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Torta de Pasta

One of my favorite dishes from Everyday Italian is Torta de Pasta. It’s quick and easy. It can change with your moods. You can use pasta just cooked or leftovers from last night’s dinner. I am not sure about your house, but we never have leftover pasta here!

This is adapted from Giada’s original recipe, though I added her original recipe here in case you’d like to try it. Mine, on the other hand, never comes out the same way twice. It always depends on what’s in the fridge!

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Toss with the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside to cool completely otherwise the hot pasta could curdle the eggs when you add them later on.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper, Parmesan, and fontina to blend. Add the cooled spaghetti mixture; toss to coat.

Preheat the broiler. Melt the butter and oil in a 9 1/2-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium heat. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet, pressing to form an even layer. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the broiler. Broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Cool in the skillet to room temperature.

Invert the torta onto a platter. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

That was Giada’s. This was mine:

I used a pound of Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti.  I like a thick torta.

While the pasta cooks, saute diced pancetta in a cast iron pan. I use this same pan to cook the torta in. I always keep 4 oz packets of Citterio diced pancetta in the freezer. Always good for a quick meal. Remove pancetta from pan and drain on paper towels. 

The pasta was cooked until al dente. Once cooked I put the pasta into a large bowl.  Add the pancetta. Add frozen peas. You want the torta to be studded with the peas. Add as many or few as you like.

Lightly beat 4 eggs and stir in about 1 cup of Parmigiano. Add salt and pepper. Add this to the pasta.  Mix well.

Melt 1 T of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron skillet. Add the pasta mixture and press down into one even layer. I put another skillet on top and put a large can of tomatoes on top to weigh it down.  Cook for about 8 minutes.

Slide a spatula under and lift up the torta a little. If the bottom is golden brown, gently flip the torta over. I put the skillet in a 350 oven for 15 to 20 minutes to makes sure it is cooked through.

Cut into wedges and serve with a green salad.

This doesn’t last long in my house. When it does, it’s good at room temperature for lunch the next day.

I do find myself waking up during the night and cutting a little wedge for myself … very Nigella…

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Brrrracccckkkkkkk brrrrracccckkkkk brack cluck cluck…… oops, wait … cough, sputter, ahem… start again …

So we need to find new chicken dishes to try and I came across this Giada recipe in Everyday Italian. I love anything I can start in the morning and forget about until I’m ready to stick it in the oven. Even better when you get to stick it in the oven and ignore it until it’s done. Simple, easy, and good. What more can you ask for?

Still, I need to find a great Mediterranean Diet cookbook to get me started! Any suggestions would be welcome!

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. dijon mustard
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • parsley
  • lemon zest

NOTE: I used all thighs.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

NOTE: Always put the plastic bag in a bowl before you leave it in the fridge. I have had a bag leak – it isn’t pretty!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large baking dish.Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter.

NOTE: I lined the roasting pan with Reynold’s non-stick foil.

Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Turkey Meatballs

First mistake – taking Tom to the supermarket with me. Now, he picks up every box and bag, reads the label, makes a ‘pfffft’ sound and puts it back.

I take something from the shelf, he says, ‘I can’t eat that!’  FGS, the doctor did not say NO SALT the doctor said lower and moderate your salt intake. His salt intake had to have been cut by more than half just by stopping the tortilla chip and salsa binging! I now make fresh salsa and bake tortilla chips for him.

So we walk across the meat department and I am quickly trying to think about what to make for dinner every night this week. Red meat once a week is fine, but he’s trying to avoid it at all costs. Seriously, how much chicken and turkey can eat before you start to cluck?

I made the mistake of asking what he’s like for dinner. “Pasta and meatballs.’ Okay, I can do that. As I reach for the meatball mix my grocer makes, he says, ‘Oh, no, do you have to use red meat?’ Sigh.

So Turkey Meatballs, here we come. I have had them before and they were terrible. Dry. Flavorless. Yucky.  I turned to Giada for help and guidance. If any one could come up with a great turkey meatball she would be the one to do just that.

I looked at three different turkey meatball recipes of Giada’s and tweaked it a bit and came up with this. This recipe is mostly from the Mini Turkey Meatballs recipe found on Food Network.

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground dark turkey meat 

NOTE: I bought a turkey mix of light and dark, 85/15%. All light would be way too dry. KETCHUP? Really? It wasn’t alot, so how bad could it be?

Preheat oven to 350.

Add the turkey, onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend.

Shape the turkey mixture into meatballs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place meatballs on baking sheet. I baked them for about 30 minutes, turning them once.

While the meatballs were cooking a made a quick marinara sauce for them. A clove of minced garlic, a little olive oil, allspice (thanks, mom) and toasting the dried herbs first (only good thing Nonna ever taught me), crushed tomatoes. Simmer while the meatballs are baking.

Once the meatballs were done, I let them sit for a moment or two before their plunge into the sauce.

After the meatballs went into the sauce, and pasta was cooked, I poured the Penne into the sauce and tossed it together. A sprinkle of parsley and a little Parmigiano Reggiano and we were ready to go!

NOTE: Barilla makes a great pasta called Barilla Pasta Plus. Same great Barilla taste, just multi-grain and high in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Parisian Steak and Cheese Croissant Sandwiches

Okay, so this is another better late than never recipe! Thank goodness the folks over at IHCC like me enough to not be bothered by my lateness. Right now we’re cooking and baking through Giada de Laurentiis‘ books and recipes.  

The challenge – Out of Italy. A Giada recipe that is not Italian. There were plenty to choose from. Surprised? I was. I chose a recipe for Parisian Steak and Cheese Croissant Sandwiches.

  • 4 (4-ounce) beef steaks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 croissants
  • 6 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch slices, at room temperature
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) jarred roasted red bell peppers, thinly sliced

NOTE: Okay. I cheated. I made only one. I made a filet roast over the weekend and put aside a steak sized slice to make this for myself for lunch during the week.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the steaks for about 5 minutes each side for medium-rare. Set aside for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice the steak, across the grain, into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Using a serrated knife, slice the croissants in half lengthwise. In 2 batches, place the croissant halves, cut side down in the skillet and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until lightly toasted. Lay the Brie slices over the toasted croissant halves.

Place about 1/4 cup of the arugula on the bottom halves of the croissants. Add the sliced steak. Arrange the sliced roasted pepper on top of the steak. Top with the remaining arugula and add the top of the croissant. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Very tasty. Very easy. Definitely a do-again recipe!

Roman Style Chicken

It is Giada time over at the IHCC and this week’s theme was “Served Family Style”. One of the things Giada does best is family style meals. And while, it may seem that my family is about to cluck from the amount of chicken we’ve been eating lately, I didn’t want to do a pasta dish. My absolute favorite Giada family style dish is Short Ribs Tagliatelle, but I didn’t want to do that again! So off I went to find a different family style dish and came across this one.

Feeds a lot of people, has an amazing sauce, easy on the pocket ingredients, and cooks in one pot and quickly!

  • 4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

NOTE: I didn’t have prosciutto in the house, but did have diced pancetta in the freezer. I made this sub, and with nearly the same flavor profile, and the small quantity in the dish, I don’t think it made a difference.

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

NOTE: This was VERY saucy. It may have been the can of whole tomatoes that I diced (grabbed the wrong can at the market) or this is just a saucy dish.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

NOTE: Not a caper fan, so I skipped that totally. We served this and devoured it immediately. I had planned on roasted potatoes, but once the scent hit me from the sauce, I knew it had to be polenta. I made a polenta to go with, a salad and a baguette and the family feast was on!

Toasted Cecchi, Almonds, and Pistachios

Love nuts! And in our house we are total suckers for spiced nuts. So what better way to kick off the I Heart Cooking Club’s 6 Giada celebration than these delicious nuts.

I like that there are cecchi (garbanzo beans) in here. I like them toasted on there own with a little cooking spray and whatever herbs I have on hand. Great for a snack when you’re dieting and still want a crunch.

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo (cecchi) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

NOTE: Let the cecchi drain really well. They should be nearly dry when you begin.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the garbanzo beans on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread the beans in a single layer. Place in the oven and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Remove the garbanzo beans from the oven. Add the remaining ingredients to the garbanzo beans and carefully stir to coat all the beans and nuts. Spread the mixture out to a single layer.

Bake for 10 more minutes. Let cool slightly and place in serving bowls.

NOTE: These are addictively good. Nice kick from the cayenne. Great crunch. And I cannot help but gild the lily, I added dried cranberries to this once cooled. It adds a little sweetness that cuts the heat a little.