Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4

Ingredients
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Fennel Bulb, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Whole Fennel Seeds, crushed or ground in spice grinder
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Salt, divided
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 cup dry White Wine
1 cup Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese*
2/3 cup Half and Half
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 lb. Pasta
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan Cheese
*To stick to Ina’s original recipe, substitute 1 cup heavy cream for the ricotta.

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until soft. Add the sausage, crumble, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring mixture to a boil, then add the ricotta, half and half and tomato paste and stir well.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer sauce for 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. (Or go all out and make fresh pasta!) When the sauce has finished simmering, add cooked pasta to sauce and stir well to coat the pasta evenly. Cook the mixture over low heat for 5 minutes then, off heat, stir in the parsley and Parmesan, reserving some Parm as a garnish if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!

…and, just for fun, here are a few more photos to celebrate the snow day. 😀

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Panzanella: A Blog-Worthy Salad

I made the same recipe two times this weekend and still found myself excited to serve up seconds on Sunday evening. That definitely makes this recipe for a Panzanella “bread salad” qualify as blog-worthy, don’t you think?? 😀

632 Panzanella Salad

According to Wikipedia, “Panzanella is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.” According to my extended family, Panzanella is a tasty excuse to call toasted Italian bread soaked in dijon vinaigrette a “salad” and feel good about eating it. Just kidding… sort of. This bread salad is delicious, colorful, and easy to make and I have a feeling that we’re going to get many more requests for it at future family dinners!

When I bring Panzanella to a dinner party I do almost all of the work in advance. The vinaigrette can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container, the veggies can be chopped and tossed together a few hours in advance, and the bread can be toasted 1-2 hours before dinner and stored in a ziploc bag. Making the salad then becomes a simple matter of tossing together the vinaigrette, veggies and bread about 20 minutes before dinner.

637 Panzanella Salad

Panzanella (from Ina Garten; serves 8-10)

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
1-2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Salad Ingredients
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 Hothouse Cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into 1/2″ slices
1/2 Red Onion, halved and cut into thin slices
3-4 Plum or Campari-sized Tomatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
3 tablespoons Capers, drained
20 Basil Leaves, sliced into 1/2″ strips
1 large Loaf of French or Italian Bread, cut into 1″ pieces
Olive Oil
Salt

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a ball jar and shake vigorously. The vinaigrette can now be easily refrigerated or transported until it’s time to combine the salad.

Combine the peppers, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, capers and basil together in a large bowl.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add half the bread and approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook the bread cubes, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the bread begins to toast and turn golden brown. Transfer the toasted bread to a plate to cool and repeat the cooking process with the remaining bread cubes.

To assemble the salad, combine the vinaigrette, vegetables, and toasted bread in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, allow the finished salad to sit for approximately 20 minutes before serving… that will give the vinaigrette time to soak into the bread. 😀 Enjoy!

630 Panzanella Salad

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Back in June Matt and I were on a fruity dessert kick. We made apple and blackberry crumble for my mom and stepfather, strawberry-rhubarb crisp for the entire crew at the hunting camp, and, my favorite, peach and blueberry crumble for Matt’s parents. I would have shared these delicious desserts on the blog as soon as we made them, but I’m pretty sure our family members would have killed me if I asked them to sit around waiting for their dessert while I arranged the scoops of ice cream “just so” and took photos for 10 minutes.

So, with the best blogging intentions in mind, last night Matt and I made a batch of peach and blueberry crumble for ourselves just so I could take all the photos I wanted (the things we do for the blog!).  🙂 We used fresh peaches that had been ripening on the counter all week (they smelled SO GOOD!!) and this mouth-watering dessert came together in about 30 minutes plus baking time.

Peach and Blueberry Crumble 1

One note about peeling the peaches – in the original recipe Ina Garten suggests immersing the peaches in boiling water and then putting them in cold water to make the skins easier to peel off. We did this the first time we made this recipe (while Matt’s parents looked on) and the boiling water “trick” didn’t seem to have any effect on our peach skins at all (it just made a mess of my kitchen!). So, this time Matt just peeled the peaches normally and the recipe worked out just fine.

1133 Peach Crumble

Peach and Blueberry Crumble (from Ina Garten / The Food Network)

Filling Ingredients:
6 to 8 Ripe Peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges
2 tablespoons Lemon Zest
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Blueberries

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 lb. (1 stick) Cold Unsalted Butter, diced

Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.   Combine the peaches, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl and mix gently until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Fold in the blueberries. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes, then spoon into ramekins. (We used 2 ramekins and spooned the rest into a larger baking dish.)

Combine the topping ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 30-90 seconds until the topping is crumbly. If desired, use your fingers to press the mixture to your preferred level of crumbly-ness (I liked the even texture that came straight out of my mixer.) Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filled ramekins.

Place the ramekins on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes before serving with a big scoop of ice cream on top. Enjoy!

Easy Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Every once in a while a recipe comes along that is so delicious and so easy to make that I know that I must blog about it the moment the meal is done.  Recipes that made it onto this blog the night of their consumption include my Mexican Pizza, Trader Joe’s style Eggplant Parm, and our Las Vegas-inspired Guacamole-Chiptole Burgers…  I just couldn’t wait until the next day to share them!  Well, after tonight’s dinner a new recipe is joining that elite list: Ina Garten’s 25-minute Shrimp Scampi with Linguine.  Doesn’t it look fantastic??

700 Shrimp Scampi

The concept is simple:  Sauté garlic in melted butter and stir in a pound of shrimp until just cooked through.  Then mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh chopped parsley.  Toss with a generous portion of linguine, serve with crusty garlic bread and Voila! the perfect simple-yet-sophisticated weeknight meal is born.

683 Shrimp Scampi in the Pan

The Food Network advertises this Shrimp Scampi as the perfect “Make-It-Together” meal for Valentine’s Day, but it’s totally possible to throw it together on any old weeknight like we did.    Oh, and you’ll even have time to blog about it afterwards if you want!  🙂

705 Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine (from the Food Network’s Ina Garten; serves 3)

You will need…678 The Good Stuff... Garlic, Parsley & Lemon
Olive Oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 pound Linguine
3 tablespoons Butter
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb. Shrimp (we used ‘large’ shrimp, about 31/lb.), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup chopped Parsley
Zest from 1/2 large Lemon
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (approx. 1/2 large Lemon)
1/2 Lemon, sliced into 1/8″ half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crusty Garlic Bread Crisps, Optional (drizzle olive oil on garlic bread slices and broil for 5 minutes)

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add in about a tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the salt and the linguine.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute for one minute or until the smallest garlic bits are just starting to brown.  Add the shrimp, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper and saute for about 5 minutes until the shrimp have just turned pink.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the parsley, zest, lemon juice, lemon slices and crushed red pepper.

Drain the cooked pasta, then return to the pasta pot and gently stir in the shrimp mixture.  (I’d recommend using a spatula to scoop every last bit of flavorful garlic and parsley out of the shrimp pan!).  We served our shrimp scampi with crusty, crispy garlic bread.  Enjoy!

693 Shrimp Scampi686 Shrimp Scampi