Posts Tagged Pasta

Stracciatella. . .sort of

Have I mentioned that I don’t eat soup? I just have a problem with food that you drink. That’s not called food, it’s called drinks. I don’t have drinks for dinner, I have them with dinner.

And yes, everyone else thinks I’m crazy, too.

I tried to get out of this one. I called it “tortellini in brodo.” Mr. B. retaliated by eating with a spoon. I insisted it was just a different way of eating pasta. He pointed out the delicate bits of egg and kale that could only be accessed by also eating the liquid. I tried to use a fork. It was too messy. I tried blaming the painkillers, but I haven’t actually been taking them.

So I made this. . . soup. (There, I said it.) Because my teeth have been pulled out, and my mouth hurts, and solid food isn’t completely an option yet.

Because I bought a jar of applesauce when I didn’t feel well enough to make applesauce, and there was mold inside. So clearly, that wasn’t an option, either.

Because I’m tired of mashed potatoes for the first time in my life.

I, the soup-hating corvid, made soup. For dinner, not with dinner.

But I put pasta in it so I could still eat it with a fork.

The pasta kind of hurt the places my teeth aren’t anymore.

The stracciatella? Pretty darn good. Salty and savory and full of things that aren’t supposed to be in stracciatella, because a thin, watery soup isn’t worth looking at, much less drinking. And why shouldn’t a stracciatella have shreds of kale along with egg, and tortellini as well?

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup water

1 large bunch kale

8 oz tortellini or other pasta

about 1/2 cup (1 oz) of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1-2 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine broth and water in a deep pot and bring to a boil.

Remove the ribs from the kale, roll it up, and slice it into 1/4 inch chiffonade.

Grate the Parmesan.

Add the kale and Parmesan to the boiling broth.

Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring well. You don’t want giant Parmesan clumps, if only because that means somewhere in your soup there are cheese-free zones, and that’s just terrible.

Add the tortellini and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes. Fresh pasta doesn’t take long to cook.

Whisk your egg(s) in a small bowl and pour them into the stracciatella in a slow stream, whisking the soup as you pour.

It will look very cloudy briefly, but clarify after just a few seconds.

Serve hot, with crusty bread if your teeth allow it and a few slivers of grated Parmesan over the top.

The best thing about this is that the pasta absorbs a huge amount of flavor from the broth. Even I broke down and ate this with a spoon, because all that rich, eggy liquid could not be allowed to go to waste.

The kale brought its usual bitter tones to to table, making the soup more aromatic and hearty that it would have been. I loved the little shards of cooked egg that kept popping up unexpectedly, and though I only used one egg for this volume, two would have been better.

Now I just need a few more semi-solid meals to get through the next few days before my doctor clears me for people food again!

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Kale and Acorn Squash Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are a compromise of a dish. They’re cheesy and delicious like lasagna, but more filling-oriented and neater to eat, like an overenthusiastic tortellini. (Just pretend the simile makes sense, okay? Thanks.) As far as compromise goes, they’re often the best of both worlds. After all, you could never fit this much squash into one bite of lasagna, and tortellini is finicky to make at home.

These shells are a great weeknight dinner, especially when you’re dealing with a chilly February in Texas. At least the metroplex isn’t iced under and terrified this year–those of us who live in the South have no idea how to handle even small doses of below freezing weather, nor should we have to. It’s the American South. It has a contract with its residents that temperatures will never drop below 50° F, and we’ll all speak in accents the rest of the world can mock. There are rules.

At any rate, even though my pumpkin supply has been tragically cut off for the year, acorn squash is still abundant and we’re a long way still from the summer days when I poke sadly at zucchini and wonder why it still gets to be called squash when it lacks all the good squash qualities. Acorn squash is sweeter than pumpkin, and a bit stringier, but still brilliantly orange and velvety. Combined with tangy goat cheese and bitter, crunchy kale, it makes a perfect filling for the shells.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

18 jumbo shells, cooked

1/2 of an acorn squash

2 T butter

1 bunch kale

4 oz goat cheese

2-3 T marscapone

1/2 lb mozzarella, grated (divided use)

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your squash. These things can be a little intimidating to cut into, as they are quite hard, but if you just give it a really good whack with a nice heavy knife, you’ll be all right. Just use a sturdy cutting board and pretend you’re chopping wood.

Chop it in half and scoop out the tasty, tasty seeds.

Peel it and chop into half-inch dice. Spread the squash in a baking pan and dot with the 2 T of butter and a sprinkling of salt.

Roast at 400° F for 20-30 minutes, until the flesh is translucent and the edges just begin to caramelize. You could alternately cook the squash in a cast iron pan on the stove over high heat for 10-15 minutes, for a lot more browning. I will almost certainly do that next time, as it is both quicker and more flavorful.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Set the squash aside and prepare the kale. Cut the central ribs out of the leaves and lay the leaves on top of each other in a stack.

Roll that stack up tightly and slice it into thin ribbons (this is called chiffonade, for those of you who are interested).

Toss the squash, kale, goat cheese, marscapone, and half of the mozzarella in a bowl and mix well.

Arrange the cooked shells in a buttered baking dish and stuff each one with as much filling as it will hold. Or a little more. I won’t judge.

Top the stuffed shells with the remaining 1/4 pound of mozzarella and a thorough sprinkling of Parmesan.

Wrap the dish snugly in tin foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake another five minutes or so, just to get some nice browning on top.

Serve with steamed broccoli and ciabatta.

This is just as tasty the next day, although the crunchy Parmesan lace is somewhat diminished by microwaving. It’s gooey and salty and just a touch sweet all at once, which makes it the perfect cure for just about any craving you may be having right about now.

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Drunken Pasta

I’m counting us as moved in now. I found the box with salt owl, and all of my socks*, so my days are getting back to normal except for the part where all of our books are in boxes. We have many books. It’s kind of a problem. In the weeks leading up to the move, I kept cooking, but we really had to go for meals that took only one pot or pan. Everything else was in a box in the new place. Still, it was a fun challenge (I’m so glad it’s over) to try and keep things interesting in the kitchen with only one drawer full of kitchen equipment. Then I looked in the fridge (we hadn’t gone shopping in almost two weeks) and found that we were out of a lot of staples. There was Parmesan, and butter, and wine, and some Brussels sprouts, but very little else. We had eaten pasta for the previous three days, and were about to again. Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta, but there’s only so much one can have in a week before getting bored. Somebody needed to get drunk for this to work. Not me; as much as I cook with wine, I don’t drink it. I vaguely recalled seeing something about drunken spaghetti somewhere a few months before (cookbook? Internet? I really don’t remember.) and I thought, why not cook this pasta in wine? I won’t lie to you. It’s pretty darn good. The color alone makes me happy. The flavor, which I worried would be too strong for a non-wine drinker like myself, was actually perfect. I wanted seconds, which is rare for me. I think this could be improved by a bit of balsamic reduction drizzled on at the end, but otherwise it’s just right as-is. It’s easy–you just make pasta, really–but could be impressive, too.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people with leftovers) 1/2 pound angel hair or spaghetti

3 cups red wine

1 cup water

2 T butter

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

a sprig of rosemary

salt, to taste

Directions

Because I was using a very small pot for the pasta, I snapped it in half first. Pour the wine and water into a pot. Bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. This will take a different amount of time depending on the pasta you choose,  your altitude, whether you choose to salt the wine/water at this time, etc. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it over a bowl. We’ll use the cooking liquid for a sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan (or the same pot you made pasta in). Add rosemary leaves and cook gently to release the flavor. Pour the reserved cooking liquid into the butter. Boil the sauce over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until it has reduced to your desired consistency. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve with crispy roasted Brussels sprouts or broccoli. It turns out that this is just as good the next day, when there is slightly better light that at 9:00 at night. *I did not pack the salt owl and the socks in the same box. That would be ridiculous.

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Pumpkin Ravioli with Kale in Swiss Cheese Sauce

Homemade pasta is a thing of beauty.

I’m not suggesting it should be an everyday affair. indeed, unless you have a pasta machine and loads of free time, it shouldn’t be. On the other hand, on the rare occasions when I crave a filled pasta, store-bought ravioli or tortellini simply will not do. I’m told one can buy fresh pasta sheets for these purposes, but I don’t go to the fancy grocery stores so homemade was really the only option. You need something fresh and eggy and delightful to hold in all this pumpkin, you see.

Then you can do one of two things. There’s the healthier option of adding simmering vegetable or beef broth,  or you can do what I did.

Everything’s better with cheese. Drizzle a creamy Swiss cheese sauce over these lovely things and prepare to overeat. The trick is using the right cheese. You want something more than a little bitter, with enough bite to provide a contrast to that lovely sweet pumpkin flesh.

I’ll warn you, this is a multi-stage process, but it’s made easier by the fact that most of it can easily be done ahead. Roast the pumpkin and refrigerate it for a day or two, make the pasta dough (or buy some. I don’t mind.) and toss it in the refrigerator until you’re hungry. Sauce is optional; I had originally planned to serve this in brodo before I realized we had somehow used all the vegetable broth in the apartment.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the roast pumpkin:

1/2 of a 3 to 3 1/2 pound roasting or pie pumpkin

1/4 cup of white wine

2 large sprigs of rosemary

about 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated

salt, to taste

Also, 1 pound of kale

For the ravioli:

2 cups flour

3 eggs

2-3 T olive oil

1 t salt

For the Swiss cheese sauce:

2 T butter

1/4 cup cream

about 3 ounces Swiss cheese

pinch of salt

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

The only real challenge in cooking with fresh pumpkin is chopping said pumpkin into manageable chunks. For almost everything else in my kitchen, I use the incredibly light and viciously sharp ceramic knives. For bread I use a serrated knife, and for pumpkin I use this bad boy.

I found him in standing water in an ill-maintained campus kitchen when I was in college. I’m not sure whether it’s actually a kitchen implement or a Hobbit-sized sword, but this knife probably has enough heft to take out a chunk of the counter if we wanted to. Which we don’t. So, chop your pumpkin in half.

Peel the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds (we’ll talk about roasting the seeds later).

Wrap up one half for later, and chop the other into 1/2 inch cubes.

Pour the wine over the pumpkin bits.

Grate on the nutmeg and add the rosemary.

Sprinkle on some salt.

Toss the pumpkin, wine, and seasoning. Arrange the pumpkin in a layer in a roasting pan and toss it in a 400°F oven.

After 45 minutes, you have roast pumpkin.

Congratulations! Now, while that’s in the oven and you’re snacking because you didn’t start dinner until you were already hungry (please let me believe I’m not the only person who does that, okay?), make some pasta.

Food processors make life almost too easy. It’s why I love them. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them briefly.

Add all three eggs.

Zoom, zoom. Process while drizzling in the oil for about 20-25 seconds.

With well-floured hands, form the dough into a ball on an also-floured countertop.

Divide the dough ball in two halves and roll out one of them as thin as you can. I don’t have a pasta machine, nor do I think it would be worth the space to get one. Just elbow grease and a nice heavy rolling pin, thanks.

Pile little hills of roast pumpkin at two-inch intervals over the dough. I topped mine with grated Swiss cheese, as well.

Roll out the other half of the dough, drape it over the first one, and use a biscuit cutter to form ravioli. Repeat rolling and forming ravioli until you run out of pumpkin or dough. I made 32 ravioli before running out of pumpkin.

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. (Why yes, I do put salt into this recipe four different times. Isn’t it wonderful?)

Boil the ravioli for 3-4 minutes.

Boil a pound or so of kale, too. Kale is delicious and crunchiful.

Divide your ravioli onto serving plates. Now they are finished, and quite tasty, but naked.

Let’s make a quick Swiss cheese sauce. Plop 2 tablespoons of butter into a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Letting the butter brown was an accident, but I don’t regret it. Pour on the cream.

Add the Swiss cheese and stir to melt it.

Add the salt and turn off the heat, stirring quickly to fully incorporate the salt.

Spoon over the ravioli and kale just before serving.

The best thing about this dish is that everything on this plate makes everything else on it that much better. The wine on the roast pumpkin gives it a sour edge that the pumpkin flavor bursts out of. The kale is just bitter enough to contrast the pumpkin, and lends its texture to an otherwise too-soft dish. Bitter, salty cheese keeps everything from being too pumpkin-sweet (think pumpkin pie. No thanks.) and the rosemary does what rosemary does best (it makes everything better, in case you were wondering. Everything.) This is definitely something to make again soon. Even without a pasta machine.

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Artichoke Pesto

Pesto has been in short supply in our apartment this summer, since the heat has so thoroughly stunted the growth of basil that we haven’t been able to save up enough for a pesto. I kept looking back at the pea pesto  posted on Smitten Kitchen back in June, but Mr. B hates peas. He hates them like a four-year-old boy, making faces and stomping his feet if I even talk about putting peas in something he has to eat, too.

We both love artichokes, though. And if pureed artichokes can be used to fill pierogis, I couldn’t see why they wouldn’t make a perfectly good pesto.

I was right. It’s creamy and rich, but still fresh and light as a pesto should be.

Ingredients (serves 2)

8 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

1/4 pound asparagus

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1-2 cloves garlic

2 T lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil, plus a few teaspoons for cooking the vegetables

salt and pepper to taste

6 oz. dry pasta

2 chicken breasts

a few basil leaves

2 T butter, oil, or schmaltz

Directions

Heat a splash of olive oil and the 2 T of lemon juice over high heat.

Add the artichokes.

Sauté the artichokes until they are well browned.

Set aside the artichokes and add the asparagus to the pan.

Sauté the asparagus as well. Also the garlic, if your garlic has not been stolen by a squirrel.

Put the artichokes, asparagus, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil.

Process until it forms a smooth paste.

Add the parmesan, salt, and pepper and process it again.

Set the pesto aside. Heat some oil or butter or schmaltz over medium-high heat in a grill pan.

Add the chicken and some basil leaves to the pan.

Cook the chicken 4-5 minutes a side until it’s fully cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the heat and chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

Drain the pasta and top it with the pesto.

Stir in the pesto.

Divide the pasta among your plates and top with the basil chicken.

Serve immediately. The pesto might be easier to stir into the pasta if you thin it out with a bit of pasta water, but I never remember to reserve any and it was delightful without alteration. We had a bit of pesto leftover and spread it over some toasted French bread for lunch the next day. If you like artichokes, this pesto is a must.

 

 

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Alfredo Bowties and Toasted French Rounds

Alfredo pasta is one of the great comfort foods of the world. The problem is, I’m not a huge fan of fettucine as a pasta. We usually made spaghetti alfredo, honestly, or rotini. My favorite pasta shape of all time, though, is farfalle. When I saw these brightly colored farfalle at the store I couldn’t resist, and of course they needed a light white sauce for the happy stripes to show through.

I cooked these at eleven at night, and I have no good light in the kitchen, so it’s flash photography time.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

For the pasta:

1/2 pound pasta (happy stripes optional)

2 T butter

1/2 cup cream

3/4 cup grated parmesan

1 pinch salt (from the power owl, apparently)

For the French rounds:

thin sliced baguette

olive oil

Directions

Cook pasta to al dente. The box will tell you how.

Melt butter in a smallish saucepan. Add cream and bring to a simmer.

Add parmesan and stir to melt and combine.

Toss pasta in the sauce, and you’re done! How easy was that?

You’ll want to start the bread about the same time as the pasta (what, you don’t eat carbs with your carbs?) Heat the oven to 350°F and slice the bread about 3/4 inches thick.

Brush each slice of baguette with olive oil. . .

And toast 5-10 minutes (this depends on humidity, bread thickness, amount of oil. . .just check on ’em, okay?)

And done!

Serve with steamed vegetables and feel better about getting home from work at eleven at night. It’s bedtime now.

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Tomato Free Lasagna with Artichokes and Kale

I literally can not remember the last time I had lasagna. The tomato allergy put a lot of really amazing Italian dishes right out of reach for me, so when I started making this last night, I was terrified. Maybe it would be awful. Maybe it would be just fine, but I wouldn’t like it. Maybe some dishes just can’t be adapted to not use tomatoes.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was creamy and complex with a cracker-crisp layer of parmesan over the top and had just enough vegetable to feel like a whole meal in one casserole. This recipe, in other words, rocks. I will confess, I didn’t measure everything. Until I started putting all this stuff on the Internet, I only ever measured for pastry and eyeballed everything else. I like to use as much of something as looks or smells or tastes right. Actually, I feel dough when I bake and add flour or liquid as needed. So my old habits kicked in tonight, and for a few things I’m just going to have to guess how much I used. Use your own judgment if it doesn’t seem right to you. Recipes are meant to be played with!

Ingredients (makes a 9X13 casserole, serves 6-8)

3/4 pound lasagna noodles (15 sheets)*

4 cups carrot sauce (double this recipe)

2 eggs

1 pound mozzarella, grated. I used the cheap stuff. It’s a whole pound of mozzarella, and melting rather improves it.

4-6 leaves of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 eight-ounce bag of frozen artichoke hearts.

some sour cream (We talked about this. I just used a spoon, okay?)

3/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

 

Steam makes any photo look ominous.

 

First make the carrot sauce. If you’re smarter than I am you have some in the fridge, but I tend to make small batches and them wish I had more. So I made the double batch, and discovered that my immersion blender can handle it (Good; that much sauce will not get along with my food processor. Not in one batch, anyway.) Stir the eggs into the carrot sauce and set aside.

 

 

Boil the lasagna noodles until al dente, according to the instructions on the box. This only deserves special mention because of what happens next. Once you drain them, they will try to weld themselves together with an adhesive strength rivalling that of concrete. So I peeled them apart, cursing up a storm as I burned every one of my fingers, and draped them over the sides of my colander. There has got to be a better way.

 

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F and start making lasagna layers. Assembling the lasagna is actually fun for someone as compulsive as I am. First, three noodles to cover the bottom of my dish. Then I spread some sour cream over the noodles with the back of a spoon. I probably used about two teaspoons per layer, but just use as much or as little as you want. This turned out to be my accidental secret ingredient, as I forgot to tell Mr. Blackbird about it and he was obsessing over that one flavor he couldn’t name. Oops.

Then sprinkle about 1/5 of the mozzarella over the pasta, smear about 3/4 of a cup of sauce over that, and layer in some artichoke hearts and kale. I didn’t measure any of this, and it came out great, so please don’t worry if one layer has a whole cup of sauce and the next has too many veggies, because it will all work out. I promise, this turned out to be an incredibly forgiving dish.

That right there, for instance, was a not-enough-kale layer. The next one made up for it. Repeat with all the layers but the top one, where you want the cheese on top for bubbling purposes. The parmesan goes on top of that. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 5-10 to get the top nice and crispy. I actually cranked the oven up to max broil for two minutes and got a thin parmesan cracker over the top of the casserole, which I declared the best part. Mr. Blackbird does not agree. He liked the artichokes best. Serve with wine and a bit of bread, if you like. It really needs no accompaniment. Next time I might throw in some pulled smoked chicken breast, but this dish honestly holds its own without it.

I tried to show the layers here, but I don’t think it comes across. Or maybe it does. Look at how nicely everything just smooshes together into one amazing, savory bite!

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