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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Stuffed chicken…

…is actually a lot easier to make than it looks (or at least I always thought it looked difficult). However, I found the following recipe in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine and couldn’t resist trying it.

For a nice way to jazz up a basic chicken breast, you need:

  • 8 oz spinach
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (don’t forget to trim them)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 8 oz ditalini (I just fixed the whole box)
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Start by mixing about 2 cups of the spinach, the feta, and 3 tbsp water. Then, use a paring knife to make a pocket in the chicken breasts. Cut into the thickest part of the chicken and continue cutting along the side to make a nice deep pocket that is about 2 inches wide. Stuff your spinach mixture into the pockets, season each side of the chicken with salt and pepper, and marvel at how easy that was. Then, heat the oil in a deep skillet. Place the chicken rounded/stuffed side down to seal the chicken. Cook until it starts to brown, about three minutes. Flip and repeat on the opposite side. While you’re waiting, start a pot of water for the pasta.

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When you’ve browned both sides, add the chicken broth, vinegar, and tomatoes to the skillet. I thought I had some sun-dried tomatoes in my pantry, but only found dried chiles. So, I heated a little stock and threw an ancho chili in it to soften. Then, I chopped it finely and threw it in with the liquids. Anyway, after you’ve added the liquids and whatever tomato or pepper you have, partially cover the skillet and let the chicken finish cooking for about 15 minutes, until it is just cooked through.

DSC_0723Salt your boiling pasta water and cook the ditalini (one of the world’s greatest pastas, no??) for 10 minutes. Put your remaining spinach in a colander and drain the pasta over it to wilt the spinach. Then put everything back in the pot along with the mint and 1/4 tsp salt. Remove the chicken from its skillet and slice; toss the remaining pan sauce with the ditalini.

DSC_0724Top a plate of ditalini with some of the sliced chicken.

DSC_0727Yum! Then again, I am convinced that any dish that includes ditalini is culinary gold. I just love the stuff. It also helps that this dinner comes together in a snap and honestly, who can resist chicken stuffed with cheese and served on top of pasta?

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…is one of the most wonderful foods on this planet, period.  Make it into mac and cheese, and you have a little (who am I kidding, HUGE) plate of sheer delicious joy.

For gnocchi mac you need:

  • 1 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • Basil, for garnish

This is a surprisingly simple recipe, too!  One of the most wonderful things about gnocchi is how quickly it cooks.  So, start here, by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt it, and throw in the gnocchi until they begin to float, which only takes about 2 minutes.  Drain the delicious dumplings and place them in a small (1 1/2 quart) baking dish that’s been greased and heat the oven to 375.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook just until it becomes fragrant, then whisk in the flour until it bubbles.  Whisk in the milk and dijon, and continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.  Then, add the cheese by handfuls, stirring until each addition is completely melted.  Season the delicious cheese sauce with your salt and pepper, then pour over the gnocchi.  Top with a bit of parmesan and pop the dish into the oven for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly browned.

Garnish with basil and be prepared…

…to go to Food Heaven.  I could not be more serious.  Once you make this (and you must, it is not optional), you will never want to return to regular mac and cheese with plain old cheddar and elbow noodles (that is, unless you are eating my aunt’s crockpot mac and cheese, which will also get you in to Food Heaven).  FORGET making mac and cheese out of a box ever again–this stuff is too delicious AND easy.  Try me.

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Timbale…

…was completely foreign to us: we had never heard of it until I found an intriguing recipe for it in this month’s issue of Food Network Magazine.  This month focuses on the brilliance of Italian food, and this recipe is a perfect example of just how wonderful the country’s cuisine is.  A timbale is apparently a food that involves cooking cheese, meat, and pasta in a mold typically used for desserts.  Hence, this particular version looks like a cake made of rice and stuffed with a luxurious sausage filling.

For Sausage-and-Rice Timbale you need:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. provolone slices

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add the rice, reduce the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the rice is tender.  Stir the pot occasionally while you make the filling.  When the rice is finished, spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450 and put a baking sheet on the middle rack.  Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high and add the onion.  Cook about 8 minutes, until soft, then add the sausage and cook until it is browned, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add the basil to the sausage mixture as well as the garlic and tomato paste.  Cook until the tomato paste browns, about 4 minutes.  Mix in the chicken broth and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits off the bottom.  Continue to cook the sauce until it is thickened, about 15 minutes.

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ springform pan with butter.  Coat the bottom with the breadcrumbs, tapping to remove any of the excess.  Mix the eggs and all but 3 tbsp. of cheese.  Put the cooled rice in a large bowl and stir in the egg mixture to combine.  Place about 2/3 of the rice mixture in the prepared pan.  Using moist fingers, press the rice onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides, making a 1/2″-thick layer.  Layer on the provolone slices.

Top the provolone with 3/4 of the sausage filling.

Then, pat the rest of the rice on top to cover the filling and top with the rest of the pecorino.  Put the pan on the baking sheet in the oven and bake the timbale for about 20 minutes, until golden.  Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the “cake”, then remove the side of the pan.  Serve a slice of timbale with the remaining filling alongside.

We were so excited to try this recipe and were definitely not disappointed–it is super fun (and downright easy) to make, and is delicious!

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…has about a billion variations, and we love trying them!  Most recently, we made Rachael Ray’s Spiked Spaghetti with Portobellos and Kale, and it was most tasty.  Boiling pasta in wine is actually an ancient Italian method, and it really adds a lot to this traditional meal!

For spiked spaghetti you need:

  • 750 mL bottle dry red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 lb. kale
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Grated pecorino-romano cheese, for topping

Combine the wine with 3 quarts salted water and bring to a boil.  Toss in the spaghetti and cook to al dente, about 9 minutes.  When you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the liquid.

While that’s going, heat a large skillet and the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the portobellos and brown them for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic for one minute, then wilt in the kale.  Season the veggies with salt, pepper, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.

Toss the pasta with the veggie mixture and add just enough of the cooking water to help the two combine.  Season the pasta with more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve up a plate of pasta topped with the cheese.

The Italians were really onto something when they came up with the idea to boil pasta in wine–it is such a tasty idea!  This is a great spaghetti, and is a particularly excellent dinner when you are cooking for vegetarians–it is quite hearty.

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Minestrone…

…has been on my list of must-tries for awhile, particularly since it is Winter and my mother and sister-in-law are vegetarians.  Minestrone, I am told, is an absolute must-have for the cold of Winter and is actually a great idea for a regular staple in the vegetarian diet, as it is warm, comforting, and hearty.

For Rachael Ray’s Must-Have Minestrone you need:

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, 3/4 chopped, 1/4 finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
  • 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped/chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • Parmigiano-reggiano, for topping
  • Toasted bread, for serving

Heat a large pot over medium heat with the oil.  Add 3/4 chopped onion, the garlic, carrots, celery, and bay leaf to the oil.  Season the veggies with the oregano, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Saute the mixture for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the beans, rosemary, and a bit more salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture smells a bit sweet.  Pour in the wine, cook it down for a minute, then mix in the stock and 2 cups water.  Wilt in the kale and bring the mixture to a bubble.  Toss in the pasta and cook to al dente, about 8 minutes.

Serve a bowlful of soup topped with a bit of oil, the raw onion,  and some cheese.  Make sure to serve some bread alongside to mop up the delicious broth!

I can’t wait to make this for Schatzi’s family–it is delicious!  And, while it is quite hearty, it was a nice break from all the heavy holiday eating we did last week.  Whip up a big bowl of minestrone for your family this week to ward off the cold.

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…are perfect days to spend playing in the kitchen!  The weather was pretty terrible last Thursday, and our roads remained untouched most of the day, so Schatzi and I stayed curled up inside and decided to be productive by making a soup to help clean some clearance out of the fridge.  Our end product, which turned out to be delicious, was the result of throwing a bunch of Thanksgiving leftovers in a pot with some orzo.  We had the intention of making turkey soup, but ended up with delicious risotto instead!

For Thanksgiving clearance risotto you need:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 package of orzo
  • 2 cups leftover turkey, chopped
  • leftover gravy (our recipe is a few posts back; I’d say use about 3/4-1 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • salt and pepper

Start by melting the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.  Add the orzo and toast for a couple of minutes, until slightly golden.  Then, add the shallot and celery and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes, until a bit tender.

Next, add about a cup of stock, the turkey, gravy, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then pour in the beer.  Cook this mixture until the new liquid is also gone, then slowly continue adding stock while constantly stirring.  We realized about halfway through our cooking process that we didn’t actually have enough liquid for a soup, so by continuing to add what liquids we did have slowly and in small amounts, we ended up with a perfect risotto!  True risotto is made by toasting the rice in butter, then slowly adding ladlefuls of liquid, stirring until it is all absorbed.  What a pleasant surprise for us!  When the liquid stops being quickly absorbed as you add it and the rice is not crunchy when you test it, your Thanksgiving risotto is ready to eat.

Serve up a bowl of risotto seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper to taste.

It never ceases to amaze me what delicious things you can make by clearing out the fridge!  This is a delicious meal that I know we will enjoy each year in the aftermath of Thanksgiving!

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Papa Lawson’s chili…

…is getting quite famous.  In fact, we have now had to change the delicious recipe’s title to “Award-Winning Chili.”  That’s right, Papa Lawson won the grand prize in a chili cook-off for his vegetarian version of this very chili.  I am quite excited to share this recipe–you must try it, especially as the cold of Winter sets in!

For Papa Lawson’s Award-Winning Chili you need:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef or chuck (for veggie, sub veggie crumbles)
  • one onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 4 14.5 oz. cans “Chili-style” diced tomatoes
  • 1 pouch regular chili seasoning
  • 1 pouch mild chili seasoning
  • 1 27 oz. can pinto beans
  • 1 large bag egg noodles

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook the noodles according to the package directions.  Then, move on to cook the meat in a large skillet over medium heat, chopping it finely as it cooks.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in another skillet and cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.

In a huge pot (we are talking the biggest one you have), combine all of the tomatoes, beans, and seasonings.  Bring the mixture to a bubble, then stir in the meat.  Dad does not recommend draining the meat first, but we do…sorry, Dad.

Serve up a bowl of noodles dowsed in delicious chili and your favorite chili toppings.  For this dinner, to quote Dad, “eating isn’t eating without a goodly amount of noodles.”  As for toppings, we think cheddar cheese and sour cream are absolutely the way to go.

If you have never eaten chili over noodles (as I had not before I became a member of the ingenious Lawson clan), this is the recipe to start with.  It is no wonder this chili won an award–it is ridiculously easy, and you won’t believe how good it tastes!

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