Main Dish


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For the pan:
Generously butter a 9″ springform pan and sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of panko. Set aside.

For the ragu:

half a large sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
half a red Cubanelle (or bell) pepper, diced
3-4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 pound hot sausage (my favorite locally is Longhini)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (I like Tuttorosso)
2/3 cup frozen baby peas
1/2 cup Chardonnay (or other dry white wine)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Add butter and olive oil to cover the bottom of a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook about 5-7 minutes or till the onion starts to get some color. Add pressed garlic clove; cook for just one more minute. Next add pepper and mushrooms, continue to cook a few minutes. Add tomato paste; cook for another minute or two, then add 1/2 cup of Chardonnay and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Let the liquid cook down for a few minutes, then add the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. When the sausage is completely cooked, add the tomato sauce. Combine, then add peas. They’ll warm through in just a few minutes. Once they do, remove the pan from heat, transfer ragu to a large bowl and clean the pan so we can use it to make the risotto.

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For the risotto:
2 oz. mushrooms, diced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/3 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 tablespoon or so of butter to finish
freshly ground black pepper

Once again, add butter and olive oil to cover the bottom of your trusty large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for just one minute more.

Add the rice and stir continuously till it starts to turn slightly translucent at the edges. Add wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for a couple of minutes. Add mushrooms.

Meanwhile, heat the stock. It’s handy to use a large glass measuring cup in the microwave. Pour about a half cup or so of warm stock into the rice and continue stirring over medium heat until absorbed, then pour the same amount again. Repeat and keep stirring till you’ve used up all the stock. By then, the rice should be tender. This should take about 30 minutes, total. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F midway through this process so it will be ready to go once we assemble the torta.

Add a good tablespoon or so of butter and two tablespoons of Pecorino Romano;  stir to combine. Remove from heat.

For the assembly:
8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced

For the topping:
Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter with 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

Let’s put it all together:
Divide the rice in two in the sauté pan.
Evenly press half the rice into the springform with a spatula.
Next add a layer of the ragu.
Add a layer of fresh mozzarella slices.
Cover with remaining rice, then spread buttered panko topping evenly over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes. You’ll want to see the edges of the pan turn a bit golden–23 minutes was the magic number here. Slice, serve, mangia!

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Someone in my life bought a huuuuuge five-plus-pound pot roast (thanks, Mom, who exactly are we feeding?), so off we go, first to the stovetop, then straight to the oven for a long (4 hours) winter’s nap. It cooks right down to delicious tenderness unattended once you get the party started.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE’S POT ROAST
3-5 pound pot roast
Kosher salt
black pepper
smoked paprika
2 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 carrots, unpeeled, cut in thirds
3 stalks celery, cut in thirds
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
2 sprigs rosemary
sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
3 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine (I used Gnarly Head Old Vines Zin)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously season the roast with Kosher salt, pepper and smoked paprika (optional). Heat olive oil to coat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear on all sides until browned, about 15-18 minutes. Remove to a plate.

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Add the onions  browning them on all sides–about 5 minutes or so keep stirring. Move them to a large bowl. Running low on oil? Add a bit more. Now do the same with the carrots and celery–heat, brown a bit, move to bowl. Last, drop the temp to medium, throw in the mushrooms, and when they’ve got some color on them (couple minutes), add the garlic and 1 tablespoon tomato paste and stir fast-fast.

Move the roast back to the pot. Pour in the stock and wine; add herbs. Add in all the rest of the vegetables.

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Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for a 3-pound roast. For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. The roast is ready when it’s fall-apart tender.

Once the roast is done, remove it from the braising dish, leaving behind all the liquid and vegetables, then season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with your favorite mashed potatoes! It also makes a nice to-go box for someone special.

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You don’t need me to tell you we can make pesto out of herbs other than basil. But I’m here to share because I like how this came out and, selfishly, I’d like to document it so I can do it again.

I bought a rather large container of baby arugula to use for other things earlier this week, so it seemed the right time to change up the pesto game. It’s so easy! Here we go.

ARUGULA PESTO
2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
juice of one lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste

Add nuts to a small skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes or so, shaking the pan constantly. Set pan aside to cool a bit.

Add nuts and garlic to food processor; process till minced.

Add arugula, oil, salt and pepper; process until blended, scraping sides as needed. Add lemon and cheese; process until smooth.

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Toss with pasta of your choice–we had gemelli. Be sure to save a bit of your pasta water (or don’t drain the pasta all the way) to blend with the pesto when you initially toss the pasta and pesto together to coat. What you see on top is pure pesto, though.

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Oh, hey--since you’re already here, would you like a bonus round with this easy recipe? It’s called “what to do with a bag of spinach when you thought you were going to make stuffed mushrooms and only had four mushrooms left.” OOPS!

CREAMY SPINACH AND MUSHROOMS
an accidental side dish

1 9-oz. bag fresh spinach
4 mushrooms sliced (more would have been better, then we could’ve stuffed them, but this isn’t science, so, by all means, use more if you have them!)
1 clove garlic, pressed
butter to coat the bottom of a large saute pan
1 oz. cream cheese
dash of salt

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. When those have cooked down and browned a bit, add the garlic and stir for just a minute. Add spinach. Cover so it steams down to the point you can stir it all together–this happens pretty quickly.

Add an ounce of cream cheese and a dash of salt. When the cream cheese has melted in to form a creamy sauce, it’s ready to serve.

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Let’s hear it for Yankee ingenuity! And Yankee thrift, too, I suppose. Cheers to that!

 

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Though temperatures reached above 50 degrees today, soup remains the perfect seasonal supper. For one that eats like a meal, complete with loads of fresh vegetables, you can’t go wrong with creamy chicken noodle. ♫ What do I care how much it may storm? I’ve gotta this soup to keep me warm. ♫ With much respect, and sincere apologies, to Dean Martin.

CREAMY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
2
 cups dry medium egg noodles
1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized chunks
Olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot
1 large sweet onion
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
handful of mushrooms (about 6), sliced
generous handful of baby spinach
1 box Kitchen Basics chicken stock (32 oz.)
1 sprig rosemary
a few sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh parsley to garnish

Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil–turn to medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute till tender and you start to build some color at the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes, then add garlic and saute a minute longer.

Meantime, bring a pot of water to boil to cook the noodles. Ideally, the noodles will be finished cooking by the time you’ve finished the soup.

Back to the soup: add mushrooms, continue cooking and stirring for the next 5 minutes. Add chicken and salt; saute about 7 minutes. Add chicken broth, bay leaves and season with pepper to taste. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.

In a separate medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add flour and cook, stirring constantly till flour has browned a bit, about 1 1/2 minutes. While whisking, slowly add in milk. Then whisk in cream, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when it begins to bubble

Remove thyme and bay leaves from soup. Pour milk/cream/flour mixture into soup; add spinach just to wilt. Add cooked noodles. Garnish each bowl with fresh parsley. Stay toasty and enjoy!

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Whaddya get when you cross American chop suey with pasta e fagioli? Italian-American chop suey! No ground beef here, we’re talking sausage with San Marzanos,  a bell pepper plus some Italian long hots for heat, white beans, rosemary, thyme, red wine and a dollop of ricotta on top to make it nice-nice. ’tis the season for something warming, so andiamo–let’s go!

ITALIAN-AMERICAN CHOP SUEY

2 cans cannellini beans (small white beans are also fine), rinsed and drained
1/2 pound pasta (I love Sclafani double elbows a.k.a. cellentani)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian sausage (’round here, I love Longhini)
1 red bell pepper
2 Italian long hot peppers
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (Cento is my brand of choice–buy whole ones and crush them between your fingers like the skulls of your enemies, HA HA HA!)
1/2 the 28 oz. can water, 1/4 can red wine
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (such as Tuttorosso)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
a handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
whole milk ricotta to dollop on top of each bowl you serve

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme till onions are golden. Add garlic. Add sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. *While you’ve got this going, bring a separate pot of water to a boil to cook your pasta.* Add peppers as the sausage is cooking. When sausage is completely cooked, crush each tomato between your fingers and add all the liquid from the can. Fill this can halfway with water and another quarter of the way with red wine. Add to pot along with the small can of tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Add beans to warm, then add cooked pasta. Serve with a generous spoonful of ricotta and Pecorino Romano, if you like. Fresh parsley is always nice, too.

Found a cure for the colder weather right heah, amici–I promise this! Stay toasty!

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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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Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

Dressing
good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!

 

 

 

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