Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmigiano Reggiano

I know. I know. It’s the evil ORZO. Those that know me know this is the ingredient that strikes fear in my heart and soul.

As soon as it gets a slight bit colder, I’ll make the lamb and orzo dish that has me shaking in fear of ORZO. But for now, let’s just say, when I was a far less confident cook, I followed a recipe my Uncle gave which he mistakenly told me FOUR boxes of orzo. Yes, 4. In a single pot. Naturally, it boiled over … all over everything. Can you say Strega Nona?

But the good folks at Fine Cooking Magazine used two words far too enticing for me to pass up … BROWN BUTTER.

How could I possibly pass up a recipe with BROWN BUTTER, even if it means confronting my demons.

And this was well worth the cold sweats and shaking that went on while measuring the orzo. Nutty, with almost the consistency of risotto but without all the stirring. Great side dish for chicken or fish. Personally, because this is on the heavy and substantial side, the main should be something on the lighter side … but that’s just me!

Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 C lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 C orzo
  • 1/3 C dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Thinly sliced fresh chives (optional)

In a 1- to 2-quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

In a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 2 minutes.

Add the orzo and stir with a wooden spoon to coat well. Cook until the orzo just begins to turn a light golden color, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the simmering broth mixture, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the orzo is just tender, about 12 minutes; the mixture may still be wet but will set up.

Stir the orzo, season to taste with salt and a generous amount of pepper, and mix in the Parmigiano. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Add the chives (if using) and serve.

NOTE: Okay, so easy was that!? Nothing to be afraid of … they’re just little pellets of pasta …

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

From the time I was a child, Sunday night in my house has always traditionally been a pasta dinner. Truthfully, I get so tired of meatballs and sauce. I also wanted a pasta without meat to satisfy the vegetarians …

It’s also been a slow-ish summer for me cooking-wise. Haven’t reached for the books on the shelves recently – and, after all, isn’t that the whole point of this blog?

So, it had to be pasta, had to be good … running REALLY late (as always), so it had to be quick.

You don’t get quicker, or tastier, than Giada de Laurentiis’ Sundried Tomato Pesto from Everyday Italian. Not many ingredients, simple prep, and delicious. Must have been … every morsel was gone, always the sign of a successful dinner!

This pesto is also great as a spread … yum, bruschetta … just leave out the step at the end adding in the pasta water. Oh, and don’t make or add the pasta!

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.

Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

 

NOTE: And you’re DONE! In the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, dinner is ready. Add a loaf of bread and a salad and you’re off to the races!

Bacony Mac and Cheese

I love Mac and Cheese.

It doesn’t necessarily like me back – lactose intolerance is a terrible thing.

Every once in a while I just can’t help myself – I just gotta have it.

If I am going to suffer after eating Mac and Cheese, this is the mac and cheese it has to be!

My sister gave me this recipe many moons ago. I change it to suit my mood and what I have on hand. I’ll give you the original recipe and then the way I made it this time.

Really, as long as you keep the bacon in, it’s all good, right?

  • 3/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1 qt milk
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb shredded gruyere
  • 1/2 lb Velveeta
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 3 T olive oil

Now that’s the original recipe. This make A LOT of mac and cheese. I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to the ingredients.

  • 1/3 C bread crumbs
  •  1/2 lb pasta
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 C milk
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/2 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil

NOTE: I used medium shells. I switched to just cheddar because gruyere is SO expensive and my supermarket didn’t have it.

NOTE: The cooking instructions are the same regardless of which version you use.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook the pasta, drain, set aside.

NOTE: I cooked the pasta, drained it and then put it back in the pot I cooked it in. How many bowls and plates can one person mess up for a recipe!?

Generously butter a 1 quart baking dish. Add a third of the breadcrumbs and shake to coat the baking dish evenly.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add nutmeg. Whisk in milk all at once. Heat to a boil, lower to a simmer, and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.

Add sauce to pasta and mix thoroughly.

Spoon half the pasta mixture into baking dish. Add bacon and tomatoes in an even layer and top with remaining pasta mixture.

Combine remaining breadcrumbs with oil and sprinkle over pasta.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 45 minutes.

NOTE: Every time I make this I say I don’t like the tomatoes in it. Everyone else does, but I am not a fan. I wonder if I used grape tomatoes and roasted them first if it would be better?

Liebster Award & Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon and Sage

So here I am poking around my foodie friends’ blogs and what do I see? I was given a Liebster Blog Award by my fellow foodie friend Stella over at Lola & Finn’s Mum. Stella, I am truly touched and thank you from the bottom of my mixing bowl!

The rules are simple. Once you receive the award, you must follow five steps:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Link back to their blog.
3. Copy and paste the Liebster award to your profile
4. Pick 5 blogs that you feel deserve to be in the spotlight (they must have 200 followers or under)
5. Blog about it and leave a comment for your nominations to let them know that you have chosen their blog.

So for my nominations:

1.  Greg from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. Great photos and great recipes for food and drink.

2.  Nuts About Food. Lovely photos. Fabulous food. Wonderful stories about life and family and living in Italy.

3. JamieAnne over at A Dash of Domestic. Great cook-alongs and recipes. Love her family and all the tales about them woven into her postings.

4. Geni at Sweet and Crumby. Steal have made many of her recipes with great success. Love her photos and writing style.

5.  Mary at Barefeet in the Kitchen.  One of my family’s fav recipes is from here – untuffed peppers! Great photos and great food. WHat more does one need!

Ever flip through a cooking magazine and just fall in love with a recipe? This one made my heart flutter – pasta, bacon, cauliflower, BACON, quick, BACON, sage, bacon – oh, and I think there may have been bacon in there as well.

Everyday Food Magazine, you have done it again! This recipe is wonderful. May have even turned my cauliflower haters into cauliflower lovers. Well, truth be told, we live by a strict, I make it, you eat it or starve policy in my house. One CLAIMS to not like cauliflower, the other staunchly believes he doesn’t like cauliflower – they both INHALED this pasta!

  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 lb of a short pasta
  • 5 slices of bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced small
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
NOTE: I used mezzi rigatoni. The magazine suggested gemelli (my fav, but we were out!). And without having to say so, I used more than 5 slices of bacon. How many more is none of your beeswax! Also, as we all so often do, I went to the store without my list! No sage! I used dried and it was fine.
 
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water and drain pasta and return to pot.
 

NOTE:I cooked the whole pound of pasta.

IN a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. ABout 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the butter, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until onions are softened. About 10 minutes.

NOTE: Yes, my onions are a LITTLE dark. But not quite cinders. Watch the onions!

Add cauliflower, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender. About 12 minutes.

NOTE: You can substitute frozen cauliflower florets here. Just reduce the cooking time.

Stir in bacon and sage and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Stir in vinegar and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Quick, easy, bacony, delicious. Even the ‘we don’t like cauliflower’ boys loved it! I might roast the cauliflower next time and then add it to the rest … hmmm, just a thought!

Bird’s Eye Pasta with Grilled Chicken

A while back I was invited by the Tastemaker program at Foodbuzz and Bird’s Eye to taste test some new products coming out on the market from their Chef’s Special Steamfresh line.

The risottos were great. We weren’t to crazy about the green beans and potatoes. And the bag of creamed spinach sat in my freezer.

And sat in my freezer.

And sat in my freezer.

The truth of the matter is …

(be ready to gasp)

I really dislike creamed spinach. Really, REEEEAAALLLY dislike creamed spinach.

What’s a girl to do? Ask her mother, that’s what. My Mom came up with the perfect solution – throw it into some pasta. Pure genius – I hoped!

I started a large pot of water boiling, and cooked pasta. I cut up, seasoned and sautéed 2 boneless chicken breasts. Once cooked through and browned, I removed them from the pan. Added the creamed spinach until it was defrosted, added back in the chicken, a splash of cream, the cooked pasta, about 2/3 C of the pasta water to thicken it a little, and a handful of Parmigiano.

Absolutely fantastic!

(I may need to keep bags of this in my freezer now for a chicken dinner! Doesn’t really get easier than this!)

Pasta Sbagliata and GIVEAWAY

So, American Express and the Tastemakers at Foodbuzz picked me – yes, me! – to participate in their Dinner@6 promotion and contest. Well, they picked me and 19 others to participate in this promotion.

Not only did they pick me, but American Express gave me a little something for my readers too! But that part will be later on – just a little tease so you keep reading to find out about the giveaway! My very first!

All I have to do is come up with a wonderful recipe that has 6 ingredients or less. A breeze, right? Yeah, a breeze like Hurricane Irene. Does 6 ingredients include things like oil in the pan? Salt and pepper? Flour for dredging? Apparently, at least according to the rules of this contest, it doesn’t include salt, pepper, oil or water. Well, phewwwwww!

Do you know how difficult it is to come up with a dish with only 6 ingredients? Okay! I got it!! One-two-three-four-five-six-seven – RATS! I did this over and over again.

And then I remembered – Pasta Sbagliata!

Pasta Sbagliata – loosely translated means Mistaken Pasta – came from my Mom and tweaked by me. My mother is an amazing cook, always has been. She has always been adventurous in the kitchen. Everything is always delicious (well, except for the lamb pie incident, which I wouldn’t have mentioned, but I can see my mother AND my sister reading this and saying to themselves, yeah, except that damn lamb pie – but I digress) .

As a cook, she has one small fault – she doesn’t always read the recipe through to the end before starting to cook. Dinner will be going along nicely and suddenly you will hear cursing mild expletives coming from the kitchen. It’s usually some major step she missed about 3/4 of the way in. My Mother is the Queen of fix-it-and-it’s-fab cooking.

And that’s how we came to this recipe. This was supposed to be a Rao’s recipe for guidance and a recipe my Uncle Nicky had made in the restaurant one day. Pasta with Sausage and Cabbage. Well, my mother misread a step big step in the Rao’s recipe where the Savoy cabbage had to be cut into strips and blanched and then cooled completely before adding to the sauce. She had decided that instead of using Savoy cabbage, she would use a bag of cole slaw mix. After she added the cabbage straight into the pan, she read the part about blanching.  After a little conversation between she and I, we thought that the cabbage this way would actually be better. There would be a texture to the pasta sauce and make it better and a quicker meal to boot! And so, Pasta Sbagliato was born.

This is probably the most requested recipe in my house – that is, when I can get anyone to actually request something besides “I don’t know”.

(Keep going, the part about the giveaway is coming, I promise ~ but the recipe is good too!)

There are 2 ways to make this recipe. Neither is difficult. One is just … hmmm … semi-homemade!

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb of Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 lb shredded cabbage
  • 3 C marinara sauce, homemade or jarred
  • 1/4 loosely packed torn basil
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked al dente

NOTE:  (1) The sausage can be sweet or hot, or a combination. You have to remove it from the casings before cooking. If you can find Italian sausage in bulk rather than link, even better! (2) This really needs a short pasta like penne or rigatoni.  The sauce is too bulky for a spaghetti or linguine. (3) You can shred the cabbage yourself or buy a 1 lb bag of cole slaw mix from the salad section in your supermarket.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes.

NOTE: By the time the pasta is cooked, the sauce will be done.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic. Just as garlic begins to brown add sausage, crumbling it with the back of a spoon as it cooks.

NOTE: I use a pan large enough to hold the pasta as well when it’s finished cooking, this way I can add the cooked pasta into the sauce and serve straight from there.

When the sausage is almost cooked, lower the flame, and add the cabbage.

Cook cabbage, stirring frequently until the cabbage is soft and becoming translucent.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the marinara sauce. Once sauce is heated through, turn off heat, add basil and stir.

Once pasta is cooked, drain well and add to sauce.

Toss well.

NOTES TO MAKE THIS QUICKER:

  • You can use turkey sausage. This doesn’t make it quicker, but if you are limiting red meat, turkey is a good alternative. Don’t do it for the sodium. Turkey sausage has as much sodium as pork sausage.
  • Instead of home-made marinara sauce, you can use a good quality jarred marinara or tomato and basil sauce. A 24 oz. jar is the same as the 3 cups. I don’t suggest using sauces with mushrooms or other ingredients. There is a lot going on with this sauce already!
  • Instead of shredding a head of cabbage, grab a bag of cole slaw mix in the salad aisle of your supermarket. It’s already shredded. It’s the perfect amount. It has some shredded carrots in it, but they add a little sweetness and are good for your eyes. As you can see from the photos, I went the cole slaw route – the cabbage at the supermarket looked terrible!

Whether you’re using the short cuts or using everything from scratch you can have this meal on the table in the amount of time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta (if you’re using marinara sauce that is made already, of course – for my pedantic friends)! It’s great for company or just family.

So, now, back to the Giveaway!

One of the best parts about this promotion is that American Express gave me a $100 gift card toward the ingredients for this recipe. Not too shabby, hey?

Oh, wait, it gets better! As part of the Dinner@6 contest sponsored by Blue Cash PreferredSM, American Express has also provided me with $100 gift card to give out to one lucky Commenter!  To enter is simple! Sound off in the comments to win! What is your favorite six-ingredient recipe?

How’s that for fabulous!?

You can gain an additional entry by doing one of – or all – the following and leaving a separate comment below for each that you’ve done:

  1. Follow me on Twitter – @fromBookshelf – then post here and let me know you did
  2. Tweet the following – I just entered to win a $100 American Express gift card at From the Bookshelf. You can enter too! http://bit.ly/nQlkNf
  3. Like me on Facebook – From the Bookshelf – then post here and let me know you did
  4. Post a link to this post on your FB page – I entered to win a $100 American Express gift card at From the Bookshelf. You can too! http://bit.ly/nQlkNf
  5. Subscribe to From the Bookshelf by email – Just to the right of the title for this post and just under the Twitter birdie, click the link. (You will be sent a link from feedburner. Make sure you click on the confirmation link in their email) – then post here and let me know you did

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  Good luck! Entries will close on September 29th at midnight EST. Winner will be announced September 30th. One favor, please make sure to leave your email address so I can find you!

ALL COMMENTS NEED TO BE ON MY BLOG TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ENTRY!

Enjoy the recipe! Thanks for entering! Good luck!

Uncle Nicky’s Gnocchi

While flipping through Lucinda’s Rustic Italian Kitchen, I found her recipe for gnocchi.   I have been wanting to try my hand at making gnocchi for a very long time. Lucinda’s Gnocchi had a pesto sauce with it – and I only eat my great grandmother’s pesto.  Yes, I have some strange food issues, but if you ever try my great grandmother’s pesto, you wouldn’t eat any other pesto either!

While trying to decide what to do with the gnocchi once made, I thought of my Uncle Nicky and his special gnocchi dish.

My family owned a restaurant in New York City called Papoo’s for over 50 years. Some of my favorite memories of my grandparents and uncle – well, my whole family – swirl around in there. My husband and I had our wedding reception there. My sister’s bridal shower and rehearsal dinner. Countless birthdays, special occasions and parties. The very first time I had too much to drink was there – ah, the dastardly Solly Sombre. I still occasionally walk past the original location (lost to us after 9/11) and I swear I can see my Grandmother peeking through the window looking for customers, or my grandfather walking down the street, or my son standing outside selling Italian ices when he was 11. I remember Papoo’s before it was Papoo’s and was The Town Restaurant. Isn’t it funny how most of my fondest memories revolve around food. The loss can be bittersweet at times so I try not to walk past there very often.

Just as an aside, after 9/11 the restaurant moved, but it was never the same. Maybe Papoo’s was really my grandparents and that little tiny restaurant where there was a memory every place you looked. Then the economy slammed everyone – well, you know how that story goes.

Now that I am completely sad and blue, let’s get back to the reason for this post!

When my Uncle Nicky took over as the chef, he would, on occasion – rare occasions that involved a lot of begging and pouting – make this dish for me. I was convinced there had to be some horrible, long involved, painful process, otherwise why wouldn’t he make this wonderful dish for his darling niece whenever she wanted.

He would never tell me how to make it. Uncle Nicky always played it quite close to the vest about recipes and when he did give you a recipe you had to really think through what he said  – who here remembers my debacle with his lamb and ORZO?! Let’s just say it was just shy of Strega Nonna’s Pot!

Anywho – after deciding to make the gnocchi, Uncle Nicky’s Gnocchi (say that a few times fast) was the only thing I could think of – how hard could it really be?

  • 3 best-quality Idaho potatoes, washed and dried
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spear the potatoes lightly with a fork in a few places. Place directly on the oven rack and cook until completely tender, about 1 hour.

NOTE: Really? Three potatoes? Three baking potatoes? I must admit I was really leery.

When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes open, scoop out the flesh, and pass it through a potato ricer to achieve a very fine and light texture.

Spread the riced potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool completely (very important).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups of the flour and the salt. Slowly blend the flour mixture into the potatoes, using your hands to combine completely, until the dough pulls away from your hands and feels like pizza dough. Add flour if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

NOTE: I did this right on the baking sheet. I saw no point in dirtying another bowl or trying to transfer the little, light and fluffy wiggles into a bowl!

Once in a ball, sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface. Separate the dough into several pieces and roll out each into the size of a cigar. Cut each “cigar” into 1-inch pieces.

NOTE: I moved to a big wooden board now.

To form the gnocchi, dip a fork in flour, then place the tines on top of a piece of dough. Applying medium pressure, gently roll the gnocchi toward you with the fork, releasing pressure gradually as you roll, until it is completely rolled off the tines. Repeat with each piece of dough, placing the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet as completed. The pieces should resemble tiny footballs with a cup in the center.

NOTE: FORK MY ASS EYE! I have already ordered a gnocchi board for the next go around! Perhaps I am too clumsy for the fork method. Perhaps I just want a new toy. Perhaps my forks are not wide or long enough for it to work properly.

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When boiling, add a generous amount of salt. Drop about 8 gnocchi into the water at a time and cook until they return to float on the surface of the boiling water, 2 to 3 minutes.

Now, this is where Lucinda ends and Uncle Nicky steps in. (little secret, he used frozen gnocchi – you can too – just bring a pot of water to boil, add the gnocchi, once it floats take it out and let it cool)

In order to make my favorite dish you’ll need –

  • 2 shallots, chopped finely
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • s&p to taste

After you have boiled the gnocchi, let them cool for a bit.

NOTE: When I made tis dish, I let the gnocchi cool completely and put them in the fridge until the next day. I brought them to room temperature before I began. 

Add 3 tablespoons of the butter to a saute pan large enough to hold the gnocchi you are making in pretty much a single layer. Let the butter brown.

NOTE: It seems like a lot of butter, but this was for ALL the gnocchi I had made and no I didn’t count them. Change the amount of butter according to the amount of gnocchi. It goes from brown to black fairly quickly. Also, it browns much faster in an open skillet than in a pot when you’re baking.

Once browned, add the shallots and let cook until almost transparent. Once transparent add the other 2 tablespoons of butter.

Once melted, toss the gnocchi in the butter. And leave, stirring occasionally until the gnocchi is brown in places and become a little crisp. Add in the thyme and pepper to taste – salt if necessary.

Serve!

Now that this mystery has been solved I feel a little like Nate the Great unraveling one of life’s mysteries. I can have this wonderful gnocchi now whenever I want.

I think next time I am going to try sage instead of the thyme.

The gnocchi are soft and pillowy with just enough crunch to make them interesting. The browned butter is wonderful, nutty, adding a nice hint of flavor to the gnocchi. The thyme adds a wonderful layer of rustic something to the dish.

Enjoy!