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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

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While we are back to hot and humid weather this week, it’s been kind of a weird summer in Louisville weather-wise. We’ve had a lot of rain and cooler-than-usual temperatures. The sous chef and I have been trying to take advantage of our back deck as much as possible by eating outdoors. What could be better than eating outdoors than eating outdoors with good friends who just moved into the neighborhood?

Chris and I had the good fortune to welcome two good friends into the neighborhood over July 4th weekend. We just bought a house last August and it is difficult to keep yourself well-fed while moving your life from one side of town to another. We invited our friends over for dinner on their moving day to make things a little easier on them and welcome them to the neighborhood.

After much deliberation and a trip to the Beechmont Open Air Market, I decided to use some CSA zucchini in this pasta dish. I also made quick, refrigerator pickles, garlic bread, chopped salad, and raspberry-peach crumbles. The pasta was really good and came together pretty quickly. It was not overly heavy – good for a summer evening, but filling, fresh-tasting, and seasonal. he evening was pleasantly warm, the food was great, and the company was even better. Justin and Mal – we couldn’t be happier to have you nearby (and not just just to help us with home repair issues, Justin).

“Baked Shells with Zucchini, Gouda, and Herbs” from from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles

Serves 6

  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 lb. small or medium pasta shells
  • 2/3 c. pine nuts
  • 1 c. plain yogurt ( I used whole milk)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/3 c. grated Gouda cheese
  • small handful of flat-leaf parsley (about 1/4 c.), minced
  • 2 large springs fresh mint (leaves only), minced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9X 13 in. baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Place the grated zucchini in a bowl and stir in the salt. Set aside.
  3. Fill a large pot halfway with water. Salt generously (maybe 1/4 c.) and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 2 minutes less than recommended by the package directions. Drain, return to the cooking pot, and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add pine nuts. Cook carefully for  2 to 4 minutes, shaking the pan to keep them from burning. Cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Stir the yogurt and beaten egg together in a small bowl and season well with black pepper. Drain off as much water as possible from grated zucchini and blot dry with a paper towel.
  6. When pasta has cooled slightly, stir in zucchini, pine nuts, yogurt mixture, and about 1 c. of the grated Gouda cheese. Stir in parsley and mint. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cheese on top has melted and pasta is lightly golden. Serve.

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Between the move, hosting people for the holiday weekend, and cooking for 12 for Memorial Day, it has been a fun, if hectic time. On top of this, I received the the 3rd CSA this week, which included lettuce, Chinese cabbage, zucchini, green onions, broccoli, and… fresh peas! I’ve never cooked with fresh peas before and I was so excited to try them. Plus the meat share came this week and included ground beef, hamburger patties, and beef brats.

I had this dinner planned for a few days. Mint arrived in our CSA last week and I’ve been trying to figure out how to use it, besides mint juleps and mojitos (both of which would make excellent contenders). Amidst all of the craziness, we did have our first CSA-related casualty… we had to throw away two zuchini from last week’s share. We just could not consume them before they went soft.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the combination of smoked paprika, pasta, yogurt, and mint. It sounded simple, and I had everything on hand except the tortellini, so I decided to make it. I then chose to add the peas from this week’s CSA and cut back significantly on the amount of oil in the original recipe. The result was a simple, surprising, fast, and flavorful pasta dish that was ready in 10 minutes, not counting the time it took me to shell the peas beforehand. It was a little dry, which was not surprising at all since I cut the amount of oil, but the flavors were still there. It also felt like a nice accomplishment to use mint, peas, and lettuce, all from the CSA.

Tortellini with Yogurt, Mint, and Smoke Paprika Oil, Adapted from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease by Rozanne Gold, via this Serious Eats post.

1 lb. tortellini, I used mushroom tortellini from Lotsa Pasta

2 1/2 T. olive oil, divided

1/2 t. smoked paprika

1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed

1 c. low-fat Greek yogurt, room temperature

Salt

1/3 c. mint leaves, torn

1 1/2 c. fresh, shelled peas (optional)

If using fresh peas, shell them first.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the tortellini according to package instructions until al dente. Add the peas to the cooking pasta for the last 4 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil with paprika and garlic and set aside. Whisk 1/2  tablespoons of oil with yogurt and season to taste with salt.

When the tortellini and peas are done,  drain well. Add back to the pot. Add yogurt and paprika oil to the pot and stir. Top with mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve.

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cauliflower mac

The last few months (since the holidays, really) I’ve been trying to eat less and exercise more. I’ve avoided making this the focus of my blog – but I feel some explanation is necessary with this post.

I love macaroni and cheese, as can be surmised by the 4 iterations of it on this blog, five including this one.

Here they are:

resurrection mac and cheese

spicy mac and cheese

cheese pasta with pumpkin and pancetta

simple stove-top mac and cheese

While I’m a firm believer in eating whatever you want in moderation, sometimes having real, full-fat-oh-so-delicious macaroni and cheese is just too much temptation to handle. So when the craving for macaroni and cheese struck recently, I remembered this recipe from Mark Bittman.

This version of mac and cheese relies on mashed cauliflower, mustard, stock, and spices to flavor the pasta, and just a touch of cheese to add additional flavor and creaminess. The pureed or mashed cauliflower mimics a creamier, fattier cheese sauce. “Mimics” is the key word here. While I enjoyed this pasta and found it pretty tasty, it wasn’t terribly filling and was definitely missing a “satisfying” quality. I suppose this might have come from more cheese, or cream, or another source of fatty protein. It was good, but I’m not sure I would make it again. I think I’d rather eat a little less of the real thing, if I could control myself.

“Creamy Cauliflower Mac” from The Food Matters Cookbook, by Mark Bittman

1 T. olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish

salt

2 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces

8 oz. penne, or other  whole wheat pasta (like shells, ziti, or elbow)

1/2 c. grated Cheddar cheese or Gruyere, or another good melting cheese of your choice

1 T. Dijon mustard

1/8 t. nutmeg

black pepper

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. or more of bread crumbs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-in square baking dish (or similar size) with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

While the water is coming to a boil, put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles start to appear on the sides (after about 5 minutes on the heat), turn off the heat and let stand.

When the water has started boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and translate to a blender, food processor, or a bowl. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until not yet edible and still a little chalky inside, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse quickly with cold water to stop the cooking. Put the pasta in the greased baking dish.

Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, 1 tablespoon of oil, cheese, mustard, nutmeg, and a dash of salt and pepper. If the sauce seems too thick, add another 1/2 c. of stock. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss carefully. Spread in the dish evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs over the top. Bake until bubbling and browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can mash everything together in a large bowl using a potato  masher. It will be less creamy – but will still work.

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simple stove-top mac and cheese

So the Super Bowl is this weekend. I don’t care much for football, but I do care for an excuse to eat salty, fatty, football food. I will be making a couple such dishes  and thinking about my brother, who LOVES the Packers. This macaroni and cheese isn’t even close to being a dish worthy of the Super Bowl, but it is simplified comfort food that tastes great. Maybe one of these days I’ll get my act together and start posting special-event-worthy cooking adventures PRIOR to the celebration in question rather than after. Oh well. Watch out for the things I made for Super Bowl sometime next month… maybe sooner.

When I was sick last fall and nothing really sounded good to eat – I was craving macaroni and cheese. My favorite macaroni and cheese dishes, which I have outlined here before, are baked dishes of melty, rich cheese. They also tend to require a lot of grating, boiling, mixing, and baking. After on-line searching, I found this recipe for a simple stove-top macaroni and cheese. It didn’t even require a trip to the grocery store. I had cheese, noodles, milk, nutmeg, and dry mustard on hand already.

This method involves cooking the dry noodles slowly in simmering milk with some spices. The milk thickens and the spices create a rich, concentrated flavor, even before adding the cheese. I imagine you could add significantly less cheese to the recipe and it would still turn out well.

One thing to note – the recipe calls for a full teaspoon of salt. This was way too salty the first time I’ve made it. I’ve since made it two more times using about half as much salt and it has been much better.

Here’s my adaptation for this life-changing recipe for simple mac and cheese, from “White on Rice Couple“:

serves 3 to 4 (or two if you are really hungry and don’t care about portion size)

2 c. whole wheat noodles, like penne, macaroni, or shells

2 c. low fat milk – may need a bit more at the end of cooking

1 or 2 t. butter (optional)

1/2 t. mustard powder

1/2 to 3/4 t. salt (start with less, then add more later if needed)

a dash of nutmeg

a dash of cayenne (optional)

1 c. grated cheese in any combination (most recently, I used half Gruyere and half Cheddar, I’ve also used all Cheddar and a little bit of blue cheese – use whatever you have on hand or what you like, but make sure to use a good melting cheese – like fontina, Gruyere, cheddar, or mozzarella in larger quantities than a harder cheese, like Parmesan or Asiago),

Rinse the raw pasta under cold water quickly and let drain.

In a medium saucepan, combine the noodles, milk, salt, butter and cayenne (if using), mustard powder, and nutmeg

Slowly bring the milk and pasta mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently as you let the pasta come to a simmer. Keep a close eye on the pasta mixture because the milk can bubble over quickly. Also, make sure you stir pretty regularly so the pasta doesn’t clump together.

Once the pasta and milk starts to simmer, turn the heat down to low. Slowly cook the macaroni in the milk and keep stirring every so often so the noodles absorb the milk. You don’t want to have undercooked pasta and no more milk because it evaporated too quickly.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the milk has fully absorbed and the noodles are cooked. If the noodles aren’t cooked but there is no more milk, add a little more milk and cook for at least 5 more minutes.

When the noodles are done and the milk has evaporated, stir in the cheese. Turn off the heat and cover for five minutes allowing all the flavors to meld, and the pasta to absorb any milk that is left.

Taste again and make sure it is salty enough. Add some pepper and enjoy!

Serve immediately.

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I’ve spent more time cooking soups and stews this winter than I have anything else… and as soon as I saw this recipe, I had to make it.

It sounded delicious, slow-cooked white beans with caramelized onions, bacon, pasta, and a bit of spinach for some semblance of healthfulness, all in a rich, thick broth. This is a cheap meal, makes a lot, tastes great leftover, and is totally and completely warming on a cold winter night. Really, you have no reason not to make this (like the roasted cabbage). Leave the bacon out if you want to – the broth of slow-cooked beans and onions should be flavorful enough.

When making this one Sunday, I underestimated the amount of time required to cook the beans. I started the stew around 5 and didn’t start eating until 9 – and the beans were still slightly undercooked. If you want this for dinner, start earlier and really cook it slowly, like the recipe tells you to do.

Pasta e Fagioli – Bean and Pasta Stew

Serves about 8

1 lb. dried cannelloni beans, or another kind of dried white bean (I used great northern beans)
5 slices bacon, diced (or substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil for vegetarian version)
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound pasta
5 thyme sprigs
3 teaspoons salt
10 ounces baby spinach

Soak the beans by placing in a large pot. Cover with cold water and let sit for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat. Once crisp, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off all put one tablespoon of bacon fat. Cook the onions slowly with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until caramelized and turn golden brown, 20-30 minutes. Add the celery and cook just until the celery is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove half of the onion mixture and reserve with the bacon.

Deglaze the pan with one cup of water, scraping up any brown residue that has formed on the bottom of the pan.

Drain the beans and pour them into the pot with the remaining onions. Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover the beans and onions by one inch.

Cover the pot and bake in the oven for an hour. After an hour, check the beans every 15 minutes until they are completely soft. This took a very long time for me – over two hours. Finally I gave up the oven, returned the pot to the stove-top, and cooked the beans that way.

If you haven’t done so already, return the pot to the stove top and set over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, reserved onions, whole thyme sprigs, remaining salt, and pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Add more water if necessary.

Add the spinach to the pot and stir until it is wilted. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

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This is now the third iteration of a cheesy baked pasta that I have featured on Thyme and Reason (see the classic, resurrection mac and cheese and spicy macaroni and cheese for more melty, cheesy, goodness). This is also the most gourmet, expensive, and time-consuming to produce. These factors are usually enough to steer me away from trying a new dish – but not this one.

No, not this one. With five different kinds of cheese, pancetta, and squash – this macaroni and cheese caught my eye, and left me craving it for days until I finally gave in and made it. The picture above does not do it justice.

This is a dish to make on the weekend – when you have time to cook the pancetta, roast the squash, shop for the cheese, and then grate the cheese and cook the noodles, then bake everything. But it is worth it if you don’t mind consuming an incredibly rich dish and don’t have a dairy intolerance that is. It also makes a delicious, warm, hearty, perfect-for-fall casserole.

I highly recommend making this. You will not be sorry.

Also – if you notice, the actual amounts of the cheese used isn’t all that much, especially compared to the large amounts used in Ina’s recipe above (resurrection mac and cheese), it is still really rich.

Pasta al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta, from Food 52

Serves 6

2  butternut squashes that total 3 to 4 lbs.

salt and pepper

olive oil

1/4 lb. pancetta, diced

1 lb. shells

2 c. milk (the original recipe calls for heavy cream, I used 1% milk with excellent results)

1/4 lb. shredded fresh mozzarella

1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano

1/2 c. grated fontina

1/4 c. crumbled gorgonzola

2 T. ricotta

1 t. dried thyme or 2 t. chopped fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into wedges and arrange on one baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Bake for about an hour until caramelized and tender. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the squash without burning yourself.

Meanwhile, cook the pancetta.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Turn up the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for exactly 5 minutes, drain.

Scoop the squash from the rind to make 2 cups. (In retrospect, I should have peeled the squash before baking it. The original recipe called for pumpkin or squash – which would be much harder to peel). Combine squash with milk in a blender or food processor and puree just until smooth. Scoop out some more of the squash and chop roughly to make a cup and a half. This does not have to be exact.

Combine the squash and milk puree with cheese, a dash or two of salt, thyme, and pancetta in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add chopped squash and pasta and fold until well combined.

Spread the pasta evenly in a casserole dish. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until browned and tender.

Eat. Enjoy. Don’t feel guilty.

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Blue cheese used to make my short list of food-I-refuse-to-eat. I really cannot pinpoint when I started eating it, or what prompted my change in taste, but now I love it. Keeping with the eating-pasta-theme, I was craving this pasta dish recently which happens to incorporate blue cheese. I first made it a few years ago when I saw the recipe in the New York Times. It requires few ingredients to make the rich-tasting sauce: milk and blue cheese. Just cook some pasta, add arugula and tomatoes, and dinner is ready. Well, there are a few other steps in there, but really, it is almost that simple.

Pasta with blue cheese, tomatoes, and arugula, from Mark Bittman and the New York Times

2/3 c. whole milk

2/3 c. Gorgonzola, crumbled

1 c. packed arugula

2 c. grape tomatoes

8 oz. whole wheat pasta, any kinda

lots of black pepper

Parmesan cheese, if you like

Cut the tomatoes in half.

Chop the arugula.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small saucepan gently warm the milk and Gorgonzola just until cheese melts a bit and mixture is thick.

When water boils, cook pasta until it is just tender but not mushy.

Drain and return to pot over low heat.

Stir in milk and Gorgonzola sauce along with arugula, tomatoes and lots of black pepper. Stir to combine, taste and add salt, if needed. Serve immediately, with grated Parmesan if you like.

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