This is the last of the white pasta in the house (and before I realized my jeans no longer fit). From hereon out, we’re back to whole wheat pastas…and lately, soups (out of season for many of you but perfect for SF year round) and salads.
Last week, we didn’t feel like going out but didn’t have a meal planned, so this was put together on the fly. I boiled some penne in salted water and sauteed shredded pattypan squash in a bit of butter (from our Paso Robles trip several weeks ago…its amazing how long squash can last on the counter!). Once the pasta was ready, I mixed in the squash, a pat of butter, some shredded cheese (whatever we found in the fridge: parmesan, goat pimento and edam), cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, salt and pepper.
Easy, simple and flavorful!
Long ago, Joel declared to me his love for vodka sauce. However, I never made it for him because I generally shy from creamy sauces, the vodka sauces I’d had from a jar never seemed particularly remarkable and I never understood the point of adding vodka anyway. However, I thought I’d surprise him, so I picked up some pancetta and vodka on my afternoon run (stopping at a liquor store mid-run is amusing. running home with vodka in hand is even moreso) and whipped up the sauce before he got home.
Since I am curious, maybe you are too. I learned that any type of alcohol has some sort of chemical reaction with tomatoes that brings out their sweetness (hence pouring wine into sauces). Vodka is often used by commercial manufacturers because it is cheap and flavorless. I think some vodka concern also tried to popularize its use in tomato sauce several decades ago, and this was the result.
I served the pasta with a side of roasted beets (drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil packet and bake at 375F until ready), freshly pulled from my friend’s garden. Our friend, who was over for dinner, doesn’t eat cheese so I resisted sprinkling the roasted beets with balsamic and feta (next time!).
Last week, we had dinner at our neighborhood Sardinian restaurant, La Ciccia, and really enjoyed their beef ragu & rigatoni. I saw this recipe in Food & Wine for slow cooker Sunday sauce and it reminded me of the ragus we’ve had at La Ciccia. Though I don’t have a pasta maker of my own, I knew I could make a meaty ragu just like theirs. It was so delicious, I purposely overate! I rarely cook rich foods but this was totally worth it. I loved the carrots and added two stalks of chopped celery that were about to be tossed.
I wish I’d had whole wheat rigatoni or penne in the pantry, but rotelle was a good way to capture all that sauce. In the future, I would use 2lbs rather than 3lbs of pork. I found the recipe as written to be too much meat and not enough sauce. I ended up adding an extra can of tomatoes (after the photos were taken) so that I the ratio was more to my liking. Half of the sauce went into the freezer for another time and the rest went into our bellies over the course of a few days!
La Ciccia also serves spaghetti & bottarga which I first saw Anthony Bourdain eat and knew I would loooooove. When I get a chance, I’m going to make mentaiko spaghetti, the Japanese version of the same dish. I had planned on making it this weekend but the Asian market I went to didn’t have mentaiko so I will have to pick some up next time I go to the Japanese market.
There was a bunch of parsley and some mushrooms leftover from the champagne shrimp pasta so we made a parsley pesto with whole wheat pasta, sauteed mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and (Trader Joe’s) jalapeno chicken sausage for dinner. We used this recipe from MyRecipes.com but substituted almonds for pine nuts and used an extra dash of olive oil since it seemed a little dry. Although basil pesto is more fragrant, this is a great use for parsley that you don’t want to waste. A little fresh cracked pepper on top and you have a quick and easy weeknight meal!
First, isn’t the new backsplash beautiful? I love the glass tiles…they brighten up the kitchen and tie the cabinets and granite counters together quite nicely.
In addition to doing this while I was in Colombia, Joel also made himself dinner (blue cheese stuffed chicken) and documented it! Not bad for a man who used to be terrified of the kitchen and subsisted primarily on cereal, salsa and hummus. Teach a man to fish…
Anyway, we haven’t gone grocery shopping since I got back and my challenge has been to cook with what we have in the house. The new loaf pans I got from eBay reminded me of the baked pastas my mom and aunt used to make for us as kids. Their version incorporated white elbow macaroni, ground beef, tomato sauce, black olives and government cheese (large blocks of American cheese that I miss dearly).
We always have whole wheat pasta in the pantry and batches of frozen pasta sauce for those days when you just don’t have time to cook. My frozen pasta sauce always includes sauteed garlic, shallots, onions & mushrooms, several cans of tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s, ground turkey & sausage, sliced turkey or chicken sausage, and other random stuff. I freeze it flat in ziploc bags and defrost as needed.
For this batch, I boiled whole wheat rotini pasta (measured by filling a little over half of each dish I planned to bake the pasta in) until it was al dente. While that was boiling, I defrosted the pasta sauce and threw in some kalamata olives I found in the fridge. Once those were both ready, I tossed the pasta and tomato sauce with some random cheese we had. I baked two separate dishes and each had their own mix of cheese.
The dish above had mozzarella and blue cheese inside and was topped with white American cheese. The dish below had Italian and blue cheese inside and was topped with the remaining Italian. I covered both dishes with tin foil and baked them for about 30-40 minutes (didn’t really time it…just took it out when it smelled really good and I was hungry) at 400F (last 5-10 minutes without the tin foil).