pour sauce over pasta, and garnish with scallions and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.