Pasta



Tonight’s dinner was a challenge.  TB asked if I thought we could have it made and eaten in about 40 minutes, as he was supposed to meet up with a friend.  Considering I had no clue what I was going to make I said sure and looked for whatever we had on hand.  On rushed dinner evenings I often turn to pasta, you can’t get any easier than that.

I was pleased with how this turned out.  It had a different background taste to it.   A smooth richness with a freshness…is that possible?  While I used ground lamb, I am sure this could be made with ground beef or poultry.  Easy peasy as my favourite Jamie Oliver would say!

orzo

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
6 cups salted water
1 lemon, juiced
fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil

1 lb ground lean lamb
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic (I know it is a lot, but it still didn’t overpower in my opinion)
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
1 tomato finely diced
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 half and half (optional)
1/4 cup crumbled feta
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring salted water to a boil, add orzo allow to cook for 8 minutes until slightly al dente.
  2. Meanwhile in a skillet heat up oil and add lamb, brown it over medium high heat.  Remove and drain in a colander.
  3. Spray pan with veg oil and saute onions.  As they begin to get translucent, add garlic and allow to cook – careful not to let it burn.  You may want to lower the heat to medium.
  4. Add spices, allow aroma to be released (2 minutes).
  5. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, and chicken stock.  Return lamb to skillet. Simmer sauce until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  6. While sauce is simmering, combine lemon juice, basil, cooked orzo and pepper in a bowl, stir to incorporate.
  7. Once sauce has thickened add half and half, cook for about a minute.  Pour sauce over pasta, top with feta.

Easily serves two to three (plus leftovers!).


Sometimes I love how a recipe comes together as a result of what is the fridge/freezer.  Every few months I get on a let’s clean the cupboards kick…creations with what is on hand.  This is one of those 15 minute meals provided the right leftovers/ingredients are hanging around.

One of the best things about pasta is that it always tends to lend itself well to a mis-mash of ingredients.  And while the photo is less than spectacular, we were certainly satisfied in our carbohydrate food induced coma.

tomato-pesto-pasta

Ingredients:
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce
1 cup overnight roasted tomatoes/garlic mixture
salt and pepper to taste
12-15 large shrimp
4 mini bocconcini balls (fresh mozzarella), sliced
your choice of cooked pasta, enough for four- we went with linguine, from the old standby homemade recipe

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized pot, bring wine and stock to a low boil.
  2. Add pesto sauce, cream and the tomato/garlic mixture.  Bring to a low simmer, add shrimp.
  3. Once shrimp is cooked through, has turned pink, add cooked pasta to the sauce, and stir.
  4. At the very end, stir in bocconcini.  Serve with fresh basil as the garnish…we didn’t have any.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.


At work we talk about effort in, in relation to, results out.  In terms of a recipe, this is short and simple.  But the results are spectacular.  I never tire of the recipes you can make with a deliciously slooow roasted, sweet and intense tomato.  The key is long and low in the oven.  It’s 5 minutes before bed, and then a quick pasta for dinner the next day.  Or a deep rich tomato soup.  It’s totally up to you.

roasted-tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 lbs on the vine campari tomatoes, ripe
1 head (yes head) garlic, cloves peeled
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 150-160 F
  2. Wash and halve tomatoes
  3. Arrange halves, face up in a Pyrex casserole dish
  4. Spread garlic cloves amongst tomatoes
  5. Drizzle olive oil over
  6. Season with salt and pepper
  7. Place tomatoes in oven and roast for 10-12 hours, checking every few hours.

Toss with freshly cooked pasta, fresh basil and feta.  A meal in minutes….errr…hours?


baked-lasagne The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of   
Beans and Caviar
, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Ever since I got my pasta machine for my birthday, I have been wanting to make lasagne. And look… here it is as a Daring Baker’s challenge!  I was very excited.  Now, TB doesn’t much care for lasagne.  Mainly because he isn’t a lover of ricotta cheese or cream sauces for the most part.  What appealed to me with this recipe is the spinach pasta!  I have only ever made plain pasta, and have been waiting to venture into the flavoured variety.   And the efforts have paid off… he said, and I quote “this is the best lasagne I have ever had.”

While the recipe below is extensive and a little daunting, don’t despair, you can make it over a few different days.    I made the ragu sauce the evening before, the bechemel sauce and pasta the morning of the day I baked the lasange…and then it was just to throw it together.  Yum!  Imagine the rich, sweet, tangy flavours all melding together.

I have a few pieces of feedback for this recipe:

1. I felt the ragu sauce needed a little more of a tomato kick, so I added about half a can of tomato sauce.

2. The pasta needed more moisture, I ended up using large eggs, not jumbo, so I used three of those and about a quarter cup of water.

3. The Bechamel sauce was fabulous.  Probably one of the best I have made…

…all in all…perfect for a rainy wet Spring night!  And here it is…before it went into the oven:

lasagne-not-baked

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu  and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if  it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).


I’ve made stuffed ravioli before…but only using wonton wrappers.  I swore up an down I would never do that again.  I found the papers got too gooey, it was a colossal disaster.  Add to that it made copious amounts and I hate wasting food, so I ate every last on of them.

With the new pasta maker, there is a special attachment to make ravioli.   Since the fettuccine was such a hit, I thought it was worth another shot.  Again, since so many of our favourite foods at home are re-creations of restaurant dishes, when TB heard I was going to make ravioli, he suggested a version of Tortellini al Funghi from our favourite Italian bistro, Cafe Luxy, meat tortellini with wild creamy mushroom sauce.

So the first step was to make the pasta, filling and then raviolis.  Next will come the sauce….

meat-stuffed-ravioli

Ingredients for Meat Filling

1/4  kg lean veal
1/4 kg lean turkey
1/3 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
5 mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1  Tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2  tsp beef bovril concentrate.
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup thawed frozen spinach, drained
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 eggs

Directions

  1. Prepare a quadruple recipe of pasta dough.  (This time I added 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley).  Allow to rest for at least one hour.  In the mean time make the filling.
  2. Brown meat in a fry pan over med-high heat.
  3. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms.  Allow to cook until onions are translucent.
  4. Add parsley, chili powder, Italian seasoning beef bovril and then season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook out all the juices from the pan.  If there is a lot of liquid, drain off.
  6. Remove from heat.  Bring to room temp.
  7. In a food processor puree the meat mixture, spinach and cheeses.
  8. Taste mixture, add another seasoning you feel is needed…and then add eggs and breadcrumbs.
  9. Fill according to your pasta machine directions, or these directions for making it by hand.

There’s no doubt that we eat out, and eat out too much. One of the places we used to love to go for dinner on occasion was Fet‘s, we haven’t been there in ages, but that doesn’t mean dinner can’t be inspired from there. Sadly we just learned they have taken this off the menu…too bad, at least we have something close at home!

TB loves cashews. Loves them. We could go to Costco and get one of those massive peanut butter sized containers full of cashews and they would be gone in a weekend. Combine the salty and richness of cashews with a spicy, somewhat sweet and rich Asian fusion sauce to top a noodle pasta and you have a great dinner…

cashew-chicken

Ingredients
2 chicken breasts, cut up into bite sized pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

2 cups uncooked pasta
– in this case we used our homemade fettuccine, I will never buy it again, this was too good! –

6 cups salted water

1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp hoison sauce
2 Tbsp chili garlic sambal sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves minced

1 green onion, chopped
1/8 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup halved cashews

Directions:

  1. Bring pasta water to a boil. Cook pasta as per directions.
  2. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper
  3. Heat sesame oil to pan, over medium to medium-high heat, cook chicken.
  4. Once cooked, remove from heat and cover.
  5. In the same pan you cooked the chicken, add all the sauce components allow to come together and bring to a simmer.
  6. Mix in pasta with sauce. Divide and serve in shallow bowls.
  7. Slice rested chicken and top onto pasta dish.
  8. Finally, top the dishes with chopped green onions, cheese and cashews.

Also great to serve a crusty bread with the meal… I know, I know, carb central! But it allows you to sop up all the rich and savoury sauce.

Serves two.


I am officially back in the kitchen!  The conference I have been working on finally came together and went off without a hitch!  It feels like for the last two months I have just been counting down to Saturday – and then it came…and went.

One of the fun presents I got this year for my b-day was a pasta maker from TB’s parents!  I was so excited.  With little to no space in the world’s smallest kitchen I have put off getting one for a long time.  But this year when asked what I would like for my birthday I finally said, a pasta maker – we will just have to find space for it!  For the last two weeks it has been sitting in its box on the kitchen table taunting me.  I knew exactly what I wanted to make as soon as I unwrapped the present.

This pasta maker is the cadillac version in my opinion.  The Marcato Multipast makes 7 different pastas, including stuffed tortellini!  I have made pasta by hand a few times.  I haven’t found that I have been able to roll it out as thin as I want to.  Using a pasta maker makes such a difference.  The end result, soft, silky rolled out noodles – loved it! A big thank you to P&M!

With the fettuccine I made, we made cashew chicken pasta, one of our favourites.  Stay tuned for that recipe!

From this…

dough-ball2

roll-12

cutting-noodles2

noodles-on-towel2

finished-noodles1

…to this!

Ingredients:

1 cup AP flour
1 egg, whisked
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a bowl combine flour and salt.
  2. Make a well.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk egg, add oil.
  4. Add egg mixture to flour well, slowly combine eggs into flour.
  5. Knead the dough with your hands until it is completely homogenous and consistent.
  6. If the mixture is too dry, add some water, if it is too soft, add some flour.  A good mixture will should never stick to your fingers.
  7. Remove the mixture from the bowl and place onto a light floured surface.  Kneed for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Follow steps to roll out pasta that are specific to your machine.  Those for mine follow:
    > Set the machine regulator to position 1, pulling it outwards and turning it so that the two smooth rollers are completely open (approx 3 mm)
    >Pass a piece of the mixture through the machine turning the handle. Repeat this operation 5-6 times, folding the dough over and adding some flour to the middle if necessary.
    >When the dough has taken a regular shape, pass it through the rollers once only with the regulators set on number 2 through to 7.
    >With a knife cut the dough crossways in pieces approximately 25 cm long.
    >Transfer the dough to the cutting rollers, turn it slowly and pass the dough through.
  9. Place the pasta on a towel or a rack to dry for at least an hour.
  10. Pasta can keep for 1-2 weeks if kept in a cool, dry place.

Cooking Directions:

  1. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add pasta, remember fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes (2-5 minutes depending on the thickness)
  3. Stir gently and then drain the pasta once it has finished cooking.