Mini Cannelloni

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By Alaina Sullivan

Asian and Italian cuisines aren’t often combined, but here’s a recipe that brings them together. Take the concept of Italian cannelloni – large, round tubes or squares of noodle, stuffed and baked (typically with cheese and a sauce). Instead of using fresh pasta (which most of us don’t usually have the time to make), swap in an Asian equivalent: the wonton wrapper. Commonly associated with the crispy exterior of dumplings or egg rolls (which are made from a larger version), the paper-thin noodle can just as easily be repurposed for stuffed pasta (think: ravioli, tortellini, cannelloni, etc.) Boiled or baked, wonton wrappers function much the same way as their Italian counterpart.

In this recipe, ricotta – a classic pasta filling – is mixed with fresh sage, Parmesan, salt and pepper. You can easily swap in any herb you like, but sage is particularly nice. Tomato sauce makes a classic accompaniment, but you can also enjoy it as I did – drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a generous amount of fresh black pepper (plus more grated Parm). Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Mini Cannelloni

Heat the oven to 400 F. In a bowl, mix together a cup of ricotta cheese, a tablespoon of chopped sage, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Put about a teaspoonful of this mixture in a wonton wrapper; roll into a tube, and put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush or spray with olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the wontons are crisp. If you don’t have tomato sauce to warm up, serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with lots of black pepper.

Posted in Chinese, Italian

Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese

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By Freya Bellin

As the weather becomes chillier, I love a good casserole. This pasta dish, though maybe not a traditional casserole, evokes the same warm, melty, heartiness.  And while the list of ingredients may raise eyebrows, they all come together harmoniously: the bite of the cheese, the juicy sweetness of fresh figs, and the crunch of Brussels sprouts. I don’t always love blue cheese, but it served its purpose well here. 4 ounces of cheese, especially a pungent one like gorgonzola, is just the right amount to add flavor throughout, without overwhelming the dish. It seeps into the tubes of rigatoni, and coats everything in a light, cheesy sauce. The almonds add some crunch, but flavor-wise don’t interfere with the rest of the dish. This pasta is well balanced, unique, and makes excellent leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

The Minimalist: Pasta with Cauliflower

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(Watch the video here.)

I’ve been making this pasta for a very long time, probably since the 1980s, since it’s derived from a Marcella Hazan recipe. It’s dead simple — one of the things that I love about it — and you can pre-cook the cauliflower a day ahead or so if you’d like. I usually do the whole thing at once: cook the cauliflower in water, scoop it out and then, later, cook the pasta in the same water. It’s already boiling, and you want the taste of the cauliflower anyway, so why not?

The cauliflower gets cooked more, in a skillet with toasted garlic, so don’t boil it to death; you do want it to be tender, though. And in the original Minimalist recipe, from 2000, I added the bread crumbs to the skillet along with the cauliflower, but since I usually add some pasta water to the skillet to keep the mixture saucy, the bread crumbs become soggy. Better, then, to stir the bread crumbs in at the very end. They should be very coarse, ideally homemade, and if they’re toasted in olive oil in a separate skillet before you toss them in, so much the better.

For a while now I’ve been cooking pasta recipes with less pasta and more sauce. That’s a very personal decision, I know, but you could easily make this dish with half a pound of pasta and two pounds of cauliflower, and it would be excellent.

(Read the recipe here.)

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Zucchini and Garlic Fusilli with Pistachios

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By Alaina Sullivan

Zucchini’s mildness makes it an ideal canvas for more aggressive flavors. Simply sautéing it with minced garlic catapults it from delicate to edgy – the recipe calls loosely for “some minced garlic,” and I added enough to stave off an entire swarm of vampires.

With “fragrant” mentioned twice in the recipe sketch, the smells are reason enough to cook this dish – the twin aromas of sautéing garlic and toasting pistachios wafting up from neighboring pans are incredible. Toasting the nuts is a step worth taking – it releases their natural oils, intensifying both flavor and crunch.

The zucchini is tossed with al dente fusilli, sprinkled with the pistachios, and served with parmesan and lots of black pepper. It’s a pretty perfect pasta to start out the fall.   Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Zucchini and Garlic Fusilli with Pistachios

Boil salted water for the fusilli and cook it; meanwhile, slice two zucchinis into thin disks. Toast a handful of pistachios in a dry pan until just fragrant and turning golden; set aside. Cook some minced garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until fragrant, add the zucchini slices and two tablespoons water, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water. Toss the zucchini and garlic mixture with the pasta, adding more olive oil and water if needed; add the toasted nuts and serve with grated Parmesan cheese and plenty of freshly ground pepper. 

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Bowties and Bulgur

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By Freya Bellin

An old classic like pasta salad could always use a little refreshing. This one channels a traditional Greek salad, and to much success. If you know you like bulgur, I would try doubling it straight off the bat and cutting down on some of the bowties. The texture combination is really great, but it gets lost if you don’t have enough bulgur in the mix. The cooked tomatoes flavor the rest of the dish with a light tomato sauce, and the olives add a nice brininess. You might experiment with smaller tomatoes, halved, in place of the larger wedges. The small ones, like grape or cherry tomatoes, are usually a little sweeter—a nice counterpoint to peppery arugula—and it would cut down the cooking time a bit as well. Be sure to let this sit before serving to allow the arugula to wilt and the flavors to meld. I enjoyed it most at room temperature anyway—perfect for leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

The Minimalist: Fazzoletti with Chunky Pesto

If the idea of undertaking fresh pasta at home makes you want to cry, you may need a pasta handkerchief.

Posted in Italian

Pasta with Seared Radicchio, Steak, Balsamic

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By Freya Bellin

This dish is full of striking flavor combinations. The red onions really absorb the balsamic vinegar and become ultra sweet, which works nicely to offset the bitter radicchio. Plus, the shades of dark purple are really beautiful. The fresh basil comes through surprisingly strongly here too, both in flavor and color. A half cup may seem like a lot, but it’s a great addition.

Notably, this dish is truly a pasta dish and not a steak dish. There’s only a half pound of meat for four servings, but it’s just enough to make it a filling entree. If you like your steak very rare, 2 minutes on each side should be plenty of cooking time. My steak looked quite rare when sliced, but once it was added back to the pot with the other hot ingredients, it seemed to continue cooking a bit too. When the weather gets warm again (or for those of you who are happy to grab a coat and grill outside in the winter), I bet that the vegetables and meat could be grilled rather than seared for an extra smoky element. As mentioned below, it tastes great at room temperature, and while it works for winter, I’ll be happy to make this again come summer picnic season.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Dinner with Bittman: Pasta with Leeks and Parsley

Recipe from How to Cook Everthing.

Pasta with Leeks and Parsley

Makes: About 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Leeks become tender quickly enough to make a distinctive sauce for pasta in little more time than it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. And teamed with the classic southern Italian quartet of garlic, chile, parsley, and olive oil (butter’s good, too), the sauce is delicious.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Less-Meat Mondays: Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

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By Freya Bellin

With the end of summer we must grudgingly say goodbye to peaches and berries, but I happen to love fall produce.  One of my favorites, the Brussels sprout, is a kind of vegetable underdog.  Over the past few years it seems to have made the transition from rejected to revered, and I love finding recipes that would bring even the most hesitant of sprout-eaters onto the bandwagon.  This is one of those recipes.  The sausage (I used an Italian chicken sausage) and red pepper flakes add nice heat to the dish, and shaved Brussels sprouts make it light and salad-like. This is essentially a meal on its own, but I bet it would taste great over polenta or farro.  I opted to serve it in a bowl with a big hunk of onion and olive focaccia to help soak up the juices.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes with cooked or canned beans

Cannellini beans with garlic and sausage are admittedly hard to beat (there’s a reason you see it everywhere). But shredded Brussels sprouts are a welcome addition to this classic combination; if there are still Brussels sprout haters out there, this will convert them. Serve this dish, with its beautifully flavored pan juices, over cooked grains like farro, bulgur, or cracked wheat, or a couple of thick slices of toasted bread.

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Red chile flakes, to taste

Salt and black pepper

1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded in a food processor or roughly chopped

1⁄2 cup white wine or water

2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained

1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally to break the meat into relatively small bits, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for another minute or so.

2. Add the Brussels sprouts and wine to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts are tender but still a bit crunchy, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, just a minute or 2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Dinner with Bittman: Pasta Frittata

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Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Pasta Frittata

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, including cooking the pasta

This is a perfect way to use leftover pasta, instantly lovable and easily varied; add whatever fresh herbs you like or use grains, bread, or potatoes instead of pasta (see the variations). And you don’t even have to use long pasta; try this with rigatoni for more chew.

1/4 pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, or other long pasta or about 1/2 pound cooked pasta

Salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or extra virgin olive oil

5 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley or fresh basil leaves (optional)

1. If you’re using dried pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until barely tender, somewhat short of where you would normally cook it. Drain and immediately toss it in a wide bowl with half the butter or oil. Cool it a bit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the remaining butter or oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper in a large bowl, then stir in the pasta with half of the Parmesan and the herb if you’re using it. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Use a spoon if necessary to even out the top of the frittata. Cook, undisturbed, until the mixture firms up on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Bake until the top is just cooked, about 10 minutes more. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature with the remaining Parmesan.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes