Last month I attempted macarons. I was so excited, I thought they were going to come out - the temperamental cookies had “feet” and everything! However, I was never able to get the darn things off the baking sheet. I was sooo disappointed.
After my failed macaron attempt, I had a container of marscapone cheese in the fridge (the cookies were supposed to have a marscapone-raspberry filling). I rarely cook with marscapone and was struggling to find a recipeto use it up. Lucky for me, the perfect recipe popped up – tomato marscapone pasta. I love that it’s quick and easy (30-45 minutes end-to-end, mostly inactive time, depending on whether you follow the cooking times below… I’ve definitely cut the simmering time short at least once before), but even more, the sauce was impressive. The marscapone adds a slightly creamy texture to the sweet tomato sauce, making a simple meal something special. Thanks to The Jey of Cooking for a great new recipe!
Tomato Marscapone Pasta
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, small dice
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 8 large basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 c. red wine
- 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. of pasta, cooked
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. When hot, add garlic, shallots/onions, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
- Add tomatoes and basil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in red wine and simmer for another 20 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta.
- Just before pasta is ready, stir marscapone into tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and leave on the hot burner until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and stir in tomato-marscapone sauce.
Serve hot with a grated Parmesan cheese, a side salad, and some fresh bread.
The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.
The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”
The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.
By Books n’ Cooks
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, small dice
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14 oz. water
- 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
- 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbs. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. sugar
* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.
In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)
When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.
First impressions about Brussels sprouts…. and go….
Let me guess. First thought is “ew.” Followed by something like, “who eats that?” I used to think the same. When we were little my mom would steam them, stinking up the kitchen. My youngest brother was the only one of us fooled into eating the “baby trees” (no, wait, that was broccoli…. well, it was something like that).
Anyway, then one day, when I was in high school or college, my mom roasted the Brussels sprouts until they were crispy. The veggies were non-stinky, so I gave them a whirl. I was officially a convert. Roast ‘em and you’ll get a slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture. Throw on some salt and maybe some bacon, and it quickly became one of my favorite sides, and the only way I’d eat Brussels sprouts.
Then this recipe came long. The Brussels sprouts were cooked pretty much the same – sliced instead of halved but roasted until crispy. Tossed with pasta, pecans, and a very light Gorgonzola-cream sauce, this recipe is sure to win over Brussels sprout-haters. Give it a try. Even a doubtful coworker cleaned his plate.
Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola & Pecans
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 102 (p. 107)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground back pepper
- 4 c. (20 oz.) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 3 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. dried pasta, such as shells or orecchiette
- 1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 3/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. Gorgonzola, crumbled
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 500°F. You want the baking sheet hot before you roast the Brussels sprouts.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and a bit of salt, for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Prepare the Brussels Sprouts: In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts. When the baking sheet is heated, remove from oven. Place Brussels sprouts on baking sheet, and use a large spoon to toss with olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, until Brussels sprouts are coated. (You can also toss the Brussels sprouts, oil, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl, and then spread on the baking sheet, if you prefer.) Make sure Brussels sprouts are spread out in a single layer before roasting, until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes (stirring halfway through).
Cook the Pasta: As Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook pasta according to the box, draining once cooked.
Make the Sauce: In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1/2 Tbs. butter. Add pecans, cooking until pecans are toasted and butter is browned, about 3 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove pecans and place on a plate. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter. Cook shallots until softened, another 3 minutes, still stirring frequently. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and add 3/4 c. Gorgonzola, stirring until melted.
Put it Together: In a serving bowl, toss pasta, pecans, Brussels sprouts, and Gorgonzola-cream sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. Gorgonzola. Serve warm.
The Barefoot Contessa is one of my go-to recipe sources when I’m looking for something new to try. Like Fine Cooking, Ina has never failed me. That’s why I was so very excited to receive five of Ina’s cookbooks for Christmas (I now own her whole collection).
This recipe was from Ina’s newest cookbook, How Easy Is That? This weeknight bolognese was certainly quick and easy, and a nice change from my hubby’s favorite meat sauce. The bolognese sauce was a little sweeter than we’re used to (perhaps because I used shiraz I had on hand, instead of a drier red wine) but still really good.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? (p. 154)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 lb. lean ground sirloin
- 4 tsp. minced garlic (4 cloves)
- 1 Tbs. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 c. dry red wine, divided
- 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 3/4 lb. dried whole grain pasta, such as small shells
Make the Bolognese Sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add ground sirloin, breaking up with a spoon and cooking until browned. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes – stirring and heating for just a minute. Add 1 c. of the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 Tbs. kosher salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Start the Pasta: At this point, start boiling water with a bit of kosher salt for pasta. Cook per directions on the box.
Finish the Bolognese: At the same time, add remaining 1/4 c. red wine, nutmeg, and basil to sauce. Stir and continue simmering until pasta is finished, about 10 minutes. (Sauce should thicken slightly).
Drain pasta. Toss pasta, bolognese, and Parmesan together.
Serve hot, with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.
Nutrition: I eliminated the 1/4 c. heavy cream called for in the recipe (if you want to use it, add it with the nutmeg and basil) and whole grain pasta to make this dish a bit healthier. The above recipe, with 5 servings, was 560 calories per serving.
Apologies but no story today – I’m in the midst of some traveling (hence why there hasn’t been a post in over a week) and am running about. This gnocchi will most definitely be on my menu when I return – it’s quick yet satisfying. Even the hubby likes it despite not having lots of meat in it.
Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Bacon, Onions & Peas
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 85 (p. 84a)
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. frozen gnocchi
- 3 oz. thick-cut bacon (about 3 slices), cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
- 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 c. thinly sliced or diced yellow onions (about 1 medium-small onion)
- 1/2 c. frozen peas
- 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and drain.
Meanwhile, in a large (preferably 12-inch) non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Pour off any fat from the skillet.
In the same skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are limp and golden brown, 10 minutes more. Stir in the peas and thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste, and transfer to a small bowl.
Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, and heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi and cook, tossing occasionally, until they’re lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Gently stir in the onion mixture, bacon, and Parmigiano, along with enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten and coat the gnocchi, about 4 Tbs. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmigiano.
When I was little, I used to hate cheese. I was the weirdo that took it to the extreme, taking the cheese of pizza. But as I’ve grown, my taste has changed, and I’ve come to really enjoy some cheese. The formerly-dreaded cheese tortellini is one of those foods that I’ve recently taken a liking to.
This tortellini salad has become one of my favorite sides and lunches. With the veggies, it’s a wonderful accompaniment for a summer BBQ. Throw in some grilled chicken and you’ve got a filling pasta salad for lunch.
Adapted from Good Housekeeping’s Step by Step Cookbook (p. 328)
- 2 pkgs. (9-oz each) tortellini
- ¼ c. white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1 medium red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 1 medium yellow pepper cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
- Parmesan or asiago cheese
May also add grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula or spinach, or any other veggies of choice.
Prepare tortellini as directed and drain.
Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together white wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper.
Finish the Salad: Add peppers, tomato, and artichokes to tortellini. Toss with dressing. Garnish with grated cheese.
Serve at room-temperature or cold.
Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
served with French Bread and Sage Butter
Adapted from Veal Scaloppini Saltimbocca Bon Appetit, Sept 2002
Ingredients for Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
- 1 box spaghetti
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 c. white cornmeal
- 1 Tbs. herbes de Provence (I used Italian seasoning instead)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 4 chicken (or veal) cutlets, cut into chunks (or, pounded thinly and then sliced)
- 1/2. c. thinly chopped prosciutto
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 c. dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 c. butter (1/2 a stick)
Mix cornmeal, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Seal and shake to mix thoroughly. Add chicken/veal, and shake again, ensuring that all pieces are coated.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken/veal, prosciutto, and sage. Saute.
Meanwhile, start boiling a pot of water for the spaghetti, and cook according to package. If finished before the chicken/veal, toss with olive oil and keep warm.
When chicken/veal is browned and cooked, add Marsala wine, chicken broth, and butter. Reduce.
Serve over spaghetti, with French Bread and Sage Butter.
- 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients so that butter is well mixed.
Sage Butter will keep for a week or two in the fridge.
Here’s a quick appetizer you can have on hand for unexpected guests. I have frozen this both when directed as well as the completely finished pesto (with the Parmesan), and it is good both ways. I serve this in a bowl, and let everyone help themselves, but you can also pre-spread the pesto onto toast or bread.
I’m hoping for leftovers, as I’d love to try this mixed in pasta with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes, or stuffed in a chicken breast. If you beat me to it, be sure to let me know how you liked it!
Artichoke Parmesan Pesto
Source: Giada De Laurentiis
Ingredients (Before Freezing):
- 1-8 oz. pack of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 1 c. fresh parsley
- 1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 c. olive oil
More Ingredients (After Freezing):
- 2/3 grated Parmesan
- bread or cracker of your choice…. for grilling, toasting, or serving plain
In a food processor, chop the artichokes, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, scraping the sides as necessary. With the food processor in, add the olive oil.
If freezing, transfer to an airtight container (or pre-portion into an ice cube tray and wrap tightly with plastic wrap). Freeze for up to 1 month.
Mix in Parmesan cheese (2 tsp. per ice cube if you’re freezing it that way).
I served this as part of a platter of dips, breads, and crackers (including homemade pita toasts), and allowed everyone to “dress” their own bread or cracker. If you prefer, toast some bread, spread the pesto, and serve.