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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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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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Twenty years ago, I tried beer cheese soup for the first time at the 391st Bomb Group in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since then, I’ve tried it other places. But there’s something about the original I wanted to try to replicate.

Fast forward fifteen years, I thought I’d found the recipe in an old article from the Sun Sentinel. But all I could see was another fan looking for the recipe. I posted the link on a food site I frequent and said if anyone did have the original recipe, I’d be grateful to have it.

Four years later, someone responded to my inquiry and let me know the recipe was right there in the article–on a second page I hadn’t seen. Whattafind! I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

You've always had the power

So with this week’s cooler temperatures, I strolled Memory Lane and made the soup. I was about to follow the original recipe to the letter till I realized the chicken bouillon had MSG. I would try it again with non-MSG bouillon, but what I riffed was really excellent! It’s a little hotter and has that extra something coarse ground mustard can bring to a creamy soup like this. Here’s what I did.

BEER CHEESE SOUP
adapted from the 391st Bomb Group’s original recipe

4 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco Frank’s Red Hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 ounces light beer poured into a 2-cup measure to eliminate some of the foam (I used Coors, a.k.a. Colorado Kool-Aid)

In a skillet, cook the bacon and onions over medium heat, stirring, about 5-10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft and lightly browned. Set aside.

I didn’t use a double boiler or a thermometer as indicated in the original recipe. Cubed Velveeta magically melts into warm liquid like nobody’s business. So, into a large stockpot on medium heat, add 4 cups milk, 2 cups chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s Red Hot, cayenne, mustard, sriracha, Velveeta and the bacon and onions. At this point, you can add just one cup of the beer. Set the rest of the beer aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup beer. When the cheese has completely melted into the liquid, stir the beer/cornstarch mixture. Whisk and cook until the contents thicken.

Next, strain out the bacon and onions. Garnish with parsley, chives, paprika or popcorn. I topped mine with (new to me) Buffalo Cheddar Smartfood. Laugh if you must, but try it first. I think the soup tasted even better the next day.

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While we’re hanging out on Memory Lane, here is 20-something me outside the 391st Bomb Group. Cheers and enjoy your soup!