Turkey Meatball Rigatoni with Pesto

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 19

Happy Canada Day!  Today is a holiday here in the Great White North.  Last Monday was also a holiday for those of us in Newfoundland, and I cooked this recipe up on that particular day.  We are trying to consume the contents of our pantry and freezer before we move (and we’re doing a pretty good job) so this gets rid of a chunk of the stuff in there.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 1

Anyway, my landlord is doing some renovations to her house, which is directly behind ours, and she needs our yard for access.  The first thing I said to the Pie when he got up and joined me in the kitchen last Monday morning was, “Oh good, you’re clothed — there’s a man in our tree.”  And there was.  And there were several in the backyard.

Morning View

And in the front yard.

Rock Collection

And in the side yard.

Gravel Road

And everywhere.  All.  Day.  Which made Gren very grumpy.

Couch Potato

And all the shops were closed so we had to make do with what was around for our dinner.  So start making up some meatballs, okay?  Preheat your oven to 375°F and grab a baking sheet. Ignore the small highway being created in your backyard.

Dirt Road

Finely grate up a medium-sized carrot.  Chuck that in a bowl.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 2

Slice up some green onions.

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Then dice ’em.  Chuck those in the bowl with the carrots.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 4

Then add a few spoonfuls minced garlic.

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Plop in 2 eggs.

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And about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

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Give that a thorough stirring.

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Add in some ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Stir that all together, then use your hands to squish it into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and let those cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

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To test for doneness, cut one open and see that there’s no pink inside.

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Grab yourself some pesto, too.  However much you want.  I like lots.  You can buy it or make it yourself, it’s up to you.

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And slice up some tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes here.

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Boil up a pot of water and cook up some pasta.  We used rigatoni, because it was something we needed to get rid of.

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Drain the pasta.  Dump the tomatoes and the meatballs into the pot with the pasta.

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Add the pesto.  Stir like there’s no tomorrow.

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Serve it up hot!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 32

Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 6

In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 5

Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 10

Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 11

Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 12

Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 2

You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 4

Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Mags’ Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Today is my little sister-in-law Mags’ birthday and I promised her a pasta dish.  Because I’m not around to make it for her in person, perhaps she can persuade Mrs. Nice to whip it up for a birthday treat.  Her brother certainly enjoyed it.  Happy birthday Mags!

The measurements for this are approximate, and I’m going to jump back and forth between metric and Imperial because I’m Canadian and I can.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Plop about 500g thawed frozen spinach in a bowl, together with 500g cottage cheese, 1/2 cup strong-flavoured cheese, grated (I used romano, but parmesan would also be good), and 2 teaspoons dried oregano.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Stir it silly and then season with pepper.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Take a jar of chunky tomato-based pasta sauce and spread 1/3 of it on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Now take a package of uncooked manicotti shells (usually there are 14 shells in a box) and stuff them with the cottage cheese/spinach mixture. Lay them on top of the sauce in the dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

This was my first one, which I tried to stuff with a spoon.  I got a little too enthusiastic and it exploded everywhere.  After that I used my fingers. And I’m still trying to figure out how to get the spinach out of my kitchen stereo speakers.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

And then when I got to the end of my pan I found I had run out of space, so that’s why they are all spastic here.  Plus I dropped in the leftover cottage cheese/spinach mix as well.  Aesthetics are not really my strong suit.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mix 1/2 cup water with the remainder of your pasta sauce and pour it over the top of the uncooked stuffed noodles.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Bake, uncovered, for an hour, until it is bubbling all the way through.  Then sprinkle with 2 cups grated mozzarella and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Let your lava-like pasta stand for a few minutes before serving.  Not the most attractive photo, but that didn’t stop the Pie from going back for seconds.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Lovers’ Sweet Potato and Mushroom Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

We don’t tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We’re totally broke, for one thing, and for another, we’d rather not have to spend a day doing obligatory and clichéed things to tell each other how we feel.  We do that on a daily basis anyway.

States of Gren

I am of course talking about our love for Gren.  Duh.  He’s so smooshy.  In the words of Cait, “I want to smoosh him.  With smooshes.”  We definitely smoosh him regularly.

States of Gren

In any case, because it’s expected of us (and because nobody ever wants to do anything with us on Valentine’s Day), we usually have a nice meal together and talk about how stupid this Hallmark holiday is.

If you are of the same bent, or if you love to do smooshy romantic things for your true love, why not make up some fresh pasta and go from there?

I figured I would give ravioli a try.  Why the heck not?

The ingredients for each component of this are so simple. The only one I really measured for was the pasta dough, because I’m not yet at the eyeballing stage for that.

For the ravioli filling:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need sweet potatoes, dried shiitake mushrooms (you can use fresh ones but I like the chewy texture of the dried ones), and roasted garlic.

Plop a handful or two dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and leave them for 30-60 minutes, or until all tender.  I find that placing a small plate on top ensures they all get evenly exposed to water.

Lovers' Ravioli

While those are percolating, peel and cube a large sweet potato.  This one weighed in at 1 3/4lb.  Plop that in a pot full of water and boil until tender.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain the sweet potatoes and mash ’em.

Lovers' Ravioli

Take your hydrated mushrooms out of the water, cut off the woody stems, and chop them finely.

Lovers' Ravioli

I found that after chopping, a quick sojourn in the food processor got them to the size I wanted them.

Lovers' Ravioli

Save the water from your mushrooms — it makes a great vegetable stock.

Lovers' Ravioli

I made this roasted garlic last week from three heads of garlic.  If you click on the link above you can see how I did it.  I’m going to use all three heads, because the Pie and I have been together for almost eight years, so it’s not going to matter how much garlic we consume.  Do exercise some caution if you’re new to the relationship and you’re still trying to impress … Though I suppose if you both consume the same amount of garlic it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Lovers' Ravioli

Anyway, I plopped that in the food processor as well (with a drop of olive oil) and came out with a lovely aromatic paste.

Lovers' Ravioli

In a bowl, combine your mashed sweet potato, the minced mushrooms, and the garlic paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lovers' Ravioli

Stir that around and set it aside.

Lovers' Ravioli

For the ravioli pasta:

Lovers' Ravioli

For this you need durum semolina flour, salt, and eggs.  Semolina is perfect for making pasta because it has an extremely high gluten content, which means that your pasta will stay cohesive even when immersed in boiling water.  That is kind of important.

So take 3 eggs and whisk them together with a pinch of salt.  I like to add in a few drops of olive oil, as well, for smoothness.

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour 2 cups durum semolina flour on a clean work surface, make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs.

Lovers' Ravioli

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I wish I’d thought of it sooner so I could have made a better heart.

Lovers' Ravioli

Using a scraper and/or a fork, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour until you have a coherent ball.

Lovers' Ravioli

I used some regular all-purpose flour at the end, just to reduce the tackiness of the dough a bit.  You will want to knead it for about 10 minutes, just to get all the gluten working for you.

Lovers' Ravioli

Wrap up your final ball and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

Cut your dough into manageable sections.  I cut mine into four.  Flatten out your first section enough so it fits into your pasta machine.  If you are rolling it out by hand, have fun with that.

Lovers' Ravioli

I prefer my pasta maker.

Lovers' Ravioli

I cut my strips in half, so that I could fold the second half over the top half like a mirror image.  Though it does help if your top half is slightly bigger than your bottom half.

Lovers' Ravioli

Put little dollops of your filling on your bottom sheet with enough space in between so you can cut them easily.

Lovers' Ravioli

Carefully line up the top half and lay it over the filling.

Lovers' Ravioli

Working from the inside out, gently stretch and press the top dough over the filling to form little pockets.

Lovers' Ravioli

When each pocket is sealed, use a knife or a ravioli cutter to separate them.

Lovers' Ravioli

For this first round, I went all the way up to the #7 setting on my pasta maker, which made the pasta sheets very thin — a little too thin.  You can see how they have torn and I had to patch them.

Lovers' Ravioli

The next round, I only went up to the #5 setting, which was much more manageable, and I prepared the ravioli on waxed paper, which made peeling them up much easier. I probably could have gone as high as #6, but I’m still new to this.

Lovers' Ravioli

I separated each round of pasta with waxed paper to prevent sticking.

Lovers' Ravioli

I had some leftover filling, which I froze.  I would gladly make this again.

Lovers' Ravioli

Now, set a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil, and get started on your sauce.

For the sauce:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need butter, sage, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.

Slice 10-12 sage leaves finely to ensure all their lovely aromatic juices get released.

Lovers' Ravioli

To save time and my sanity (I really hate grating cheese), I cubed up about 1/3 cup of my extra-hard parmesan and gave it a go in the food processor.  Totally worth it.

Lovers' Ravioli

So for your mis en place you have your sage, chopped, your cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup lemon juice, and about 4-5 tablespoons butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

By now, your pasta water should be boiling, so carefully tip all your ravioli in and cook them for about 8 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

While that is going on, in a large, wide, deep frying pan on medium-high heat, melt your butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

Continue to cook the butter, scraping the bottom with a spatula to prevent burning, until it starts to foam up and the clear liquid turns a lovely light caramel brown colour.  Add in your sage leaves and remove the butter from the heat.

Lovers' Ravioli

See the brownness?

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour in your lemon juice and give that a stir. Oh man does that ever smell good. Like all the best parts of everything.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain your pasta and plop them in the frying pan with the butter.  Pour in your cheese and toss the lot to coat.

Lovers' Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

Serve it up, with plenty of leftovers.

Lovers' Ravioli

Though  none for Gren.  Much to his disappointment.

Lovers' Ravioli

Sausage Risotto with Broccoli and Mushrooms

I really like risotto.  In fact, it’s one of my favourite starchy sides.  So why has it been ages (over a year) since I last made it?  Hard to say.  It’s not like it’s hard to make risotto.

The Pie really likes sausages, and they’re cheap here, so we eat them often.  I am not such a huge fan.  On this particular night, I decided that if I had to slice through another meat-and-two-veg meal with slippery hot sausages as the main attraction I might throw something at my husband.  And I like him, so I wanted to avoid such a situation.

The basic principle of risotto making is the constant adding of more and more liquid, stirring as you go.  This brings out the naturally creamy nature of the arborio rice.  If you find a recipe that tells you to add cream to your risotto while it’s cooking, then the authors don’t know how to cook it right.  The creaminess comes by itself, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different.

The traditional method for making risotto involves adding one part white wine to the mix, then three parts water, gradually.  Today we are going to use straight chicken broth instead.

Squeeze the meat out of 3 hot Italian sausages and plop that in a pan.

Slice up about 8oz mushrooms of your choosing.  You can chuck those in the pan with the sausages.  I suppose if you wanted to do it right you would saute each of those things separately, but when do I ever follow the rules?

Dice 1 whole onion and put that in a saucepan with a dab of olive oil.  Set that to sautéing, stirring occasionally, until the onion pieces are translucent.

While that is cooking, sauté the mushrooms and sausage as well.  Break up the sausage with a spatula as it cooks, until you just have little sausage-y bits. 

Drain off any juices and fat and keep warm.  We also had about 2 cups frozen steamed broccoli hanging around, so I popped that in the pan as well to thaw.

Pour 1 cup arborio rice into the onions.

Add 1 cup hot chicken broth (low sodium) to the rice and onions and cook on high heat, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed.

Add a further 3 cups hot chicken broth, one at a time, stirring in each one until fully absorbed.  The whole process should take about 20 minutes and leave you with a lovely creamy rice.

Season the risotto with salt and pepper.  Stir in about 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup grated romano cheese.

Dump in your sausage/mushroom/broccoli mixture and stir well.

Serve hot, garnished with more grated romano.  Makes great leftovers.

Pesto Pasta with Veg

HAPPY CANADA DAY!  Be safe and well today!

This recipe is a good and quick one if you are heading out to your local festivities today.  Of course, if you’re in Ottawa today, the third-largest party in the world (supposedly, the first-largest is New Year’s Eve in Kuala Lumpur, second is NYE in Times Square, NYC, and the third is Canada Day in our nation’s capital) is going to be extra big with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in attendance.  You’re going to want to make sure you eat enough to have energy for the party.

The Pie wants me to let you know that normally, we use pesto that we’ve made ourselves from scratch, but that this year is a bad one for our basil, so we went with store-bought instead.  But he wants you to know that normally we don’t stoop to such levels.

Set a pot of water a-boiling and fry up a couple (or a few) boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  If you have leftover chicken lying around, this will do as well. 

Once the chicken is cooked through, cube it up.

Leftover bacon?  I know, it’s like a mythical creature.  But we had some.  So I shredded that.

We had some asparagus and cauliflower lying around, so I cut those up into bite-sized pieces as well.  Whatever vegetables you have on hand will do, of course.  Red peppers, perhaps, or onion.

Chuck enough pasta in your boiling pot to feed four and cook it according to the package instructions, usually for 10-12 minutes.  We used whole wheat spaghetti here, but penne and rigatoni would work equally well.

For the last two minutes of your pasta cooking, chuck in your vegetables, just to get them a wee bit soft.  If your vegetables are already cooked, I would skip this part, otherwise they might get soggy.

Drain the pasta and toss in your meats, as well as about a cup of pesto (the store-bought stuff, at least.  If we’d made it from scratch we probably would have used less).

Toss well to coat the pasta and circulate the vegetables and meat, then serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Utterly fantastic the next day as well.  You can serve it hot or cold!

Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits

This recipe is a variation on the original Quick Drop Biscuits, and is very similar to the biscuit topping on the Italian Pot Pies.  Of course you can flavour your biscuits anyway you like.  Anything that goes well with butter is going to go well in your biscuit, as long as you keep the liquid additives to a minimum.  My plan next time is to go with bacon and cheddar cheese.  These particular biscuits went very well with a lamb roast.  I made them twice the size of the original Quick Drop Biscuits, and so doubled the recipe accordingly.

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  If you have a convection oven, which my parents do, then 400°F is probably fine.  All ovens are different.

In a bowl, mix together 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Drop in 3/4 cup cold cubed butter, and cut to pea-sized pieces with two knives or a pastry cutter.

Stir in 2-3 teaspoons fresh or dried rosemary, broken up a bit, and about 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. (Just so’s you know, my hand isn’t really that pink in real life.)

Add about 1 cup finely grated parmesan, or more, to suit your taste.

Make a well in the centre of your mixture and pour in 2 cups milk.  Stir until just combined and mixture is clumping and sticky.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet (or several).  They don’t expand so you can place the drops pretty close together.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until firm and golden.  Because all ovens are different, make sure you keep an eye on them.

Of course these babies are best crisp and fresh from the oven, but you can store them in an airtight container for a couple of days and they’re pretty good then as well.