Comfort Food


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It’s finally feeling like fall–a perfect time for soupin’ it up in the kitchen, and turning on the oven to roast tomatoes. All that sound good? Lasagna soup might be just what the weatherman ordered! I wonder if cousin Gil Simmons is listening?!

This recipe has all the delicious flavors of lasagna without being overly cheesy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being cheesy (HA HA, please, look who’s talking). But it’s plenty rich and hearty without ricotta or mozzarella. See if you agree!

LASAGNA SOUP

1 pint grape tomatoes
olive oil to coat the bottom of a large roasting pan
1 large sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup vodka
1 pound sausage (patties, or casings removed from links) CT folks, I love Longhini!
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 oz. mushrooms (I used baby bella), sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, if you have it
1 box (32 oz.) chicken stock (my fave is Kitchen Basics)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pound lasagna noodles, broken (note: I found frozen lasagna noodles from Durante’s Pasta of West Haven at Shop Rite in Wallingford–SCORE!)
1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
fresh basil to garnish (optional), parsley’s always nice, too

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer. Roast in oven 10 minutes, then shake and put them back in for 10 minutes more. Then shake again and back to the oven 10 more for total of 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup vodka after you remove the pan from the oven. Sizzle-sizzle!

Watch the asterisks (*) for where we need to multitask a bit. 🙂

In a stock pot, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add pepper, mushrooms and thyme; cook 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes/onions/garlic/vodka and chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add broken lasagna noodles, and bring to low boil. *Cook for 10-12 minutes (follow package instructions as a guide) or until the noodles are tender. Add spinach and cook for about a minute while stirring.

*While the noodles are cooking, in a separate smaller saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and continue cooking for 1 minute; whisking constantly. The butter/flour mixture should be bubbling. Slowly whisk in milk/cream until it’s smooth and thickened; about 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and slowly whisk in Romano cheese. Once the mixture is creamy and the cheese has melted, slowly whisk into soup.

Now it’s time to serve. Garnish with basil or parsley and mangia, mangia! Serves four to six people, depending how hungry your people are. 🙂 Reheats very nicely, too.

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Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

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1 pound full-fat cottage cheese, small curd
1 pound full-fat sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (Neufchâtel is fine and welcome at the otherwise full-fat party)
4 large eggs
12 oz. bag of egg noodles
15 oz. can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

Topping
½ stick salted butter for topping
crushed cornflakes on top
2 teaspoons light brown sugar to sprinkle over the cornflakes

Butter a deep baking dish (my 10 x 13″ one does the trick nicely), preheat oven to 375 degrees F and set aside. Be sure your oven rack is right in the middle.

Using a stand mixer, whisk cream cheese with brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla and almond extracts. Add eggs, whisk to combine. Add cottage cheese, sour cream, pumpkin and spices.

In a large pot, boil noodles according to package instructions, drain. Combine noodles with dairy/pumpkin mixture in the large pot.

Fill baking dish with noodle kugel. Crush cornflakes over top. Dot with butter. Be generous–I use almost half a stick. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar evenly over the cornflakes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hour. Take a peek around 50 minutes to make sure the top isn’t burning–just in case your oven runs any hotter than mine. If need be, cover top with foil. I didn’t have to do this–hopefully, you won’t either.

Damn, does it smell fantastic in here! Let us dig in and celebrate the season of pumpkin spice!

Kattys Kitchen biscuits n gravy

I grew up in an S.O.S. family. Yup, that’s $#*+ on a shingle. Uncle Al was a Marine, and if Sunday breakfast wasn’t pancakes or waffles, S.O.S just might be on the menu. I’m guessing it was nostalgic for him.

I always did enjoy creamed chipped beef on toast. Then, as I got older, I discovered biscuits and gravy–a serious level up on both components. First, tender, homemade buttermilk biscuits. Right there, the fight is already won. But topped with a rich, spicy sausage gravy? It’s a TKO with the proud winner, B&G!

BISCUITS ‘N SAUSAGE GRAVY

Kattys Kitchen biskies

First, here’s a handy link to my favorite biscuits.

Now, let’s work on the gravy.

1 pound breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean Bold)
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
about a teaspoon, minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk

In a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add sausage. Break into small pieces as it cooks. When sausage is cooked halfway or so, add minced rosemary and sprinkle of cayenne.

Once sausage is just about finished cooking, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over pan; stir to coat evenly. This is a good time to bring the temp closer to medium so nothing burns. You’ll want to get the flour cooked about a minute or so before you add the milk. Then stir and stir till it thickens.

For the full experience, I add a layer of cheesy eggs. To serve, slice biscuits in half. Top with cheesy eggs (cooked low and slow with cheddar in my kitchen), then generously ladle gravy over the top. Pass black pepper at the table if you like.

Last night when I made this for dinner, my mom said, “If this was on the menu, they’d be lined up out the door.” Her comment puzzled me. “Who is they?” I asked. “The people coming to the restaurant.” 🙂 Maybe someday. Till then, at least you can make your own.

Sloppy Joe

There’s nothing like a meal of old school nostalgia on a bun. Back in Macdonough School days, Sloppy Joe was always a favorite. Something in the air on a recent bike ride reminded me of that comforting dish. It got me thinking about our old friend, Sloppy Joe, and how to make a homemade version.

I kicked it up a bit with Sriracha ketchup–one of my new favorite ingredients–and some chopped bell pepper because it tastes good. It’s a flavorful trip down Memory Lane. See if you think so, too.

SLOPPY JOE

1.25 pounds ground chuck
1 small sweet bell pepper, diced
half a large sweet onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 10.5 oz. can Campbell’s condensed French onion soup (strange, I know, but seems to be key to the familiar flavor we all remember)
heaping 1/4 cup Sriracha ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

To a large sauté pan over medium heat, add chuck, along with bell pepper, onion and celery. Break up meat as you go, cooking till meat is browned and vegetables are tender.

Remove fat, then add remaining ingredients: soup, ketchup, water, tomato paste, mustard and Worcestershire. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes so flavors meld and sauce thickens a bit.

Serve on your favorite hard rolls. I find mine at Tri-Town Foods in Portland, Connecticut. They’re whole wheat. And these Sloppy Joes definitely ring my bike bell. May they do the same for you. 🙂

 

 

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The cooler weather had me craving pasta. So, I put together a new twist on an old favorite–vodka sauce. Rather than just roasted tomatoes for the sauce, I added a pepper, a handful of mushrooms and some sweet onion.

When I’m making a special sauce, I love to head up to DiFiore Ravioli Shop for fresh pasta. Now that they’re in Rocky Hill as well as Hartford, they’re even closer to home. For my new recipe, I tried their fresh black pepper fettucine.

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The black pepper bite adds an extra kick to a dish that’s already kickin’. Enough talk–let’s get this recipe into action!

ROASTED VEGETABLE VODKA SAUCE WITH HOT CHICKEN SAUSAGE

For the vegetables
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 small bell pepper*
1/2 a sweet onion, sliced and halved
4 mushrooms (I chose cremini a.k.a. baby bella–whatever little shrooms you like)
2-3 garlic cloves
olive oil to coat the bottom of your baking dish
1 teaspoon kosher salt

*I found the world’s most adorable pepper at Price Chopper yesterday–the Enjoya (why yes, thank you, I will) striped pepper.

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For the vodka sauce
1/2 pound hot chicken sausage, cooked/crumbled
1/3 cup vodka
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon

First, roast the vegetables!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ baking dish. Toss all the vegetables in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife–or use a garlic press–and add to baking dish. Make sure everything’s in an even layer.

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Let ‘em roast for 10 minutes, give ’em a shake, then 15 more minutes of roasting and it’s time to take them out of the oven.

Add 1/3 cup vodka directly to the hot roasting pan. You’ll hear it sizzle. Squeeze half the lemon and add the zest. Now, very carefully, use a potato masher to give the tomatoes a gentle squeeze right in the baking dish. Take it easy so they don’t squirt you.

While the tomatoes are roasting…
Now’s a good time to get a BIG pasta pot boiling so you can cook up the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks in about three minutes. If you use boxed pasta, just remember to allow more time for it to cook. For two people, I cooked just a half pound of pasta, but there’s definitely enough sauce for one or two more servings, depending how hungry you are.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and cook the sausage—squeeze it from the casings and break into small pieces. Once you’ve completely cooked and crumbled the sausage, keep the pan on a low heat, just to simmer. Add the tomatoes, garlic and all the liquid from the baking dish to the sausage. Then add the cream. As it all simmers, the sauce will thicken just a bit.

Spoon over pasta; garnish with fresh parsley and serve with pecorino Romano at the table. Why go out for pasta when you can create your own deliciousness right at home?

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Looking for some comfort on a cold winter’s day? Well, if a creamy, cheesy mac with mushrooms is what you seek, you’ve come to the right place.

With cheddar, Gouda and Gruyère, and three different mushrooms: cremini, oyster and shiitake, topped with plenty of toasty, cheesy breadcrumbs, it’s a warm and hearty combo. Inspired by something I saw Giada do, but made absolutely, purr-fectly my way in Katty’s Kitchen.

MUSHROOM MAC ‘N CHEESE

For the topping
½ cup panko
½ cup shredded cheese (take from the 3½ cups you’ll shred below for the cheese sauce)

Combine and set aside.
When it’s time to add to the top of the casserole, spread them evenly, then add a drizzle of truffle oil.

For the pasta
½ pound double elbows (Sclafani bouble elbows–my favorite goofy typo)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add elbows. Undercook by just a minute–they’ll continue to cook in the oven. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot
5 oz. or so of a combination of mushrooms: oyster, cremini
¼ teaspoon salt

In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat; add shallot, mushrooms and salt. Cook about 5-6 minutes till mushrooms soften.
Transfer cooked mushrooms to a small plate; drizzle with truffle oil.

For the cheese sauce
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk at room temperature
10 oz. shredded cheese (3½ cups total): combination of cheddar, Gouda and Gruyère
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼-½ teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper

Melt butter, add the flour. Cook over medium-low heat about two minutes, stirring with a whisk. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a simmer, continue to whisk so it doesn’t stick. Simmer about 4-5 minutes to thicken, then add 3 cups shredded cheese. Whisk till fully incorporated. Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ¼-½ teaspoon salt.

Combine pasta, mushrooms and cheese sauce. Pour into 9” baking dish. Top with panko/shredded cheese mixture. Drizzle with truffle oil. Bake 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Dinner is served! Enjoy a little country comfort and stay toasty, amici!

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