Squash, Pancetta and Chard Pasta

 

This colorful pasta dish is pretty healthy and very tasty. Not too tricky either. Have enjoyed it many times in the past 5-7 years. I actually thought it was on my blog; not so. Hence this post. I made it this week and it made 4 lovely servings.

It showcases roasted cubes of butternut squash and tender melt in your mouth swiss chard. My amounts are somewhat approximate. It will keep a few days in the fridge. I used gf fettuccine noodles. Don’t overcook them! You could buy pre-peeled and cubed squash to save time. I used some I grew last fall and honestly it didn’t take long to peel and cube it. I suggest you roast the cubes from a whole squash and use as much as you think works for you. Valley Farms has great fresh swiss chard; that’s where I get mine if I don’t grow it myself.  I have made this recipe with thick cut bacon, if that is what you have; go for it.  I got a package of chopped pancetta at Aldi’s pretty cheaply.

 

 

Butternut, Pancetta and Chard Pasta

Ingredients:

1 bunch swiss chard, I like the red stemmed variety, rinsed off

3-4 tbsp. EVOL

1 cup or so of diced red onion; one decent sized one

1 lg garlic clove minced

1 small- medium butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cubed; at least a pound

4 oz pancetta, diced

12 oz dried gf fettucine noodles.

Good quality Parmesan cheese to grate on plated entree

Directions:

Roast the squash; heat the oven to 400 degrees, spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray; spread the cubed squash, drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp of EVOL and ½ tsp. kosher or sea salt, bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes; turn cubes every 15 minutes with a metal spatula to help them cook evenly, a bit of crunch is nice! Start the rest of the recipe as they approach doneness or bake the squash a day before if that works for you. Have done it both ways. Crunchier if made right before serving

 

Heat a large pot of salted water for the pasta while you make the chard.  Chop it into 1 inch lengths; set the chopped leaves aside separately from the lower stem bits. Heat the EVOL in a large frying pan or smallish wok. Add the stems and cook 2-3 minutes, add garlic, stir, add the onion; cook 3-5 minutes until softening. Add rest of chard in 2-3 handfuls letting it cook down for a minute before stirring and adding the next third. Then push the veggies up the sides or to the edges and add the pancetta. Push the veggies gently back around and over the pancetta. Cook 2-3 minutes until the pancetta is hot and the chard is soft.  Meanwhile you have cooked the pasta to al dente. Add it to the pan with the chard, stir, add the roasted squash cubes. Stir. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top; none of that pre-grated crappy cheese please! Enjoy!

swiss chard pasta plated

 

 

Not sure where I found this recipe but it is a keeper; we often enjoy it in the fall as chard and squash are fall harvest vegetables.

Spicy Bolognese Sauce and Pappardelle Pasta

Been wanting to make an Italian bolognese sauce for a while, the real deal, slow cooked with whole milk and red wine.  Those sort of recipes take time and love.  Saturday I had the time and I was making it for a date with my guy so I went for it.  Instead of beef my protein was a mixture of ground venison and pork. Otherwise I followed the recipe I found in a cookbook by Giada for a spicy version which looked interesting.  It was supposed to be made with lamb but I had that meat in the freezer and I thought venison might be good in a spicy tomato sauce. I have a different recipe that is mild which I use with ground beef.  But goin’ spicy this time!

A bit more than two hours later the bolognese sauce was done.  While it simmered I made some homemade pappardelle pasta (shaped like wide flat ribbons) to serve it with; been a long time since I made my own gf pasta. Well over a year ago…maybe as much as two years. My pasta was tender but had a chewiness that went well with the sauce. It was a perfect match. I let the noodles cook in the sauce for a few minutes; makes for the best flavor. The bolognese sauce was somewhat spicy, slightly creamy and very flavorful.  This recipe is a keeper!

We had some delish pan roasted Brussels sprouts with a nifty horseradish sauce. I know…that sounds weird but it was really yummy. My guy took home leftovers of the sprouts and sauce…he loved it!

This makes a big pot of sauce and you can freeze some of it, share it with a friend or eat it later on in the week.  I used some fairly basic red wine we bought up in the Finger Lakes Region of NY, no Chianti in the house.  It worked just fine. Improvising is the heart of Italian cooking, at least at my house it is!

 

spicy bolognase sauce

See my cheese rind floating on top; just put it in. Now That’s Italian!

Spicy Venison Bolognese serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. butter

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 ½ lb ground meat; venison, lamb or beef

1 garlic clove minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

¼-½ tsp. Chipotle chili pepper

2-4 Tbsp. tomato paste; Use less if you use double strength

2 cups whole milk

1 cup dry red wine; Chianti is good

1 28 oz can chunky crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 3 inch pieces of Parmesan cheese rind

8 oz fresh pappardelle pasta

2/3-1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese for topping

 

Instructions: Heat a heavy bottomed large sauce pan on medium heat add the butter and oil, heat until butter melts. Add onion, carrot, celery and ½ tsp. salt.  Cook for 6 minutes, stirring often, until onion softens but isn’t browning. Add the meat; brown it for about 5 minutes; use your wooden spoon to break up the meat and turn it.  Cook until no longer pink.  Add garlic chili powder, red pepper flakes and tomato paste.  Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, bring to simmer, cook 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, milk should be mostly evaporated. Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, cheese rind and rest of salt. Bring to simmer, and cook slowly for two hours, stirring occasionally. The cheese rind will disappear.  Remove the bay leaf.

Set aside half the sauce for another day.  Cook the pasta until it is about 2 minutes from done. Add to the sauce, cook gently for 2-4 minutes until al dente. Add pasta water to thin it if necessary.  I used the pasta recipe from my favorite cookbook; by Annalise Roberts; Gluten Free Baking Classics.  I know, pasta is not baking, it is in the back section of miscellaneous stuff.  I rolled it in my machine and then folded the strips loosely before cutting into wide ribbons with a sharp knife. I cooked it about 3 minutes in boiling salted water.

Serve the pasta with the grated cheese. Or not; it is pretty good even without the topping. If you want to guild the lily, drizzle some high end ECOL on top of each serving before the cheese. Enjoy! spicy bolognase with pasta 1

 

 

Pasta Perfection: Fettuccine with Shrooms

A great pasta dish is a gem to keep in your culinary pocket for future use.  This recipe has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  Only detriment is that I could never get the sauce thick enough. It was always on the edge of runny no matter how long I reduced it down.  I made it this week and one ingredient change made a huge difference. Instead of a can of whole tomatoes in thin juice that you break up before cooking, I used a can of crushed whole tomatoes with thick sauce. So, I started with a thicker tomato product and that really changed the sauce results. This is an easy dish to compile. I usually use baby bella mushrooms but pretty much any type will do. This time it was plain old white mushrooms sliced thickly.  Do not slice them thin; just not meaty tasting then. Sometimes I quarter the small bellas for this; but I do think thick sliced is my favorite cut.

The dish may seem simple in flavor but it is a delightful balance of all these fresh ingredients. The original recipe came from “Italy Al Dente” by Biba Caggiano with some small changes by me. This cookbook is hands down my favorite Italian cooking bible; so many great pasta recipes plus super soups and wonderful risottos.  Even has polenta recipes.  Highly recommend getting it if you cook Italian often.

Notes: use the best EVOL you have for this; it seems like a lot of oil but it combines with the tomatoes and cream to make a luxurious creamy sauce.

Fettuccine with Mushrooms in Creamy Sauce, 4 servings

Ingredients

3-4 Tbsp. EVOL

½ lb. fresh mushrooms like baby bellas, shiitake, white buttons, cleaned

Half a big red pepper cut in large dice

1/3 lb. pancetta or prosciutto (I have used either; this time pancetta from Aldi’s already diced)

1 garlic clove minced

4-5 shredded fresh sage leaves

1 28 oz can Italian tomatoes, crushed in thick sauce

¼ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Fettuccine; most or all of a 12 oz box of dried gf pasta cooked until barely al dente. Cook while the sauce thickens; try to time it so it gets done when you have added the cream to the sauce.

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the mushrooms which you have thickly sliced.  Stir and cook about 3 minutes until they turn golden. Add the red pepper, pancetta, garlic and fresh sage (can use parsley but sage is so great in this sauce) and stir for a minute.  Add t he tomatoes and season with some salt/pepper. Once it reaches boiling, turn down and simmer about 10 minutes; it should thicken a bit. Stir a few times as it cooks. Add the cream, stir and simmer 2-5 more minutes. Do not boil. Turn off heat and add hot pasta, Stir a minute or two. Double check whether you need more salt/pepper and serve.

pasta plated with mushroom sauce

The original recipe didn’t have the red pepper but I think it is a great addition; leave it out if you don’t care for red pepper. Enjoy!

Curcuzza Side Dish: Delish

A zillion years ago my best friend’s mom, Sparky, used to grow these long skinny Italian squashes on long string trellis’ in her tiny back yard.  They lived in a narrow row house in Harrisburg so space was at a premium.  Sparky was 100 percent Italian and a great cook. She used to make this simple but delish side dish of small cubes of curcuzza squash cooked in tomato sauce. I never had access to this old time variety until I saw them at my sister’s garden last summer and searched until I found seeds at superseeds.com.  They go by the name of trombolini heirloom Italian summer squash.  You can pick them from small to very large sized.  They can be allowed to harden and dry and then used like winter squash particularly as butternut squash. They grow on long vines and are really cool looking. So this summer they are growing wildly and I’m learning how to cook with these unusual squash fruits.

 

The other week I made a delightful sauté. Success led me to feel I should try the special dish Sparky made all those years ago. It was simple actually, with just a few ingredients and some loving attention.

I strongly suggest you find trombolini squash but in a pinch any other summer squash will do; just cook it for a far shorter time.

trombolini squash with sauce and sausage

Sparky’s Curcuzza in Red Sauce

2  Tbsp.  EVOL

½ cup diced yellow onion

3-4 cups cubed trombolini squash

1 large garlic clove

1 15 ounce can tomato sauce; good quality

2  Tbsp. dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan, add onion, cook about 4 minutes until it starts to soften.  Add cubed squash, cook 5 minutes, add minced garlic clove, cook one minute.  Add tomato sauce. Put 2 tbsp. red wine in can to rinse it out and add to pan.  If you don’t like wine; use water.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until squash is cooked but still holds it’s shape. Stir it a few times to make sure it is not sticking or burning. If you used zucchini your cook time will be more like ten minutes.  I add salt before the 30 minute cooking; maybe ½ tsp of it and a few grinds of my pepper grinder.

Serve over hot spaghetti pasta.  You can serve it with some Italian sausage or fried eggplant or top your plate with grated fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. My pasta was gf of course.  This can be made vegan, gf, a side to a meat entree or just a delightful snack. Manga!trombolini squash with sauce

Leeks, Bacon, Creamy Sauce = Yummy

Lots of you probably have never ever eaten a leek.  You might not know what the heck it is.  Imagine an overgrown scallion with a mellow onion flavor.  It is a member of the allium family: more information can be found at this site: http://www.culinate.com/articles/culinate8/meet_the_alliums. Sold mostly in the fall and winter – as it takes a long time to grow one.  So now is the perfect time to try this great recipe which is built around the humble leek.  Generally the deep green leafy portions of a leek are not used.  I use the white and the lighter green. Leeks can be sandy or grimy; careful cleaning is critical. I rinse them a lot as I cut and pull off outer leaves. Cut off the root remnant and then slice into 1/3 inch slices. Discard the outer deep green leaves.  They are too tough and don’t have great flavor anyway.  I try to grow leeks but not too successfully as they seem rather too needy: long growing season, rich soil and lots of water all much required.  Buy them at a farm stand if possible; freshest source and probably cheaper. This recipe is the perfect way to introduce yourself to leeks; they will melt in your mouth and match perfectly with the creamy sauce and the bacon.

Anyway, enough of the wonder of leeks: this is a pasta sauce recipe too! Yes, the leeks are the predominant flavor but another major flavor is the Canadian bacon, you can use ham, prosciutto or thick cut bacon. I love it just as I made it with Canadian bacon; great flavor, easy to cut into strips and less fat than other choices.  Plus it was the only gluten free hammy choice I could find that day.  A lot of ham sold has gluten – used in the spices or the added liquids.  Annoying to have to read the labels of something you might think was naturally safe for celiacs like me.

I used penne as I was serving it to an elderly lady who couldn’t manage linguine or fettuccini as the original recipe suggested. Use whatever pasta floats your boat; the peas were cute as they stuck inside the pasta tubes so I think it worked great.  If you are not needing to eat gluten free use your favorite pasta by all means.

leeks with canadian bacon 003

Best quality Parmesan means it is a chunk you have to grate fresh; small grater side.  Jarred grated cheese will not do, this recipe depends on high quality ingredients to show off the delicate flavors it is chock full of. If you are a shroom hater; by all means leave them out but I loved the earthy meaty flavor contrasting against the cream and leeks. Can you tell I adore this dish? It is going to be a favorite of mine for sure.  The original recipe came from Epicurious but I jiggered it a bit with the peas and mushrooms and subbed in Canadian bacon for more fatty traditional bacon.

leeks with canadian bacon 008

Angie’s Leek and Bacon Sauce with Pasta

Ingredients

3 tbsp. EVOL

2 tbsp. butter

3 leeks cut crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds; white and pale green only

1 8 ounce package Canadian bacon cut across into 1/3 inch wide strips

6-8 oz fresh mushrooms sliced (not too thin)

¾ to 1 cup frozen tiny peas

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves pulled off stems

¾ cup heavy cream

1 box gf penne or linguine (12 ounces)

¾ to 1 cup just finely grated good quality Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Start a big pot of water to boil for pasta, add salt.

Melt 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. EVOL, add the leeks, saute slowly until soft; may take 10 plus minutes. It should practically melt in your mouth. Set aside; can put them in a container and store in fridge a day or two.  If making dish right away, in a clean pan add rest of EVOL and rest of butter.  Add sliced mushrooms and saute until cooked fully, 5-8 minutes.  While that cooks make the pasta in that pot of boiling salted water.  Do not overcook; try to time it so it gets done when you add the peas to the dish. Reserve a cup of the pasta water for thinning the sauce. Add bacon, stir a couple minutes.  Add the peas and thyme. Stir well.  Add the cream, stir and when it is warm but not boiling add the leeks and the cooked pasta.  Stir well, add some of the pasta water, stir more to blend. Add enough water to make the sauce the thickness you desire; I didn’t need more than half the water but you know how you like your sauce. Taste and make sure your peas are done then add three fourths of the Parmesan cheese.  Serve the rest of the cheese to sprinkle on top.  Dive into leek and bacon loveliness!

Spaghetti Eggplant Turrets (Towers of Yumminess)

Spaghetti is an American classic.  I don’t make it enough, especially since going gluten free.  That may change since I started to read Mario Batali’s newest cookbook “America Farm to Table”.  I cooked up a storm this past weekend making his eggplant and angel hair turrets.  What’s a turret?  A tower of yumminess!farm to table cookbook

Having a surfeit of eggplants I was diving into all my eggplant recipes to determine the best way to utilize my crop of purple beauties. This one is a winner.

We devoured it by candlelight on my back porch the other Saturday night, bees wax candles to be exact.  I thought for a moment that my man was going to lick his dinner plate! It was rewarding to see him so enraptured by my cooking.

 2014-10-26 pasta tower 003

I made a few changes so this is an adaptation of the recipe.  I advise reading it through twice so you don’t screw it up! I used less red pepper flakes than the original recipe; up it to a tsp. if you dare!  Yes, it uses instant potato flakes and they work fantastically to coat the eggplant.    I used my own tomato sauce I had made the night before from the last of my fresh tomatoes.  This recipe serves 4.

2014-10-26 pasta tower 004

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets

4 tbsp. EOL

2 large eggs

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large eggplant or 2 medium ones

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 oil packed anchovy fillets plus 1 tbsp. of the packing oil

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed by hand plus all the can juice or your own homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1  12 oz package gf spaghetti

½-2/3 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Eggplant: Place the eggs in a wide shallow bowl, beat well.  Put the potato flakes into a second shallow bowl or a wax paper covered plate.  Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices.  Dip into the eggs, let excess drip off and dredge in the potato flakes.

Heat a large Teflon pan, add 2 tbsp EVOL.  Let heat to medium hot, add the eggplant slices, cook 2-3 minutes a side.  Place cooked eggplants on a paper towel lined plate.  Do a second batch of slices.  I put my cooked slices on a small baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven which I then turned off.  They stayed hot and I felt a tad more sure that they were fully cooked.

Make the sauce: heat the remaining EVOL in a large pot, add the onion, sauté until slightly softened; 2 minutes, add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, mashed up anchovy fillets, oil of fillets and the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often; 12-15 minutes.

Pasta: Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water. Drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Save a cup of the pot water to thin the pasta.

Use the eggplant fry pan (wipe out the brown bits of crust) and ladle in 2-3 big scoops of the sauce and the pasta.  Cook one minute, turn off the stove and add the cheese, stir well.

Construction of the turrets:

Place a big spoonful of sauce on each plate.  Top with an eggplant slice (I used my biggest slices for the bottom layer) and then top with a big twirl of the pasta mixture.  Top with another eggplant slice and then another pasta twirl.  Do this again.  Top with a dab of the red sauce.  You can also top it with some hot pepper jelly which is a surprisingly good addition!  I did sprinkle our towers with a few torn basil leaves.

Dive in!  And check out this cookbook; chock a block full of great relatively healthy recipes. This was one of the more complex ones; most seem fairly straight forward and sound darn delicious.

Originally published in my blog October 2014.  I made this the other weekend and decided I just had to share it again.  Do use the red pepper jelly if you have any; it is amazing!

Seafood Spaghetti – Spectacular for Spring

Tis the season for asparagus, spring onions and sugar snap peas. I love them all served together with spaghetti and garlic and lots of butter.  This is the only seafood and pasta dish where I grate cheese on top; normally taboo – considered not a good combination but it works fantastically in this fast to throw together entrée.  This meal is visually appealing with the greens and the white.  I have been making variations of it for many years.  This is one of my favorite versions.  Great flavor and so speedy to make; how fast can you get the water boiling and cook the pasta?  That is how long it takes to create a great meal in one fantastic dish.

Yes, I make it with gf pasta.  Use the brand you love, don’t overcook it; barely done is best.  I made it for years and years with regular pasta before I had to go gluten free.  The original recipe didn’t have the asparagus and peas; my addition.  Good no matter what veggies you add; just don’t take away any of the basic ingredients.

Be sure to use tuna packed in olive oil; makes all the difference, especially for Italian dishes, much better flavor than any other kind of tuna. Giant carries it as does Wegmans. If you totally hate tuna you could use half a pound of small cooked shrimp. Ditto on using real butter, margarine will ruin the flavor for sure.  And I really love the greens; especially the onions; buy scallions if you can’t find spring onions.  I always cook the white parts a few minutes but the green tops can be close to raw. Better that way than overcooked. Last but not least by any means, use the real deal for your parmesan cheese, that shreddy stuff in the jar is not gf a lot of the time and the flavor is sad when compared to a chunk you just grated on your pasta. You can thank me after you taste this masterpiece!

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Seafood Spaghetti with Greens

Ingredients

1 package of gf spaghetti

½ stick of butter

6-10 spears of asparagus

½ cup fresh snap peas, cut in half

1 can light tuna packed in olive oil

1 can diced clams

1 bundle scallions or spring onions

1 big garlic clove

Directions: Boil a big pot of salted water, add the entire box of spaghetti; usually 12 oz size in gf.  Cook stirring often until barely done.  Drain.  While it cooks make the rest of the dish.

Veggie Prep: I like to snap the asparagus into manageable lengths; like 1 ½ inches long.  Ditch the tough ends. Cut the peas in half, cut the spring onions into ¼ inch rounds.

Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter in a big saucepan.  I use my mini wok. Add the veggies, cook a minute, and add the garlic pressed or minced.  Stir and cook another minute.  Throw in the white part of the onions; add the tuna and clams with ALL the juices and olive oil in the tuna can.  Stir gently and cook a minute.  Toss in the green parts of the scallions and the cooked hot pasta.  Stir a bit.  Add 1 tbsp. more butter if you dare and up to a quarter cup of pasta water to moisten the pasta.  It is really not a wet sauce; the stuff should cling to the strands of spaghetti.

Serve and top each portion with a healthy amount of finely grated real parmesan cheese.   Should serve four but if you are piggy only serves 3!

+++++++++++++ Variation for those with a garden +++++++++++++

Yes, you can eat kale flower buds, a lot like broccolini.  I sometimes blanch them in hot water before sauteing with olive oil and garlic.

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These pictures above show my latest and quite yummy variation: I quick sizzled unopened kale flower buds from my last year’s plants and topped the finished pasta dish with it; really nice and I am guessing this kale option is quite good for your health