Tag Archives: italian

Lazy Lasagna Casserole

I had some ricotta and provolone in the fridge and thought of making a lasagna but I didn’t have any lasagna noodles and was too lazy to make my own from scratch so I hunted down a recipe that used penne, ziti or medium shells for a casserole type dish. I had penne rigate so that’s what I went with. And, in place of the doctored marinara the recipe called for, I used a jar of mushroom and green pepper pasta sauce. The results were pretty good. And I now have enough pasta for five more meals.

Rum Baba (Trial 1)

I’ve enjoyed the rum baba (baba au rhum) bought at a local Italian bakery over the years and kept meaning to try making them myself, but the cost of the molds kept me from the attempt. And then I retired and decided to splurge.

This was my first attempt. I used a recipe I found on line which has now disappeared. It was fine EXCEPT for the fact that it called for a crazy amount of salt. But I followed the recipe – bought the bread flour called for too – even though my baking ‘sense’ was flashing RED. And I was right. The babas took forever to rise and, even after soaking in the rum syrup, they were salty. I ate a couple and then tossed the rest. Now that I have the molds, I’ll probably make them again. Someday. And use a lot less salt.

Soaked baba ready for the cut and a channel cut into the baba for the whipped cream

Prepared mold and risen batter

Baked babas and soaking in the rum syrup

 

Pasta for One: Pasta Carbonara

I revised my old carbonara recipe because I was inspired by a ‘saucier’ version I saw posted on FB yesterday. Pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.

Pasta Carbonara for One

90-100 gm dry pasta
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided
pasta water, as needed, cooled slightly
3 strips of crispy bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste
dry parsley flakes

Time is crucial for a carbonara as it waits for no-one to be served.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Remove about a cup of the pasta water to a bowl and let cool slightly. Drain the pasta and reserve for a minute or two as the sauce is prepared.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yolks, bacon fat and 3 tbsp of Parmesan cheese. Whisk 2-3 tablespoon of cooled pasta water into the egg mixture, a tablespoon at a time.

Pour the carbonara sauce in a large saute pan and place on the stove over the lowest heat to barely warm up the sauce and melt the cheese but not enough to start cooking the egg yolks.

Add the drained pasta and the bacon pieces to the pan, toss with a pair of tongs until the pasta is well coated and everything is warmed through. If the sauce starts tightening up, add another tablespoon or so of cooled pasta water to the pan.

Plate and sprinkle the parsley flakes over the top. Add more grated cheese if desired.

Pasta For One: Pasta Alfredo

Continued from previous post.

Another pasta dish which is fast and easy to prepare and not that pricey, depending on the protein used.

Today’s post features shrimp and mushrooms. I like to pair a protein and a vegetable.

Basic Alfredo Recipe for One

90 gm pasta (fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti)
2 tbsp butter, extra virgin olive oil or equal parts of each
3-4 mushrooms, thickly sliced
100-125 gm raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh or dried parsley and more grated Parmesan for garnish

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

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add one tablespoon of butter and when it has melted and starts to bubble, add the mushrooms. Cook until golden brown on one side, turn and repeat with second side. Remove the mushrooms to a large bowl and reserve. Depending on how much butter remains in the pan, add a second tablespoon and when it melts, add the shrimp. Saute quickly, flipping over until both sides have begun to turn pink, then remove to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add the minced garlic and saute briefly, stirring, until the garlic barely begins to pick up some colour, turn down the heat to medium and add the whipping cream and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the mixture starts to bubble, the cheese melts and the mixture begins to thicken. Add the cooked pasta, mushrooms and shrimp, stirring to coat with the Alfredo sauce.

Transfer to a plate and serve immediately garnished with some more grated Parmesan and parsley for colour.

Other options: chicken and asparagus or ham and green peas.

Pasta Al Limone (Lemon Pasta)

Today’s supper came to the top of the posting queue because it’s an amazing combination of two simply prepared dishes, a main and a pasta side, and a green salad of your choice.

I’ve made pan fried breaded chicken cutlets before so that wasn’t a big deal. It was the pasta dish that took it over the top.

The recipe came from this Youtube video but the ‘bones’ of the recipe are very simple: whipping cream, the zest of one lemon and a tablespoon of butter. Simmer together for a few minutes in a large saute pan until the sauce reduces a bit, add some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and your freshly cooked pasta, stir it together tasting for seasoning (salt and pepper) and then serve with some more grated cheese on top. The recipe suggests adding some lemon juice as well, but, in my opinion, it didn’t need any. If you have a fetish for something green for a garnish, sprinkled some freshly chopped parsley over the top.

And gobble it down before it gets too cool.

Forget taking pictures for your blog.

FORGET it, I tell you!

Happy Easter!! (2019)

No, you’re not having a flashback to four months ago.

I just realized that I never posted the meal for this past Easter.

Which was a shame, because I made a delicious Tuscan bread and vegetable soup called “ribollita” for starters …

… baked lamb chops seasoned with rosemary and garlic, risotto and asparagus for the main and vanilla “cake for one” filled and frosted with a vanilla buttercream and decorated with Easter jimmies for dessert. A simple lemonade spiked with raspberries and blackberries to wash it down.

Easter cake

It’s been so long since I made the soup that I can’t remember which adaptation I used of the four recipes I have saved in my Italian folder. Based on the pictures of the ingredients in the photo folder for the soup, I’m guessing this one. Though I didn’t use canned beans but cooked cannellini beans from dry.

Home made croutons were used both in the soup itself as a thickener and, seasoned, as a garnish that was stirred in just before serving. If you like your croutons crunchy, serve a bowl of the croutons on the table and let each diner add their own.

 

 

It was a great meal … even in retrospect.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions on a Hoagie

One of my favourite ways of using freshly made hot dog buns/hoagies is as a transport vehicle for grilled or bbq’d hot (or sweet) Italian sausages, sauteed onions and sweet pepper strips. If you like some tang in your sandwich, you can add a few jarred pepperoncini, along with some of the juice, to the filling.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions Hoagie – serves 2

2 6-inch hoagies, sliced like a hot dog bun*
2 6-inch sweet or hot Italian sausages, grilled or bbq’d

Hoagie Filling

1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large sweet pepper (or an assortment of red, yellow and orange), cored and sliced into thin strips
1 clove garlic, peeled, smashed lightly
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp jarred marinara sauce
1-2 pepperonicini (sweet pickled peppers), thinly sliced with some juice, optional

* I used home made hoagie buns made according to this King Arthur flour beautiful burger bun recipe.

In a large pre-heated saute pan, over medium-high heat, add the oil, the sliced onions and the clove of garlic. Let sit until the onions just start to brown a bit then stir and continue sauteing the onions and garlic for a few more minutes. Remove and discard the clove of garlic as it’s seasoned the oil. Add the pepper strips and pepperoncini, if using. Saute for a few more minutes until the peppers start to pick up some colour as well. Add the jarred marinara sauce and some of the pepperoncini juice, to taste.

Add the sausages and warm briefly in the sauce.

Place some of the peppers and onions in each of the buns. Add the sausage and top with the remaining filling ingredients.

Serve with your favourite sides.

Making the Buns – The dough was divided into eight equal portions with half being shaped into hamburger buns and the other half into 6-inch hoagie buns

The hamburger buns were delicious, just slightly sweet and fluffy, though at 105 gms, a bit large for the hamburger patties I had cooked. Next time, I’d divide the dough into NINE portions.

Creamy Chicken Piccata for Two

Meal planning strategy: I haven’t cooked anything Italian in some time, there was a jar of capers languishing in the fridge and a couple of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts in the freezer, so I looked for a recipe for Chicken Piccata that used ingredients that I already had. The breasts weighed a bit over a pound so I split them horizontally into four, more or less equal sized portions, and made some adjustments to the recipe I found here since I wanted to toss the pasta in the sauce.

Chicken Piccata – serves 2, generously

200 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ~1 pound/454 gm
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided

For flouring chicken cutlets
1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
pinch ground black pepper
1 1/2-2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

For lemon sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock, or a dry white wine
1/4 cup whipping cream (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brined capers, drained
1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)

1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or 1-2 tsp dried parsley, for garnish
3-4 thin slices of lemon, for garnish

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, stop the cooking by transferring the noodle to cold water and then, if needed to wait for the sauce, transfer the noodles to warm water.

To make chicken cutlets, cut each chicken breast horizontally into two equal sized pieces or butterfly and cut in half. If the thickness of the cutlets is uneven, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them with a meat hammer to 1/4 inch thickness.

In a shallow pan or pie tin, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces quickly in water, drain well and dredge them in the flour mixture, until well coated.

Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat and when heated, add the chicken cutlets. Do not crowd the pan to ensure even cooking. Cook in half batches. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate with a rim to retain any juices that may be released by the breasts. Cook the other breasts in the same manner. Cover to keep warm.

Add the chicken stock or white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up any browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half. (NOTE: For additional lemon flavour, add the sliced lemons at this point so the lemon oil from the zest can infuse into the sauce. If your sauce volume seems low or you want a creamy sauce, whisk in the whipping cream and let reduce for a few minutes.)

Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter (cut into 2-3 pieces), a piece at a time until each piece just melts. This may not be necessary if you’re using the whipping cream as that will thicken the sauce.

Drain the pasta well. Add the pasta to the saute pan so it can warm in the sauce, if it’s cooled down. Divide the pasta between two plates.

Plate the chicken over the pasta and serve with the sauce poured over the top. Sprinkle with parsley before serving and add a slice or two of the lemon for garnish.

I didn’t notice that I hadn’t sprinkled the parsley over the top until after I’d plated the dish. Oh well…

I set aside two of the cutlets for use in other dishes as there was too much chicken for two servings.

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)

This delicious Italian soup is filling and usually inexpensive to cook up. The name says it all … “pasta and beans”. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe that I found on line many years ago, and adjusted the recipe for ingredients and amounts that I liked and had available. I’ve re-posted the recipe below.

I was being stingy with the amount of cannellini (aka white kidney) beans I used in this soup, since they’re pretty pricey at my local Italian grocery store, but you can’t beat the delicious, creamy texture of the beans once cooked. I added about a third of a pound of light red kidney beans, that I already had in my pantry, to make up the difference. Unfortunately, they took longer to cook than the cannellini so the latter were pretty much falling apart at that point.

Oh well.

And then there’s the pasta. I used just a very small amount of tubetti which I cooked separately, just until they were “al dente” or with a bit of texture left, and then added them to the soup for the last five minutes or so to finish cooking.

You can add meat or leave it out. I had about two thirds of a pound of ground beef which, added to two/two and a half cups of cooked beans, was plenty.

Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli – makes ~4 quarts/16 cups, quantities of ingredients don’t need to be exact

1/2-1 tbsp vegetable oil, depending on how fatty your beef is
454 gm/ 1 lb lean ground beef
6 oz/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 oz/3 cups canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans*
1 cup cooked white kidney beans*
5 cups beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock or water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 oz/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce
4 oz/ 1/2 cup/113 gm small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)

*  Or use 2 cups of whatever type of cooked beans you like

Saute ground beef in oil over medium/medium-high heat, in a large 5 qt pot until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and saute for 5-7 minutes just until the onions get translucent and start to pick up some colour.

Drain and rinse the beans, if using canned, and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired.

Add the chopped parsley and simmer until the celery and carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. I threw in some frozen corn for the last 5 minutes for added colour. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Other vegetable add-ins you can include: cubed zucchini, fresh, torn spinach, and frozen green peas.

For One Pasta Duo

The website where I found the ‘for one’ cake recipes also has savoury dishes. Especially pasta dishes.

Like this Ham and Pea Alfredo for One … I made it with linguine

I improvised this Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana with a quick and easy marinara sauce and one of the cutlets from my freezer.

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

1 turkey cutlet
1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
100 gm dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Quick Marinara Sauce for One – enough to dress about 100 gm dried pasta

1 cup canned, diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
1/8 tsp minced onion
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder
salt to taste
fresh oregano (sprig) and 2-3 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
sugar, as needed

In a large saute pan, combine the tomatoes, butter, 1/4 cup water, onion, oregano and garlic. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the tomato sauce.

Add the fresh herbs and a pinch or two of salt. Add more water if needed. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. taste and add sugar and salt, as needed.

Add the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce.

Push the pasta to one side of the pan. Add the turkey cutlet, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and put the lid on the pan. When the cutlet has warmed through and the cheese has melted, transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with fresh herbs.