Tag Archives: pasta

Memories Are Made of This

beet ravioli

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi took place yesterday.  All told, it was a pretty smooth start to an Olympics surrounded with controversy.  I know the ring didn’t light up, but considering Vancouver 2010’s cauldron mishap, maybe it’s best to concede that these things just happen sometimes.  In case you missed it yesterday, it’s worth finding footage of the Red Army Choir singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”  Today’s events include the men’s singles luge, the men’s 500 meter speed skating, and the team dance portion of the new team figure skating category.

Like I did for the Summer 2012 Games, I’ll be taking a look back at the Winter Games of past years, starting with 1956.  The 1956 Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.  At the 1956 Winter Games, the Olympic Oath was sworn for the first time by a woman.  Thirty-two countries competed, sending 821 athletes to compete in twenty-four events.  This was the last Winter Olympics where the figure skating competitions took place outdoors.  Soviet athletes made their Winter Olympics debut at these games, with the USSR competing for the first time.

Located in the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is home to some great skiing and cycling.  It is also home to a specialty dish called casunziei ampezzani, a ravioli with beet and ricotta filling.  At first, this idea was pretty intimidating.  I couldn’t remember the last time I ate beets, and I had never prepared them.  Luckily I found a recipe that made this dish much less daunting.  Also luckily, Lane gave me a pasta roller attachment for my stand mixer for Christmas, so rolling out the pasta dough was a breeze.  You can still make these without a pasta attachment, or a pasta roller, but you’ll have to roll the dough pretty thin using a rolling pin.  It’s not a lot of work, it just adds to the hands-on time.  Roasted beets are a fantastic ravioli filling.  They’re earthy and slightly sweet.  The poppy seed and butter sauce is the perfect light sauce for the rich ravioli.

Casunziei Ampezzani (Beet Ravioli with Butter Poppy Seed Sauce)

Ingredients:

for the filling:

  • 2 large red beets (about 12 ounces, greens removed)
  • 1/2 C. whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 C. grated asiago cheese

for the pasta:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place each beet on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Drizzle each beet with olive oil, wrap with the foil and place it on a baking sheet.

Roast for about 1 hour, until the beets are tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife.

Carefully unwrap the foil and allow the beets to cool.

Peel the beets and grate them into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and grated cheese to the work bowl of the food processor.

Pulse until finely chopped, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the pasta dough, combine the flour, eggs, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. 

Process for 30-60 seconds, until the dough forms a rough ball.

If the dough resembles pebbles or has the texture of cous cous, add  a Tbsp. water to the food processor and process again.  Repeat this process until the dough comes together.

Knead the dough a few times until it forms a smooth ball.

Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough and place it into a small bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 seconds before rolling it out.

To roll out the dough using a stand mixer attachment or other pasta roller, roll the dough following the manufacturer’s instructions to a thickness of 4 or 5. To roll it out by hand, roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8 of an inch thick.  Work with one sheet of dough at a time and keep all others covered with a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.

Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter to cut rounds out of the sheets of dough.

Spoon 1 tsp. of the beet filling onto each round.

Moisten your fingertip with water (it’s handy to keep a small bowl of water next to you while you work), and fold the rounds in half, pressing to seal the edges together around the filling.

Place the formed ravioli onto a floured sheet pan and continue to cut rounds, fill, and seal them.  Re-roll the scraps of dough and continue the process until all of the dough is used.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the poppy seeds.  Reduce the heat to keep the butter warm, but do not burn the butter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the ravioli in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes.

Remove the ravioli from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and place them into the melted butter mixture, tossing to coat.  Repeat until all ravioli are cooked and tossed in sauce.

Source: adapted from Italian Food, Wine, and Travel with pasta dough from The Kitchn

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Then Came Lo Mein

I feel like the summer just started and here we are approaching Labor Day.  I’m looking forward to fall getting here, because then we have some breathing room in the schedule again.  As much as I love simple grilled dinners, salads, or cookouts with friends all summer long,  I’m ready to be back in jeans and boots and comfy sweaters hovering over pots of soup and pulling roasts out of the oven.  Quick and simple dinners have been critical lately.  Just because a dinner is quick and simple doesn’t have to mean that it’s boring.

Lo mein is anything but boring.  On the rare occasions that we order Chinese takeout anymore, lo mein has always been a huge hit.  Using a frozen stir fry vegetable mixture helps to make chicken lo mein a quick weeknight meal.  No, it isn’t the same as cutting up all of those vegetables and sauteing them to perfection, but it does mean that we can have lo mein at home faster than we can order it and drive over to the local takeout place.   Really, this is marinated cooked chicken stir fried with steamed frozen stir fry vegetable mix, tossed with spaghetti and a tasty sauce.  What this lo mein lacks in authenticity, it makes up for with flavor.  The ginger is subtle, and there’s just enough heat to keep it interesting.

chicken lo mein

Quick Chicken Lo Mein

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8-10 oz. chicken), cut into strips
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bag frozen mixed stir fry vegetables (my mixture included broccoli, red peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn, and mushrooms)

Directions:

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente, then drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, and red pepper flakes, then set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken strips with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the frozen stir fry vegetables according to package directions and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.

Add 1 tsp. of the oil, then add the chicken and cook, stirring, until no longer pink in the center.

Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside.

Heat another tsp. of the oil, then add the cooked vegetables, stirring to coat the vegetables with the oil.

Add the chicken back into the wok and stir to combine with the vegetables.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the wok, and stir to combine.

Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and stir to thoroughly combine.

Stir until the mixture is heated through, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

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Quiet Storm

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three weeks since I last posted here.  I freely admit that I haven’t done much cooking.  We have been doing plenty of anniversary partying, coffee date with friend-ing, camping, vacationing, amusement park-ing, and drive-in move going.  What we have not been doing plenty of is meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.  There’s been some cooking, just not blog-worthy cooking.  We’ve slathered pork chops with barbecue and grilled them, and enjoyed many a corn on the cob or a burger.  We’ve also enjoyed plenty of meals out either celebrating or due to time constraints.  So, while I’ve been completely neglecting my blogger duties, I have been completely busy loving my new job, loving time with Lane and the kiddos, and celebrating both our own milestones and those of the people we love.

With nothing planned or thawed out ahead of time and with no real plan in hand, I made a great dinner last night that took less than half an hour from start to finish.  The next time I come home from work and decide that it’s faster to order something or head to a restaurant, I am going to remind myself that in the amount of time it would have taken to peel M away from her Kindle and O away from his Legos, we could be sitting down to dinner.  I thawed some shrimp, boiled some water, and got to work.  It did help that I had a hunk of Asiago cheese on hand, so if you don’t I strongly suggest putting a hunk of any sharp Italian cheese on your next grocery list.  Just in case.  If you’re looking for a great macaroni and cheese recipe, you can follow the instructions and skip the shrimp and peas.  I love this pasta with bacon or ham and broccoli as well.

pasta with cheese sauce shrimp and peas

Penne in Cheese Sauce with Shrimp and Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked to package directions and drained
  • 8 oz. sharp Italian cheese (such as Asiago), grated
  • 1 1/2 C. whole milk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C. frozen peas, thawed
  • 12 oz. uncooked large shrimp (25-30 per lb.), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the shrimp in a single layer, sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, then flip them and cook for 2-3 more minutes just until they are pink and opaque.  Remove from the heat and keep covered.

To prepare the cheese sauce, warm 1 C. of the milk in a medium saucepan.

While the milk in the saucepan is warming up, whisk the remaining 1/2 C. of milk with the flour in a small bowl until there are no lumps.

When the milk in the saucepan is just starting to release steam, whisk in the flour and milk mixture and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the mixture resembles heavy cream.

Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until the sauce is smooth after each addition.

Continue until all of the cheese has been added to the sauce and stir until the sauce is creamy.

Stir in freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Stir together the cooked shrimp, pasta, and peas.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to evenly coat the pasta mixture with cheese sauce.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: pasta and cheese sauce adapted from The Kitchn.

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Versatile Freestyle

Having a handful of versatile ingredients on hand makes it easy to decide what’s for dinner on the rare occasion that I have a gap in the meal plan.  Because I meal plan and like to make just one trip to the grocery store per week (or longer), gaps don’t happen very often.  On days when there’s four inches of rain falling and I really want to skip the trip to the grocery store, gaps happen.  Gaps also happen when life gets in the way of my regularly scheduled “programming.”  Just this weekend, the meal plan went right out the window when soccer was cancelled on Saturday.  The weather promised to play nice, so we made a spur of the moment decision to visit Brooklyn.  I spent Sunday celebrating my cousin’s upcoming wedding at a great bridal shower.  By the time I came home (there was a total of eight hours of travel round-trip involved for me), dinner was the remnants of Friday night’s pizza.  Gaps happen.  Meal planning wasn’t always my “thing.”  Especially when I lived alone, I would go to the grocery store and buy a few things that I considered to be staples and then half of the excitement would be how to put them together when I felt like having an actual meal.  Now I meal plan because while I think it’s an adventure to stare at an open refrigerator while trying to visualize whether or not I have this or that other ingredient, we try to keep dinner time more consistent.

Life happens, the plan isn’t always perfect, and this is where my single-girl foraging skills, some basic ingredients, and creativity are a life saver.  Okay, so by “foraging” I really mean “standing in front of the open refrigerator like I used to,” but that foraging procured a jar of roasted red peppers that I had on hand to use as a sandwich topping, and a bag of tortellini that I had hanging around to use for a tortellini salad.  It didn’t take long for me to decide to turn that jar of peppers into a sauce, use it to top the tortellini, and avoid venturing out to the grocery store in the pouring rain.  I’m glad I made that decision.  This was a tasty dinner that took almost no time to prepare.  I added shrimp as an afterthought because I felt like the tortellini needed a protein to make it a more substantial dinner.  Okay, so I rarely need an excuse to add shrimp to anything, but shrimp wasn’t part of the initial plan here.  I’m glad I added it in, it cooks very quickly and was perfect for scooping up the sauce.  Chicken would have been great here as well.

roasted red pepper sauce tortellini with shrimp

Tortellini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. bag cheese tortellini
  • 7 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained (or roast your own red peppers)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. milk or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

Boil the tortellini in a large pot of water according to package directions, until al dente.  Set aside.

Blot as much excess moisture as you can from the roasted red peppers using paper towels.

Place the roasted red peppers and garlic into a blender and puree for 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Pour the red pepper mixture into a small sauce pan and stir in the oregano and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the sauce comes to a boil and starts to thicken.  Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally while preparing the shrimp.

To prepare the shrimp, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over the shrimp, then add them to the heated skillet in a single layer.

Cook the shrimp for about 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the shrimp are pink on the outside and opaque inside.

Add the milk to the sauce and stir to combine.

Cook for 2-3 minutes to heat through, then add the tortellini to the sauce and stir to completely coat the tortellini.

Top the tortellini mixture with the cooked shrimp (you can add the shrimp to the sauce as well and stir it in with the tortellini).

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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Rigging

There has been some fear expressed that now that I’ve mentioned weight loss on here this is going to become a “diet food” blog.  I follow several blogs that offer “diet-friendly” recipes for various diets, and they have fantastic offerings, but that’s not my goal here.  The food you see here is the food we eat.  I don’t make a pie for Lane and the kids and sit by munching on celery while they indulge.  Nothing against celery, but dessert it is not.  Anything you see here, I’ve eaten on one day or another as part of an overall balanced diet.  If I have a slice of pie for dessert, maybe that’s not the day I have a big pasta dinner.  Maybe it is, it all depends on the total day’s menu.  As I’ve said before, I enjoy butter and cream and cheese, and sugar.  I just enjoy them in moderation over the course of a day.  So no, this isn’t a “diet food” blog in the traditional sense, but this is the food I eat as part of my everyday diet and I have lost weight at a healthy and consistent rate eating all of the things you see here.  I will admit that ditching many store-bought items gave my weight loss an early boost, but no matter how I slice it, it is never going to be healthy to eat an entire loaf of bread by myself.

As an offering of good faith, this is a creamy pasta dish that most people would never think of labeling as diet food.  Chicken riggies is a dish that hails from the Utica-Rome section of New York, which I have never visited.  It’s probably better that I don’t because if this is on the menu everywhere there, my weight loss progress might be done for.  Moderation is my friend, but this stuff is that good.  Chicken and rigatoni tossed in a tomato cream sauce with cherry peppers is hard to turn down.  Cover it in some Parmesan cheese, and it’s perfection.  This is on the menu at a local restaurant, with the caption “From Utica, with Love.”  I had never heard of it before, but after seeing the description I had to have it.  Being able to make it at home anytime I want without having to visit this restaurant or head up to Utica is both a blessing and a curse.

chicken riggies

Chicken Riggies

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large roasted red pepper (jarred or roast your own)
  • 2-4 hot cherry peppers, chopped
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 C. grated Pecorino-Romano cheese plus more for topping
  • 1/2 C. of cooking Sherry
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil and 2 of the minced garlic cloves over low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes being careful not to brown the garlic.

Add the whole tomatoes and sherry to the pot and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Add the butter, dried basil, and salt to the pot and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat and add the chicken.

Cook the chicken, stirring, over medium heat until almost browned and cooked through, then add the roasted peppers, hot cherry peppers and remaining minced garlic.

Saute for 5-7 minutes to combine the flavors.

Mash the whole tomatoes using a wooden spoon or tomato masher (mash them as smooth as you like, I like mine to still be pretty chunky).

Stir the cheese into the tomato mixture.

Stir the heavy cream into the tomato mixture.

Add the chicken mixture to the tomato mixture, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook the rigatoni in boiling water until al dente and drain.

Toss the cooked pasta with the chicken and tomato mixture.

Top with additional grated cheese if desired.

Source: adapted from The Brooklyn Ragazza

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The Assistant

Let’s just admit that we’re all familiar with Hamburger Helper.  Okay, if you’re not familiar with the boxed pasta (with powdered sauce, that you “just add ground beef!” to, while the four-fingered, gloved hand waves at you from the front of the box), just view this commercial and that should bring you up to speed.  I haven’t had Hamburger Helper since I was a kid, and once I started making my own dinners I didn’t give Hamburger Helper much thought.  I learned how to make pasta with beef or other meats, and to make complimenting sauces of various kinds without putting in much more effort than stirring up some Hamburger Helper.  Then one night last week, M informs me that “Hamburger Helper isn’t too bad if you add peas.”  After I stood there blinking for what felt like an eternity, I decided to go with that thought.  It’s only fair that if I expect them to give new things a chance, I need to give some old things a chance as well.  I wasn’t about to stir powdered sauce into ground beef and call it dinner just yet.

I remembered a recipe I made a long time ago that reminded me of  (a healthier, tastier) Hamburger Helper and decided to try that out on the kiddos.  It worked like a charm.  I even used lean ground turkey instead of ground beef, and there were zero complaints at dinner time.  You can use packaged taco seasoning but that does defeat some of the purpose of ditching the box of Hamburger Helper.  The worst thing about the nutrition content of Hamburger Helper is all of the sodium.  Since salt is prevalent in most packaged taco seasonings (it usually makes the top three ingredients in the list), you’re better off making your own, and it stores well for other uses.  Be sure to save one cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta, as the starch from the boiled pasta helps to thicken this nicely.  Also, ground beef works well for this, I only swapped in lean ground turkey because it’s what I had on hand.  This makes generous servings, so ditch the box and bring an appetite.

taco pasta hamburger helper

Taco Mac (a.k.a. I Can’t Believe it’s Not Hamburger Helper)

Ingredients:

combine the following to make your own taco seasoning (makes 3/4 C. seasoning, store in an airtight container):

  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

to make the taco mac:

  • 1.25 lbs. lean ground turkey or beef
  • 8 oz. dry pasta
  • 1 C. reserved pasta water
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 Tbsp. mild taco seasoning (from above recipe or packaged)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese 
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta per package directions, reserving one cup of pasta water before draining.

Over medium heat, brown ground turkey or beef until no longer pink.

Stir in taco seasoning and diced tomatoes.

Allow to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Add cooked pasta, reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream.

Stir the mixture well until the cream cheese is melting and incorporated.

Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes until sauce thickens.

Season with salt & pepper, as desired.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: adapted from delish, with taco seasoning from Annie’s Eats

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