Tag Archives: pasta

Homemade Savoury Boursin … Spread and Pasta Sauce

I recently found a recipe for boursin, a soft and creamy cheese, posted on “The Frugal Hausfrau” website and knew that I had to give it a try. It makes an amazing spread but it also works as part of a creamy pasta sauce. I made a change to the original recipe … I substituted purchased crispy fried onions for the dried chives since I didn’t have any.

Roasted chicken and creamy boursin and mushroom fettuccine

Creamy Boursin and Mushroom Pasta – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 – 2 cups (~227 gm) mushrooms, halved and sliced (white and cremini)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup boursin cheese spread (purchased or home made*)
salt and pepper, to taste
200-210 dry pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce in case it tightens up before serving.
2-3 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

* See recipe below

In a large saute pan over high heat, add the oil and butter. When hot, add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium/medium-high and add the whipping cream and cream cheese. Stir gently until the cream cheese melts into the sauce and the cream starts to bubble a bit. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. Serve with some chopped parsley on top, for garnish.

Savoury Boursin Cheese

Savoury Boursin Cheese – makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp crispy fried onion

In a medium sized bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, white pepper and garlic powder with a hand mixer. Stir in the parsley and fried onions by hand.

Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so that the flavours will marry. Remove from the fridge 1 or 2 hrs before serving so that the boursin will be soft enough to spread.

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Pasta alla Caruso

I was going to do a giant post featuring the two chickens I bought a couple of weeks ago but I postponed it, again, for this Italian pasta dish featuring an item many people may not associate with Italy … chicken livers.

I love chicken livers and have had a craving for a while so I picked up two pounds on Saturday and set aside half a pound for use in this delicious dish that I ran across while net surfing a while ago.

Pasta alla Caruso is a chicken liver dish named in honour of the Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, who was said to love it, and a speciality of his home town of Naples. The Italian name, “Pasta Con Fegatini Di Pollo, Cipolle E Funghi” refers to the ingredients … chicken livers, San Marzano tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.

Pasta alla Caruso – serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (225 gm) fresh chicken livers *
1/4 cup finely diced onion (or 2 tbsp sauted)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lb (225 gm) sliced mushrooms (half button and half cremini)
1 tsp dried herb mixture (equal parts dried parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (Italian preferred ie Sangiovese)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 /2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
salt and ground black pepper, as needed

* If you don’t like chicken livers, slice a zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry. Drain on paper towels and then use them in place of the fried chicken livers.

Garnish – grated Pecorino Roman (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if that’s all you have)

200 gm thick pasta cooked according to package directions ie fettuccine or linguine or even bucatini

Puree the plum tomatoes and set aside until needed.

Rinse and trim the chicken livers. Drain well and cut into 1/2 in (12-13 mm) wide strips.  Sprinkle about 1/8-1/4 tsp salt over the liver. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the livers and fry over medium/medium-high heat until firm. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed.

Wipe out the saute pan, add the unsalted butter and saute the diced onion over medium heat until it’s started to pick up some colour.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top, and saute them until they start getting golden brown but are still a bit firm. Add the dried herbs and stir through.

Add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes until you’ve coated the onions/mushrooms and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the pureed tomatoes and liquid. Cook, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and infused into the vegetables.

Add the cooked chicken livers and any juices that may have come out of them and stir through. Cook just until the chickens are warmed through. You don’t want them to get tough.

Taste the mixture and add whatever else you might need – some more salt, some ground pepper, or even a bit of lemon if the sauce seems a bit flat.

Divide the freshly cooked pasta between two plates, ladle half the sauce over each portion and grate the cheese over the top.

Serve with a glass of the red wine.

Enjoy!

The rest of the chicken livers were sauteed in vegetable oil with a sprinkle of salt, Hungarian paprika and a medium sized onion. Just like my mother used to make for me. There’s nothing like chicken livers over mashed potatoes or mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta). At least, I think so.

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

Pork Tenderloin Four Ways

If you have a chance to buy pork tenderloin fresh, it’s quite a versatile protein for a singleton, and you can take your time making various dishes.

Unfortunately, I bought mine frozen, so when I thawed it, I had to prepare (trim off fat and remove the silver skin) and use it in as soon as possible.

Pork tenderloin souvlaki – marinated (Kraft Zesty Italian dressing), threaded onto skewers with chunks of onion and sweet pepper (red, yellow and orange), and then broiled on the bbq or in the oven under the grill. Serve with starch of your choice. In this case, I had leftover Mexican rice in the freezer so that’s what I used.

 

Korean pork tenderloin roast – marinated in a Korean paste and served over plain rice. I boiled and served the marinade over the slightly charred pork.

 

Korean (Gochujang) Pork Tenderloin Marinade – serves 3-4

1 large piece of pork tenderloin (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar*
1-6 cloves of garlic, minced*
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
pinch of salt

* I used honey and only 1 clove of garlic

Pesto pork tenderloin roast – marinated in home made pesto and served with pesto fettuccine

 

Honey mustard pork tenderloin – Pan fried pork cutlet served with honey mustard dressing … it turned out I hadn’t taken a picture of the honey mustard over the pork itself, just over the raw broccoli so you’ll have to imagine. The protein was served with skin on, smashed potatoes.

One Pot – Creamy Ham, Pea and Egg Noodles

Cooking for one (or two) means you often have leftovers from things you’ve thawed. In this case, I had a cup or so of diced ham from a 2 cup bag I’d frozen for soup. (I used the other cup for a broccoli, cheddar cheese and ham quiche.)

I found an online ‘one dish’ recipe and scaled it down to suit the amounts I had. Although I halved all the other ingredients, I used the full 2 cups of chicken stock (1 1/2 cups of stock and 1/2 cup of water, works too) because I needed to have enough liquid to cover the noodles. The noodles were cooked in the pan and didn’t suffer taste-wise from the substitution. I also omitted the lemon juice because I was saving my lone lemon for something else. Instead of using half and half, I used 1/4 cup of whipping cream.

Creamy Ham, Pea and Egg Noodles Pot

The dish was quick to assemble and delicious and the leftover portion could be taken to work the next day for lunch or enjoyed for a repeat supper.

Bulk Impulse Buys … Jarred Pasta Sauce

Freezer clear-out is going well with about eighty percent of the contents of the upstairs freezer having been transferred to the basement freezer. However, meals are going to be pretty unimaginative this coming week, as I scrounge out previously made and frozen mains and sides. The same old dishes are making an appearance so I thought I’d wax poetical on one of my recent big purchases.

Even though I usually make out a grocery list for my week’s shopping, late Wednesday evening when the online grocery store flyers are posted, impulse buys are my weakness. Sometimes though, you have to take advantage of an unexpected really GOOD sale.

Recently, I had occasion to visit a nearby Freshco grocery store for a few odds and ends, since it is conveniently located at the same mini mall where I just got my hair cut. While walking down the pasta/sauce aisle, I spotted a sale on my favourite pasta and pizza sauce … Prego. Since this brand isn’t available at Food Basics, at all, and there was none at Metro, my usual place to buy this, on my last visit, I decided to snap up a few bottles. Especially since the price was $1.99. Usually, this is product is $3.49 or even more. A sale price of $2.49 is really good and this was even better than that.

As I was checking out, the cashier noted the four bottles she was ringing in and asked if it was a good product. Of course, I said yes and she mused that at 99 cents she should pick up a jar or two herself. 99 cents?? A DOLLAR 99 cents, I corrected her … to have her point out that it was ringing in at 99 CENTS.

I took my groceries to the car, turned around and went back in for six more bottles and a wedge of Parmesan cheese as well as a few other things that I knew I could use.

Convenience and good flavour at a great price is worth going over your planned budget if possible.

Here are a couple of quick dishes made recently using the jarred sauce:

Tagliatelle using whole wheat pasta … for a meatier topping, add some cooked hot Italian sausages (previously bbq’d and frozen, in this case) to the sauce when warming it up to add to the pasta.

Individual pizzas made with sourdough flour tortilla

Pantry Clear-out – Day 1 (Whole Wheat Pasta)

Over the last few years, I’ve made many resolutions to empty out my freezers due to excess frost build-up. Unfortunately, great grocery sales keep tempting me to bring home more goodies to stuff inside.

Today is the last day of classes and I’ll have about three months of free time to play in my kitchen. It also means no pay cheques coming in. A perfect time to use up what I already have. I’ll try to buy only items absolutely needed to finish off carefully planned dishes or menus. I’ll transfer as much of the contents of the freezer that’s next to my kitchen as possible, to the one used for long term storage in the basement, and use up what’s left. When the freezer is empty, I’ll thaw the freezer, removing any ice that falls off the sides, then clean and dry carefully. When it comes back up to temperature, I’ll do the reverse with the one in the basement.

Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll end up with two frost-freezers, a much reduced pantry, and a few extra dollars in my pocket, by the end of the summer.

Whole Wheat Pasta Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

Whole Wheat Pasta – makes ~ 1 lb/454 gm pasta, serves 2-4

2 cups/250 gm whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
water (6-8 tbsp) **

** add 1 tbsp of olive oil and then water, as needed

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly on low.

Add the eggs and olive oil to the food processor through the feed tube, pulsing briefly. With the food processor on, slowly add the water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough gathers together into a ball.

Remove the pasta dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3-4 minutes using as little extra flour as possible.

 

Shape the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic food wrap. Let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to allow the gluten developed during kneading to relax.

 

 

Divide into 3-4 portions and roll out with a rolling pin or pasta machine to about 1/8 th to 1/16 th inch thickness, depending on the purpose required. Cut into strips etc.

Fill a large pot with water, salt generously and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes until the pasta is tender but still a bit chewy. Dress as desired.

Asparagus and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Greek Yogurt

Work’s been good this past month so I was feeling a bit ‘spendy’ when I went grocery shopping.

My grocery list had ONE item on it … MILK … but I ended up spending $60 on various extras including a box of ice cream drumsticks. (SO bad … but it was a PROMO sale.)

I decided to skip replenishing my stock of potatoes so meals in the week ahead are going to feature pasta and rice side dishes. I was going to start with a chicken Alfredo. Unfortunately, it turned out that that carton of whipping cream that I was sure I had in the back of the fridge … wasn’t there.

Substitution time.

A fast search on the net and I ran across a recipe for an Alfredo sauce using Greek yogurt. I also added a couple of ounces of cream cheese and, of course, Parmesan cheese, to the sauce.

Greek yogurt … I had strained it previously because I wanted a nice thick yogurt for something else, so I had to add more pasta water than expected to thin it down enough for the recipe below.

The result was delicious, and I didn’t miss the whipping cream at all.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus and Chicken – serves 4

300 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta
1/2 pound (~230 gm) chicken breast, cubed**
1/2 pound (~230 gm) asparagus stalks, cut into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces

** I had a couple of chicken cutlets that I had prepped and frozen, so I used those.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for use in the Alfredo sauce below. You’ll start with 1/4 cup but if your sauce tightens up you may need to add more.

NOTE: An easy way to cook your asparagus is to add it to the pot of pasta for the last 3 minutes of cooking time. It will be tender but still have a bit of crunch and retain its green colour.

Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (use white pepper if you want a whiter sauce)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine (or pasta water, vegetable broth or chicken broth; the broth will make the sauce less white)
2 oz (~60 gm) Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed
1 oz (~30 gm, 1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Additional grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken and asparagus and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top. Saute until the chicken is lightly golden and no longer pink inside and the asparagus is tender, but still a bit crunchy. Remove the chicken and asparagus to a small bowl and reserve.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium and add the minced garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine (or pasta water) and scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up the fond (bits of browned chicken and garlic). Whisk in the cubed cream cheese until it melts into a ‘sauce’. You may want to add a bit more pasta water at this point to help. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes to cool enough that the yogurt won’t curdle.

Whisk in the yogurt and the grated Parmesan cheese and then return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the reserved chicken and asparagus and stir constantly until the Parmesan is mostly melted into the sauce, 3-4 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer or boil as this could cause it to curdle.

Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan and stir so that the sauce will coat the pasta. Add additional pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.

Serve and garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Mushroom Duo

Spring is finally here … daffodils are the first flowers that bloom in my ‘garden’.

I didn’t grow up eating mushrooms. In fact, my first exposure to them came in the form of canned mushrooms which, texturally, didn’t appeal to me at all.

And then I discovered fresh mushrooms, especially the ubiquitous white, button mushrooms that are often found on sale. They used to be available loose in grocery stores but now, they’re usually packaged in half and full pound versions, sliced or whole.

BUYING TIPS for button mushrooms: If possible, buy them whole as they’ll last longer. Also, make sure that the mushrooms in the package are compact and white without the browning ‘gills’ being exposed. Gills are an indicator of maturing/mature mushrooms and the flavour is more intense. If you want a ‘cleaner’ presentation, stick to the young, solid white mushrooms. Size is not an indicator of maturity so don’t be fooled. There’s also less wastage if you buy young mushrooms since, as they mature, the stems become tough and ‘woody’ and you’ll want to discard them.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

I used one of the pre-baked shells from the coconut cream pie recipe. With the additional baking and the savoury filling the pastry was perfect, backing up my belief that under-baking was one reasons for the disappointing cream pie result.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche – serves 1

1 5 1/2 inch pre-baked pie shell
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2-3 strips crispy bacon, sliced
1-3 (depending on size) mushrooms, diced
2-3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pie shell on a baking sheet to prevent spillage during transport. Spread the bacon and mushrooms over the base of the pie shell.  Sprinkle some of the cheese over the top.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, salt and nutmeg. Pour the custard mixture over the contents of the pie shell. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar over the top.

Transfer the baking sheet and quiche into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set. Let cool and serve with a salad for a light lunch.

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi – serves 2

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced and diced
1 small red, orange or yellow sweet pepper, medium diced
9-12 large raw shrimp, peeled except for the tail
2-3 tbsp green onion tops for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder

200 gm fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

In a small bowl, combine the raw shrimp, a pinch or two of salt and the garlic powder. Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top and saute until most of the moisture is gone and the mushrooms are lightly golden. Add the diced peppers and saute for another couple of minute until barely tender.

Push the vegetables to one side and add the seasoned shrimp. Saute just until the start getting pink on one side and then turn and continue sauteing until the second side is also pink and the shrimp have started to curl up. Combine the shrimp and veggies, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta, stir through to coat with the butter and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning a final time.

Divide the pasta evenly onto two plates, sprinkle the green onion tops over the pasta and serve

BONUS: Tortilla pizzas topped with the last of the mushrooms in the veggie crisper.

Fast and Easy Duck Breast Ragu

By using leftover duck breast, from a duck roasted back in February, I cut down on some of the cooking and preparation time for this dish. And it ended up being a very economical meal, as one large duck breast made enough ragu for three servings.

Duck Breast Ragu

Duck Breast Ragu – serves 3

300 gm dried fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

NOTE: For a low/no-carb version, substitute well drained/squeezed spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles or cauli-rice for the pasta.

1 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large leftover duck breast
1/2 cup (1 medium) onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 medium) carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 stalk) celery, finely diced
1 cup crushed tomatoes*
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 fresh sage leaves, or 1 large dried sage leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp apple cider vinegar**
2-3 cups of water, divided
salt and pepper to taste
~1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

* About a cup of tomato products may be used in the ragu. ie. 2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 cup marinara sauce or 1 cup of crushed tomatoes. For an extra hit of tomato, add a tablespoon of tomato paste as well.

** In place of 1/4 cup of white wine, I added the apple cider vinegar to the chicken stock

If your duck breast was frozen on the bone, remove it and cut the breast in half horizontally, to minimize the thickness of the breast, and reduce cooking time.

In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until the vegetables are softened and the onion is transparent. Add the crushed tomatoes (start with the tomato paste first, if using, and cook a couple of minutes to bring out the maximum flavour) and then add the chicken stock and apple cider vinegar scraping the bottom to free up any bits stuck to the pan.

Add the dried bay leaf, the sage leaves and the duck meat, including the bones that the breast was attached to for extra flavour.

 

Add another cup of water, or as much as is needed to cover the meat. Add about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of ground black pepper. The amount of salt added depends on how salty your chicken stock was. Remember, the liquid will reduce so go easy on the salt. Bring the contents to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat so that the ragu mixture is just simmering. Simmer for one hour, checking after half an hour and then every 15 minutes to make sure that there’s still some liquid left. Stir to prevent sticking as the contents reduce. Add more water if need.

After one hour, test to see if the meat is tender enough to be shredded. If it is, remove to a shallow bowl, shred, and then return the meat to the saute pan. Discard the bones. (If there was any meat left on the breast bone and ribs, pick them off and return to the saute pan … or eat it. It’s the cook’s treat.) If not, simmer for another 10-15 min and check again, adding more water if needed.

NOTE: Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with a generous tablespoon of salt and cook your pasta, until it still has a bit of a bite to it (al dente). Drain, rinse with cold water, return to the pasta pot and cover.

Continue cooking the ragu, with the lid off, until it’s as thick as you like. Taste for salt and pepper level.

Add the reserved cooked pasta to the ragu, stir through and serve.

Garnish with a teaspoon of grated Parmesan cheese.