Main Dish


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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!

 

 

 

Have you heard about chicken crust? It’s a carb-free way to make a pizza. Now, as a woman of Italian-Irish heritage, carbohydrates and I go waaaay back–particularly with pizza! So, while I have no intention of abandoning a traditional crust, I wanted to play with this idea.

First, let’s take this in a proper Italian direction and use hot sausage instead of ground chicken as our base. Next, instead of ordinary red sauce and toppings, let’s roast some vegetables and let those be our sauce. Ah, brillante! Let’s make the magic happen, amici!

SAUSAGE CRUST PIZZA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

For the crust
1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used Lamberti’s)
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used a Parmesan-Pecorino blend)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

For the roasted vegetable topping
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 a sweet onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
olive oil to coat everything
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

To top it all off
2 medium sized balls of fresh mozzarella
fresh basil chiffonade (roll it, slice it)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Let’s work on the veggies first–everything into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Into the oven for 15 minutes, shake everything around, then send it back for 20 minutes more. At this point, you should have some decent color on the onions and shrooms, and you’ll be able to put a gentle squeeze on the tomatoes to flatten them (let them cool a bit before you do).


Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and combine crust ingredients in a bowl. Form the crust in a circle and pat it out evenly. I covered mine with plastic wrap and rolled a bottle over it to thin it out and keep it even.

Into the oven this goes for 20 minutes. Your cooked crust should look something like this.

Now it’s time to load it up with the goods. Evenly distribute the roasted vegetables over the top of the crust, then top with slices of fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade and freshly ground black pepper.

Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, till the mozzarella gets nice and melted. Carefully drain fat from pan. Now your pizza is ready to cut and serve.

Good food, like good music, is meant to be shared all over the world. CHEERS!

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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brown sugar pork chops with salt lick baked potatoes

Some of my favorite dishes shouldn’t qualify as recipes as they’re so easy–so here are two for the price of one. They go quite nicely together. And they’re a quick and delicious meal to make during the week when you’re short on time.

BROWN SUGAR PORK CHOPS with SALT LICK BAKED POTATOES

For the chops
2 pork chops (ours were somewhere between 1/2″ and 3/4″ thick)
Penzeys Barbecue of the Americas
light brown sugar
salt
olive oil

For the potatoes
2 russet potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
butter at room temperature
sour cream (if you wish and I do!)
finely chopped scallions or chives (why not?)

Prep the potatoes first!
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes, poke ’em with a fork all the way around.

While the potatoes are still wet, rub them with Kosher salt. Once the oven is up to temp, bake them for an hour and fifteen minutes (1:15). You can put them right on the oven rack, but if you prefer not to get salt all over your oven, simply set them in a pan.

Now would be a lovely time to make a salad or a tasty vegetable to go with. 🙂 But before you start, get the pork ready.

Pork chop prep
Sprinkle each side of both chops with Barbecue of the Americas and a bit of salt. Yes, the spice blend itself does contain salt, but you won’t go wrong with a bit more. Then take a good handful of light brown sugar and coat both sides. Press the sugar into the meat and let the chops come up to room temperature. They’ll take less than 10 minutes to cook–so think about kicking ’em off once your potatoes hit the hour mark.

When it’s time to cook the chops, coat a nonstick pan with olive oil and set it over medium heat. When the oil is heated and sizzles when the pork hits the pan, set a timer. It’ll only take about 3-4 minutes on each side–at least on my stove.

Et voilà–since you timed it right, it’s time for dinner! Grab those potatoes, be generous with the butter and sour cream and enjoy!

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