Homemade pasta

In the age of pasta machines and convenience, something gets lost in the translation. Making your own pasta is relatively easy, and you can find the same essential recipe all over the Internet – because sometimes you don’t need to improve a simple perfection. I’m not suggesting you make this on a school night, when there is a ton of chaos – but this is a lovely treat on the weekend or for a special occasion. This recipe makes about a pound of pasta.

Recipe level: easy

Time: hour total

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Step one:

Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add eggs and olive oil.

Stir with a fork. Once the dough becomes too thick, knead it on a clean work surface until you have a stiff ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit for at least half an hour.

Step two:

Unwrap and cut the dough ball into fourths.

Wrap three portions of the ball back in plastic. Liberally sprinkle the portion with flour and roll until it is very thin. You should be able to see your hand.

Step three:

Fold over and slice thin strips with a knife. Shake out strands and dust with a bit more flour.

Step four:

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water for about three minutes. Remember fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried.

Enjoy!

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Orzo & Feta Salad

This is a very refreshing salad to bring to a party or serve at lunchtime. We used to have a grocery store that made an excellent version of this, and The recipe that follows is the inspiration. I also borrowed heavily from a version that Gia DeLaurentis makes. The beauty is you can add or sub in any ingredients you want – There are versions with fresh tomatoes or garbanzo beans, for example.

Recipe level: easy

Serves: 6

Time: 20 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 c. orzo
  • 4 c. Chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 3/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup sweet pepper, chopped fine
  • Sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, quartered

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 c. Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 c. Virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. Fresh mint

Step one:

Boil the chicken broth and add the orzo. Make sure to stir, because orzo can get starchy. Cook for about seven minutes and then drain and set aside.

Step two:

Assemble the dressing and then toss with drained orzo.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Orecchiette and Sausage

This is a classic Italian winter dish. I really like to make it when it is cold outside, because the pasta is creamy and filling. Also, the sausage gives you a break from the endless the chicken rotation. I also like to use spicy sausage instead of mild, or blend in a proportion of both. Broccoli rabe is the classic vegetable used in Italy , but most people in America prefer regular broccoli. You can also substitute in kale which goes nicely with sausage. I’ve also seen a variation with cooked tomatoes that was especially delicious. There is a lot of variety to the dish, but what is below is closest to the classic version. This will feed around 5 to 6 people.

You will need:

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings (or spicy, if you prefer)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 reserve pasta water
  • broccoli florets or kale
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan

Step one:

Begin cooking the pasta. If you cannot find orecchiette, any kind of pasta will do. Cook it al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water

Step two:

Once you have the pasta started, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the sausage.

Cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until the sausage starts to brown, 5-6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the reserve pasta water, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, broccoli, chicken broth, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is tender-crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the butter until melted and simmer for a few minutes to reduce and concentrate the sauce.

Step three:

Add the cooked and drained pasta and toss well.

Fresh grated cheese really makes a difference here. It is really worth the extra step and effort. However,if you have to substitute it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t find Romano, it’s fine to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano.

Meatball subs

This is the ultimate comfort meal. 

You will need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • Slices of provolone cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 6 hoagies buns
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Slat and pepper to taste

Step one: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap 2 cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 15 minutes.

Step two: mix beef, minced garlic, breadcrumbs, oregano and egg and form into meatballs.


Step three: cook meatballs in a large nonstick pan at medium heat – be sure to not overlook. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional ten minutes.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan.


Step four: while meatballs were simmering, split hoagies and brush the insides with olive oil and the roasted garlic. Heat in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until desired texture.

Step five: place three meatballs in the hoagie and top with provolone. Put subs back in the oven to melt the cheese for an additional five minutes. Enjoy!

Caprese Chicken

This was a delicious choice for the summer. I used fresh basil and tomatoes from my garden, and the result was a really simple, refreshing meal. I served it with mashed potatoes, and would definitely add more tomatoes next time, as they were the highlight of the meal, in my opinion. Using a good quality balsamic vinegar is also important – there are many types that are infused with flavors that would be interesting to try.
Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, good quality.
  • Fresh basil, chiffanade (cut into strips)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half.
  • Mozzarella, fresh and thinly sliced. (you may substitute shredded)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Cook chicken for six minutes on each side, and then remove from heat.

Step two:

Saute garlic in the balsamic vinegar for several minutes, until softened. Add the basil and tomatoes and cook it down for a couple of minutes, until they begin to soften.

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Step three:

Add the chicken back in the pan, and thinly sliced mozzarella on top. Cook until the mozzarella is melted, and serve. Enjoy!

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Chicken with sun-dried tomato cream sauce

recipe source: damndelicious.net (adapted with some modifications)

*For this recipe, I used my cast iron skillet so I could easily transfer from the stove to the oven.

Ingredients

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes per side; set aside.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in the skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and basil.

5. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet.

6. Place into oven and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes.

7. Serve immediately, garnished with basil, if desired. I chose to serve this dish with pasta, and it worked out very well. Enjoy:)

Homeade Risotto

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Risotto is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. For a long time I was scared to make it homemade because I heard it wasvery labor intensive. But I find if you prepare correctly, it’s really not that bad and very much worth it. The recipe below makes enough for 6 people. I served it with some crusty French bread because we love our carbs and it’s perfect for sopping up extra grains.

You can make this vegetarian or throw in a variety of protein.

You will need:

  • Arborio rice – 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • Unsalted butter , 5-6 tbs
  • Garlic – 1-2 cloves, minced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Dry white wine or vermouth
  • 6 cups Chicken broth
  • Sea salt and pepper – to taste
  • Chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • Shrimp
  • One link – Italian chicken sausage (regular Italian sausage or pancetta will do)
  • Frozen peas – handful
  • Fresh grated Parmesan-about a 1/4 cup
  • *fresh herbs, if available
  • Large pan (I prefer my cast iron skillet)
  • Saucepan for broth
  • Pan for cooking the protein

Mincing the onions

Steps:

  1. Important! Heat chicken broth in a saucepan and have a ladle ready. As you cook the risotto, you will need to spoon hot chicken broth into the rice. Keep it on low to maintain the heat
  2. heat 1-2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add the proteins of your choice and season with garlic, pepper and salt. Add the peas during the last few minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, Melt 2-tbs of butter and 2 tbs of olive oil.
  4. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they are translucent.
  5. Add the rice and coat the grains with oil for about one minute or so until they are clear.
  6. Add the wine, stirring the grains around until the liquid disappears.
  7. For about 15 to 20 minutes, add one ladle full of broth at a time stirring the grains around until the liquid evaporates. The rice will become starchy and creamy. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Use a taste test to determine the doneness. Most Italians prefer to have a tiny bit of bite.
  9. In the end, add the Parmesan and several tablespoons of butter to the Risotto without stirring it in. Put a lid on the pan and let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes. Then lift the lid and stir in the melted butter and cheese. Add in the proteins that you want at this time. You can also sprinkle in a little bit of fresh parsley or another herb of your choice for color. Enjoy!