If you’re ever at a loss for what to make for dinner, just open your pantry and pull down that blue box of breadcrumbs. Most of the time I’m a bit more creative—goat cheese, short ribs, butternut squash—you get the idea, but lately things have been less exciting around here. The boss where A. works has decided that overtime on his current project is a great idea, so that leaves me cooking for one, and a little uninspired these days.
I first came across this recipe years ago on Everyday Italian. The original dish was sprinkled with thin slices of prosciutto for a salty bite (tasty if you have it, yes—required, absolutely not) and chopped, fresh parsley (if you have some, use it, but the Italian-style breadcrumbs already have parsley). I’ve made it with all the bells and whistles, and far more frequently as this paired-down, four ingredient version. Either way, it’s always satisfying.
Pasta with Breadcrumbs
I never measure anything for this dish. The main idea is to heat the breadcrumbs with olive oil over medium-low until they turn toasty brown. Add the breadcrumbs first, drizzle in the oil, and stir together until the oil is absorbed. Start with less oil than you think you’ll need and add it gradually to avoid having soaking wet breadcrumbs.
This recipe (if you can even call it that) is for one serving. To feed a few more people, use a pound of pasta and toss in more breadcrumbs and olive oil.
1 cup pasta, if cooking for one
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain, then toss into pan with the breadcrumbs. Stir to combine. Serve drizzled with Parmesan cheese, and prosciutto and parsley, if using.
You know how much I love short ribs. Especially when they’re braised, tender, and falling off the bone. This cut of meat, sometimes labeled “great for soups” in the grocery store, is anything but humble when you let it braise for hours.
Of course, when I was watching Giada at Home and saw that this recipe was featured in her 30-minute show, I didn’t have to think. I just needed to make my way to the computer and print this mouth-watering recipe. Next, I needed an excuse to make it. I say excuse because this is the kind of meal, while nice for two, is too impressive not to share. Luckily, one of our wonderful friends came to visit us from San Diego, so the menu was easy to plan.
Penne with Braised Short Ribs
Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis
4 pounds beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or ovenproof stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine and mustard. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the beef broth, cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily from the bone.
Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid. Using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a ladle, transfer the cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces. Stir the shredded meat into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and add to the pasta. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the pasta. Toss well and thin out the pasta with more sauce, if needed. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.
Before you get turned off at the thought of anchovies in your dinner, hear me out. You might be surprised to know that anchovies, as strange as they look stacked in a can, are delicious. In fact, anchovies are a brilliant little ingredient because, when used, they actually disappear into your dishes. That’s right. You won’t even be able to see them, or even pin down the taste of them.
They are complete flavor enhancers, and if anchovies still freak you out, there’s always anchovy paste, which brings all the flavor without having to pull them out of their can and chop them up. So, hopefully I’ve convinced you to give them a chance. If so, this is a great recipe to try. Also, this one. All you need are a few kitchen staples and you’ll have pasta on the table in no time.
Pasta with Anchovies and Zucchini Ribbons
Recipe adapted from Gourmet
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 lb spaghetti
3 garlic cloves
12 oil-packed flat anchovy fillets (or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste)
1 1/2 lb zucchini (about 3 medium), thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Heat oil and butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté zucchini 1/2 tsp salt until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente.
While spaghetti cooks, mince and mash garlic and anchovies together to form a paste. Add paste to onion with 1/2 tsp pepper and sauté 2 minutes. Add zucchini and sauté until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain spaghetti. Add spaghetti to zucchini mixture with reserved cooking water and toss to coat. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and zest.
Years ago there was a marinara sauce called Prego Pasta Bake. It was, essentially, dinner in a jar, requiring only two additional ingredients: pasta and shredded Mozzarella cheese. Before I unleashed the gourmet in me, my husband and I would make this quite often. It was one of the first things we cooked together (if you can call it cooking) and may well have started us on the culinary journey we’re on today.
When I first noticed this recipe for Rigatoni with Goat Cheese and Marinara, I didn’t make the correlation, but after pulling it from the oven I realized how much it reminded me of the pasta bake’s we made in college. Pasta, sauce, and cheese—a simple list of ingredients with plenty of satisfaction. But this version appeals to the more sophisticated palate we’ve developed over the years. Goat cheese gives tang and creaminess to the red béchamel-like sauce and the breadcrumbs, well, they usually make everything a little bit better, especially when they’re toasted.
MACARONI WITH GOAT CHEESE AND MARINARA
Recipe courtesy NY Times
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN
Your refrigerator is part of your pantry, and if you have Parmesan and goat cheese on hand you can make any number of dishes. This is a grown-up macaroni and cheese, with a creamy tomato sauce standing in for béchamel.
1 pound of small pasta, penne or macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can plus 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes in juice
1/8 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
A couple of fresh basil sprigs (optional)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, if not using basil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces soft, mild goat cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Pulse the chopped tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or pass through the medium blade of a food mill before you begin. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide nonstick skillet or saucepan and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute, until it begins to smell fragrant, and add the tomatoes and their juice, the sugar, salt, oregano if using or basil sprigs. Stir and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes, or longer if necessary. Remove the basil sprigs and wipe any sauce adhering to them back into the pan. Add freshly ground pepper, stir in the goat cheese and Parmesan and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin with olive oil.
3. When the water for the pasta comes to a boil add a tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the instructions on the package indicate. It should still be a little underdone as it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomato-goat cheese sauce and stir together until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Transfer to the baking dish.
4. Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake in the preheated oven until the casserole is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Advance preparation: You can make the tomato sauce up to 3 days ahead and keep it in the refrigerator. Reheat and stir in the cheese just before tossing with the pasta. The assembled macaroni will keep for several hours outside of the refrigerator, and can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking.
I could go on and on about how much I love pasta. And since I’m half Italian, its technically in my blood. (I mean, it would really be like slapping my ancestors in the face if I didn’t love it, right?)
Pasta appeals to the other half of me for its versatility. Not only do the noodles vary in size, shape and texture, but pasta can be paired with endless combinations of vegetables, herbs, and sauces. And since this balsamic syrup thing is going strong, this recipe peaked my interest as soon as I read the title.
It’s so simple to make, you really don’t have an excuse to open that can of marinara sauce in the fridge. You could certainly forgo the balsamic butter altogether and just toss the pasta with vegetables and olive oil, but this little bit of decadence will really wake up Wednesday night dinner.
*Today is my 3-year wedding anniversary! And we're getting out of town...look for more posts next week.
Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound penne
3 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1. Heat the oven to 400°. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat. Stir in butter until melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the balsamic sauce, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.
Gnocchi has been one of those things on my list I’ve always wanted to make. The only thing standing in my way was the fact that I didn’t have a potato ricer, nor did I want to buy one just to make gnocchi. But wait, you don't actually need a potato ricer to make gnocchi? That was all I needed to know. And does anyone have a problem with some brown butter? I didn't think so.
Now, let's be honest. If I had served this to someone’s Italian grandmother, they might not be impressed. I can see where the ricer might be useful, especially to ensure a smooth consistency, but slather them in brown butter (just be sure to add some salt – it was the only thing that seemed to be lacking.) or fresh basil pesto, and you're set. Besides, for my first attempt at gnocchi, it was pretty successful and can only get better from here.
Gnocchi with a grater
Recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from About.com
2 pounds Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat your oven to 400°. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, and bake them on a baking sheet for 45 minutes to one hour, or until they are fork-tender. For best results, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time. Let the potatoes cool slightly.
Peel the potatoes, and then pass them through a potato ricer, food mill or grate them over the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips.
Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.
You can cook the gnocchi as it is now, but traditional gnocchi has ridges. To create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. This takes a little practice. If you find the dough sticking to the fork, dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it.
Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. This ensures that you won’t have one enormous gnocchi mass when you are ready to cook them.
To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove and set aside.
Macaroni and Cheese. It's one of America's classic comfort foods, and comes in more varieties than I can count. And sometimes it's the subtle differences—whole grain or Dijon mustard, sour cream or Crème fraîche, sharp cheddar or mild cheddar, fusilli or penne—that make the biggest difference. You see the dilemma. But the solution, it turns out, is pretty easy: try them all. Only through the detailed (and delicious) trial and error method will I discover what I'm truly looking for in this dish. So let the games begin.
I made a Mac and Cheese version last fall with one of my favorite vegetables, cauliflower, and though it was perfectly acceptable, it wasn't entirely spot on. Too tangy, slightly expensive, and (gasp!), I'm not sure Mac and Cheese is the best place for cauliflower. I knew there were more recipes to try. Let me introduce you to the current front runner, Baked Ziti with Roasted Tomatoes. This is absolutely, stick-to-your-ribs creamy, and the freshness of the tomatoes balances well with the cheese and soft noodles.
Baked Ziti with Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Recipe notes: Instead of measuring the cheese, I grated a heaping cup or so of each variety. For the breadcrumbs, I pulsed three slices of sandwich bread (crust and all) with about a cup of Italian-style breadcrumbs, then added melted butter (two tablespoons) and streamed in olive oil until the mixture was coated.
FOR BREAD CRUMBS
3 slices sandwich bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
FOR SAUCE AND CHEESE TOPPING
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dishes
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 ounces Italian fontina cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup), 1/3 cup reserved for topping
6 ounces extra-sharp white-cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups), 1/3 cup reserved for topping
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1 cup), 1/2 cup reserved for topping
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Slow-Roasted Tomato Slices (recipe below)
1. Heat oven and boil pasta: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add salt generously and cook pasta 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's instructions (the outside should be cooked but the inside underdone. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.
2. Meanwhile, make bread crumbs: Tear bread into large pieces and pulse a few times in a food processor to form very large crumbs. Transfer to a bowl, and add melted butter. Toss evenly to coat.
3. Prepare baking dishes: Butter eight 6-ounce shallow baking dishes or one 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
4. Make cheese sauce: Melt butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat, add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until bubbling but not browning, about 45 seconds. Add milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon (scrape across the bottom and around edge of pot to prevent scorching), until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add fontina, 2/3 cup grated Gruyere, 1 2/3 cups grated cheddar, and 1/2 cup Parmigianno-Reggiano, stirring until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, add cayenne and nutmeg, and stir to combine.
5. Assemble and add cheese topping: Add pasta to sauce and stir to thoroughly combine. Pour into prepared baking dishes and sprinkle evenly with the reserved cheeses, followed by the bread crumbs. If using, top with roasted tomato slices and thyme.
6. Bake: Place dishes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until bubbling and cheese is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Slow-Roasted Tomato Slices
6 small tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomato slices on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Transfer to oven and roast until softened and browned in spots, about 20 minutes.
I tend to avoid frozen food at all cost, but people, it’s time to reconnect with the freezer section of your supermarket. Even though the main ingredient of this dish comes right out of a bag, it’s wonderful, mindlessly simple, and you can toss it together in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Oh, and look, I managed to find orecchitte! With my one box of this not-always-in-stock pasta, I had to do something special. And when I flipped through the pages of January’s Gourmet and saw a bowl of this pasta, I knew this was it. The garlic and red pepper flakes (and of course, a large handful of Parmesan) really pull all the flavors together, and the “little ears” are perfect for scooping up bits of broccoli.
Orecchiette with Broccoli
Recipe adapted from Gourmet
5 garlic cloves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bag frozen chopped broccoli (16 oz; do not thaw!)
¾ cup water
¼ tsp. hot red-pepper flakes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1 lb. dried orecchiette pasta
Heat oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Grate garlic cloves into the oil and cook for 1 minute, until just beginning to turn golden.
Add broccoli, red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper, water, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is very tender, about 12-15 minutes. Stir in cheese until melted.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve one cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
Toss pasta with broccoli and ½ cup reserved pasta water. Season with salt. Serve with cheese for sprinkling.
In case it hasn’t been clear from recent posts, I have a deep, deep fondness for pasta. I’m also slightly obsessed with butternut squash. So when Gourmet featured this recipe in their "Quick Kitchen" section of January's issue, I was intrigued. This dish is, essentially, fall in a bowl. I actually savored, slowly, each bite I took. It also didn't hurt that the orange and purple hues were lovely to look at on the plate.
It is surprisingly wonderful, and I say surprisingly because radicchio has a habit of being bitter and unfriendly, but its strong bite is softened by adding sweet butternut squash. As if that weren’t exquisite enough, texture and flavor are only enhanced by adding toasted, butter coated pine nuts. Oh, did I mention the butter is browned? Well, the butter is browned, making the nut flavor even more complex.
Fettuccine with Butternut Squash and Radicchio
Adapted from Gourmet
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 ½ cups)
1 medium head of radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
1 lb. fettuccine or other long, flat pasta
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Melt butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring, until nuts and butter have browned, 1-3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer nuts to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add squash to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add radicchio, pinches of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and add to skillet. Toss pasta with vegetables, adding cooking liquid in ½ cup increments, stirring over low heat until eheated through.
4. Serve topped with pine nuts and cheese.
Why is it that many grocery stores (at least those within a five mile radius of my house) do not stock orecchiette? Or, when it is stocked, I’m not planning a meal around it, so I don’t bother to pick it up. Inevitably, when I do need it, orecchiette is nowhere to be found. Even Gelson’s, which I thought would certainly carry the cute, “little ears,” left me wandering the aisles in disbelief. These stores seem to carry just about every other variety from Ruote to Gemelli (and by every other variety I mean beyond penne and spaghetti). So, I reached for a box of something I thought would work well with the sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) it would mingle with on our plates: campanelli.
In the box, their ends look unfurled the way the petal of a tulip does, its ridges fanning around like a cape. And when they are swimming the salted water, just al dente, they are fully prepared to catch all the juices and flavors this dish provides. Like many pasta recipes, the noodle variety will not significantly affect the final outcome of the dish. I knew all would be well, but was attached to the orecchiette simply because it was a recipe from Mario Batali’s Los Angeles Restaurant, Osteria Mozza, and I wanted to try it his way the first time. But, all disappointment aside, this was delicious. Because of the textural variety, this would be a great dinner party dish – it’s crunchy, sweet, spicy, and a little unexpected.
Campanelli with Sausage and Rapini
Adapted from Chef Nancy Silverton, Osteria Mozza
1 box campanelli (or other round pasta, like orecchiette)
1 bunch (1 ¼ lb.) broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed and chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. (about 3 links) hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 ½ cup store bought or homemade marinara sauce
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
½ cup toasted Panko breadcrumbs (optional), for garnish
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 9-10 minutes, until al dente. Add broccoli rabe during last three minutes of cooking; drain.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon; cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add cooked pasta and broccoli rabe to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in marinara sauce; cook 1 minute or until heated through.
Sprinkle with cheeses and panko breadcrumbs before serving.
Once I discovered how delicious cauliflower can be, I entered an obsessive phase. Since September my mouth has been watering over this recipe featured in Bon Appetit, and I finally got around to making it. This is a great special occasion dish, and I made it after my husband and I finished decorating our apartment for Christmas. If Guanciale – cured pork jowl and cheek – isn’t available at your market, just use pancetta. On second thought, even if it is available, you still might want to use pancetta. In case you’d like to make your own pasta, I’ve included the original recipe (also online here), but you can also take my shortcut and use wonton wrappers instead.
For wonton wrappers, brush the edges with water and spoon a tablespoon amount of filling in the center. Place a second brushed wrapper on top of the filling and press the edges together to ensure the air has been released and they stick together. If making ahead, place the ravioli on a foil lined baking sheet and freeze. Place frozen ravioli in a plastic bag until ready for use.
Cauliflower Ravioli with Guanciale
Recipe by Acero ~ Bon Appetit
1 1/2 cups semolina flour (pasta flour)*
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
All purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons ricotta cheese
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese**
8 oz thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta (Italian bacon), cut crosswise into thin strips
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Mix semolina flour and salt in large bowl. Whisk eggs and yolks in small bowl. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (dough will be sticky). Wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 day.
Melt butter with oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until golden, about 7 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until dry, about 3 minutes. Cool completely.
Blend ricotta, 6 tablespoons Parmesan, and mascarpone in processor until smooth. Add cauliflower and blend until filling is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to bowl, cover, and chill.
Sauté guanciale in large deep skillet over medium-high heat until golden and crisp. Add broth and butter. Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 12 minutes. Chill up to 4 hours.
Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; dust with all purpose flour. Divide dough into 3 pieces; cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run though machine. Fold in half, end to end, and run through machine again. Continue, adjusting to next-narrower setting after every 4 or 5 passes and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until sheet is about 24 inches long and about 1/16 inch thick. Cut sheet in half crosswise.
Drop filling onto 1 dough strip by heaping teaspoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Brush dough with water around each mound. Top with second dough strip; press around each mound to seal. Cut each ravioli into 2-inch square. Arrange on prepared sheet; cover with kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead; chill.
Cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Rewarm sauce. Add ravioli and toss over medium-high heat until sauce coats ravioli, about 2 minutes. Transfer to shallow bowl. Serve, passing grated Parmesan.
*Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.
**An Italian cream cheese; sold at many supermarkets and at Italian markets.
This is a truly decadent, grown-up version of your favorite Mac & Cheese. I made this for my husband and a friend who likely would have enjoyed the disgusting lovely blue box version with chopped hot dogs, but three cheeses + cauliflower + a grainy mustard tang + bread crumbs = one amazing dinner.
When I say decadent, I mean it. This dish is not figure friendly. Or wallet friendly. The several cheeses and crème fraîche can add up, but it’s worth it once in a while when you want to splurge and really punch up a classic favorite.
Now, I won't go so far as to say this is the best Mac & Cheese...yet. I think some more research is in order. I've made other versions in the past and have some I'd like to revisit before making a final decision on my ultimate, go-to Mac & Cheese favorite. Stay tuned...
Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Crème Fraîche
Recipe by Bruce Aidells, Bon Appetit
1 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, cored, cut into 1-inch florets
2 large heirloom tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups coarsely grated Comté cheese (or half Gruyère and half Fontina; about 9 ounces), divided
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
10 oz penne (3 1/2 cups)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from crustless French bread ground in processor)
Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using large sieve, transfer cauliflower to bowl. Add tomatoes to pot; cook 1 minute. Remove from water; peel and dice tomatoes. Reserve pot of water.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and green onions. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups Comté cheese; whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then crème fraîche* and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Return reserved pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return pasta to same pot. Stir in cauliflower mixture and sauce.
Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon in half of pasta mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat; mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle crumbs over pasta. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pasta uncovered until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.
They say you can tell a lot about a person by the food they eat, the books they read, and the company they keep. In the food world, you can tell a lot about a recipe by how often you make it. If you keep it around year after year, or if you make it once and then forget it.
This recipe is a favorite of mine, and is in the habit of winning over anyone I feed it to. I’ve made it enough times now that I can do it from memory, though failing to glance at the recipe has meant that on occasion I’ve left out basil, used spinach in place of arugula, and forgotten the olive oil all together (oops!).
There is a lot to love about this dish. The tomatoes are juicy and sweet, the steak is tender, and the balsamic sauce puckers a bit in your mouth. Whenever I can't think of what to make, I often turn to this recipe and ease comfortably into very familiar territory.
Penne with Beef and Arugula
Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
1 (1 pound) New York strip steak (any cut of meat you have is fine)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 pound penne pasta (I often use whole wheat penne which works very well with such a flavorful dressing)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for steak and pasta water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for steak
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 cups chopped arugula (spinach does no harm if you already have it on hand, just add a bit more pepper when tossing the pasta together)
Season the steak with salt and freshly ground black pepper, In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Cook steak about 7 minutes per side. Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak or cut into cubes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.
In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, fresh herbs, and 3/4 cup olive oil. In a large bowl toss the pasta with half of the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. Add the arugula and steak, more dressing, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Toss together then serve immediately with shavings of Parmesan.
I had high hopes for this sauce. This isn’t to say I was disappointed, but I hit some uncontrollable cooking snags along the way. The Gap Fire began on July 1. On July 6, the afternoon I attempted this recipe, the power went out twice while I was cooking. Since this recipe takes hours to complete, you can bet I was furious (although sympathetic to the fireman, evacuated families, etc.). But come on. The power had been going out for four days straight, usually beginning in the evening, between 6-7 pm. An outage at two o’clock in the afternoon was completely unexpected. When the first outage hit, I had just put the meat in the pan.
As the meat (and my electric stove) began cooling down, the lights returned so I continued browning the meat. By this time I had lost track of how long it had actually been in the pan so consequently this step was likely cut short. And as Anne will tell you, this step is REALLY important.
Just as I turned the meat to brown the other side, power was lost again. This time it was out for at least 45 minutes, and I was tabulating the lost minutes in my mind. 3 ½ hours of cooking pushes dinner back to 7:00 pm, wait, 7:30 pm. I was starting to give up hope when the power finally returned.
Eventually the tomato paste and wine were added. The mixture turns a beautiful burgundy color, and then it’s time for the “add water and wait” game. My only piece of advice with this recipe is to be patient. Don’t try making Bolognese unless you have time. During the “water and wait” step you will be very tempted to cut it short – don’t! The process of adding water and cooking it down is what creates a thick sauce that holds together instead of separating when it reaches the pasta. In the end, the meat wasn’t as brown as it should have been (translation: less flavor), but given the circumstances I’m very pleased with how this dish turned out.
Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell
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
3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups hearty red wine
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
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.
This weekend my husband and I are moving ninety miles down the coast from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, and our apartment is filled with boxes in preparation for loading the U-haul on Saturday. This means that our kitchen is down to the bare bones we need to survive – we’re already using plastic cups and plates, and tomorrow I’ll be packing up our pots and pans.
So, this will likely be my last post for at least a week (maybe two). But I will be back! Our computer won’t be set up for a bit, and as most of you know, moving is exhausting and leaves little time for home cooking.
We had one more meal before pulling the take-out menu’s from the drawer. It was chosen for its simplicity, and that it made use of the ingredients we had left in the kitchen - fresh lemon, spaghetti, a small block of Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil from the deteriorating little plant on our patio.
As much as I’ve complained about this kitchen I’ve cooked in for the past two and a half years, it’s been home. I’ve grown to at least appreciate – I can’t say love – our electric stove, and the building’s original avocado green oven that tends to burn the bottom of anything I bake. Yes, there’s a legitimate reason why you haven’t seen a lot of sweets yet.
I hope you can enjoy this dish whenever you’re a bit crazed too, or when you’re looking for something perfect in its simplicity. It might not look like much (the color of lemon juice and zest tends to blend into the beige spaghetti noodles), but the flavors will tell you otherwise.
The aromas of fresh lemon and nutty cheese will instantly calm you down. The pasta doesn’t need anything else to be delicious, but you could easily add toasted pine nuts or grilled shrimp for some extra pizzazz. It would also be wonderful with sides like stuffed peppers, asparagus and prosciutto, or a fresh green salad, but if you can’t muster anything but a big pot of pasta, you’re in luck – this dish is wildly comforting and requires minimal effort.
Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis
1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.
You’ll see a lot of pasta on this blog – I love it and refuse to stay away. For many people, pasta congers images of mushy fettuccine drenched in white cream sauce or spaghetti smothered with Prego, but the Cooking After Five kitchen refuses to eat either of these. If my pasta has red sauce, it was made in my own stock pot, or I’ll use Bertoli’s organic sauce, one of the few canned marinara sauces I truly enjoy.
This is a dish with a fair amount of preparation. When the time comes to toss everything together, your counter will be filled with bowls of parsley, bread crumbs, pine nuts, and olive oil, but preparing these elements while the cauliflower is roasting will give you plenty of time to clean up before finishing the recipe. 20 minutes before the cauliflower finishes, begin boiling the water. This way the spaghetti will be ready at the same time as the cauliflower.
With my butternut squash “food phase” coming to an end after last year’s holiday season, I retired many of my new favorite recipes to their appropriate binders and moved on to new obsessions. My latest phase: cauliflower. I’ve made soup, cauliflower steaks (recipes coming), and eaten florets like popcorn after roasting them in the oven.
Tyler Florence’s Sicilian Spaghetti is one of my favorite dishes from my search for the most delicious ways to use cauliflower. I had to double the amount of cauliflower from one head to two (one just isn’t enough, maybe because I eat too many florets before they reach the serving bowl?).
I also made several other minor changes to the cooking process, but nothing that changes the essential flavors of the dish. I used Itailan-style bread crumbs instead of Panko, and substituted anchovy paste for filets - both ingredients I already had.
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
2 heads cauliflower, cored and broken into small florets
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. anchovy paste
½ cup toasted pine nuts
¾ panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or Italian-style bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of ½ a lemon
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For the cauliflower, toss broken florets on a large roasting pan with ¼ cup olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 35-40 minutes, until florets are golden brown and tender. Toss florets halfway through.
In a small saucepan, heat ¾ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add anchovy paste and break apart with a spoon. Continue cooking on low heat for five minutes more, until olive oil is infused. Transfer to a glass bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, toast the bread crumbs for several minutes over medium heat until golden brown, set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, cook spaghetti for 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and place it back into the cooking pot. Add cauliflower, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss to combine, adding additional olive oil if the pasta is too dry.
To serve, arrange pasta on individual plates and toss evenly with bread crumbs and pine nuts. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
I know I recently said that this barley salad is perfect for summer picnics, but Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Pesto is equally perfect. (Ok, it might be one of my favorite pasta salads of all time.) I scrambled to make this on my lunch break so it could chill before a picnic later that night, but most of the preparations can be done the day before.
To make things easier, I used frozen, pre-cooked shrimp I already had in the freezer. You'll get bonus points for making your own pesto (just blend basil, toasted pine nuts, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and garlic in a food processor; stream in olive oil), but using store bought pesto is completely acceptable. Also, don't be afraid of a little salt. Add some when you first combine the ingredients, then taste the mixture after it has had a few hours to chill and add salt accordingly. The flavors are greatly enhanced if it's salted properly. Just add slowly, combine, and taste. Repeat as needed.
Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appétit | June 2008
3 cups orzo
6 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, cut lengthwise
1/4 cup store-bought pesto (or more/less, depending on your preference)
2 cups large shrimp (the recipe has you grill them, but I saved time and thawed pre-cooked shrimp)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite (about 8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil. Allow orzo to come to room temperature before tossing with other ingredients.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl. Brush zucchini and bell pepper with oil mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 3 minutes per side and let rest. Cut into ½ inch pieces and set aside.
If grilling shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil, then grill for 2-3 minutes per side. Otherwise, thaw frozen shrimp in warm water for 5 minutes. Cut off tail and cut shrimp into ½ inch pieces. Add shrimp to bowl with zucchini.
Add remaining vinaigrette, pesto, tomatoes, sliced basil, zucchini, shrimp (if using), lemon juice and mozzarella to orzo; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Garnish with basil sprigs and serve cold or at room temperature.