Spring Greens and Cream Cheese Penne

Greens and Cream Cheese PenneThis beautiful white and green pasta dish will hit the spot for Shavout lunch! The bright green of the spring vegetables and herbs, mixed with the creamy cheese will comfort those who have been up all night learning. This dish will serve 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds penne rigate (or other short cut pasta)
2 tablespoons butter
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 bunches green onions, cut into 1” lengths*
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2” lengths*
2 cups frozen green peas
500g cream cheese (equal to two tubs or bars)
2 shallots, diced*
4 tablespoons chives, chopped*
2 tablespoons lemon zest**
Salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean these vegetables and herbs.
** Click here for tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, when it is done, drain the pasta, but keep about 3 cups of the cooking water (the starchy water will help the sauce cling to the pasta).

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and cook the garlic with the green onions, shallots and asparagus for 5 minutes. Add the chives and peas and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour 3 cups of pasta cooking water into the saucepan and add the cream cheese. Keep over a low heat to let the cheese melt and stir until smooth. Add the drained pasta to the pan, along with the lemon zest, and mix together to combine. Serve hot.

Advertisements

Who Can Forget Pasta?

Home Made PataSo in my search for different gluten-free foods and recipes, I tried to think of what would be most in demand. No one wants a recipe for gluten-free steak or mashed potatoes, because by their very nature, they are gluten-free. I consider those recipes to be almost cheating! But what about things like, breads, cookies, pancakes and cakes? What about… pasta! Now there is something that isn’t a “cheat” recipe that I know gluten-free eaters would definitely want. Today’s recipe is for a fresh egg-noodle pasta. The only real trick I find between the gluten-free and regular versions of homemade pasta, is that because the pasta is missing the gluten in one, it’s not as flexible and “bend-y”. This can cause the pasta to crumble or break apart. I suggest working with it the same way that you would with fyllo dough. When you are not actively using the dough or noodles, cover them with a damp tea towel. I would also suggest not getting too fancy with the types of shapes that you make with your pasta, at least not until you’ve made the dough a few times. You don’t need to try and make agnolotti (curved, stuffed pockets of pasta with a crimped edge), the first time… stick with linguine or fettuccine.

I also find that for the best homemade pasta, at some point, you need to work it by hand, if not from the very beginning. Today’s recipe starts in the food processor and then moves out onto a floured counter top. If you want to go old school though, here’s how:

  1. In a bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients so they are fully incorporated.
  2. On a clean counter top, empty the bowl, and form a “volcano” shaped mountain i.e.: a mountain pile with high sides and a hole in the middle.
  3. One at a time, add the eggs into the centre hole that you made, mixing in each egg before adding the next.
  4. To mix, move your fingers around the hole you made, gradually making larger circles and bringing in a little more of the flour at a time.
  5. Then add the oil the same way. Add the water a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need all of it, or you may need a little more.
  6. Need the dough together for a few minutes to allow everything to bind, then wrap in plastic wrap and place in a cool place (or fridge) for at least a half an hour.

That’s the old way, without using a food processor or pasta maker to bring together a dough. If you think you’re going to make pasta often, you may want to invest in a pasta maker to roll out the dough once it has been made, as this will make your life significantly easier than rolling the dough out by hand!

All this talk about pasta however is making me think of sauces… so next week? That’s right, it’s sauce week people! I’ll show you the five “mother” sauces and some variations on each. Until then, enjoy the pasta recipe and have a great weekend.

 

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Now while I don’t know any Jewish wedding that this amount of soup would fit the bill for, you can feed about 8-10 people with it as a nice starter. Think of it as an Italian chicken soup, but with meatballs instead of matzo balls! Not that the edition of matzo balls would be a bad idea… hmm…

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

1 pound lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
⅓ teaspoon salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Soup:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
⅓ cup coarsely chopped onion
⅓ cup coarsely chopped carrot
⅓ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 ½ quarts chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
salt to taste
1 cup seashell pasta (or other small-shaped noodle)
2 cups spinach – packed, rinsed* and thinly sliced

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, eggs, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, but do not over mix. Shape the meat into ¾ inch balls, and set aside. In a large stockpot, on medium-high heat, add the oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until the onion becomes slightly translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, and let cook a few minutes more until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the broth, bay leaf and peppercorns and any salt that is desired, bringing the broth to a boil. You may wish to put the bay leaf and peppercorns in a little cheesecloth bundle, to make for easy removal later, but you can skip this step, and simply fish them out later. Once boiling, slowly drop in the meatballs and pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, at a slow boil for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the meatballs are no longer pink inside. At the last minute add the spinach and wilt it into the soup. Serve hot with crusty bread and enjoy!

* click here to check out how to clean spinach properly.

Best Minestrone Soup

Minestrone

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, diced
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced in ¼” rounds
6 cups vegetable broth
1 796ml can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 769ml can crushed tomatoes
1 540ml canned kidney beans, drained
1 540ml can green beans, drained
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed and checked*
2 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
2 yellow squash, quartered and sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoons dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup pasta, seashell or ditalini, or your favourite shape
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth, diced and crushed tomatoes and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, squash, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better. If the soup is too thick, or you would like more broth, you can add additional vegetable broth or water.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and add a heaping teaspoon of salt. You can omit the salt if you’re watching your sodium, but this is really your only chance to flavour the pasta itself. You could also add a teaspoon of bouillon to the water instead of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

* To learn how to check spinach, click here.

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore

An easy way to up the nutrition on this dish is to use high fibre or whole wheat pasta instead of regular. If you don’t have fresh basil, you can used dried instead. The rule of thumb when converting is to use ⅓ of the amount dried that you would fresh. So this recipe calls for ½ a cup of fresh, so you would use 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of dried. This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

12 chicken thighs, skin and fat removed
Olive oil spray or enough oil to coat a pan
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 (796ml) cans crushed tomatoes
½ cup chicken broth, more if needed*
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups cooked (12 oz. uncooked) pasta

Directions:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan over a medium-high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on each side for about 3-4 minutes. Add all other ingredients to the slow cooker, except the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms in the last hour, mushrooms can be omitted if you are not around to toss them in. Cook on low for 6 hours. In the last hour add the mushrooms. Serve over pasta. If you are preparing this ahead of time, complete the steps above, however after browning the chicken, allow to cool and then add all of the ingredients, minus the mushrooms and pasta into a gallon sized freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and store in your freezer. On the day you wish to make your Cacciatore, allow it to cook on low for 8 hours. Again, add the mushrooms in at the last hour and then serve over pasta. *Depending on your crock pot you may need to add more liquid.