Pasta

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.

pasta

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.

 

 

 

Read More

Pasta with Cauliflower and Mascarpone Cheese

pasta-1

This is my go-to pasta when I want something creamy, but I don’t want a heavy cream sauce. It’s versatile and can be done with numerous pasta shapes (I usually use whole wheat) and many different types of veggies. There are two things that make this pasta special: 1) mascarpone cheese and 2) pasta water. Yes, pasta water. You know, the leftover water after you cook your pasta. Most people dump this. Don’t! It’s salty and starchy and helps your sauce adhere to the pasta.

The method:

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 an onion, finely chopped.

Next add 4 small carrots, chopped and half a head of cauliflower, chopped. (Mix it up. Use whichever veggies you have on hand!)

Season with salt and pepper.

Add 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated.

In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package. Keep it al dante. Don’t dump the pasta water when the pasta is done!

Once the veggies are tender, remove the pan from the heat and add one small container of mascarpone cheese and one small ladle of the hot pasta water.  Stir until the mascarpone has melted down.

Add about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.

Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Add more pasta water if necessary.

Transfer it to a large pasta bowl, top with fresh parsley, a little more parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

pasta-2

 

Read More

Kale Pesto

kale pesto pasta

I love basil pesto during the summer but never, until recently, thought of trying other types of pestos during the winter. This recipe is based off one I found in Andrew Weil’s cookbook, True Food (which, if you haven’t seen yet, I highly recommend). I made some modifications. He uses pine nuts, which is traditional in pesto but expensive. Instead I used cashews. He also uses black kale, which I didn’t have. Instead I did a mixture of green kale and spinach, both of which I had on hand and needed to use. My modified recipe looked something like this:

4-5 cups of kale and spinach (though simply kale would be wonderful as well)

1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4-1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of cashews

1 clove of garlic, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

Andrew Weil boils the kale for 3 minutes and then transfers it to an ice bath for an additional 3 minutes before draining it and squeezing out the water. I did this as well, though I suppose if you wanted to use raw kale, it would work. Otherwise, it’s a simple matter of putting all of the above ingredients in a food processor and pureeing until smooth.

Though this pesto could be used for so many things, my favorite way to eat pesto is on pasta. In the above photo you can see that I used pappardelle noodles, which are one of my favorites. No, in this case they are not homemade (though I love making pappardelle).  These noodles I bought frozen at Carfagna’s store. And if you live in Central Ohio and have never been to Carfagna’s then, well, you’re really missing out. Even I can’t make my own ravioli and pasta all the time, so Carfagna’s is my go to for frozen pasta.

To make the dish complete, toss the pasta and pesto with any seasonal sauteed or roasted vegetable(s) you have on hand. Eat. Savor. Enjoy.

 

Read More

Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Lasagna

I come from an Italian family. When I was growing up, lasagna was made with a large 32 oz (or more) container of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and sometimes even provolone. Each layer was then covered with a hearty sauce made with ground beef and, more often than not, there was Italian sausage on top. It was rich, heavy, hearty, and delicious.

When I gave up beef, though, I had to find a new lasagna recipe, for giving up lasagna was not an option. Over the past few years I’ve experimented with adding different vegetables to lasagna and have discovered that I love veggie lasagna so much more than the meaty one I grew up with. The beauty of a veggie lasagna is that there are so many possibilities. When you pull beef out of the picture and use whatever vegetables you have on hand instead, lasagna is never boring.

The recipe I show below is, by far, my favorite combination of ingredients. Plus it’s light and full of so much more flavor than the more traditional lasagna. This is more complicated than most of my recipes, simply because there are so many steps. It’s a good day-off recipe, and it’s wonderful to do with kids. I loved helping my mom build lasagna when I was growing up.

Here’s what you need to prepare before you build the lasagna:

A ricotta mixture which is: 

  • A small container of ricotta cheese (about 15 oz). 
  • A couple cups of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • One clove of fresh garlic
  • One egg (this helps bind the mixture, but I sometimes forget to add it and it comes out fine)
  • Fresh basil, if available, or any fresh or dried Italian herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Roasted bell peppers or any other seasonal vegetable roasted

  • 2 large or 3 small bell peppers roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

My favorite olive mixture

  • I use about 8 oz of kalamata olives (pitted) and about 6 or 7 pepperdews from an antipasto bar. Pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Make extra. It’s wonderful leftover on bread, pastas and salads. 

Cremini or Baby Bello Mushrooms or a mixture of both

  • I use a couple small containers. I sauté them first with olive oil until they are nice and brown (mushroom tip: don’t add salt and pepper until they start to brown. Also cook them in a large pan and in small batches if you don’t want them to be soggy.) 

A marina sauce of your choice

  • I use my family’s favorite, simple recipe, which I will post at another date. 

You favorite hard Italian cheese

  • For this recipe, I used a combination of Parmesan and Asiago, simply because those were what I had on hand.  

I also use no boil whole wheat lasagna noodles. I know. My Italian great grandmother would have a heart attack if she knew such a thing existed. I didn’t believe they would bake properly at first, either, but it actually works.  I also use a pan that’s around 12×9, but any pan around that size would work.

To build the lasagna:  First, I pour just enough marina sauce along the bottom of the pan to slightly coat it.  Then I add my first single layer of noodles. Now it’s time for the first layer. I do:

  • one layer of the ricotta mixture
  • all of the roasted peppers
  • a few large ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

I don’t have a photo of this layer. Granted, I took a photo, but only after I started the next layer did I realize that I didn’t have a memory card in my camera. Did Ansel Adams ever forget to put film in his camera? I do hope so.

Next layer:

  • top the previous layer with a single layer of noodles 
  • one layer of the ricotta cheese mixture
  • spread the olive mixture on top of the cheese
  • add a few ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

olive layer-5

 

Next layer:

  • Another layer of noodles
  • ricotta cheese (if any left)
  • marina sauce
  • all of the mushrooms
  • sprinkle your choice of cheese on top

mushroom-5

Now top it with the rest of the noodles (one layer), pour lots of marina sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese.

 

finished-5

Cover it and bake in a 350 degree over for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Finished product:

finished-1

 

Read More