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Pasta alla Formiana

23 Jan Pasta alla Formiana

The first Saturday of December I decided to stay in for the night to start my annual Christmas baking. But before I could start baking I had to make dinner (duh!), and for that I once again went to the kitchen goddess Giada de Laurentiis and her “Weeknights With Giada” cookbook. Before leaving that afternoon for an audition I grabbed the cookbook to make a decision while out. After flipping through the pages I landed on her Pasta alla Formiana. It was a simple recipe (which in my eyes is always a good thing) and it made enough that I’d be able to enjoy leftovers (which I added cheese on top to!) and share with my roommate (and she loved it!). Because of how easy and good it was I ended up making it for my holiday party later in the month.

Pasta alla Formiana Ingredients L-R: Mezze Penne, Salt & Pepper, Oregano, Garlic, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil

Pasta alla Formiana Ingredients L-R: Mezze Penne, Salt & Pepper, Oregano, Garlic, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil

PASTA ALL FORMIANA (serves 4 to 6)

  • 28 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes (1 Can)
  • 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 Cups (8 oz) mezze penne (or other small pasta)
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 3 Very Ripe, Extra Large Beefsteak Tomatoes (Giada calls for 5, but I found 3 worked just fine with my 8×8 dish. If using a bigger dish add another tomato.)
  • Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
  • Shredded mozzarella or other favorite cheese for topping (optional)

Place your oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees. Coarsely chop your garlic then pull out your trusty food processor (or blender if you don’t have a food processor) and blend together the can of crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (less than 10 minutes).

Chopped Garlic

Chopped Garlic

Boiling the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth

Boiling the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth

While you wait for the tomato mixture to boil, slice your tomatoes into about 1/4 inch thick slices. Spray your 8×8 baking dish with your cooking spray and then line the entire dish (the bottom and the sides) with your tomato slices. I ended up cutting a couple of slices in half for the odd spots. You should have about 9 slices left.

Sliced Beefsteak Tomatoes

Sliced Beefsteak Tomatoes

My 8x8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

My 8×8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

My 8x8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

A closer look at the lined baking dish.

Once the tomato mixture is boiling stir in the (uncooked) pasta, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and pour into the tomato lined dish and be sure it fills the dish evenly. With the remaining slices cover the top of the pasta mixture, overlapping the tomato slices so that it’s completely covered. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Pasta alla Formiana

You can see the steam rising from the crushed tomato with uncooked pasta mixture after pouring into the baking dish.

Pasta alla Formiana

I’ve covered the dish with more tomatoes and now it’s ready for the oven!

The tomatoes should be slightly crispy, and yes, the pasta will be cooked. Let cool for about 5 minutes, serve and enjoy! Top with cheese of your choice if you wish.

Pasta alla Formiana

Fresh from the oven, my Pasta alla Formiana smells delicious!

Pasta alla Formiana

Dinner is served! Pasta alla Formiana

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Easy Greek Pasta With Chicken

12 Jul Greek Pasta With Chicken

One of the first recipes I shared on my blog was a Greek pasta dish and I’m here to share another one. This one is very simple and can be made in less than 20 minutes. I came home from work and was starving and wanted something quick and yummy. I remembered I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes as well as some feta cheese left. I grabbed a frozen chicken breast from the freezer and immediately stuck it in the microwave to defrost. And I have to admit that I was so hungry that I didn’t stop to take a lot of pictures. What I love about this dish is how easy and fast it is to make. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Feta Cheese

Feta Cheese

GREEK PENNE PASTA WITH CHICKEN (2 servings)

  • 1 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup of Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil (roughly, feel free to add more or less)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Feta Cheese to top
  • 4 oz of Pasta of your choice

Start a medium pot of water for your pasta. I am of the mind to salt the water. Some people do, some don’t, it’s your preference. While you’re waiting for the water to boil chop up your chicken breast into pieces about an inch or two long. If you need to defrost your chicken first you can do this while you’re waiting for the water to boil too. It should only take about 4 minutes. Be sure to use the defrost option on the microwave.

Greek Pasta With Chicken

Chicken and sun-dried tomatoes cooking

Once your chicken is cut up, heat your olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in  your chicken. When the chicken is about halfway cooked, add in your sun-dried tomatoes (with some of the oil from the jar, about a tablespoon or two) and turn the heat down to medium and finish cooking.

Greek Pasta

Cooking the pasta

Your water should be boiling by now, so add in your pasta and cook for about six minutes. Taste a piece to make sure it’s done before straining. Be sure to save a few tablespoons of water to mix back in with the pasta. Once your chicken is done, mix with pasta, serve with feta on top (and a glass of white wine) and enjoy!

Greek Pasta With Chicken

Greek Pasta With Chicken

Mushroom Cream Pasta Sauce

13 Feb

I get all my favorite recipes from my dad. Some I grew up with, others he found after his retirement, but many are recipes he created himself. He thinks nothing of it of course, but I think it’s so cool, since every recipe came from someone, somewhere experimenting in their own kitchen (remember the kale pasta sauce?) and it was yummy enough (very scientific term you know) to share with others. The story behind this recipe always makes me chuckle. After a shopping excursion to Whole Foods *cough-whole paycheck-cough*, my dad had bought (on a whim) a small bag full of fancy (ie, expensive) mushrooms, plus another bag at a mushroom farm out in the country. He didn’t have a recipe in mind when he bought them, but they just looked and smelled so good he couldn’t pass them up. Side note: folks, when someone you love buys a food product on a whim with no recipe in mind, be prepared to be that person’s guinea pig (carrot soup anyone?). Anyway, the mushrooms sat in their paper bags in our fridge for a while. They were starting to get soft, so my dad, not wanting to waste all that money, knew he had to cook them. And voila-he turned them into a cream sauce for pasta! Very yummy indeed!

The mixed baskets at LA FungHi. Photo courtesy of www.lafunghi.com

The mixed baskets at LA FungHi. Photo courtesy of http://www.lafunghi.com

My dad came to visit me for a day while my mom was in Bakersfield for a dog agility event (jumping through hoops, weaving through poles, etc.), so he arrived in beautiful Glendale at about 9am. He was going to be attending a rehearsal for “The Santaland Diaries” with me later, but first we had to get breakfast and kill some time. So after breakfast at the best diner in the Valley, Paty’s, we headed to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. I had brought my parents once before to the farmer’s market so we knew exactly where we wanted to go: the mushroom guy, LA FungHi. This guy has the best mushrooms I’ve ever seen. The smell is amazing and my mouth waters just thinking about them again. I will find a perfect recipe for each one and I promise to share. But back to the pasta sauce. LA FungHi sells mixed bags of mushrooms so my dad and I bought a large bag and split it, I, with the full intention of making this sauce.

When my sister came to visit the following weekend it was the perfect excuse. With all the talking we did though, I forgot to take pictures while I was cooking! Sorry! We are quite the gabbers! LOL. I promise to make it again and take more pictures. I also had salad greens and served a salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, avocado and a Honey Garlic Vinaigrette. It was a recipe I found at AllRecipes.com and I have included it below. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce and a green salad.

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce and a green salad.

MUSHROOM CREAM PASTA SAUCE (4 servings)

  • 8 oz. Pasta (2 oz for each serving)
  • Small Paper Bag of Mushrooms (a variety is best)
  • 1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions (or shallots if you prefer)
  • 3 or 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/2 Tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 Pint Heavy Cream (1 Cup)
  • 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/3 Cup White Vermouth (or white wine)
  • Fresh Basil (for garnish)

In a large pot boil about 6 cups of water for your pasta. For every person measure out 2 oz of dry pasta. I used penne pasta, but any type of pasta will do. For four people it’s usually about half a box of pasta. I like to salt my water. This is a debatable, but it’s how I was taught so I do it. When the water is boiling add in your pasta and stir. Cook for about 7 minutes or until al dente. When you drain your cooked pasta save about a cup of the cooking water for your sauce.

The mushrooms finishing cooking with the cream

The mushrooms finishing cooking with the cream

While waiting for the water to boil, start preparing your sauce. Coarsely chop your mushrooms, mince your garlic, chop your green onions finely (or thinly slice the shallots). Set all aside so they are ready to add to your sauce. In a large fry pan or deep skillet melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Once the butter is all melted add your green onions/shallots and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium and saute for a few minutes. Add in your Italian Seasoning and chopped mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Keep stirring the mushrooms around so they don’t sit too long. Once the mushrooms are soft add in your cream and stir until it starts to bubble. DON’T let it boil. Turn the heat to low and add in your Parmesan cheese and stir together until the cheese has melted into the mixture. Add in the vermouth and stir again. Remove your sauce from the heat and add in a little bit of your pasta cooking water to thin the sauce out. You want the sauce to be thick, but not a paste, so add the water as needed.

Mix your pasta and sauce together in either the pot or the large fry pan. Serve in pasta bowls. Chop your fresh basil and garnish each plate. Enjoy!

HONEY GARLIC VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Cloves Garlic

Mince your garlic and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar and honey. Add in the garlic. You can also use a mason jar or some other container that has an airtight seal and shake vigorously. I like using a mason jar as I can store it in the fridge for later uses and easily shake it up again. Pour over your salad as desired. Save the rest for another night.

Green Salad with Honey Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing

Green Salad with Honey Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing

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Greek Inspired Pasta Dish

26 Sep

Pasta is one of the easiest and most malleable dishes to make (so you can expect to see many pasta dishes). It’s kinda like Meryl Streep, that woman has so many characters and such a broad range, but underneath it all is a familiar face. But I digress, back to pasta. You can put just about any meat you want in it, or no meat at all and it’s still filling. Same goes for the veggies, it all depends on what you like and if you’re going for a theme. Everything goes with pasta, or at least, I haven’t found anything that hasn’t. So don’t be afraid to take a risk and add any veggies/meats you like! I had half a bell pepper left over so I chopped that up as well. The recipe for the Chicken Greek Pasta is below. I paired it with a Riesling by Fetzer. I love their wine by the way. It’s reasonably priced and has such a wonderful flavor. I’m a big fan of Rieslings and since I’m on a tight budget, Fetzer fits the bill. Oh, and the dish is from IKEA. For those of you on Facebook you may recognize this dish from a few weeks ago. After a friend asked for the recipe and then reported back success, I knew I wanted to start the blog off with this!

Greek Inspired Pasta Dish

Linguine with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, grilled chicken and Feta Cheese.

CHICKEN GREEK PASTA WITH FETA (makes 2 servings)

4 oz Linguine (or any pasta of your choice, 2 oz for each person)
3 oz Grilled Chicken (I used pre-cooked to cut down on prep & cooking time)
Fresh Baby Spinach, 2 handfuls
2 Spoonfuls of Sun Dried Tomatoes soaked in Olive Oil (I used julienne cut)
1/4 Small Onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Dried Basil to taste (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a medium pot boil about 3 qts of water. I usually salt the water. (Yes, there’s a big debate about salting pasta water which I will save for another post.) Cook the pasta for about 7 minutes. Drain, but save about a tablespoon of water and mix back in with pasta.

While you wait for the water to boil work on the fixings.
In a medium saucepan saute the onions in the olive oil, after a few minutes throw in the spinach. Once the onions and spinach start to cook down, toss in the chicken. I scoop a couple spoonfuls of jarred sun dried tomatoes into the pan. Salt, pepper to taste. I also use about a teaspoon or two of dried basil. Mix together with drained pasta. Sprinkle with feta and enjoy!

Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

17 Jul Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli prepped for closing

I was browsing the internet over the first weekend back in March when I stumbled across a recipe for homemade ravioli with goat cheese and spinach, two ingredients I happened to have in my fridge from my Oscar party the weekend before. There have been plenty of posts on this blog about pasta and how much I love it. What I haven’t told you is where that love came from. When I was a young kid my parents use to make pasta from scratch. Often. I have memories of crawling under drying pasta hanging from broomsticks across our kitchen back in Pennsylvania. Throughout my childhood pasta was probably on our table at least once a week. Why it took me this long to make it myself I’m not sure. I’ve always wanted to make pasta but I think a busy schedule just got in my way. And of all the pastas I could have made I chose one that is slightly more complicated since it is a filled pasta. But I still had fun and it was really yummy! I think everyone should make their own pasta at least once. Just make sure you have some extra time, especially if it’s your first time. And if you choose this recipe, give yourself at least two hours before you want to eat since you have to let the dough rise. I’m looking forward to making fettuccine since that just involves cutting up the dough and no filling and closing and cutting twin pieces to match. Ha! Enjoy!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli Ingredients L-R: Mushrooms, Flour, White Wine, Parmesan Cheese, Nutmeg, Half & Half, Egg, Garlic, Goat Cheese,  Spinach, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli Ingredients L-R: Mushrooms, Flour, White Wine, Parmesan Cheese, Nutmeg, Half & Half, Egg, Garlic, Goat Cheese, Spinach, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

SPINACH AND GOAT CHEESE RAVIOLI (makes about 12-18 ravioli)

Ravioli Dough:

  • 1 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Water
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt

Ravioli Filling:

  • 1/3 Cup Cooked Spinach (or 1/2 bunch raw spinach – to be cooked)
  • 2 oz Goat Cheese
  • 1/3 Cup Parmesan, Grated
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Mushroom and Parmesan Cream Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 8 oz Mushrooms
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp White Wine
  • 1 cup Half-and-Half
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Parmesan Cheese

Make your dough first. In a medium bowl mix your flour and salt. In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, mix your egg and hot water well. Combine the egg/water mixture with your flour and knead the dough until it’s nice and smooth and firm. It shouldn’t be too wet or too sticky, ie, it shouldn’t stick to your hands just to itself. I mixed it with a wooden spoon, and then finished mixing with my hands to make sure I had the right texture. Once done, roll into a ball and wrap in Saran wrap and let sit on the counter for one hour. The recipe has you using a mold to make the ravioli and suggests making a second batch if you want more than a dozen or so. I think I made about 20 with mine and without a mold. I didn’t waste any of my dough.

Making pasta dough

Making the pasta dough for the ravioli!

While your dough is sitting in the Saran wrap work on your filling. I used fresh spinach so I had to cook it first. Be sure to cook it down until it’s all wilted and there’s no liquid left. Once it’s all cooked chop it up and set aside.

Cooking down the spinach and chopping it up for the filling.

Cooking down the spinach and chopping it up for the filling.

In a small-sized microwave safe bowl heat up your goat cheese to soften it, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the chopped up spinach and Parmesan cheese and mix well. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and mix again. Set the mixture aside. It should be fairly firm. If it is a little runny (from water in the spinach leftover), place in the fridge to firm up a bit.

spinach, goat cheese and parmesan cheese ravioli filling

Mixing up the spinach and cheeses for the filling

Once you’re ready to assemble your ravioli, divide your dough into 2 equal parts. Be sure to flour both your rolling pin and your rolling surface, then roll out each section of your dough very thinly.

If you are using a ravioli mold, be sure to lightly flour it and then lay out the dough and push softly into each indentation. Place a small amount of the filling mixture into each mold section, just be sure not to overfill them. Take your second piece of dough and lay it on top. Take your rolling pin and roll along the top of the mold, which will seal the ravioli and take the air out of them. Use your fingers to separate the ravioli from each other. Then flip over the mold to release the ravioli. Set aside and re-roll the dough to make more ravioli.

making ravioli

Making the actual ravioli. Yum!

If you aren’t using a mold (like me!) then you will need to cut them individually. I used a small (sharp) paring knife and after rolling the dough out very thinly, cut a rectangle about 4 inches wide and about 10 inches long, then sliced that in half and made about 2 inch squares. I plopped about a teaspoon of filling into the middle of half of the squares, then took the empty squares and sealed each ravioli. I re-rolled the dough until it was basically all used up.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli prepped for closing

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli prepped for closing

Fill a large pot with water and put on high heat and bring to a boil. Cook however many ravioli you want that evening and then freeze the rest. Depending on the pot size you shouldn’t put too many in at once. I boiled about 5 or 6 at a time in my 3 qt pot. Be sure to drain the ravioli before serving. Because I cooked a couple batches of ravioli I used a skimmer to remove each ravioli and drain over the pot then placed on plates.

Mushroom Cream Sauce

Making the mushroom cream sauce.

While you’re boiling your ravioli you can make your pasta sauce at the same time. This is a basic cream sauce, and one I’ve basically made before. You want to slice up your mushrooms thinly and dice up your garlic. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute your mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of nutmeg for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are a golden brown. Add your half and half and cook until it starts to boil. Turn the heat down to low and add in your Parmesan cheese and mix until it’s nice and thick. I like to add in a little white wine to my pasta sauces too. Season with salt and pepper and serve over ravioli and garnish with fresh parsley or chives. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce

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