Weekly Winner: Spice, Swine & Spaghetti

sambal porkYou know I’m going to like any dish that combines pork and pasta.  Add to it a punchy kick of sambal and I am all in.  Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles was the perfect “welcome home” meal after traveling this past week.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and is more spicy than sweet.  The heat is definitely there but because it is simmered in the sauce for quite a while, the spice is milder than if you just added the sambal oelek right at the end.  There’s also some sugar and vinegar in there to help tame it a bit.  While this is an easy dish, unlike a lot of pasta and noodle dishes, it’s not super quick — the sauce needs to simmer for close to an hour but is basically hands-off except for a quick stir now and then. Well worth the time — it will make your house smell fabulous while its simmering away!

Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. ground pork, divided
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks or finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus more for serving
  • ⅓ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1½ lb. fresh ramen noodles or 16 oz. dried spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Procedure:

  • Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high. Add half of pork to pot, breaking apart into 6–8 large chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 5 minutes. Turn pieces and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until pork is browned on 2–3 sides, about 5 minutes longer. Add ginger, garlic, sugar, and remaining pork to pot and cook, breaking up pork into small clumps, until meat is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Add tomato paste and 2 basil sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add chili paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and flavors have melded, 30–45 minutes.

  • Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute short of al dente. Add to pot with sauce along with butter and a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until sauce begins to cling to noodles, about 1 minute. Pluck out basil sprigs.

  • Divide noodles among plates. Top with torn basil.

Weekly Winner: Ravioli Ridiculousness — Because you can’t be good all the time!

ravioli casseroleBaked pasta is good.  Stuffed pasta that is baked is better.  Stuffed pasta which is layered in a casserole with sausage is …. the BEST.  EVER.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a light dish.  However it isn’t as over-the-top as you’d think.  It really works and actually comes together as a somewhat presentable dish.  And while it would be perfectly acceptable to serve this dish at a casual dinner party with friends, my preferred situation for it is curled up on the couch in my jammies.  This big dish of deliciousness comes from Food Network Magazine.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

10 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced

Freshly ground pepper

6 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed

3 cloves garlic (2 thinly sliced, 1 grated)

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped [I used oregano]

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 10-ounce packages refrigerated mushroom ravioli

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and marjoram (or oregano) and cook until softened, 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup water, bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli in the boiling water as the label directs. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain. Add the ravioli and the reserved cooking water to the sauce; stir to coat. Transfer half of the ravioli and sauce to a 9-by-13-inch broiler-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with the remaining ravioli, sauce and mozzarella.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small microwave-safe bowl until melted. Stir in the grated garlic and breadcrumbs; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the baked ravioli and broil until browned on top, about 2 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Weekly Winner: Big Bowl of Brothy Goodness

brothy pastaI’m one of those weird people that won’t eat soup during warm weather.  Yeah, I’ll do the occasional gazpacho but basically, soup for me is off the menu from around Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Which is why I’m totally thrilled by the cooler weather here in Chicago — it means once again, “Soup’s On”!!

This recipe for Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas is soul-satisfying.  There’s a rich tomato broth, plenty of pasta, hearty chickpeas and just enough cheese to make me happy.  It’s quick, easy and is a great way to use up the various pasta “odds and ends” you have in the pantry.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and will be making a regular appearance on our table (now that summer is officially over)!

Brothy Pasta With Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 6 oz. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  1. Heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and garlic are both very soft and just beginning to brown around the edges, 5–6 minutes longer. Add rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are slightly thickened, 6–8 minutes.

  2. Add pasta and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, until pasta is al dente, 13–16 minutes depending on shape. Stir in parsley and 3 Tbsp. Parmesan; season with salt.

  3. Divide brothy pasta between bowls. Drizzle with more oil and top with Parmesan and black pepper.

Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

Procedure:

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Glorious Green Goodness with just a tad of decadence.

carbonaraThere is nothing more comforting than a creamy, luxurious bowl of pasta– especially since winter is still going strong here in Chicago.  While I may be dreaming of  glorious spring vegetables that will eventually take over the markets, right now I need more sustenance and comfort than a light, springy pasta.  Enter: Pea and Spinach Carbonara.

The recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is super easy and gives you a hint of springtime flavor.  It is also really quick to make,  which leaves you plenty of time to put on an extra layer, find the throw blanket and curl up on the couch!

Pea & Spinach Carbonara

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 small clove garlic, minced

8 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

3 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 9-oz package fresh tagliatelle or linguine

8 cups baby spinach

1 cup peas

Procedure:

  1. Put 10 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add breadcrumbs and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley.  Set aside
  3. Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons Parmesan, egg yolks, egg, pepper and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.  Add spinach and peas and cook until the pasta is tender, about 1 minute more. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Drain and place in a large bowl.
  5. Slowly whisk the reserved cooking water into the egg mixture. Gradually add the mixture to the pasta, tossing with tongs to combine.  Serve topped with the reserved breadcrumb mixture

Weekly Winner: A Better Take on Zoodles

pastaI love pasta.  I don’t hate zucchini.  I don’t particularly love zucchini either, it’s more like I simply don’t have an opinion one way or another about zucchini.  I’ll eat it, and because it’s a vegetable and healthy, I’m trying to eat more of it.  But that’s where I draw the line.  Do not go messing with my pasta and try to get me to substitute real pasta for zucchini noodles (aka zoodles)! I found a much better alternative — add the zucchini to the actual, delicious pasta.  In doing so, you can surprisingly improve both!

Case in point: Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini from Cooks Country Magazine. Now I’ll admit, when I saw this recipe I thought “Hey, here’s a healthy pasta recipe for the New Year that won’t be too bad.”  Wrong, it was amazing!!  I mean, like, seriously delicious.  It is so easy, and comes together so quickly but seems so much more complex than the few simple ingredients would suggest.  So if you’re trying to “lighten up” your pasta without replacing your pasta (cause that would be really sad in my book), try this.  It is a definite winner.

Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound linguine

Salt & Pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 zucchini, shredded and patted dry

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Procedure:

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  2. Heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in now-empty pot over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and chickpeas and cook until zucchini is wilted and most of its excess moisture has cooked off, about 6 minutes.  Using potato masher, lightly mash chickpeas.
  3. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Pecorino, parsley, lemon juice, pasta and reserved cooking water.  Serve, passing lemon wedges, extra oil and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Pancetta-Pasta-Pecorino Perfection

pancetpastaI am well aware of the fact that I have been sorely lacking in the posting department lately, and I apologize for that.  Life has indeed gotten in the way.  The good news with all that is that I now have quite a backlog of recipes to feature!  Hopefully that means November will be chock-full of tastiness.

I will start with this 5-ingredient winner of a pasta dish.  Yep, that’s right — only FIVE make this amazing dish.  How is this possible you ask?  Well, two out of the five ingredients are absolute powerhouses of flavor:  Pancetta and Pecorino Romano.  You don’t need much else if you’re starting with those two!

Pasta Alla Gricia or Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano apparently comes from Rome.  This particular recipe for the dish; however, comes from Cook’s Illustrated.

Five ingredients and 30 minutes, people — there really is no excuse for not making this.

Pasta Alla Gricia (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano)

Ingredients:

8 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound rigatoni

1 tsp coarsely ground pepper, plus extra for serving

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine (1 cup), plus extra for serving.

Procedure:

  1. Slice each round of pancetta into rectangular pieces that measure about 1/2 inch by 1 inch.
  2. Heat pancetta and oil in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and pancetta is deep golden brown but still has slight pinkish hue, 8 to 10 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to keep pancetta from browning too quickly.  Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to bowl; set aside.  Pour fat from pot into liquid measuring cup (you should have 1/4 to 1/3 cup fat; discard any extra). Return fat to Dutch oven.
  3. While pancetta cooks, set colander in large bowl..  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large pot.  Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain pasta in prepared colander, reserving cooking water.
  4. Add pepper and 2 cups reserved cooking water to Dutch oven with fat and bring to boil over high heat.  Boil mixture rapidly, scraping up any browned bits, until emulsified and reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 5 minutes.  (If you’ve reduced it too far, add more reserved cooking water to equal 1-1/2 cups)
  5. Reduce heat to low, add pasta and pancetta, and stir to evenly coat.  Add Pecorino and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Of heat, adjust sauce consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.  Transfer pasta to platter and serve immediately, passing extra pepper and extra Pecorino separately.

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