Italian

Roasted Tomatoes Part Three: Roasted Tomato Sauce with Peppers, Rigatoni and a Simple Basil Pesto

Ok, so these tomatoes are really only semi-roasted. When making sauces/soups/salsas, I like my roasted tomatoes to still be good and juicy. Still, this tomato recipe is everything I love about summer and tomatoes, all in one big dish.

First, before I get to the recipe, a few notes:

  • I often read recipes that first instruct you to remove the seeds and peel the skin off before using in a sauce. You’ll see that I didn’t do that here. If I was going to roast them for hours, I would probably remove the seeds, but for this sauce, I find it isn’t necessary. I don’t like to waste any part of these precious tomatoes. Of course, this is a personal preference, so certainly remove the seeds and skin, if you wish.
  • As for the pasta, I used rigatoni simply because I happened to have it on hand, and I was in the mood for a good, thick, chewy, white pasta. I think you could use just about any pasta shape, white or whole wheat, long or short (just as long as it can hold the sauce).
  • The pesto described below really isn’t a true pesto. Usually I use almonds and lemon juice when I make pesto, but for this dish, I really just wanted to savor the wonderful basil flavor with the tomatoes. The pesto, therefore, is very simple.

And now, the recipe:

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Begin with 6 large beautiful heirloom plum tomatoes. (For those of you in Ohio, I got mine from Northridge Organic Farm.) Cut them in half and sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Toss 3 cloves of garlic on there, as well (peels still on).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. They will look like this when they’re done:

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In the meantime, heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot. Add:

1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red or green bell pepper, chopped
red pepper flakes

Sprinkle with salt and let them sauté for at least 10 minutes. Then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of water or white wine

Once the tomatoes and garlic are done, puree them in a food processor until smooth (don’t forget to remove the garlic peels!), then add them to the pot. Let everything simmer together for at least 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, make the pesto by adding the following ingredients to a food processor:

2-3 cups of fresh basil
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper

Pour in olive oil while pureeing the above ingredients until the basil is finely chopped and the pesto can easily be poured out of the container. Pour the pesto into a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, you can either mix the sauce in with your pasta of choice or spoon the sauce on top of the pasta while serving. Top the pasta with some of the pesto and sprinkle it with Romano or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Mascarpone

This pasta looks a lot more sinful than it is. It’s creamy without a heavy cream sauce and it’s comforting without leaving you feeling like you overindulged. And even better: it’s simple.

Start by setting a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. You’ll want to start cooking the pasta while the mushrooms cook. Try to time it so that the pasta is ready about the same time as the mushrooms so that you can add the pasta directly to the pan of mushrooms. It’s better if the mushrooms are ready before the pasta. Also, be sure to cook the pasta just to al dente. It will continue cooking when you add it to the mushrooms.

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The recipe below is for 1/2 pound of fettuccine. Double everything if you’re doing the entire pound.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté:

1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped.

(You can certainly do more mushrooms, if you want, or you can switch up the mushrooms. I used shiitake, because I happened to have those on hand from the farmers’ market.) 

Let the mushrooms cook until they are nicely browned and they have released all of their moisture. Remember: don’t salt the mushrooms until they have started to brown. If you salt too soon, the salt with pull the liquid out of the mushrooms too quickly. Always let them brown first.

Once they are nice and brown, add:

Salt and pepper
A few splashes of white wine

I say a few splashes, because you really need just enough to get all of those brown bits off the bottom of the pan and give the mushrooms some more flavor. Let them cook until most of the wine has been absorbed. Turn the heat down to medium low and then add:

about 3 generous spoon fulls of mascarpone cheese

Reduce or add mascarpone to achieve the level of creaminess you want. You may want to add a ladle of pasta water to help make the mascarpone thinner.

Once the mascarpone had melted down, add the pasta to the saute pan and let if all cook together for a minute. Then poor it into a large pasta bowl and, using tongs, toss it all together. If you wish, add:

1/4 cup of parmesan or Romano cheese.

Give it another toss and then top with:

Fresh basil and parsley, chopped. 

And that’s it. The mushrooms and wine give the sauce such a wonderful flavor that you won’t miss that heavy cream sauce.

 

 

 

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Summer Squash Risotto

Risotto

One of my favorite comfort foods, this time with summer flavors.

Simply follow my Basic Risotto Recipe, but make the following changes:

  • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken.
  • Use two varieties of squash for the vegetable
  • At the end, stir in fresh basil and lemon zest

Some directions:

Sauté the squash first in olive oil. You can use any summer squash. I used one zucchini and a pattypan squash, and I thought the pattypan worked particularly well with this recipe. I also chopped the zucchini but cut the pattypan into thick strips, just for some variety. Both shapes worked well. Sauté until they’re just barely tender, but still have a bite. Remove from the pan.

In the same pan, follow the instructions in the above link to make the risotto.

Towards the end, once the rice is tender and it’s time to stir in the parmesan or Romano cheese, add the squash to the rice, along with a handful of basil leaves, chopped into strips, and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. Now, this time when I made the risotto, I also stirred in a spoonful of Mascarpone cheese, just for the heck of it. The result? It certainly gave it a nice creamy texture, but I don’t think it’s necessary  The risotto is wonderful on its on, without the Mascarpone.

Garnish with Parmesan or Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper.

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Nonna’s Fried Zucchini

My great-grandmother was from Italy, and this is one of the many recipes she used to make. I don’t think she used bread crumbs.** I think that’s something my mom and I have added over the years. And this method also works well for cauliflower, potatoes, and chicken (just to name a few). My favorite, though, is the zucchini.

**Update: After talking to my mom, I found out that the breadcrumbs is something her and I changed some years back. My great-grandmother always did flour-egg-flour. My mom and I both prefer the breadcrumb method for zucchini, but the flour-egg-flour method is still best for chicken (but that’s a slightly different recipe for another day).

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Heat olive oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. You don’t need a lot. This isn’t deep frying. Just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

Start by slicing your zucchini into around 3/4 slices. Season with salt. I like fat slices, but you can cut it thinner, if you like. Next, set up three bowls. The bowls should contain the following:

  1. All purpose flour, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
  2. One egg, beaten
  3. Bread crumbs

How much of each depends on how many slices of zucchini you’re doing. For one medium sized zucchini, you’ll want about a cup of flour and at least a cup of breadcrumbs. Don’t worry. It’s easy to add more as you go if you’re running low. One egg should be plenty.

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Next all you have to do is dip your first slice of zucchini into the flour until it’s covered. Shake off the excess. Then dip the flour covered slice into the egg. Flip it a few times to make sure it’s covered. Hold it above the bowl for a few seconds to let the extra egg drip off. Next dip it in the bread crumbs. Flip it again to cover both sides with breadcrumbs. Immediately add the zucchini to the pan. Repeat with remaining slices.

Let the zucchini cook until the first side is brown and then flip it over to brown the second side. When it’s down, move it to a plate and sprinkle the top with salt and parmesan or Romano cheese. It’ll be crunchy on the outside and tender, but not soggy, on the inside. It’s a wonderful contrast. And be careful with your first bite. Those little zucchini hold a lot of heat!

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Homemade with Love: Lentil Meatballs

It’s time, once again, to review another cookbook.

Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo.

I don’t actually own this one, but I saw it at work and immediately knew that I had to try the lentil meatball recipe. It was amazing. I’ve tried making lentil meatballs before, but they were just okay. These are so perfect that I didn’t even change the recipe (and that’s saying something). I can’t wait to buy this cookbook and try even more recipes.

So go ahead and head over to Jennie’s blog and try her Lentil Meatballs. Just do it.

Here’s how mine looked:

lentil meatballs

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Spinach, Arugula, and Ricotta Pizza

Another favorite spring vegetable: Arugula. It’s so peppery and adds a wonderful touch to salads, sandwiches, and pizza.

Local Produce Used:

Spinach from 2 Crows Farm

Arugula from Northridge Organic.

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Recipe (which is enough for three small pizzas):

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix:

1 small container of ricotta cheese

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

Spread this mixture on top of the pizza dough (make sure you leave enough for each pizza). Top with spinach leaves. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with oregano and parmesan or Romano cheese.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the fresh arugula. The heat from the pizza will hit the arugula and give off the most amazing peppery smell. Give the pizza a few minutes to cool (if you can) and enjoy!

Photo before the arugula:

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Photo after the arugula:

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Another variation:

Add sliced mushrooms and gouda cheese on top before baking. (Photo taken before the pizza went into the oven):

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