Archive for the Category ◊ Pasta ◊

24 Feb 2017 Italian Wedding Soup

italian-wedding-soup

Italian Wedding Soup is easy to make, and is good as soon as it’s made (no need to sit overnight to intensify the flavors).  Not being Italian, I can’t claim this is just like my Nonna made. Nor can I claim to know the origin of the name, “Italian Wedding Soup”, but I did do a bit of Internet research.  Contrary to what some think, this soup is NOT served at Italian Weddings (although, because of it’s name, it is served at some Italian-American weddings in…Pennsylvania!).  Another theory is that the soup is a good “marriage” of ingredients, possibly green vegetables and meat. The most common story is the soup is easy enough for a new bride (or new groom) to make as one of their first home-cooked meals.  My non-Italian, non-traditional thought it that it’s great for a couple to make together.  One person could make the meatballs while the other makes the vegetable broth base.  Throw the vegetable broth and the meatballs together, simmer for a few minutes, and then sit down to enjoy a bowl or two of heart-warming Italian Wedding Soup.

This recipe is based upon one by Ina Garten, but I have changed Ina’s recipe somewhat.  The major change is I cook the meatballs in the broth, rather than bake them in the oven as Ina directs. I also make my meatballs out of ground beef instead of Ina’s ground chicken/ground chicken sausage combo.  I like a tastier meatball, and I think beef goes better with the Parmesan in the meatball than chicken does. I also added basil to the meatball. I don’t know why Ina forgot that!

I love soup. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One tip, every time I make a pot of soup, I freeze one or two individual servings.  It’s wonderful to have a ready-made, wholesome bowl of soup in the freezer for those days when you are rushing from points A to Z with no time to spare.  A bowl of soup in the freezer can keep you away from those fast food places. Honest.

Now go on, try it…Italian Wedding Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup

For the soup base

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (use more of the parsley in the meatballs)
  • 10-12 cups chicken broth (homemade is the best, of course)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, tubetini, small stars, mini shells..)
  • 1 batch of meatballs (recipe below)
  • 12 oz. baby spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • additional grated Parmesan, optional (for serving)

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan.  Add the onion and saute until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Stir in chopped celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, dill, parsley, chicken broth, and wine and bring to a boil. While soup is boiling, stir in pasta and meatballs.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.  Turn heat off. Taste broth.  Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken, but the meatballs won’t taste as good!)
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread, crusts removed, whirled in food processor OR, in a pinch, stir in bought bread crumbs or Panko)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • minced garlic, to taste (1 or 2 cloves, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic OR onion powder)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parsley, cheese, and desired amount of salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix lightly with a fork (don’t use hands because the resulting meatballs will be too dense).  In another bowl, combine the milk with the egg and beat lightly.  Stir the egg/milk mixture into the meat mixture, again, using your fork. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, use a small scoop or a tablespoon to portion meat and form into about 40 meatballs. Roll the scooped meat gently in palm of your hand to form into a ball. Use meatballs as directed above.

 

24 Jun 2013 Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

Crab and brie mac n cheese

Whooooa Nelly!  Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese?  Over-the-top decadence in a comfort food?  YEP! And the decadence makes the comfort food even more comforting–like ‘died and gone to heaven’ comforting!  Yet another winning recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication “Best Loved Reader Recipes; 125 Winners from 1930 to Today”. (My last post was a recipe for “Peach Iced Tea” inspired by a recipe from this magazine)

If someone is having a hard time, and that sweet “I am going to drop off a casserole” American tradition seems appropriate, THIS is the casserole to take.  I took it to my 120-miles away daughter who is bravely attempting a semester long college Physics course in a six-week summer session, working the 4 PM-midnight shift at Target, and sweltering in the hot central valley heat. I am not saying this Macaroni and Cheese is miraculous or anything, but she did  score 15 points over the class average on her first mid-term. Not dropping off a casserole to a friend-in-need anytime soon?  I’ll bet you’ll be going to a potluck then. Take this!  Want to eat it at home, like we did?  We had it with mixed roasted veggies, but a leafy green salad would be nice too, and a corn muffin.

This casserole is not cheap, but if you shop at Costco for your pound of brie and pound of crab (the only two expensive ingredients), it won’t break the bank and you’ll have made a casserole big enough feed a small army.

Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of this recipe at first, wondering if the Brie would be too strong, and wondering if I would be able to taste the crab over the brie.  Both worries proved needless.  Everything melds together nicely.  Comfortingly nice.  I’ll say it again, because it’s true, ‘died and gone to heaven’ nice!

I changed the recipe just just a bit; one, to conform to the quantities of crab and brie sold at Costco (no leftover bits and no need to buy two big cartons of anything) and two, to make the recipe a bit easier by  substituting panko instead of homemade bread crumbs. I also re-wrote the recipe a bit, making roux is not hard, just follow my instructions: brown the flour and butter (and don’t skimp on the butter), remove the pan from the heat, then vigorously stir in hot milk until sauce is smooth.

Enjoy your comfort food decadance.

Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb. dried macaroni (small shells or elbows)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons butter (maybe a bit more)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 13-16 oz. Brie, cubed
  • 16 oz. refrigerated container crabmeat, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup Panko or favorite breadcrumbs
  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions.  (Choose the shortest cooking time since pasta will continue to cook when baked.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in by 13-in casserole dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion in butter until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.  (Do not skimp on the butter.  You’ll need the full quantity of  butter to make the roux in the step 5.)
  4. Heat 3 cups of milk in microwave until hot (3-5 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat, stir flour into onion and butter mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes (to cook flour and to incorporate butter into the flour).  If mixture is too lumpy or dry, add an additional tablespoon of butter.
  6. Remove hot pan with onion and roux from heat.  Pour in 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir well, and keep stirring-vigorously if needed-until mixture is smooth and lump free.  Add another cup of hot milk, stir and mix again.  When mixture is smooth and lump free, repeat with last cup of milk.
  7. Return pan to medium heat. Add cubed brie to sauce in pan.  Stir constantly until brie is melted and incorporated.  Remove pan from heat when brie has melted and the sauce is smooth once again.
  8. Fold drained crab into cheese sauce then stir in cooked and well-drained macaroni.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour crab-brie-macaroni mixture into a well buttered 9-in x 13-in casserole dish.
  11. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top of macaroni and cheese.
  12. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through and bread crumbs have browned.  If breadcrumbs don’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil casserole for a few minutes.
  13. Remove casserole from oven. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes, then serve. In a bowl, while curled up on the couch with a good book or good movie, or on a plate with roasted veggies or a salad, and maybe a small corn muffin. Enjoy.  Feel better. Ace the Physics test!

Leftovers can be reheated in microwave or frozen for a future treat.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen again today,  I love having you drop by!  Let’s see what else I can make from this magazine. It’s supposed to be on the shelves until July 15, 2013, so if you see it, you might want to pick up a copy.

20 Mar 2012 Cheesy Spinach Manicotti

I must admit, I make a pretty mean Manicotti.  I’d forgotten how good it is until I made some on the spur-of-the-moment this week.  My Manicotti is  probably not very authentic, seeing as I have no genuine Italian reference point at all.  I don’t think it helps much that the recipe here got it’s start from the back of a box of Manicotti noodles either!  Maybe I should just call this dish Cheesey Spinach Pasta Rolls and ditch the whole faux Italian thing!

The instructions below will guide you in putting together a whole pan of Manicotti, but the recipe part is just for the creamy cheesey gooey yummy manicotti filling.  You’ll need about 3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce to finish the dish (I make a hearty meat, mushroom, onion, red wine spaghetti sauce to serve with this dish, the recipe is posted on this site)  along with one box of  manicotti noodles (those really big. long pasta tubes).  I’ve used the filling below to stuff  large shell pasta, too, so you can use those if you can’t find the manicotti noodles.

BTW, leftovers  microwave wonderfully well. My my son has already zapped a few several times today. I hope he has left me some, leftover Manicotti is such a treat.

Cheesey Spinach Manicotti 

Approx 3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, warmed

1 8 0z. box manicotti noodles, cooked according to package direction, rinsed and drained

For the filling:

  • 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. carton ricotta
  • 8 oz marscapone
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6  1 oz. packages of string cheese, cubed OR 6 oz mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • additional grated cheese, Parmesan and/or mozzarella, for sprinkling on top of baked casserole.
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze the spinach really, really dry and place in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the cheeses: ricotta (I didn’t used to like ricotta, so I have substituted cottage cheese for the ricotta before),  marscapone, grated Parmesan, and cubed string cheese or part-skim mozzarella. Stir well.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the spinach-cheese mixture.
  5. Stir in the nutmeg.
  6. Fill cooked manicotti with the filling.  The best way to do this is to put all the filling in a large Ziploc bag.  Push the filling to one corner of the bag, then cut the corner off the bag–to make a sort of pastry bag-and squirt the filling into the manicotti. If this method doesn’t work for you, just use several long handled spoons (ice tea spoons work well) to fill the tubes.  Some of the manicotti will have split.  Try not to use the split ones, but if you have to just roll them tight and lay them seam side down in the pan.  I think there are two more noodles than will comfortably fit into a 9×13 pan in each manicotti package, so you are OK discarding two tubes.
  7. Place 1 cup of the warm spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the 9×13 pan.
  8. Arrange the stuffed manicotti on top of the spaghetti sauce.
  9. Cover the arranged manicotti in the pan with the remaining 2 cups sauce–you might need a little more or a little less sauce. If you have leftover sauce, you can always serve it, warmed, on the side.  Some people appreciate more sauce.
  10. Cover the baking dish with foil and place  in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30-35  minutes.
  11. Remove foil, sprinkle any remaining cheese over top of the casserole, increase heat to 425 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese has melted and nicely browned.
  12. Remove casserole from oven and let sit for approx. 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy!  Invite the family over for dinner. Maybe serve an antipasto platter to kick off the evening?  I love antipasto, it’s a very social appetizer.  Dessert?  What is easier than a scoop of spumoni or gelato? Go ahead and gild the lily and  serve some biscotti and coffee on the side, too!  Can I come over?
Have fun, and thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

 

 

 

13 Jul 2011 Southwestern Pasta Salad

I have not been very impressed with the food section of our local paper in the last, oh, decade.  There is one column in particular that drives me iNSaNe.  Typical recipes include a bit of Dream Whip here, Bisquick, Cream of Chicken soup and canned mushrooms there,  with Tater Tots, Rice-a-Roni, and crushed up Ritz Crackers stirred into a can of Pineapple Tidbits on the side. PLUS, not one of the recipes has been tested by the columnist! (Although she does say how good they all sound and she might get around to trying one over the weekend…)  Arggghhhhhh!!

That all been said and vented, there have been a few recipes over the years that I have tried.  And I have to admit, most have been pretty good.

This one here is a keeper. The basic salad can be thrown together with cans from the pantry, and it’s good for you with lots of fiber from the beans and lots of other feel good stuff from the veggies.  If you have some fresh herbs on hand, the basic salad can be jazzed up a bit, but it’s not necessary, the basic salad is good as it is.  If you want to go all out, throw in a few chopped avocados and a pound of bay shrimp.  This salad serves a bunch of people, so it’s ideal to take to any potluck or family gathering.  I’ve made this a number of times, and I have only had the recipe for a few weeks.  It’s been a popular side dish, and I love, love, love how fast and easy it is to throw together from ingredients I have in my pantry.

This recipe was inspired by two recipes that ran in the “Home Plates” column in the San Jose Mercury News in June 2011, both recipes were attributed to Hazel Lawson Gentry.  I took the best of both recipes, experimented a bit with quantities, and came up with this, my new “go-to” Pasta Salad.  You can do the same!  This recipe is very flexible and very forgiving. Make it yours!

Southwestern Pasta Salad

For the Dressing

1 cup ranch dressing

1 7 oz. can chopped mild green chilies

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

For the Pasta Salad

1 pound corkscrew, penne, or wagon wheel pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (if you want less pasta in your salad, cook only 1/2 lb pasta, use 1 can of beans, and  keep all the other quantities the same.)

1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (in the summer use 2 cups diced tomatoes from your backyard or from the farmers market), do not drain

1 OR 2 15 oz. cans (your choice) of black beans, pinquitos, or kidney beans (I use 1 can black beans), drained

1 15 oz. can corn (or 2 cups frozen corn, or fresh cooked corn stripped off the cob), drained

1 7 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

If you have it…

4 sliced green onions

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil

To make this Pasta Salad “Supreme”

2 diced avocados

1 lb. bay shrimp

  1. Combine the ranch dressing with the undrained chiles and the cumin powder.  Set aside.  (Dressing can be made up to one week in advance.)
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Cool with cold water, and drain well.
  3. Combine the pasta with the can of undrained diced tomatoes and the drained beans, corn and olives.
  4. Stir in the desired amount of the prepared dressing–you might use 3/4, or you might use all of it.  It all depends on how much liquid your pasta absorbs (this depends on the brand, the style, and how long you’ve cooked your pasta), and your personal preference, how saucy do you like your pasta salad?  Stir in as much as you think you’d like.  Save any leftover dressing, after a few hours the salad might look a bit dry and you can stir in the rest of the dressing at that time.  (If the salad looks dry and you have no dressing left, stir in a few spoonfuls of salsa!)
  5. If using, stir in your choice of herbs, green onion, avocado and bay shrimp, and salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

That’s all there is to it!  Easy peasy!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Print out this recipe.  It will become a staple. Do you know how much stress is relieved by having a good, “go-to” pasta salad that can be made at the drop-of-the-hat, without a trip to the grocery store? Invite the neighbors over, get the burgers on the grill…, it’s Summertime and the livin’ is easy!!

26 Oct 2010 Pumpkin Parmesan Pasta

A few weeks ago my friend Nancy and I went to a free cooking class at Williams-Sonoma.  We like free. Part of the free class was a sales pitch, which we had to sit through before the the free food was served.  We were shown $300 pans we couldn’t cook without, $500 blenders to blend and boil soup (I am not kidding), and a $12 bottle of Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce that would change our lives.  We like free; a $12 bottle of pasta sauce was out of the question…, but that boiling blender was sooooo tempting. I still dream about it. But I digress… After downing the free samples (and not being that impressed), I went home to Google Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce Recipes.  Five popped up. I compared them. Combined them.  Made them. I fed the first batch to my grandson. He loved it (and he doesn’t love everything).  My daughters had the leftovers and they said the words that make me swoon, “This is really good, Mom”.  I love those girls. Feeling I was on the right track, I upped the spices a bit, and made another batch for my Dining For Women group. They liked it too! YAY! They asked me to post the recipe. I love those women.  I hope you bought an extra can of Pumpkin Puree. You are going to want to use one to make this recipe at least once this season.  It’s tasty, it’s different, it’s nutritious and it’s just the thing to be eating this time of year and, drum roll please, it’s FREE!

My only caution about this recipe: don’t make it ahead of time.  Make it, and then serve it immediately. Right after combining the sauce with the pasta, it’s all nice and creamy, but it doesn’t take long for the two parts to congeal into a big blob.  Other people didn’t seem to mind, but I did. Perhaps I need to add more liquid to keep it creamy longer?

I wanted to serve the sauce with cheese tortellini or cheese ravioli tonight, but I forgot to buy some, so I had to make do with what I had in the cupboard, Rotelle. I’ve also made this with with Penne and Bowties, too, and both were good. But I really wanted to try it on cheese ravioli 🙁  If you try it on ravioli, let me know how it is, please!

I serve this as a side dish.  Recipe will serve 6-8.  This sauce goes together quickly.  Not as quickly as opening a $12 jar of sauce, but almost!

Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped shallot (about ¼ cup)
½ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 box pasta (penne, rotelle, bowtie)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. ground sage
½ tsp. nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Fill a pasta pot with water, bring to boil, add salt.

While the pasta water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a skillet and stir in onions and shallots.  Saute until translucent.  Stir in minced garlic and saute for another minute or so.

By this time, your water should be boiling.  Stir in pasta, and cook according to package directions.

Add pumpkin, broth, cream, vinegar and spices to the onion/shallots/garlic mixture in the skillet.  Simmer on low for 5 minutes or so.

Gradually stir in 1/3 of the cheese to the sauce.  When that cheese has been incorporated, repeat with another 1/3 of the cheese.  Then repeat again with remaining cheese. Stir in chopped fresh sage.

By this time, your pasta should be cooked.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Stir the drained pasta into the sauce.  If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Serve immediately. Enjoy!  Happy Fall!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Raise your hand if you are a pumpkin junkie! (I am, I am!!)

29 Sep 2010 Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad

It’s HOT.  Crisp salads and iced tea are what we are clamoring for.

Here’s my version of  “Chinese” Chicken Salad.  It’s crisp and tasty. It’s made with cabbage, two kinds, which hold up better than lettuce–and lettuce is boring, and it’s in almost every other salad.  How many chances do you have to eat raw cabbage?  Not many, right?  I can only think of this salad and coleslaw.  So try this, with cabbage…, and carrots, cilantro, green onion, sesame seeds, and shredded chicken.  You might even want to add some chopped celery and/or sugar snap peas.  Sometimes I even add a can of mandarin oranges, which makes this so not a Chinese Chicken Salad (but it’s good!)

This recipe makes enough for a small crowd.  (I often take it to potlucks.)  If you’re not the Duggars, and are not going to a potluck, you might want to consider making half a recipe. Leftover Chinese Chicken salad doesn’t keep all that well (the noodles and the cabbage loose their crunch), although teenage boys have been known to devour soggy leftovers up to 24 hours after serving…

Chinese Chicken Salad

  • 1 small head green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts, optional (I use dry roasted peanuts)
  • 4-5 cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded (Use leftover chicken, or marinate chicken breasts in teriyaki sauce for a few hours, then grill, broil or pan-fry-let cool before using.  You could also use the chicken from a cooked rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 packages of Top Ramen noodles (that soup mix stuff, the rectangular package!), crumbled (any kind, you will not be using the seasoning package)
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds, optional (To toast seeds, place them in a hot, dry frying pan and swirl around a bit over medium high heat.  As soon as the seeds begin to take on a color, remove from heat.  Keep stirring, the residual heat in the pan will continue to toast the seeds for another few minutes.)
  • Optional additions: chopped celery, sugar snap peas, one can, drained, mandarin oranges

For the Dressing

4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup salad oil (a light vegetable oil)
1/2 cup sesame oil
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients for dressing, blend or shake to mix.  Set aside.

Toss remaining ingredients together.  If you are making this to serve later, do not add the dressing or the noodles until just before serving.

Pour desired amount of blended dressing over veggies, chicken, peanuts, and noodles.  I don’t always use all the dressing (extra dressing keeps for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator); I like a lightly dressed salad.  Plus, heads of cabbage come in different sizes…, you will need more or less dressing depending on how much cabbage you have in your salad.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Hope this helps you deal with the hot weather.  Hopefully it will cool down soon and we can get some soup on the stove and some bread in the oven.  If you’d like to receive an email when I post a new recipes, please subscribe.  To view other recipes, just click on the “In The Kitchen With Polly” box on the upper left hand side of the page.  If you are looking for an even quicker side dish or pot luck dish check back soon, I just made a no fuss Southwestern Pasta Salad.  I’ll post it just as soon as I get a good picture!  I cook so much better than I take photographs.