Italian Garlic Fettuccine

Growing up in Toronto, I had a good friend who for a few years worked at a store that sold fresh pasta.  It belonged to the restaurant of the same name across the street.  When people ate at the restaurant, loving the pasta, they could head straight across the street and buy some of that home-made pasta themselves.

I used to think it was so luxurious and out of my league.  I mean, it was so much more expensive than the dried grocery store noodle.  And while I loved, and will always love pasta, I wasn’t sure I would ever (literally) pay the price for fresh pasta.

Well I did.  But after a few times I thought what I usually do, let’s try and make this.  It was actually not until we lived in Mexico that I tried it for the first time.  I ordered the attachments for my Kitchen-aid mixer and brought them down in my suitcase.  I found a simple egg noodle recipe and subsequently employed child labor one of the first times I did it.

paigepasta

This was at least five years ago.  I must say, I was surprised at how easy it was, although did take a bit of time to do all the rolling.  Because children seem to love fun gadgets, when my daughter saw the attachment whirring, she was intrigued and willing to sit on the counter for hours rolling out pasta.

Ever since that first time I’ve made pasta often and tried different types of noodles once in awhile (like this one).  This latest attempted at noodles was fun and turned out great so I had to share it with you.

basilpasta2

Look at those pretty flecks of seasoning.  Gah.  I love it.

If you don’t have a pasta maker, you could actually roll out the dough yourself and cut with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  Of course, a pasta-maker does make it uniform and much easier.  You can get attachments for your mixer, or, buy the hand-operated pasta makers that cost about the same price at the attachments.

You can make this earlier in the day, but make sure you cover them so they don’t dry out too much.  And remember, when you are cooking up the noodles, they are al dente in about half the time of grocery store noodles.  Once they float to the top they only need a few more minutes and they’re done.

The first night we ate them, I served then with olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and basil, but the next day I simply tossed them with oil and garlic. And maybe topped with a little cheese.

noodles

When a noodle is the star, the sauce can be soft and simple.

Happy noodle making!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian seasoning (you could use just basil or oregano)
  • 4 eggs

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, add the flour and salt and combine for 5 seconds.   In a blender, combine eggs and garlic until garlic is pulverized.  Add egg/garlic mixture and seasoning to food processor with about 6 TAB of warm water.  Using on/off turns, combine until mixture comes together and starts to pull away from edges.  If necessary, use more water, 1 TAB at a time.

Gather together and knead dough for about 5 minutes, sprinkling with flour if necessary.  Let rest, covered, for about an hour.

Cut dough into about 12 even pieces.  Adjust pasta roller to widest setting (mine is a 1).  Roll through four times.  Adjust setting to next level and repeat.  Repeat until you receive the desired thickness.  (I only go up to a 4 or 5 out of 8 because we like our noodles a little thicker).  Hang on drying rack, a hanger, or lay flat on well floured tray and let stand an hour, turning it once to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Cut into desired noodle (I prefer fettuccine) and let dry again, covered, until ready to eat.  Prepared noodles can rest on the counter up to four hours.

 

Mexican Gnocchi

I will admit, although living in Mexico, I don’t often make Mexican food.  Why should I, when the abuela’s (grand-mother’s) down the street who have been doing it for 70 years can do it better than me at crazy cheap prices?  (When I see what some of you ‘up north’ pay for tacos, it makes me cry).  Interestingly, we live in one of THE most expensive parts of the country.  When you visit Mexico City and it’s suburbs, the tacos are better, fresher, and even cheaper than they are here.  Every corner has another mom and pop establishment in which the smells wafting through the air will transform any ‘I don’t eat street food’ critic into a believer.  I’m sure they’re even cheaper in other parts of the country.

I will also admit that I find it kind of annoying when I see Mexican versions of dishes that claim to be ‘authentic’ that actually aren’t very Mexican.  For example, they don’t use cheddar cheese here people.  So when you see a “Mexican” dish that has cheddar, it’s the furthest thing from authentic.  Sour cream? Nope.  Here we buy something called ‘crema’ in little boxes.  It’s much thinner than sour cream when at room temperature, but quite similar after the box is opened and is has to be refrigerated.  It’s less sour than sour cream also.  It’s very popular here and can be found even at the local corner stores.  Hard shell tacos? You do know that I’ve never seen one in 9 years of eating here.  This country is all about it’s soft corn hand-made tortillas.  And the one that surprises people most: taco seasoning.  They don’t sell it here.  It’s a treat from home when it shows up.  Here they use good old fashioned spices.

When I was playing around with fusing Italian with Mexican, I just went to the grocery store and bought what is cheap, local, and popular.  That meant white onions, cilantro, corn, Manchego cheese, and jalapeno.  I played around with all these ingredients and added them to gnocchi that someone had given me.  I don’t eat a lot of gnocchi, but what I do like about it is that you don’t need a lot and it seems to go far.

Of course, what’s local to me, may not be local to you.  I am in no way recommending that you go and spend more money on ingredients than you have to.  If you can’t find Manchego, use mozzarella, if you like your pasta stringy.  If not, use another cheese (gasp, yes, even cheddar), it’s your meal, do what you want!   I won’t fight you on this because it’s obvious this isn’t ‘authentic’ anything; it’s a fusion of countries and flavors and cultures.  But sometimes, that’s the best!

This is a fast and easy meal that you can easily change up and I promise won’t disappoint.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TAB vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup corn (optional)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 1/2 lbs gnocchi
  • 1 cup Manchego cheese (or mozzarella if you want stringy, cheddar if not)
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 package taco seasoning OR 1 TAB chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, and salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add ground beef, in batches if necessary so it browns properly, and cook until no red is left.  Add spices, tomatoes, and beef broth and cook for a few minutes until simmering.  Add corn, beans, jalapeno and simmer another 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, put a pot of water to boil. Cook gnocchi until they float, drain.  Toss with sauce and add cheese.  Add salt to taste if necessary, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.

pierogi

Ukrainian Pierogies

I have been watching my mother and Baba (grand-mother in Ukrainian) make pierogies for as long as I can remember.  My mother has told me she remembers watching her dad eat up to 66 at a time!  Those were different times, when people actually needed to consume more calories because their employment was usually physical labor.  I think if I consumed that many at one sitting, I would explode.  And I am definitely a glutton when it comes to pierogies.

Don’t get offended by this, but I have to say it: my Baba’s and mom’s pierogies are the best.  I think it’s one of those things that because eating this food item holds so many wonderful childhood memories, nobody else’s pierogies can beat it.  Don’t get me wrong, I will eat pierogies at any chance they are presented to me, and some other friend’s Baba’s have come close, but the clear winner usually rests in my mom’s freezer.

When we had the shop here in Mexico, I started attempting my mother’s pierogies.  One occasion when we were home for a visit, I asked if she could make the dough so that I could try and measure it out so I could make it back in Mexico.  “But I don’t measure”, was her reply.  “I know, but I’d like to try and measure what you’re doing so I can copy it”.  She looked very concerned that my measuring would get in the way of her super soft dough.

It didn’t.  I had a lot to learn.  The first year I tried on my own, I found that some batches were so tough I couldn’t roll them out.  I tried to convince myself it was okay, but when I actually ate a few perogies with said dough, I could barely get my teeth through it.  Clearly, a soft dough matters.  But I kept trying until I got the hang out it.

Growing up, we had strict rules about pierogi night.  They were cooked and served one way and one way only: boiled, tossed with onions in a ton of oil, served with salt, pepper, and sour cream.  There were no sides. There was no dessert.  They were only to be fried the next day, if you were fortunate enough to have leftovers.  Frying them the day of was unheard of and if you mentioned it, you would have gotten a dirty look and perhaps asked to exit the kitchen.   Don’t mess with family tradition.

My mother used to leave them all on the counter, dusted with flour, using about 3,000 tea-towels.  These days, we freeze them individually as we go along, which gives us more for a later time.  I still force ask my mom to make the dough, she even rolls and cuts out the shapes, but we fill and pinch.  That way we can get 300-400 or so done in a day which is GREAT for a freezer.

perogiefreezer

In the past few years, my mother started adding sour cream to her dough; she is sure that it makes it much softer and easier to work with.  And, as hard as this is for me to believe as it is NOT how it was growing up, she now fries bacon along with the onions when she serves them.  This fact actually hurt my brain when it first happened, but I never refuse bacon, so I kept my mouth shut.

Inside the potato and cheese filling, my mother also used to buy a chunk of pork fat, or what she used to call ‘shvsrke’. Since we would never be able to find that here in Mexico, she will just save the bacon fat and add that, even using diced up pieces of bacon for the filling.  The fat gives it a distinct flavor.  Try to ignore the fact that it’s not healthy and just do it.  Just this once.  And every time you make them.

These amounts won’t match perfectly, you will have leftover filling so you may want to make another batch of dough.  You can half both amounts, it’ll still turn out the same.

They take some time, but they are worth it.  And just think, you don’t have to make appetizers or dessert because nobody’s stomach will be able to handle all that food.

Oh, and do your guests a favor, tell them to wear their stretchy pants.

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:

  • 9 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cups (unflavored) cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sour cream

POTATO FILLING:

  • 2 kgs potatoes
  • 907 gram block of cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced

TO SERVE:

  • onions
  • vegetable oil
  • bacon

DIRECTIONS:

Filling: Peel potatoes and boil until soft, then mash.  Add cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Fry onion in vegetable oil and add to mixture.  Fry bacon and add to mixture, even adding some or all of the grease from the bacon.  Set aside to cool. (This can be prepared the day before, the colder the mixture is the easier the dough is to fill).

Dough: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Knead five minutes by hand until smooth.  Rest at least 30 minutes, covered.

Flour your working surface well. Roll out dough until about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut circles to size you desire.  We usually use the open end of a drinking glass that’s about 3 1/2″ wide.  Put filling in middle.  Bring one end of circle, pinching as you go.  Pinch tightly, or else they may open when boiling.  They do not need egg wash to seal if you are pinching well. Set aside, not allowing one to touch the other, on a floured baking sheet.

Fresh pierogi can sit, covered, for a few hours.  Or if you prefer, freeze on the sheet until each pierogi is hard, then transfer to a freezer bag.

Set a pot of well-salted water to boil. While waiting for water, fry bacon in a skillet and set aside.  Fry onions in oil and once slightly golden brown, return bacon to pan and stir.  Remove from heat and add to serving dish.

If boiling frozen pierogies, do NOT thaw.  Place them into pot and bring back to a hard boil.  They are ready when they rise to the top.  Drain and toss immediately with fried onions and bacon in serving dish.

Serve with salt, pepper, and lots of sour cream.

 

Ravioli Salami

Ravioli with Crisp Salami, Mushrooms, & Cream

How many recipes do you all have because you went somewhere for dinner and BEGGED the hostess for the recipe?  I have quite a few. And this is one of my favorites.

I have no idea which one of my extended family member’s home that we ate this, but I still remember who made it and after eating it I declared I just MUST have it.  Those were back in the days of hand-writing a recipe out for someone, so that’s what I have, her lovely hand-written recipe.

This may be the fastest pasta dish ever made, I’m not sure if the sauce comes together faster than the tortellini or ravioli cooks, but no matter, you can have this on the table in under 15 minutes and everybody will be craving more.  If you want to lighten it up, use half and half cream along with the whipped cream.  The mushrooms and salami turn it a lovely color that makes people wonder what else is in there.  They don’t have to know that it’s just a few ingredients.

Or you can be nice and hand-write the recipe out so more people can share in its goodness.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup green onions, minced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 lb spicy Italian salami, cut in strips
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 lb ravioli or tortellini
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Add onions, mushrooms, and salami and saute until salami is browned and crispy.  Stir in whipping cream and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil, simmer 1-2 minutes until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat.

Boil pasta and drain, add to sauce and toss well to combine over low heat.  Add cheese.  Serve immediately.

Thai Chicken Peanut Spaghetti

I guess I would say I started being more inventive, or daring in the kitchen was when I moved here to Mexico.  You see, when you live in the biggest city in your country that affords you access to any ingredient you pretty much want, it doesn’t encourage creativity.  What’s that expression, necessity is the mother of invention?  So true.

As I’ve said on other posts, there was A LOT of ingredients that I couldn’t find.  There were NOT a lot of restaurants with the variety of food I was used to.  Add to that, my lack of willingness to acquiesce, and well, I started trying to fill in the food gap.

We do have a great restaurant that is very popular in Playa del Carmen that serves a large variety of pastas.  The portions are huge, definitely a place to share a meal.  I had one pasta here that was different than all the usual, it had a Thai twist to it, in the peanut sauce kind of way.  We loved it and ordered it every time we went.  Then, it dawned upon me, I could make this at home.

So I did.  It took a few tries to get it right but it’s become a family favorite.  With limes that are abundant here, a fresh squeeze in the sauce makes it so sharp tasting, in contrast with the sweetness of the peanut butter. And my husband always likes when nuts are tossed on top of pastas and ice-cream so perhaps that was the clincher for him.

The sauce can be ready before your pasta is.  It’s a quick week-night meal that will have everybody clamoring for more.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 TAB plus 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 TAB plus 3 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 TAB cooking oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TAB fresh ginger, minced OR 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 500 grams spaghetti
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • salted peanuts (optional garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

Combine 4 TAB soy sauce, 3 TAB lime juice, oil, garlic, and ginger.  Add chicken and toss to combine.  Let marinate at least ten minutes.  (Can put in fridge for a few hours, covered).

In a medium saucepan, combine remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 3 teaspoons lime juice, peanut butter, broth, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk and heat until simmering.  In a separate saucepan, cook chicken in a little oil until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.  Add chicken to sauce and toss to combine and keep warm.

Boil water for pasta, and cook until al dente.  Drain pasta and toss with sauce.  (If you want sauce a little thinner, add a little cooking water).  Top with green onions and peanuts.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

 

Ziti & Broccoli

Recently, a few of us were discussing what we would grab in a fire, after of course the obvious: loved ones, pets, etc.  I sat for a few seconds and someone said ‘Lesley would grab her recipe albums’.  I couldn’t deny it.

You see, since I was very young, my mother has been collecting recipes.  She has more albums than I can count.  What’s interesting, is she also keeps the ones she doesn’t like.  She likes to rate them, comment on them, and, over the years, my sister and I did also.  In fact, there’s one recipe that my sister, mother, and I all commented on, even though my sister is 14 years older than me, once it was my turn, I had to have a say.  You will see comments like “made October 14, 1997. Very Good, but a lot of work”, or “made May 11, 2003. Wouldn’t make again.” or my favorite, a simple “yucky”.  Not sure why she keeps recipes of things she didn’t enjoy, perhaps so she doesn’t make the same mistake twice?

When I moved out, I realized that I had seen my mother cook for years, and had made a thing or two myself, but I had not begun my collection of recipes.  So I started then and there.  First I went through her books and photocopied all the ones I grew up loving.  I practiced them and made them my own.  Then I started branching out.

But there are some recipes that are near and dear to my heart.  This recipe is one of them.  You may think it’s too simple, not cheesy or saucy enough, but I won’t care.  I am definite that this recipe is the reason I like broccoli, and it solidifies my loyalty to pasta.

What was my writing at the top of this 30 year old recipe? “My fav”.

Maybe it will be yours.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium size head broccoli
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TAB butter
  • 1/2 cup Reggiano or Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 500 grams ziti or other large tubular pasta
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cut stems off broccoli and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Chop parsley and garlic together.  Steam broccoli in a little water until al dente set aside.  Combine olive olive, butter, parsley, and garlic in a small skillet.  Warm for a few minutes but do not cook or burn.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Combine pasta, broccoli, and oil mixture together, mixing well.  Add cheese, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

*Note: you could also save a little cooking water if you like and toss it along with everything in the pot if you like.  

 

 

 

Spinach Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I have a confession. I forgot it was National Pasta Day today.  And I profess to be a pasta addict? Pasta obsessed?

Fail.

My girlfriend in Edmonton asked this morning if she could give me a shout-out on her personal Instagram page (uh, of course), especially because it’s National Pasta Day.  I panicked.  How did I not know this was National Pasta Day?   I guess I still have a lot to learn.  (What else is new.)

I wondered what I would post. My favorite pasta dish?  Easiest? A fan favorite? None of those seemed right.  And to be honest, if I had to pick one, I couldn’t.  I mean, I grew up addicted to my mom’s macaroni and cheese, and it will always comfort me, but I’ve had so many wonderful pastas over the course of my life, (especially this May as I ate my way through Italy) how could I pick just one? After all, that’s one of the reasons we love it so, it’s soooo versatile.

When we moved out of Toronto, we moved to (what was then) a suburb filled with many Italians.  I learned what a ‘cantina’ was, and whenever a husband would say ‘do you want to see the cantina?” and the wife would inevitably groan and say ‘no she doesn’t’, I quickly replied ‘pleeeease yes’, to the chagrin of the wife.  Down the stairs I went to see hanging cured meats, fresh cheese, jugs of wine, and enough pasta stored up for the winter.  In case we all get snowed in for the next 6 months, of course.  I could happily eat my way through winter in any one of those cantinas.

One of my Italian friends in particular spoiled our family in the pasta area,  “So I made ravioli with a cream sauce, but if you don’t want that because it’s too rich you can have the gnocchi tomato sauce one, oh and i found pesto laying around so I made that too”.  I often made trouble for her, insisting she made too much, and yet somehow, there weren’t a lot of leftovers.  (Although she did insist we leave a little so that everybody could have lunch tomorrow and she didn’t have to make them something else).

There was always access to fresh pasta at the grocery stores in and around Toronto, but of course, when I moved here, that was not the case.  So, as usual, I decided one day to make my own pasta.  I had no idea it was going to be so easy.   Don’t be mad at me for saying that, but it’s true.  I made a simple egg noodle recipe up and off we were, rolling dough.  I highly believe in child labor, so up my then 9-year old daughter went on the counter, rolling and rolling lovingly until it was all done.  We made a light sauce with oil, butter, garlic, and tomatoes.

I was in love.  Again.

I’ve been making pasta ever since.  I don’t make it often, because the rolling can take some time and I am in no way as fast as the chefs on cooking shows who seem to make it all in under 30 minutes.  And it’s definitely not something I make for a crowd. But for a cozy table of six or eight people, you betcha.  It can’t be beat.

If you don’t want to make your own pasta, or don’t have the equipment, just use regular pasta for this, or perhaps find a local store that sell fresh pasta; it will elevate this sauce in ways you only dream of.

And this sun-dried-tomato pesto sauce isn’t too shabby either.  My husband actually was never a big fan of it, claimed it was ‘too rich’ for his taste, but when I made it today, he said it was perfect.  Maybe the spinach in the pasta calmed the strong flavors of the pesto down? I don’t know, but I do know that you should probably try it more than once and figure it out for yourself.

And as always, let me know.

INGREDIENTS:

PASTA:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 TAB (about) warm water
  • 1 cup cooked and pureed spinach, thoroughly dried

DIRECTIONS:

Combine flour and salt in a food processor, blend 5 seconds to combine.  Add eggs, spinach, and water.  Using the pulsing method, blend until moist dough forms, adding more water if necessary (it all depends on how well you removed the excess water from the spinach).

Gather dough to a lightly floured counter.  Knead until smooth and pliable, adding more flour if necessary, about five minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes.  Cut into six pieces.  Cover again with plastic wrap.

Flatten each piece with your hand.  Set pasta dough roller to the widest setting (mine is number 1).  Roll through 3 times.  Adjust machine to next narrowest setting, and repeat, rolling 3 times.  Continue to roll until you’ve achieved the desired thickness.  (For example, my numbers range from 1 as the widest to 8 as the thinnest, and I usually stop at 5) .

Hang rolled dough on pasta drying rack or lay on well floured surface. Let stand until the pasta dries a little, this will help with cutting, about 30 minutes.

Change attachment on machine to desired pasta (I used fettuccine for this).  Run through machine, using flour if dough is sticky.  Let rest on floured surface, lightly covered, up to four hours.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta until just tender, about 2 minutes.  Remember, fresh pasta takes a fraction of the time to be ready.  Drain and set aside.

 

SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 TAB dried
  • 2 TAB pine nuts, toasted
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced (optional)
  • 6 slices cooked bacon or pancetta or prosciutto (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In food processor, add sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, basil, pine nuts, garlic and combine.  With machine running, gradually add olive oil and process until smooth paste forms.

In a small skillet, heat 1 TAB olive oil.  Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes, and then add cooked bacon/pancetta or prosciutto just to crisp a little.

Reserve about a cup of cooking liquid from your pasta.  Add the sun-dried tomato mixture to the skillet along with enough cooking water to thin out the sauce to your desired consistency.  Add pasta and serve immediately.

 

 

One-pot Rigatoni & Italian Sausage

Does anybody remember the milk calendar?  Did you even get one where you lived  When I was growing up, the Toronto Star would include on in their paper annually, published by (I’m guessing) the Dairy Board? Is there even such a thing? There must be.  Anyway, the calendar came (I think) the first week of January every year.  While none of the recipes in the calendar were game changers, there are some that we still use to this day.

This is one of them.  I don’t know if I copied the recipe out exactly because it’s hand-written in cursive on a bright pink piece of paper.  I miss the days of nice hand-writing.  These days I’m happy if someone writes “you” instead of ‘u’.

I used to make this A LOT.  It was so comforting and had the kinds of things in it that I always loved: Italian sausage, pasta, cheese.  And the fact that it was made in one pot only made it better.  I am pretty sure that one of my girlfriends re-considered marrying her husband because he was lactose intolerant and she couldn’t dream of not eating this anymore.  But being the good wife she is, made it for herself when he wasn’t home instead of sending his stomach into disarray.

I know that a lot of people won’t be eating this because it seems like everybody is allergic to milk these days.  But for those of you who aren’t, try it, it’s so creamy and comforting, I promise you’ll love it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 TAB cornstarch
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1/2 lb rigatoni or penne
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet.  Cook sausage until browned.  Add onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is translucent.  Stir in cornstarch.  Add milk, stir until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Add canned tomatoes and pasta.  Return to a boil and cook until pasta is tender.  (You may need more liquid depending on the type of noodle you choose, keep some tomato sauce or milk handy).  Stir in mozzarella and serve.

 

Easy Hungarian Chicken & Spaetzle

Don’t be mad at me for saying this (especially if you’re a Canadian and it’s anywhere from December to March), but sometimes, just sometimes, I miss winter.  I miss snow lightly falling, fireplaces, coming into a warm house, stomping off the snow, getting some hot chocolate going to warm up the children, or turning the oven on in preparation to make a meal for family or friends in which the scents and warmth please our senses.  It’s such a comforting feeling.

I don’t miss the other parts of winter, the driving, the frozen windshields, the who-is-going-to-warm-up-the-car-for-the-kids battle … but I can’t deny I miss parts of the changing of seasons.  To me, that’s when food was actually comforting, warming, inviting.

I have no objection to spending a whole day slicing, dicing, simmering, steaming, baking, you name it, it’s my happy place.  But lets be honest, those kinds of days don’t always happen when it’s just too hot to do anything but siesta.

This recipe reminds me of a creamy meat stew that’s been simmered on the stove for hours as it warmed up my kitchen on a cold winter day.  But instead, when it’s 30 degrees here, I can whip this up in under 30 minutes and still have comforting food.  You can serve this over rice, mashed potatoes, or try something new, and make this spaetzle.

What is spaetzle?  The name comes most likely from the German word Spatzen which means “little sparrows”. Some say that before there were spaetzle tools, they would put dough into their hands like holding a little sparrow and put small pinches in the water. Another idea is that the dough was formed with two small spoons, making little oval shapes like little sparrows. How it got from Spatzen to Spaetzle is not clear.  What is clear, is that it’s budget friendly, simple, and a delicious form of dumpling.

It’s really as simple as mixing everything in a bowl, and picking out tiny pieces with a spoon, or pushing it through a colander.  If you are using spoons, make the pieces as small as possible, as they puff up when boiling.  Toss a little olive oil into the water to help them not to stick together.  They aren’t the prettiest dumplings out there, but they are goooood.

hungarian2

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup butter + 1 Tab
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 Tab paprika
  • 2 Tab flour
  • 1 cup sour cream

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.  Dry and lightly dust with flour.

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Melt 1/4 cup butter.  Add chicken, paprika, salt and pepper to taste, and saute until chicken is lightly browned.  Remove chicken from pan.

Add remaining 1 Tab butter to pan and saute onion until it is translucent.  Return chicken to pan.  Add chicken broth and gently simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken (leave broth) from pan and tent loosely with foil.

Stir 2 Tab flour into the pan and boil until the sauce has thickened to your liking.  Add sour cream and return chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.

 

SPAETZLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup milk (not fat-free or light)

 

DIRECTIONS:

In a bowl, stir the flour, eggs, milk, and salt until smooth (dough will be very wet, this is what keeps them moist, resist the urge to add more flour).

Put on medium pot of water to boil.  Take serving spoon and dip into hot water. Take small amounts of spaetzle mix and drop into water.  (or alternatively, pour dough into a colander coated with cooking spray, place over boiling water, push dough through in small pieces drop into boiling water).  Cook for two minutes or until dumplings are tender and float.  Remove with a slotted spoon, toss with butter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balsamic Penne Pasta

Some recipes are so simple you can’t really understand why they are so good.  Pair that with ingredients that don’t cost a lot and that you almost always have in your pantry, and it becomes a recipe that you make, and eat, time and time again.

This is one of those recipes.

It originally came from the Toronto Star, which was long considered the most reliable paper in Toronto.  While I was growing up, my parents had the paper delivered every day and faithfully read every page.  At any given point in the day,  I would find one or both of them reading the paper front to back.  They even had a read pile and yet to read pile for each other, so nothing was missed.

Since my mother was always looking to try new things, she would take note of anything new that she could try.   The heading for this one was “Weekend Gourmet”, I’d call it more of a family classic at this point. I am sure it’s almost 20 years old.  The colour of the paper in her recipe binder sure makes it look that way.

The recipe below is exactly how it was printed many moons ago.  But you can change it up by using a bit less oil and instead, keep the juices from the canned tomatoes if you are trying to cut out calories from oil.  I also usually put more balsamic in because I love it. But just so you know, my mother still makes it exactly the same.  Some things you don’t mess with.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or more if you dare)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 2 1/2 tsp dried, crushed leaves
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 500 grams penne
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

Put olive oil and garlic in a skillet, turn heat to medium.  Add rosemary if fresh.  As soon as garlic begins to sizzle, add tomatoes, salt, and liberal grindings of pepper.  If you are using dried rosemary, add it now.

Cook about 10 to 12 minutes and then turn off heat.  Drop pasta into a pot of boiling, salted water.  Cook until al dente or firm to the bite.  Drain and transfer to skillet.  Turn heat on low, toss pasta with sauce about 2 minutes.  Turn off heat, make a well in middle of pasta.  Pour vinegar into well.  Draw pasta over it, toss for a few seconds, and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.