Ma’s Pizza Macaroni

Pizza Pasta-1This is a really pretty simple, yet delicious pasta dish. We always called it “Pizza Macaroni” because that’s what our mother and grandmother called it, and they called it that because the spices used in its creation are the spices we use in pizza. There is no better pasta for this than Rigatoni, although Ziti is a good alternative if need be.

The recipe here calls for 2 pounds of pasta. This is a great dish for a crowd. It’s easy to adjust the quantities to meet your needs. And besides, it’s even better heated over.

The first thing will be to mix the seasonings together. The rest, as they say, is a breeze.

Ingredients

For Seasoning

4 tbsp granulated garlic

2 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp granulated onion powder

2 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp dried rosemary

4 tsp fennel seed (roughly crushed with mortar and pestle)

2 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp Sicilian sea salt

1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper

For the Pasta

2 lbs Rigatoni

2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I use the garlic, olive oil seasoned)

12 RIPE plum tomatoes, sliced

Olive oil

4 cups three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan, Asiago)

Reggiano Parmesan (for serving)

Crushed red pepper (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350º.

While you’re mixing your spices bring a large pan of water to boil. Just before you add the pasta, salt the water. Don’t be shy about this. (If you add the salt at the beginning, it will take longer to boil.) Add your pasta to the boiling water. Return to the boil, and allow it to cook for about 9 minutes. The pasta should be al dente. Drain.

Pour both cans of diced tomatoes into the bottom of a large pan. Add half of the pasta to the pan (do not mix with the tomatoes on the bottom). Then add a layer of sliced tomatoes, the spice (to you taste; I’m heavy on the spice),  and a liberal dose of the three cheese blend. Sprinkle this layer with olive oil.

Add the second layer of pasta and repeat this process.

Don’t be shy with any of the ingredients, and definitely do not be shy with the olive oil.

Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake, UNCOVERED, for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with freshly ground Reggiano Parmesan and crushed red pepper.

Notes: Do not worry if some of the pieces are a bit crispy. This is part of the plan. These are actually delicious.

 

 

 

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Not Your Average Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1There are about a million recipes (might be a slight exaggeration, frankly) for this dish online and, in my younger years, I’m sure that I used one of them. Since then, I’ve played with it and have changed it.

I added pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, but if you prefer meatless, then it’s fine to leave it out. It will not ruin the dish. This is normally a side dish, but I’ve actually served it as a main course over rice.

It can be served sprinkled with Reggiano Parmesan. It can also be served with a couple of dollops of Mascarpone cheese. The sweetness of the cheese goes nicely with the spicy complex of the dish. Give it a try.

Ingredients

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz chopped pancetta

1/4 cup minced garlic

1 medium Vidalia onion, rough chopped

1 medium zucchini, rough chopped

1 medium yellow (summer) squash, rough chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into cubes*

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz can)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Reggiano parmesan or Mascarpone Cheese for serving

Directions

Heat up the evoo in a deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat until the pancetta crisps, moving it around the pan so that it cooks evenly. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the minced garlic to the oil, and cook until slightly brown and the oil is infused. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add the onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and oregano and mix well. Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes and eggplant. Simmer uncovered for abut 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is a bit reduced. Add the pancetta, stir, and simmer for about another minute or two. Do a spice check here. Give it a taste. The pancetta is salty, so you may not need salt. The choice is yours. Add pepper, however, for sure.

Remove from the heat and serve with either the parmesan or Mascarpone.

*I “trim” my eggplant, which means cutting off the edges. I never peel my eggplant. But the choice is yours. It works either way.

 

 

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White Clam Sauce

Linguine with White Clam SauceThere’s nothing like a good white clam sauce to go with your linguine (or any other kind of pasta you might choose. My favorite food store actually carries shucked fresh clams, so I generally buy  a tub of these for this recipe. However, if yours doesn’t, you can buy baby clams in a can. They work just fine. However, that’s not quite enough for me. I also buy a couple of cans of chopped clams as well. The more the merrier.

This recipe is for 1 lb. of pasta. It calls for a cup of clam juice or chicken stock. The clam juice will make the sauce stronger, while the chicken stock will make it a bit more mellow and buttery flavored. The choice is yours, or you can even use half and half if you’d like.

Ingredients

1 can (or tub) of whole baby clams

2 cans of chopped clams

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1.5 tsp. dried thyme

1 cup clam juice (or chicken stock)

1 cup dry white wine

1 lemon, zested

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Coarse ground black pepper and coarse salt

Italian bread (for mopping up extra sauce; optional)

Shaved Parmesan cheese (for serving)

1 lb. pasta, slightly undercooked

Directions

In a large, deep skillet add the olive oil and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the oil becomes fragrant and the garlic begins to brown. Add the thyme and white wine. Cook for a few minutes until the concoction is slightly reduced. Add the clam juice or chicken stock (or a combination of the two). Allow it to simmer for a minute.

Stir in your clams and your lemon zest. Drain your pasta and add it to the skillet. Toss with the sauce for 2-3 minutes until it becomes al denté. Add the chives, pepper and salt to taste. Toss it a couple of times and you’re good to go!

It goes without saying that you should top this with some shaved Parmesan cheese!

 

 

 

 

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Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce

raw-zucchiniI spent my childhood eating traditional tomato-based pasta sauce. When I finally moved out of my family home and started to enjoy cooking, I decided I wanted to explore a bigger variety of sauces for my pasta. This sauce is especially nice in the summer, using zucchini, pancetta, and peas. Combine these delicious vegetables with butter, dry white wine and parmesan cheese, and it’s a real feast.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked pasta

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 oz. pancetta

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving (I like to use the grated in the sauce and the shaved for serving)

Directions

The first order of business is to bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, cook until al denté (most of the time this runs from 7-10 minutes after the rolling boil has started). Then drain and set aside. While this process is going on, you can work on your sauce.

Add the chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until it begins to soften. Add the thawed peas at the very end of this process and sauté for about 3 additional minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until it turns golden and becomes fragrant. Then add the white wine, lemon juice, butter, thyme and basil. Cook for another two minutes or until the butter is completely melted.

Return the vegetables to the pan with the sauce and sauté for an additional minute or two. Then, add the pasta and toss with the Parmesan cheese to heat through.

This is a good time to give it a taste test for saltiness (the pancetta is salted and the cheese will also add a bit of saltiness to the dish). Add salt and pepper to taste.

You are ready to enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Cornbread

Corn BreadI’m not one to complain…much…but people should really double-check their recipes before putting them on the web. Originally, this was billed as a gluten-free 100% cornmeal cornbread. Not happening. Cornmeal does not easily absorb the liquids used in the recipes, so I adjusted this. As a result, it can no longer be called 100% cornmeal. In fact, I’ve never successfully made one that is 100% cornmeal, no matter what brand of cornmeal I’ve used.

In spite of that fact, this is quite delicious.

I should say that this is purposely not a very sweet bread. There are two alternatives to consider. First, toasting it and serving it with some kind of fruit preserves, or adding 2 tbsp. of either sugar or agave sweetener in addition to the honey.

Ingredients

1-3/4 cup cornmeal (GMO-free or organic; I use Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup corn flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. xantham gum (Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs (any size will do)

1 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. sugar or agave sweetener (optional; see opening above)

2 cups milk (pasteurized and 2%)

2 tbsp. melted butter

Sugar (for sprinkling on top of the batter)

Soft butter for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare an 8″ x 8″  baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the honey, milk, and melted butter.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, and mix until combined.

Pour into your baking pan and sprinkle on the sugar. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with soft butter.

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