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.

Snowy Day Pasta Fagioli Soup

 

The soup I love to serve in the dead of winter is pasta fagioli meaning pasta and bean soup, Neapolitan style.  It is full of veggies and a ton of fresh flavor.  Not to mention beans and pasta.  Yes, I make it now with gluten free pasta, use the same recipe as always.  I often use elbow pasta by Barilla; great flavor and held its shape well.  Try not to overcook it though as gf pasta goes from done to mush easily if you are not paying attention!  This rib sticking soup will be a big meal if you add a salad and a slice of gf bread.  I served it this week with a wonderful loaf of french bread; the recipe is on another blog post of mine.  Warm, flavorful, satisfying and sure fills the tummy.  I made it with dried navy beans I soaked overnight and cooked until pretty soft.  Any kind of white beans or even kidney beans work . You can even use a couple of cans of beans; I made it with with a can of cannelloni beans and a can of fava beans; very Italian…

My version has lots of veggies; if you don’t want them all; leave some out! I often use small cubes of turnip as they hold their shape well and add a subtle tasty flavor to the soup.  No one ever guesses they are in there; looks like cubes of potato.   Or add more veggies, what is in your fridge?  I have used green beans, summer squash cubes or peas.  Today’s version has yellow zucchini squash cubes, kale and fresh green beans. No turnips or celery. Just plain forgot the celery.  Oh well, next time…

Secret weapon: I always add a cheese rind or two saved from a chunk of Parmesan cheese. It really ups the flavor of the soup.  And if you get a bit of it in your soup bowl the oozy cheesy goodness will be your prize!

Notes for 3/7/18. I did a quick heat and soak of the navy beans in a sauce pot and then I cooked them for 11 minutes in my Instant Pot. Great way to get it going quickly. I used broken up fettuccine pasta for this version. I used cut up pancetta I got at Aldi’s instead of prosciutto.

 

Pasta Fagioli Soup

2 cups of dried cranberry, navy or kidney beans, soaked overnight in lots of filtered water.  Be sure to pick over them for foreign objects.

1 bay leaf

1 quarter inch thick slice of prosciutto (leave out for vegetarian version)

¼ cup EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped turnip or summer squash

3 minced garlic cloves

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 can plum tomatoes chopped (or 1 lb fresh ones chopped in the summer when they have decent tomatoes available)

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 to 1 ½ tsp sea salt

1 cup elbow macaroni, gf

Directions: Drain the soaked beans, rinse well, return to cleaned pot and cover with fresh filtered water, add bay leaf and cook 1-2 hours until soft. Add water if it gets low.  Turn off and let rest while you make soup.  Skip step if you use canned beans; do drain them and rinse. Just add them where you would add the beans you soaked and cooked yourself.

Heat EVOL in big sturdy soup pan, I like a thick bottom to keep the soup from burning easily. Add onion and cook 5-6 minutes, add garlic, stir and cook a minute, add prosciutto which you have diced up into small squares and the parsley. Cook for a couple minutes, add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, turnip, hot pepper and stir well.  Add a tsp. of salt.  Cook uncovered about 12-14 minutes.  Add any bean water in the pan. I often end up adding 1-4 cups of water during this point if there is no bean liquid. Mush up half the beans in a food processor or with a potato masher. Add to soup. Reheat and cook 5 minutes, add rest of beans, reheat and then add the pasta.  Cook just the length of time the box says, stirring it every 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed and some fresh black pepper.  Turn off and let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. True Italians often let it stand for hours and they serve it room temp.  I sometimes drizzle some best quality EVOL on the top of each bowl before digging in. A big bowl of that will warm you up for sure! pasta faglioli soup

Originally posted by me in January 2015.

 

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!

Spicy Baby Eggplants and Pasta

This post is a slightly altered version of one I shared  two years ago for my friend Diane, queen of eggplants!  We share garden space at our church garden.  She really knows how to grow eggplants, dozens on a single plant every year.

Let me share my favorite method for dealing with those small eggplants you find yourself with when the first big frost hits your garden.  I pick them the night before no matter how small and this is how we use them in the best way possible.  Grocery stores usually have them in the fall if you are not a gardener.

I originally created this for the slow cooker using a base recipe from a friend’s Italian mom but this latest version was made on the stove top.  I really love being able to turn on my crock pot and walk away for four hours.  Still, sometimes you need dinner in an hour so here is the latest and quickest version.  It is perfect with gluten free ziti or spaghetti.

If you don’t have baby eggplants I think you could use smaller eggplants cut into halves.  This picture isn’t that pretty; a collapsed and well cooked eggplant is kinda ugly but you gotta love that cheese on top; good quality freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  I served it with penne as usual for the first time I enjoyed a plate of this spicy treat and with spaghetti squash tonight which was surprisingly good.  Hadn’t had that in many years.  Two of them were gifted to me last month; finally made half of one.  Nuked it in microwave for 15 minutes; cut, remove seeds; cut down on big plate, add a bit of water for steam effect.

forgotten-kisses-and-spicy-eggplant-002

Spicy Baby Eggplants

Ingredients

7-10 small eggplants from tiny up to about six inches long

1-2 ounces hard Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp EVOL

1 32 oz can crushed tomato

1 large carrot in rounds

½ tsp smoked paprika

¼  tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. sea salt

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup oil cured black olives

1-2 tbsp. capers

Directions:

Cut the Parmesan cheese into tiny wedges.  Trim off the top cap of the eggplants.  Cut 3-4 slashes in the side of each eggplant going in the direction from the cap to the bottom. Put a wedge of cheese into each deep slash.  I only put 1-slashes in tiny eggplants, 3 in bigger ones and 4 in the largest eggplants.  Heat 1-2 tbsp. EVOL in a large heavy sauce pot.  Add the onions and saute a couple minutes.  Add the minced garlic, stir for a minute.  Then add in the tomato sauce and carrot rounds.  Heat up and add the eggplants and the herbs/spices. Heat to a bubble and add the olives, and capers.  Cover and cook on low for 40 minutes stirring every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking to the pot’s bottom.  Cook until the eggplants can be easily pierced with a long fork.

Cook gluten free ziti, enough for how many people you are serving, and drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Put it back in the now empty pot and add the eggplant mixture.  Cook a minute stirring it all around the pot.  This allows the ziti to soak up some of the sauce and get a great authentic flavor.

Serve in a low wide soup bowl as is or add a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top.  If you have some gluten free rolls or freshly baked gf bread – heaven!

Notes: I used olives with pits but if you can find them pitted; great! If you are an olive hater, leave them out but they really add to the flavor.  Or cook the dish with them and remove before eating; get that earthy salty flavor but it is more subtle without the actual olives on your plate.  Add more salt if you leave them out. If you like things really spicy double the red pepper flakes.  I found it just about right for me with a quarter teaspoon. Spaghetti squash works well in place of pasta.

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!

Pasta Fagioli Soup Will Warm You

The soup I love to serve in the dead of winter is pasta fagioli meaning pasta and bean soup, Neapolitan style.  It is full of veggies and flavor.  Not to mention beans and pasta.  Yes, I make it now with gluten free pasta, same recipe as always.  I use elbow pasta by Barilla; great flavor and held its shape well.  elbowsTry not to overcook it though as gf pasta goes from done to mush easily if you are not paying attention!  This rib sticking soup will be a meal if you add a salad and a slice of gf bread.  I made it for my family the other week with a lovely new bread recipe which I will have to share sometime soon.  It was a big hit.  Warm, flavorful, satisfying and sure fills the tummy.  I made it with dried beans I soaked overnight and cooked until pretty soft.  White beans work too, navy beans come to mind as suitable. You can even use a couple of cans of beans; I did it recently with cannelloni beans and a can of fava beans; very Italian…

My version has lots of veggies; if you don’t want them all; leave some out! My secret vegetable: I often use small cubes of turnip as they hold their shape well and add a subtle tasty flavor to the soup. turnips No one ever guesses they are in there; looks like cubes of potato.   Or add more veggies, what is in your fridge?  I have used green beans, summer squash cubes or peas.

Secret weapon: I always add a cheese rind or two saved from a chunk of Parmesan cheese. It really ups the flavor of the soup.  And if you get a bit of it in your soup bowl the oozy cheesy goodness will be your prize!

Pasta Fagioli Soup

2 cups of dried cranberry, navy or kidney beans, soaked overnight in lots of filtered water.  Be sure to pick over them for foreign objects.

1 bay leaf

1 quarter inch thick slice of prosciutto (leave out for vegetarian version)

¼ cup EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped turnip

3 minced garlic cloves

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 can plum tomatoes chopped (or 1 lb fresh ones chopped in the summer when they have decent tomatoes available)

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 to 1 ½ tsp sea salt

1 cup elbow macaroni, gf

Directions: Drain the soaked beans, rinse well, return to cleaned pot and cover with fresh filtered water, add bay leaf and cook 1-2 hours until soft. Add water if it gets low.  Turn off and let rest while you make soup.  Skip step if you use canned beans; do drain them and rinse. Just add them where you would add the beans you soaked and cooked yourself.

Heat EVOL in big sturdy soup pan, I like a thick bottom to keep the soup from burning easily. Add onion and cook 5-6 minutes, add garlic, stir and cook a minute, add prosciutto which you have diced up into small squares and the parsley. Cook for a couple minutes, add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, turnip, hot pepper and stir well.  Add a tsp. of salt.  Cook uncovered about 12-14 minutes.  Add any bean water in the pan. I often end up adding 1-4 cups of water during this point if there is no bean liquid. Mush up half the beans in a food processor or with a potato masher. Add to soup. Reheat and cook 5 minutes, add rest of beans, reheat and then add the pasta.  Cook just the length of time the box says, stirring it every 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed and some fresh black pepper.  Turn off and let stand 10 minutes before serving.  I sometimes drizzle some best quality EVOL on the top of each bowl before digging in. A big bowl of that will warm you up for sure!

Originally posted by me in January 2015.

 

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!

clematis, flowers 015clematis, flowers 016clematis, flowers 020clematis, flowers 026

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.

pasta 012pasta 010pasta 013pasta 017pasta 018

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