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.

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

I have a feeling that my husband must have had a traumatic experience with vegetables in a past life. Perhaps he was a little green frog, who suffered from a chaotic relationship with a pig and spent his days singing about how it is not easy being green while canoeing down the bayou. Or maybe he roamed the hillside as the Jolly Green Giant and the years of ridicule that stemmed from living life as the color of grass has kept Alex from embracing vegetables in this life.

Nevertheless, I am forced to convince the vegetables to masquerade as other things in hopes some might stumble in Alex’s mouth. I find this method works best with meat and cheese. For some reason, if the onions, spinach, green beans, sugar snap peas, or whatever else is in the dish is wrapped in the cheesy or meaty exterior, the chance that it will actually be consumed rises exponentially.

Tonight’s dish is a great one for this. Alex is put on sensory overload by the ground beef, parmesan cheese, and garlic toast that he fulfils the vegetable segment of the food pyramid without noticing and better yet, not caring. Try it on your loved ones today I promise that no matter what vegetable tragedies they have experienced, they will love it.

Pasta Fagioli
Adapted from Brown Eyed Bakerpasta-fagioli-014ab

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used a 1 ½ lbs of ground beef)
½ large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. beef broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce (I used 42.5 (3 small cans) of tomato sauce)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (I used ditalini) (I par cooked the pasta before adding it)

Few dashes of Tabasco sauce

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large stockpot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown, remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon and discard any grease that remains in the pot.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add sausage back to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, and add the beef broth and tomato sauce. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

Garlic Toast- Recipe by mepasta-fagioli-025ab

A loaf of your favorite bread; I used French Bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic- Cut in half

1.      Cut the bread lengthwise.

2.      Sprinkle the olive oil over the bread. I usually put my finger over the spout and pour on the bread maybe 1-2 tbs on each half.

3.      Place under the broiler.

4.      Cook until toasted not burnt. Usually 3-4 minutes

5.      The minute it comes out of the oven rub the bread with the exposed side of the garlic bread. The warmth of the bread will cause the garlic flavor to adhere to the bread.

6.      Enjoy the garlicky goodness.