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. 😀

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto

1504-parsley-pesto-pasta

I love basil pesto, but last week when I needed to make a side dish to bring to a party I decided to try something different. I paged through my America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook and found a recipe for a tasty-sounding pesto with parsley, arugula, and ricotta cheese. I’ve now made this recipe two times in a week and can officially declare it a winner!

Like it’s basil-based cousin, this parsley pesto comes together quickly. Just toast the pine nuts and garlic in a hot skillet, then blend with fresh arugula, parsley, grated Parm, salt and olive oil. Then the best part… stir several spoonfuls of ricotta cheese into the pesto until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Combine with a pound of cooked pasta and you’ll have a bright, fresh, flavorful side that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto
(Serves 4-6; from Pasta Revolution)

You will need…
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
3 cloves Garlic, toasted
1 cup packed Parsley
1 cup packed Arugula
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and Pepper
7 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
1 pound Pasta

Directions:
Combine pine nuts, garlic, parsley, arugula, Parmesan, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the ricotta until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Mix several tablespoons of the reserved water into the pesto. Add the pasta and stir well until the pasta is evenly coated with pesto, adding more pasta water if desired. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy hot or cold.

1479-pesto-pasta

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans

This one pot pasta dish with sausage, kale and white beans is hearty, warming and satisfying… perfect for a cold winter night!  Of course, winter is drawing to an end (or it better be, at least!) so I figure I should hurry up and get this recipe up on the blog while we’re all still in the mood to see some comfort food.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 1

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of cooking an entire pasta dish in one pot but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Matt and I actually tried this technique for ourselves.  It turns out that there’s nothing particularly hard about making a one pot meal… you simply layer in each ingredient as you go.  First you brown the meat, then throw in the onions and beans, toss in a little garlic, add broth, water and uncooked pasta, then add in your kale in two batches… the first to cook down into the dish and the remainder to add a little bite and pop of color.  Easy!  Thanks to the cooked-down white beans, the resulting dish has a creamy, thick, almost stew-like consistency that is very different from a normal “two pot” recipe where the pasta is cooked separately in boiling water.

Matt and I have been making variations of this pasta almost every week this winter.  Sometimes we use spinach instead of kale or we throw in steamed broccoli along with the greens.  Feel free to change up the meat (hot sausage adds a nice kick) and the pasta… we’ve had delicious results with gemelli, fusilli lunghi, rigatoni and penne.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans  (serves 4; recipe adapted from Cool Spring CSA)

You will need…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Sweet Italian Sausage, ground (remove casings if using normal sausage)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
5-6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 lb. Pasta (we used Gemelli this time)
1 bunch Kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large (6+ qt.) dutch oven brown the crumbled sausage with 1-2T olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and beans and saute, stirring occassionally, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper and stir for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, pasta and half of the chopped kale and stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tightly fitted lid.  Allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 6 minutes, then layer in the remaining kale on top of the pasta without stirring.  Recover and cook for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir, and taste test a piece of pasta.  (My favorite part!)

Allow the dish to continue to simmer uncovered for another few minutes until the pasta is cooked to your desired consistency.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 2

What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!

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

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce

For some reason our families make nearly identical holiday meals, usually featuring a juicy filet roast, twice-baked potatoes and green beans.  Matt and I love this dinner (and in fact got to enjoy it twice this month – once at my mom’s and again with Matt’s family!) but when it came time for us to host Christmas Eve dinner at our house we decided to do something completely different.

After an online search we settled on Shrimp and Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce and it was perfect!  The shrimp were tender and the combination of white wine, garlic, parsley and basil made the whole kitchen smell wonderful.  The pasta was nicely coated in a light cream sauce and the red pepper flakes provided just the right amount of heat.  To streamline the cooking process I prepped the herbs, tomatoes and cheese ahead of time so assembling this dish was actually pretty easy once our guests arrived.

In addition to the shrimp and penne we served fresh bruschetta, a tossed salad with Matt’s mom’s balsamic vinaigrette, and wedges of rosemary-studded Italian bread with butter.  We finished off the meal with a tray of Christmas cookies, chocolate-dipped coconut sticks, and white chocolate holiday bark.  Yum!

Shrimp and Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce (iPhone photo)

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce  (from Giada De Laurentiis)
serves 4-5; we doubled this to serve 7 and had enough leftovers for dinner a few days later

You will need…
1 pound Penne Pasta
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 – 15 oz. can Whole Tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Basil Leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup White Wine (we used a Chardonnay)
1/3 cup Clam Juice
3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated

Directions:
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water then drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.  Cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes until they are pink and cooked through.  Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley and the red pepper flakes to the skillet.  Cook for 2 minutes while stirring constantly, then add the wine, clam juice and cream.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Add about half of the Parmesan along with the shrimp, pasta and remaining basil and parsley.  Mix well until the pasta is coated and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with the remaining freshly grated Parmesan.  Serve with a wedge of Italian bread and a glass of white wine.

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce

Radiatori with Sausage and Garlicky Broccoli

Matt has a knack for creating great flavors in meat and pasta dishes.  Some of my favorite recipes on this blog are entirely his creations (like Chicken Cutlets and Bucatini with Asparagus and Sausage in a White Wine Sauce!) and he carried on the tradition of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness with this simple combination of sausage, broccoli and pasta.

If you don’t have broccoli on hand, you can easily substitute other in-season vegetables and feel free to try other types of sausage and pasta as well.  Last week Matt made a version of this dish using zucchini, Orecchiette, and freshly made Chicken Cordon Bleu sausage from Maiale and it was so delicious that we ate all of it before I had the presence of mind to snap a photo!

Radiatori with Sausage and Garlicky Broccoli

You will need:
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
10 cloves Garlic, sliced into thin discs
1 ½ – 2 cups Broccoli Crowns, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Yellow Onion, sliced into ¼ inch rounds and quartered
2 Sweet Italian Pork Sausages, grilled and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 teaspoon Chili Garlic Sauce (in the Asian food section of most grocery stores)
1 lb. Pasta, cooked according to package instructions (We used Garofalo’s Radiatori pasta)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
In a large skillet or wok, heat 4 tablespoons of the Olive Oil over medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic and sauté until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.  Add the broccoli, stir well to coat with the oil, and allow to sauté for approximately 20 minutes, stirring only occasionally until broccoli starts to brown.  Remove broccoli and garlic from wok and set aside.

From left: Broccoli with garlic, onions, and finished, combined pasta dish

Add remaining 2 tablespoons Olive Oil to wok and return to medium heat.  Add the sliced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions start to become translucent.  Add the cooked and sliced sausage and the chili garlic sauce and mix until the onion and sausage are evenly coated with sauce.  Return the broccoli to the wok and stir well to combine.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Carefully add the cooked and drained pasta into the wok and stir well to combine ingredients and coat the pasta.  Sprinkle on 1/4-1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan and mix well.  Enjoy with your favorite chilled white wine or, if you’re like us, with a good Oktoberfest-style beer!