Category Archives: Pasta and Pasta Sauces

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

When Adele first told me about her lovely dish I was very excited to get this on camera for you. Actually seeing this eggplant timbale being unmolded when you release the sping form pan its baked in is a whole other story! It really is one of the prettiest dishes I have ever seen not to mention it’s absolutely delicious. The pasta filling is exactly like my “Lazy Mans Lasagna” and then you have the outer wrapping of the fried eggpant slices that bring the flavors to another dimension. 

I love this dish beacuse it’s fairly easy to make if you can plan ahead. Now if you have not been frying eggplant your whole life as Adele and I have there certainly would be no shame whatsoever in going to your local Italian deli around the corner and buying already fried eggplant slices! While you are there you can pick up the meatballs too. Then all you will need to do is assemble this magnificent dish. Taking advantage of this convenience allows for last minute planning here which can be a godsend! Trust me you will have as much fun as Adele and I did putting it together. When you present this eggplant timbale at your next holiday dinner the ooh’s and aah’s alone will have you sold!

When you make this eggplant timbale for your next holiday dinner you’ll need some easy holiday appetizers like Baked Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto, Crostini w/Gorganzola, Tomato & Basil, and Goat Cheese, Fig Jam, Fresh Pear & Mint in Pre-Baked “Fillo” Cups! My Gourmet Caesar Salad is a must, and some Zucchini Torta would be a nice surprise for your guests also! This Chocolate Pecan Pie is to die for and don’t forget my chewy chocolate chip cookies for the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS for Eggplant Timbale:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 8 meatballs broken up into 3/4″ pieces
  • 9 prepared/cooked eggplant parmesan slices (w/o sauce)
  • NOTE: If you are making your own eggplant you can switch out the bread crumbs to flour-either way will be delish….she dips her eggplant slices in flour first, then egg and then she fries the eggplant same as in my eggplant parm recipe except she doesn’t use bread crumbs
  • 2 cups shredded part skim or whole milk mozzarella, plus 2/3 – 1 cup for topping (use the packaged mozz. here not fresh)
  • 2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 3 extra lg eggs whisked
  • 8 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce (4 cups to mix in with pasta, 2 cups to top timbale and 2 cups to serve on the side for extra)
  • (1)- 9″ spring form pan

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450º
  2. Cook 1 lb. rigatoni pasta until ADENTE, a little firm because you will continue to cook the pasta when you bake it in the oven
  3. Drain the aldente pasta BUT do not rinse!
  4. Add cooked pasta to a large bowl
  5. Add in whisked eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and mix to combine
  6. Now pour sauce in and mix gently to combine again
  7. Add in broken up meatballs and gently mix
  8. Spray spring form pan with Pam
  9. Lay prepared eggplant slices all around pan meeting in the center like a flower with edges folding back out of pan
  10. Add pasta mixture into the center of the eggplant drapped spring form pan
  11. Fold over the eggplant slices covering the pasta filling
  12. Add the last 9th piece of eggplant to cover the opening in the middle where the eggplant doesn’t reach
  13. Pour 2 cups sauce over the top of the eggplant timbale, sprinkle with parm & then 2/3 – 1 cup sliced mozzarella
  14. Put timbale into pre-heated 450º oven and bake 5 minutes
  15. Turn oven down to 400º and bake 20 minutes more until bubbly
  16. Take out and let sit 15 minutes…very important to do this
  17. After 15 minutes release spring-form pan from eggplant
  18. Carefully slice timbale and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a side gravy boat for extra sauce

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

You know this labor of love is so worth the effort when you taste how tender and flavorful these homemade tortellini are! The delicate, circular shaped pasta are stuffed with a purée of sundried tomato, mozzarella, and Reggiano Parmesan and served in one of my all time favorites, a tomato-cream sauce.  I introduced Steve to another easy and scrumptious sauce, Gorganzola Dolce-Cream Sauce that’s garnished with fresh thyme and a drizzle of truffle oil! 

This past weekend I was at The Gulla’s house with Steve and his son Maximo making their homemade tortellini. Steve dedicates a few hours every Christmas Eve making these little gourmet bites for his family’s Christmas dinner. Making these tortellini is definitely a labor of love because you are creating each little amazing folded bundle of pasta by hand.

Having a Smart pasta machine like Steve’s really cuts down on the labor of making tortellini as the pasta comes out of the machine in long ready-made sheets in mere minutes. It’s a very cool process putting out smooth sheets of pasta in 3 minutes flat but you can also learn to make Steve’s tortellini using homemade pasta too if you don’t own an Smart pasta machine. I have a homemade pasta recipe below for all of us without a pasta machine who don’t want to miss out on learning how to make these incredible tortellini.

As Italian legend goes on how the shape of the tortellini came about dates back to the days when Venus, the Goddess of Love, was traveling to a small town in Italy between Modena and Bologna. She was staying at a tavern where the Innkeeper was so taken by her beauty he peeked thru the key to her room one night and got a glimse of her navel. He rushed to the kitchen and created a pasta in the likeness of her belly button. And that’s how the shape of the tortellini came about, the belly button pasta! Who Knew?

While you are working hard forming these wonderful tortellini you may need a little sip of something to get you through like a Metaxa Mojito! And for easy nibbles you can pick on some Mango Salsa, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Goddess Dip II,  Best Guacamole Ever or some delicious Mediterranean Layered Dip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGRDIENTS for making PASTA in The Smart Pasta Machine:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 1 part semolina
  • 180 ml OR 3/4 cup of water for 2 lbs flour in pasta machine
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water whisked in a small bowl – set aside until ready to form tortellini

INGREDIENTS for Sun-dried Tomato FILLING:                                                                                         NOTE: THIS FILLING IS UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS!…try it on crostini OR on crusty bread!

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella – whole milk or part skim
  • 1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Purée these ingredients with an immersion blender or add to food processor and pulse. Start with 2 tbsp of olive oil and add a little extra if needed to purée til smooth texture

DIRECTIONS FOR FORMING THE TORTELLINI WITH SHEETS OF PASTA MADE FROM THE PASTA MACHINE:

  1. Begin to cut 2″ circles with your cookie cutter out of the machine made sheets of pasta
  2. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  3. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  4. Fold the circle in 1/2
  5. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  6. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  7. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  8. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  9. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  10. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  11. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  12. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

INGREDIENTS FOR TOMATO-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 1/4 cup POMI “strained tomaotes” – 1 med box – 26 oz.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté finely chopped garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil for 3 minutes, add in POMI strained tomatoes, salt & oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 2 cups of heavy cream to tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer for 15 miutes more. Serve with cooked tortellini, garnish with fresh thyme (and truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS FOR GORGANZOLA DOLCE-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Gorganzola Dolce cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • truffle oil

Add heavy cream, Gorganzola, and vermouth to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. When it comes to a simmer whisk the melted cheese into the cream and simmer 10 minutes. Serve with tortellini, garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS for Easy Homemade-Handmade Pasta- (Recipe from “Pasta at Vin’s“)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2  – 5 lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put the kneading attachment on your food processor and add the flour
  2. Add the salt and olive oil
  3. Turn on the food processor to slow
  4. Add in 1 tbsp of water
  5. Begin adding in 1 egg at a time with the processor still on slow
  6. Add in the rest of the eggs
  7. Keep the food processor going on medium speed to begin kneading the dough
  8. Let knead for about 8 minutes until the texture turns into a smooth consistency
  9. Remove the pasta dough and place onto the counter
  10. Knead briefly with your hands and let sit for 1/2 hr.
  11. NOTE: Vin does not cover his pasta dough while it sits for the 1/2 so it can begin to dry out  a little bit
  12. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter or work surface and cut pasta dough into 8 pieces
  13. Begin to roll out each piece of dough to your desired thickness, into long lasagna-like sheets
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and begin to cut out 2″ circles with your cookie cutter
  15. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  16. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  17. Fold the circle in 1/2
  18. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  19. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  20. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  21. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  22. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  23. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  24. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  25. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

 

 

Feta-Basil Pesto

Feta-Basil Pesto

No doubt about it once you try this feta-basil pesto you will be hook! The creamy, French sheep’s milk feta pushes this pesto into a whole new arena! Combined with the fresh, floral basil leaves, Italian Reggiano Parmeggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic are a creation that’s just born to go together! Done in mere minutes in a food processor there’s no excuse not to make this delectable sauce bursting with flavor every chance you get!

Making fresh feta-basil pesto can’t be any easier then the convenience of your food processor! There’s no need whatsoever lugging out the ole mortar and pestle making a huge project out of something that literally take’s 2 minutes to make. No cooking, no baking, no washing, NO FUSS, just load up the food processor and pulse. Voilà, you have a gourmet sauce that turns around any dish you add it to into gourmet.

One of the appetizer’s I like to make with feta-basil pesto are Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted tomatoes. Let’s not forget to try the feta-basil pesto on seared Scallops, Swordfish or even Sweet Potato Fries! And then there’s the obvious, top EASY PEASY pasta or Zucchini spaghetti with the feta-basil pesto and you feel like a king. Any way you look at it this feta-basil pesto is a no brainer, a win-win situation! So get on it! lol … xoxo

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 sheep’s milk feta cheese – from local cheese shop if you can! It’s the star of the show!
  • 2 packed cups – fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 packed Reggiano Parmasan – freshly grated if you can
  • 1 extra lg OR 2 medium garlic cloves put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few dashes of your fav hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Place 2 packed cups of basil, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic thru garlic press, a sprinkle of s & p in food processor and pulse 6x
  2. Scrape down sides and add in Reggiano Parmesan and sheep’s milk feta and pulse 4x more
  3. Scrape down sides and add in a few dashes of hot sauce
  4. Drizzle in thru top opening of food processor 3 more tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and pulse 3x more …voila you have feta-basil pesto! It’s as easy as that! 🙂
  5. Add this feta-basil to Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Tomatoes for an appetizer that’s sure to turn heads!
  6. OR EASY PEASY …Add the feta-basil pesto to some sautéed shrimp and pasta! YUM!

Best Braciole Ever!

Best Braciole Ever!

Making Braciole for dinner or the holidays is one of those authentic comfort foods that’s so delicious it could easily become a tradition for you and your family, even if you are not Italian. Some of you may be asking yourself what is braciole? Well, it’s thinly sliced flank steak that’s rolled up and stuffed with Reggiano Parmigiano, Asiago, and fresh herbs. The braciole is sautéed in olive oil and garlic cloves and then simmered in a tomato-basil sauce for a couple of hours until tender and juicy. And I tell you it’s even better when re-heated the next day!

The Italians aren’t the only ones who have come up with this fun and creative idea of rolling up and stuffing thinly sliced beef then simmering or braising in a gravy until tender. There’s a German dish that I absolutely love that’s just as flavorful as braciole called beef rouladen. German beef rouladen is made up of thinly sliced top or bottom round stuffed with mustard, onions, bacon and pickles, then sautéed and braised in the oven with veggies in a beef and wine gravy until tender. It’s serve with sautéed red cabbage and spaetzle or potatoes and ooh is that scrumptious too! That will have to be another show I will put together for you!

Now that I have you in the mood for some creativity in the kitchen …get to work! lol You will be very happy to expand that recipe repertoire of yours after making this wonderful Italian braciole for dinner. Make sure to serve up your sliced braciole with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top of the pasta to give it that unexpected extra flavor and creaminess. I will get working on the German beef rouladen show for you:)

If you are going for the Italian theme you might as well treat yourself to some of my appetizer’s like baked asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto, or crab cakes with a homemade remoulade sauce. Then you can really go for it with my SECRET manicotti recipe or homemade spaghetti that’s totally fun for the whole family and easy to make! Then end it all with some chocolate eclairs with the BEST vanilla custard you have ever had …enjoy! 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 2 lb flank steak sliced horizontally into 3 layers
  • 1 cup grated Reggiano Parmigiano
  • 1 cup grated Asiago
  • 1 tbsp dried ground Italian seasonings
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 recipe tomato-basil sauce but simmered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup red wine or white (I actually prefer to deglaze here with red)
  • 1 lb rigatoni

Directions:

  • Start sautéing the veggies for the tomato-basil sauce and use the same pan for sautéing the braciole logs
  • Slice or have your butcher slice the 2 lb piece of flank steak into 3 horizontal layers
  • Then cut those pieces in half so you now have 6 semi-equal pieces
  • Sprinkle 1 tbsp each of Reggiano and Asiago on each piece
  • Lay whole basil leaves or chop basil and parsley and sprinkle onto flank slices
  • Roll up starting at the small end
  • Cut approx 40″ of cotton string and tie a knot at one of the ends
  • Then keep wrapping string all around the length of the rolled up flank til you are at the other end
  • Now come back tucking under each row of string going across like shown in the video til you get to the end and tie off a knot with the original piece of string you started with
  • Add 2 tbsp of olive oil a large pan and a few large cloves of garlic kept whole for extra flavor and sauté 3 rolled up pieces of braciole at a time
  • Brown on all sides on medium/high heat about 3-4  minutes each side (remove the garlic coves when golden and smear on a baguette and dip into the tomato-basil sauce when you start to simmer with braciole…YUM!)
  • After browning the second batch of (3) braciole add back in the first 3 and de-glaze with red wine (I used white in the show but prefer to use red here)
  • Add in puréed tomatoes and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  • Take braciole rolls out and slice 3/8″-1/2″ thick
  • Serve with pasta (rigatoni) and a dollop of ricotta on top with a few slices of braciole and grated Reggiano…mangia, mangia.
  • PS- It’s even better re-heated the 2nd day! 🙂

 

Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

This world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is the ultimate pasta dish because there is no fussing, layering or baking. It has all the ingredients and flavors of a traditional lasagna but without all the work! It’s done all-in-one pot and takes two minutes to put together after the ground meat is browned. It’s made with a tomato-basil sauce, homemade or store bought for convenience, rigatoni pasta, ricotta, mozzarella and a sautéed ground meat of your choice. The hardest part here is browning the meat, then it’s easy peasy from there on in.

When I first had this lazy-man’s lasagna it was made with ground beef. That’s the beauty of this pasta dinner you can customize it by browning up what ever your favorite meat is. I’ve actually made it with ground turkey, beef, Italian sausage and even a meatloaf mix of meats. What ever you decide I promise you it’s going to be delicious! In the show I used my favorite sweet Italian fennel sausage from Liuzzi Cheeses in North Haven, CT. I took the the sausage out of the casing and then browned it.

Usually, I serve up this lazy-man’s lasagna immediately after I combine all those yummy ingredients. Although, you can easily pour it out into a baking dish and top with one cup of shredded mozzarella to bake immediately or cover with foil and into the frig until you are ready. Granted, I do love to put together a tray of layered lasagna for the holidays but for those in between days when you want those gourmet flavors but don’t want to go through all the work this world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is your dream come true.

You can check out my Live TV Cooking Segment on “CT STYLE”, WTNH – Channel 8 where I make Lazy-Man’s Lasagna in The Bender Kitchen with hosts Teresa Dufour and Ryan Kristafer!

If you are looking for something hardy and gourmet you should check out my Boeuf Bourguignon or Indian Spice Tomato-Cream with Snap Peas, Pulled Beef Taco’s with Mango Salsa, or for a lighter note you could check out my Swordfish with Black Bean Salsa or Asian Shrimp and Noodle Salad and for something sweet you just can’t beat Pavlova! Mangia Mangia…enjoy 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta, zit rigati or your fav pasta!
  • My 20 minute tomato-basil pasta sauce recipe or a favorite store bought brand
  • 2 lbs ground meat OR 3 cups after browned of: ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, meatloaf mix, or sweet fennel sausage (Liuzzi makes my favorite sweet and spicy Italian fennel sausage)
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta (really easy to make your OWN HOMEMADE – check it out!)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella – 2 cups to mix into the lazy-man’s lasagna plus additional 1 cup to sprinkle on top if you are going to put the pasta into a baking dish to bake later
  • grated Parmesan
  • fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Brown the ground meat in a sauce pan on medium high heat
  2. Drain the meat to remove excess oil in a small strainer over a bowl
  3. Put the meat back into the pan on medium high heat add 1/3 cup of red wine to de-glaze the sauce pan scrapping up the little brown bits stuck the bottom of the pan
  4. Keep the browned meat on warm
  5. Heat tomato-basil sauce through – you want it hot to melt the mozzarella
  6. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente …(Having a pinch of firmness to it so it’s not overly cooked)
  7. Drain the pasta and put it back into the same pan
  8. Immediately add 2 cups of hot tomato-basil sauce, 1 lb. of ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, 3 cups of browned meat and begin to stir
  9. Add another 1-1 1/2 cups of tomato-basil sauce
  10. Mix ingredients until combined and pour out into a serving platter
  11. Sprinkle with Parmesan and julienne fresh basil…mangia mangia 🙂

Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s

Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s

With this homemade gourmet lobster mac & cheese at David & Eileen’s you get the best of both worlds! Two of my very favorite things to eat all in the same dish! What more could you ask for? What, did someone say “smoked Gouda, please”? The Lobster goes with out saying and for those of you who appreciate that slightly salty, yet sweet and rich in every meaty bite know what I’m talking about. Then to add this succulent lobster to pasta that’s covered in a delicate, smokey, cheesy sauce put’s it right over the top!

When my dear friends David and Eileen suggested making lobster mac & cheese for my cooking show it was like bells went off. I thought it was a great idea. David had discussed the idea with our other foodie friend, Marco, who offered up his recipe to David. Marco and his wife, Sheryl, own an Inn near by called Lathrop Manor where Marco cooks up a five course gourmet breakfast if you’re a guest there.  Marco was also the chef in my “Salmon BLT Sliders at Marco’s Show” from this past summer. Needless to say, our group here loves to cook, eat and have fun. Even frequenting the Farm and Vine Dinner’s at The Ocean House together. 

Sharing family recipes, like Dave and Laurie did with their yummy “Caruso Salad” and the amazing lobster mac & cheese recipe between Marco and David is what brings friends together. Cooking, eating, laughing and enjoying each other’s company is the foundation of life in all cultures around the world . I am grateful to have such wonderful family and friends to do this with.

I hope you enjoy this homemade “Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s” show as much as we did making it! Have fun with this recipe. You may also want to check out my Caesar Salad for a side dish or some Arancini Reuben Balls, stuffed mushrooms ,or baked asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto for an appetizer. Although , we don’t have David’s incredible chocolate meringue pie recipe yet, you could check out a chocolate pecan pie recipe that’s to die for.

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Ingredients for Lobster Mac & Cheese at David and Eileen’s:

  • 2 Lobsters – meat from 2 – 1 1/2 lb. steamed lobsters
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 2 small onion finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lobster base – OPTIONAL it gives a wonderful flavor to the dish… we did forget to add it in the show and the lobster mac & cheese was still delicioso!
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups smoked Gouda
  • 1 1/2 cups Cabot cheddar or similar
  • 1 lb. cellentani pasta or elbow
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp garlic granules
  • 1/4 tsp onion granules
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p
  • 2 tbsp rm temp butter for coating the baking dish

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions for Lobster Mac & Cheese at David and Eileen’s:

  1. Per-Heat oven to 400º
  2. Coat the baking dish with 2 tbsp rm temp butter and set aside
  3. Cook Pasta til firm in salted water- al dente (2 minutes less than directions call for)
  4. Drain and rinse to cool pasta and set aside
  5. Melt butter in sauté pan
  6. Sauté the chopped onion til soft and translucent
  7. Add a s&p
  8. Warm milk in a pan on low heat
  9. Add flour to onions to make a roux
  10. Continue on stove stirring mixture for 1 minute to cook out raw flour flavor
  11. Gradually add warmed milk to roux while continuing to whisk so as not to get lumps
  12. Add in bay leaves
  13. Cook over medium heat while stirring until sauce thickens
  14. Taste here to see if you need more salt and pepper
  15. Add in lobster base
  16. Simmer for a few minutes
  17. Turn heat to low and add in smoked Gouda and cheddar while whisking
  18. Sauce should have consistency of heavy cream
  19. Mix pasta, sauce and lobster meat
  20. Transfer to an oven safe baking dish
  21. Add in heavy cream and 1/4 cup Parmesan and mix gently
  22. Make the breadcrumbs by combining breadcrumbs, Parmesan, onion and garlic granules, s&p and 2 tbsp olive oil
  23. Mix with you hands or a spoon and sprinkle evenly over the lobster mac & cheese
  24. Bake in a 400º oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly
  25. NOTE: The pasta will absorb a lot of liquid in the beginning when you first mix it, AND then when you bake it, AND as it sits, AND then as it cools, so it’s a good thing to have a little extra sauce in the beginning …it will keep absorbing -you don’t want a dry lobster mac and cheese sauce 🙂

 

 

Homemade Pasta at Vin’s

Homemade Pasta at Vin’s

Homemade pasta is something you have to try at least once in your life! You’ll see how satisfying it is when you taste the tender, slightly chewy texture of the fresh pasta. Making pasta has been a part of my life ever since I was young making homemade manicotti with my mother for the holidays. At my Aunt Pasqualina’s, the counters were always covered with fresh pasta drying out on dish towels.

This past weekend, my friends Lisa and Vin, graciously agreed to share their grandfather’s secret family pasta recipe with me. I had the opportunity to try out, first hand, a pasta tool that belonged to Vin’s grandfather which he called the “trucal iron”. It’s a special pasta cutting tool, a roller, made years ago from medal and wood that was eventually passed on down to Vin. The center spiral part of this “trucal Iron”, made of medal, does the cutting as you roll out the pasta. It has Wooden handles which he said his grandfather glued back on a couple of times. Vin also has a newer version of this “trucal iron”, one made of all wood but the wood spirals have begun to chip away from wear and tear. They don’t make some things like they used to. Vinnie also shared some precious memories of his grandfather and father making this homemade pasta for Sunday dinners growing up where his grandfather would creatively hang the pasta noodles from atop the kitchen cabinet doors to dry out.

There’s nothing like an evening with special friends making homemade pasta! This night of homemade pasta making at Lisa and Vin’s reminded me of how much I really love to do this. Everyone has their own way of making pasta and that’s part of what makes this experience so fun. Now as for this “trucal iron”, there are other pasta tools out there that mimic what Vin’s special pasta tool does like the ones below from Amazon. I have to say, I haven’t used any of those tools from Amazon because I use my KitchenAid pasta attachment which is another great option for cutting the kneaded pasta dough. You could even cut your thinly rolled out pasta into strips by hand with a sharp knife to get the stands of fettuccine, spaghetti, or what ever thickness you might like.

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Appetizers like baked coconut shrimp, baked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and, or a nice homemade Caesar Salad might be just what you are looking for to go with this homemade pasta of Vin’s! If you are looking for a meat sauce to go on this homemade pasta you should try my bolognese sauceOf course, there are other options like my Italian beef meatballsor Italian turkey meatballs. Hope you enjoy the show 😉

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2  – 5 lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put the kneading attachment on your food processor and add the flour
  2. Add the salt and olive oil
  3. Turn on the food processor to slow
  4. Add in 1 tbsp of water
  5. Begin adding in 1 egg at a time with the processor still on slow
  6. Add in the rest of the eggs
  7. Keep the food processor going on medium speed to begin kneading the dough
  8. Let knead for about 8 minutes until the texture turns into a smooth consistency
  9. Remove the pasta dough and place onto the counter
  10. Knead briefly with your hands and let sit for 1/2 hr.
  11. NOTE: Vin does not cover his pasta dough while it sits for the 1/2 so it can begin to dry out  a little bit
  12. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter or work surface and cut pasta dough into 8 pieces
  13. Begin to roll out each piece of dough to your desired thickness
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and use the roll cutter below or a sharp knife or a KitchenAid Pasta attachment to get desired pasta strips
  15. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  16. Depending on the thickness, cook pasta for 4-8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  17. Serve with sauce and mangia, mangia!


Zucchini Spaghetti at Jaynee’s

Zucchini Spaghetti at Jaynee’s

Wow! Zucchini spaghetti…who would have ever thought? A gluten free dish full of nutrients that taste’s amazing and looks as gorgeous as does is the perfect path to healthy eating! Bringing you this zucchini spaghetti simmering with tomato, basil and red wine at Jaynee’s has inspired me to put together future recipes and shows like this one.

Jaynee and I cook the zucchini spaghetti in this recipe so that it’s al dente. For those of you who might not know what Al dente means it’s an Italian term meaning to have some tooth or bite to it where the texture isn’t too soft. This is kind of ironic because that’s exactly how I like to cook my wheat pasta. I can’t think of anything worse than pasta that is fully cooked to a soft texture.

It is really exciting all the different things you can do with these creative veggie noodles! From Thai themes where raw zucchini noodles are dressed with a citrus dressing made from puréed mangoes, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and avocado’s to tahini sauce puréed with green onions, coconut meat, ginger and fresh lemons. Not only are these dressings packed with anti-oxidants and exotic flavors but the citrus partially cooks the zucchini getting results similar to ceviche. The citrus actually softens the texture of the vegetable giving you a softer mouth feel crunch rather than a harsh raw bite.

It couldn’t get any easier to make these spiral veggie noodles with the new-fangled devices available out there. I purchased my Spiralizer at William Sonoma Outlet in Westbrook on a 30% off sale with an additional 20% off if I gave them my email. Can’t go wrong there. Here is the Spiralizer Amazon link offering a great deal too! Can’t wait for you to venture off into veggie noodle land. You will be amazed how fun and delicious it is to make this recipe. Hope you enjoy the show and keep a look out for future veggie noodle recipes 🙂

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Ingredients: Need “Spiralizer” or similar to make zucchini spaghetti

  • 4 med/lg zucchini
  • 1 small vadalia (sweet) onion chopped
  • OPTIONAL: 2 finely chopped garlic cloves – If you love garlic as I do
  • 1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes flavored with onion, garlic, celery and or green peppers OR your favorite can of peeled tomatoes in your cabinet (just need to add in 1/4 cup chopped peppers in addition to the onion/garlic above – chop up the whole peeled tomatoes as well to add in after you sauté veggies)
  • NOTE: If you use “whole peeled” tomatoes DO NOT use the juice too, tomatoes only, because the zucchini renders out a lot of water all on its own.
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 tbsn olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • S & P to taste
  • OPTIONAL: 1 small container of fresh ricotta to garnish at the end with the Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Spiralize all 4 zucchini and place in a lg bowl
  2. Add chopped onion to 3 tbsp olive oil in a large fry pan on medium heat
  3. Sauté for 5 minutes til soft
  4. Add in Spiralized zucchini with 1/2 tsp salt and sauté 5 minutes on med/high heat- Make sure to stir a couple of times to help it from not sticking.  Sautéing on med/high will help to evaporate some of that liquid rendering out of the zucchini while sautéing– (If you saute on low it will just simmer in all the water, you will then have to drain a little of the water out of the pan)
  5. Add in tomatoes, red wine, s & p to taste and simmer 5 more minutes
  6. Plate up and top with your favorite grated Parmesan cheese
  7. OPTIONAL: Top with dollops of fresh ricotta and grated Parmesan

Homemade Pasta Fagioli

Homemade Pasta Fagioli

This homemade pasta fagioli dish is a traditional Italian soup where the recipe differs from family to family and region to region. Every single version is different which makes it nice because it’s very personal that way. It’s what ever you were used to having in your own home or at your relatives growing up. Originally, pasta fagioli was made without meat, then there were versions that started the dish off by sauteing pancetta and now there are so many different recipes floating around. It’s what ever floats your boat really! It’s supposed to be easy gourmet…what ever you have in the pantry and refrigerator will work.

Pasta fagioli is a savory comfort food that I just love. It consist of several universal ingredients like ditalini pasta,  cannellini beans, some kind of tomato base and a liquid of either chicken, or vegetable and I have even seen water used. It’s been considered a soup which is perfect for dunking that crusty bread but there are versions that make it more like a thick saucy “pasta” dish. The liquids do evaporate quickly after the pasta is added to the pot and cooked through so you have to be careful at this point to keep an eye on that if you want it to have a looser soup-like consistency.

The pronunciation of the word has evolved to “pasta fazool”. Then again, there are many variations of that as well 🙂 So enjoy this Italian soup…I know you will love it. If you need an appetizer to go with this gourmet homemade pasta fagioli you may want to check out my sea scallops wrapped in bacon, scallop cerviche, or even a refreshing fennel and citrus salad with tangerine dressingAnd how about some Pavlova with fresh pineapple and berries for dessert!

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INGREDIENTS For Pasta Fagioli (makes enough for many…15-20 side dishes):

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup ditalini pasta ( 1/2 if you want it looser soup-like consistencey …remember it just keeps getting thicker even after you take it off the stove as the liquid evaporates)
  • 1 qt. (4 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine-pinot grigio or what ever you are drinking -(1/2 to deglaze pancetta and veggies and 1/2 when you add stock
  • 1/3 cup each diced carrots, celery and onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 cups whole peeled tomatoes with some juice, broken up with your hands – NOTE: USE 3 cups if you are not using a cup of “leftover pork & sauce”
  • 1 cup pork in tomato sauce OR 1 lb. sausage taken out of the casing ready to sauté OR omit all together
  • 2 1/4″ sliced of pancetta diced up
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 2 of fresh thyme tied in up with string
  • Fresh basil -julienne to add at the end
  • grated Reggiano Parmigiano and some to shave for decoration
  • good olive oil to drizzle at the end
  • 1/2 tsp salt -add 1/4 tsp at the addition of sauteing veggies and 1/4 tsp when you add beans and broth
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes if you like a pinch of HEAT

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add diced pancetta to a large pan and begin to sauté for 8 minutes on med heat
  2. Add in broken up sausage to brown with the pancetta If you do not have “pork in sauce”
  3. On med/low heat add diced carrots, onion, celery and garlic with 1/4 tsp salt (along with 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes if you want a little heat) to the same pot with 1 tbsp olive oil extra – sauté til veggies are tender 10 minutes
  4. De-glaze with 1/2 cup white wine and simmer 5 minutes
  5. Add in beans, pork-sauce, whole peeled tomatoes, herb bouquet, chicken stock, 1/4 salt, 1/4 pepper and simmer for 30 minutes
  6. Remove herb bouquet from soup
  7. Take 4-5 ladles of beans out of the soup to puree for a little creamier then adding back in
  8. Simmer 5 minutes and add in 1/2 cup ditalini pasta
  9. Cook til pasta is cooked – approx 7 minutes
  10. Plate up and drizzle olive oil, sprinkle parmigiano cheese and fresh basil and mangia mangia!

 

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

Yes, I am giving up the good’s on this one and I know you will appreciate it because this is one of my very favorite secret recipes that has been in our family for generations! My mother Maria taught me how to make these homemade gourmet manicotti when I was young and now I am thrilled to pass this very special dish on to you.

These are the BEST homemade manicotti I have EVER tasted and I know you will love them too. They are a poured pasta, a crêpe so to speak and are light and fluffy.  I’m partial to Liuzzi’s homemade whole milk ricotta, and I user a mix of mozzarella’s from Scamorza, which is a slightly salted/dryer mozzarella to whole milk and skim milk mozzarella. I start off with either my tomato-basil pasta sauce or my pasta sauce 101 for the homemade manicotti. These are an especially festive and a special dish to make for the holidays.

This manicotti batter is poured like a crêpe. It’s light and airy like a crepe but definitely different in texture. The texture of the crêpe is a pasta texture, creamy and soft. These manicotti shells (crêpes) are truly gourmet and you’ll will appreciate how delicate a dish this really is when you make them for your own family and friends. My turkey meatballs would go great with this holiday dish also.  A spread of spiral ham or roasted lamb with gourmet manicotti and turkey meatballs …who’s better than you?!

It’s nice to serve a refreshing salad with pasta like my Caesar Salad then maybe an appetizer like crab cakes and sides like Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Feta or Yogurt Chicken Kabobs. A light pavlova dessert with fresh pineapple and berries would make the perfect end for this manicotti dinner.

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Ingredients:

    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 Tsp salt
    • 4 extra large eggs
    • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 3 lbs. Liuzzi whole milk or “fina style” (a finer ricotta), or your favorite
    • 5 0z. shredded whole milk, 5 oz. park skim and 5 oz. Scamorza mozzarella mixed together
    • (you can also do 8 oz. whole milk and 8 oz. part skim shedded and mixed)
    • 5″ cast iron pan or 5″ non-stick pan
    • Baking pan approx. 11″ x 16″

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl whisk 1 cup flour, 1/4 Tsp salt with 1 cup water (approx. 20 whisks)
  2. Add in 1 egg at a time and whisk about 5 whisks per egg
  3. Put cast iron pan on stove on medium/high heat (a 7 out of an 11)
  4. Put a couple of Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl with a paper towel
  5. Rub pan with olive oil-saturated paper towel in between cooking poured pasta batter
  6. Pour in a ladle of batter into hot pan, approx. a little less than 1/4 cup laddle
  7. Pick up pan and swirl around 3 times and place back down onto stove
  8. Wait about 25 seconds and flip pasta crepe over, you can use a flexible pastry knife to help you get under it…it will be easy to flip and will not ever be stuck
  9. You never want the pasta crepe to be golden on the edges-that would be over cooking them…they should look like the photo above light in color
  10. Immediately flip over onto floured board and flip a couple of times to cool a little
  11. Repeat dredging saturated paper towel into pan to coat and then pour another 1/4 cup ladle of batter into pan.
  12. Repeat this over and over until you run out of batter…this amount will make 16 manicotti
  13. When you are done lay out a work board to roll manicotti’s on
  14. Put ricotta in a bowl so it’s easy to work with
  15. Pour about 2 cup of tomato sauce into the baking pan
  16. Lay out manicotti crepe and scoop 1/4 cup ricotta going across the center of the circle as shown in the photo
  17. Lay a piece of mozzarella in the center and roll up manicotti
  18. Place rolled manicotti on top of sauce in pan and continue on until all the pasta crepes are done
  19. Pour another 2-2 1/2 cups of sauce on top of roll manicotti’s, sprinkle with parmesan and cover with foil
  20. Place in frig until you are ready to bake
  21. Or cover with saran and then foil and put into the freezer until your event is near and then pull out two nights before and put into the frig to thaw
  22. When you are ready to bake your manicotti put into a 350º oven and bake for 45 minutes
  23. The manicotti will be bubbly when you take it out of the oven and need to rest for 5 minutes before serving