Categories
Pasta Vegetarian

Creamy and Vibrant Vodka Sauce

I remember the first time I tried the pink, creamy, tomato-based deliciousness that is vodka sauce. Many moons ago, at the age of 22, I arrived in New York City with no more than a couple of suitcases to begin my internship at CBS News. My parents came with me to help me get set up and send me into the world of adulthood, and also to take me out on the town. 

On the first night in New York, they took me to the magical, but now defunct, Mangia e Bevi in the theater district. This boisterous restaurant was legendary for being insanely loud, crazy, and super fun. The wait staff encouraged dancing on tables, singing loudly, and generally allowed you to have as much fun as possible, no matter how crazy it got. If you were looking for a romantic date restaurant, this was not it. But if you wanted to have a really good time, you found your spot at Mangia e Bevi.

I remember having so much fun that I nearly forget about the food. When I finally peeked at the menu, I noticed a strange menu item: vodka sauce. At the time, it was only a well-known sauce in very Italian communities. I had never heard of it, so I took a chance. And guess what? It was one of the best pasta dishes I had ever eaten. 

Since then, I have been obsessed with vodka sauce because it’s tangy and tomato-y, but also creamy and silky. I order it in restaurants, cook it at home, dream about it. Once you try vodka sauce, it’s pretty hard not to obsess about it, so tread carefully. 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c. vodka

¼  c. tomato paste

¾ c. heavy cream

¼ c. pasta water

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese, for topping

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, setting aside ¼ c. pasta water for later use. 

In the meantime, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and cook until fragrant, translucent and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the vodka, mix, and then turn down the heat to medium low. Whisk in the tomato paste until the mixture is smooth. Add the cream and pasta water, along with the basil, and whisk until smooth and cooked through. 

Season with salt and pepper. Mix the sauce and pasta together in a bowl until combined. Top with additional fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. 

Categories
Pasta Vegetarian

Traditional Italian Homemade Pasta

This may not be true for everyone, but I enjoy very few things more than cooking all day on a snowy day and then reaping the fruits of my labor with a fantastic feast. Well, this homemade pasta recipe couldn’t come at a better time because our weather forecast calls for three FEET of snow starting tomorrow. 

Colorado can never make up its mind this time of year. Is it summer or the dead of winter?Last weekend I was eating lunch with friends on a patio in a tank top. This weekend, I plan on hunkering down and making a ton of pasta while the blizzard rages outside. 

The really nice thing about making homemade pasta is that you don’t have to use it all up when you make it. You can dry it or freeze it for later use. So since I can’t go anywhere this weekend, I will pass the time by making heaps of homemade pasta. I will be so happy to have all of this pasta later when my spring veggies start making their debuts whenever Colorado decides that it’s really, really springtime.

Ingredients:

1 ½ c. 00 flour or all purpose flour

1 ½ semolina flour 

4 eggs

4 Tbsp. water

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

Fit your stand mixer with the pastry hook. In the bowl, combine flour, semolina flour, beaten eggs, water, olive oil and salt. Turn on the mixer to medium speed and knead until the dough is mixed thoroughly, not sticky forms a smooth ball. If the dough is sticky, add a bit of semolina. If it’s dry, add a bit of water. Place the ball of dough in a bowl and cover it for 30-60 minutes.

When you’re ready to roll out the pasta, divide the dough ball into four parts. Set your pasta machine to a 0 and run the first ball through. To even out the pasta, you can either fold in the sides and roll through again or cut off the rough edges. Next, roll the dough through at 1, then 2, 3, 4, and finally, 5. By now it should be very thin. If you are going to use a specific cutting attachment, e.g. fettuccine or pappardelle, dust the thin pasta with a little flour before sending it through the cutter. 

At this point, you can either hang your pasta on a dryer to place it on a flat, floured surface. To cook immediately, boil pasta in salted water for 3-4 minutes or until cooked al dente. If you would like to save it for later, allow the pasta to dry and store it in an airtight container. 

Categories
Fish/Seafood Pasta

Mediterranean Pasta with Sardines, Capers and Olives

We’ve all been struggling a bit during this long year of staying at home. Many of us want to go somewhere, anywhere, but right now it just isn’t in the cards. I have a feeling we’re all blissfully imagining the same getaway — sitting at the beach, being waited on with a drink in hand. 

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself daydreaming about vacations to places like Nice, Corsica, southern Italy . . . pretty much anywhere on the Mediterranean. I can just picture that perfectly blue water, feel the rocky beach pebbles underneath my bare feet, smell the enticing scents of beautifully crafted meals being cooked with care, and taste the otherworldly delicious seafood-abundant dinners. 

This pasta infuses so many of the most delicious flavors that are so popular in the Mediterranean: sardines, capers, olives, red peppers, and fresh lemon. This meal feels and tastes like a luxurious restaurant meal you would enjoy next to the sea with a pitcher of local wine and fresh bread. Next time there’s patio weather, cook this for your significant other or best friend, pour some great wine, go outside, eat a truly wonderful meal, and make the decision to live your best life wherever you are.  

Ingredients:

8 oz. angel hair or thin spaghetti

1 4.4 oz can of high-quality sardines (or 4-5 oz. fresh!)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped

¼ red bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice from 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. capers

12-15 kalamata olives

2 tsp. oregano

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the sardines and cook for one minute, breaking them down into smaller pieces. Add the lemon juice, capers, olives, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and use tongs to combine everything thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with parsley.

Categories
Pasta Pork

Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna Roll Ups

Ever since I made my spinach lasagna roll ups a few weeks ago, my kids cannot stop asking for them again. Since I’m always making different things, I didn’t want to make the exact same meal again . . . at least for a few more weeks. 

So, I decided that I could adapt the recipe a bit to showcase a different (and not as healthy) ingredient: pepperoni. Spinach is much healthier, but pepperoni is so comforting and yummy. Let’s face it: sometimes you just need comfort food and you’re not worried about it being healthy. There’s pretty much nothing more comforting than pizza and lasagna morphed into one dish. Try it, and you’ll definitely agree! 

Ingredients:

10-12 uncooked lasagna noodles

3 c. marinara sauce

16 oz. whole milk ricotta

¾ c. shredded mozzarella

½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 5 oz package of pepperoni slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Cook lasagna according to package directions and drain. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish. 

Mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. 

Lay out the dry noodles flat on a clean surface, such as wax paper on the counter. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles in a thin layer. Place pepperoni slices along the length of the noodles on top of the cheese mixture and roll up carefully. Then, place the roll ups seam-side down in the baking dish. Leave a little space between the roll ups. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the roll ups and then top with mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese melts. 

Categories
Pasta

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

I know, I know. Snicker, snicker. Everyone likes the name of this pasta because of its, ahem, questionable origins. Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint exactly why this dish is called “whore’s pasta.” And frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. 

This pasta is so good that I would eat it even if it had a far worse title. All of that salty, briny goodness wrapped up in pasta is pure heaven. Add the anchovies to that and you’ve got a masterpiece. I can almost hear some of you thinking that you’ll just eliminate the anchovies because you think they’re gross. Don’t. Even. Think. About. It. Trust me. They add flavor that can’t be described as anything but magical, and they don’t add the fishy flavor you’re expecting. Go all in with those little fish and you’ll be glad you did.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4-6 anchovies, finely chopped

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp. capers

½ c. pitted olives, e.g. kalamata

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

3 tsp oregano

1 16 oz. package of spaghetti

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful of chopped parsley, for topping

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add anchovies and garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes. 

While the sauce is simmering, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Add sauce slowly and mix together until the amount of sauce desired covers the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Top with parsley.

Categories
Pasta Vegetarian

Quick and Delicious Pesto

Pesto may be one of the simplest foods to make and one of the yummiest foods to eat. Most people associate pesto with pasta, but you can serve it on top of just about anything from sandwiches to omelettes to fish. In other words, everything it touches turns to pure gold. 

Ingredients: 

1 bunch of basil, about 3 cups

2 cloves of garlic

½ c. pine nuts

½ c. Parmesan cheese

⅔ c. olive oil

Salt and pepper

To make the pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 

Categories
Pasta Uncategorized Vegan Vegetarian

Vegan Kale and Lentil Pasta with Caramelized Onions

Do you have a special meal in your rotation that you love so much that you obsess about it all day when you know you’re going to eat it for dinner? This is my obsession meal. And I’m fairly certain my kids would second that and declare it their obsession meal too. This healthy, vegan pasta meal is off-the-charts good. 

Most of the amazingness can be attributed to the caramelized onions. They are, without a doubt, the star of this show. But when you combine these heavenly onions with garlic, tender kale, and earthy lentils, you’ve got a meal you’ll be obsessing about long after you’ve eaten it. Top it with Parmesan (or vegan Parm), and you may eat multiple servings . .  which is actually ok because this is such a clean meal.

Ingredients:

One bunch of organic kale, curly or lacinato

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c. uncooked lentils

1 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ c. red wine

½ c. vegetable broth

1 16 oz. package of pasta

Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Vegan Parmesan cheese or regular Parmesan cheese, for topping

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat high, drop in onions and then reduce to medium low heat. Cook onions very slowly stirring often until they are light brown and very soft. This will take 30-45 minutes.  You can cook the lentils and pasta while the onions caramelize.

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water and lentils to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are fork tender. Drain and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. 

When the onions are nice and brown, add garlic and cook for one minute. Then, add the kale, broth, and wine and cook until the kale is wilted and soft. Add the lentils and mix together. Finally, add in the drained pasta and toss everything together in the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

Serve immediately and top liberally with vegan Parmesan (or Parmesan)!

Categories
Pasta Uncategorized Vegetarian

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

Do you have a craving for vegetarian lasagna but don’t want to put in the effort of layering and layering? These spinach lasagna roll ups are super simple to make and will certainly quench your craving for a comforting, flavorful lasagna. These roll ups are perfect for meatless Mondays, or any day of the week that you need a healthy and delicious meal on the table with little effort.

Ingredients:

8 c. fresh spinach

10-12 uncooked lasagna noodles

3 c. marinara sauce

16 oz. whole milk ricotta

¾ c. shredded mozzarella

½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 large egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook spinach until it is wilted, about 2 minutes, and set aside to cool. Cook lasagna according to package directions and drain. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish. 

When the spinach has cooled, mix together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. 

Lay out the dry noodles flat on a clean surface, such as wax paper on the counter. Spread the cheese and spinach mixture evenly over the noodles in a thin layer and roll up carefully. Then, place the roll ups seam-side down in the baking dish. Leave a little space between the roll ups. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the roll ups and then top with mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese melts. 

Categories
Chicken/Turkey Pasta Uncategorized

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

Chicken paprikash is a popular Hungarian comfort food meal loaded with paprika and sour cream and usually served over buttered egg noodles. It’s perfect for a cold winter night, so last night when it was insanely windy and cold I decided to whip up a batch for dinner. It did not disappoint. The luscious and tender pieces of chicken bathed in a creamy aromatic sauce is just what the body and soul craves this time of year. 

Chicken paprikash is traditionally served with spaetzle, but can be paired very successfully with egg noodles, rice or potatoes. Whatever pairing you choose, it will be heavenly! 

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts

½ c flour

3-4 Tbsp. paprika or hot Hungarian paprika if you like it spicier

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Pepper

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 c. yellow onion, chopped

2 c. chicken broth

1 c. sour cream

Parsley, for garnish

Mix together flour, 2 Tbsp. paprika, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge the chicken on all sides and save the flour mixture for later. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Set the aside on a plate. 

In the same skillet, add onion and the remaining paprika and cook for about 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape all of the bits of chicken from the skillet for added flavor. Pour in the chicken broth and stir. Add chicken back to the skillet and cook for 30-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. 

In a small bowl, mix together the leftover flour from dredging the chicken, ½ c. sour cream, and ½ c. liquid from the skillet. Add it to the skillet to thicken the sauce and mix together thoroughly. Turn off the heat on the stove and add remaining sour cream. Mix together and serve hot with noodles.

Categories
Chicken/Turkey Pasta Uncategorized

Slow Cooker Sicilian Turkey Meatballs

I’m always a bit perplexed when I see people buying giant bags of frozen meatballs at the grocery store. I think too many people believe that making good meatballs is labor intensive and time consuming, so they take a meal shortcut by using frozen meatballs. The thing is, frozen meatballs never measure up to their homemade counterparts; and oftentimes, they just plain suck. 

This recipe is ridiculously simple, so there’s really no excuse to not make homemade meatballs. In order to make this meal just a little healthier, I opted for turkey in this particular recipe. But because good meatballs are all about ratios of meat/other ingredients, you could easily substitute with a different type of meat, e.g. pork, beef. I have made this many times with beef or a beef/pork combo and it turned out beautifully.

Meatballs:

⅓ c. seasoned breadcrumbs

⅓ c. Parmesan cheese, grated

1 garlic clove, minced

3 Tbsp. basil

1 egg 

1.3 lb ground turkey

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Sauce:

1 Tbsp. olive oil 

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp. basil

1 Tbsp. oregano

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients for meatballs in a large bowl and mix together thoroughly with clean hands. Form meatballs in your hands and set aside on a tray.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Pour the garlic, onions, and oil into the slow cooker. Then, add crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano and red pepper sauce into the slow cooker. Finally, gently place the meatballs into the sauce.

Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 4-5 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with your favorite type of pasta!