Summer Fresh Pasta

Summer Fresh Pasta
This quick meal is great for when you don’t have a lot of time and the gloomy summer weather outside has you craving a few carbs.
Summer Fresh Pasta
Plus it’s another method of eating the hated sausages.
Summer Fresh Pasta
And an excuse to eat more cheese.
Summer Fresh Pasta
Start a pot of water a-boiling and cook up pasta, such as farfalle, penne, or rotini.  Cook enough for four or five people.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Slice yourself up half an onion, a red pepper, and a handful of mushrooms.  Set the pepper and mushrooms aside for now.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Sauté the onion with a spoonful or two of minced garlic until softened.

Squeeze in the contents of three hot Italian sausages and cook, stirring to break up the sausages, until the meat is no longer pink.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Add in your peppers and mushrooms and stir for a few minutes longer.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Drain your pasta and stir in 1/2 cup pesto.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Add in your sausage and vegetables and a further 1/2 cup pesto and toss to coat.
Summer Fresh Pasta

Serve hot or cold, garnished with grated parmesan or romano cheese.
Summer Fresh Pasta

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.

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.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

It’s winter.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  It’s slippery outside.  In short, it’s miserable.

Okay maybe today it’s bright and sunny, but let me assure you that this is rarely the case.  And it’s still cold and slippery.  And winter.Being Canadian, you’d think I’d be used to this nonsense that happens year in, year out.

I prefer to live in denial.

Or hibernate.  And eat lots of carbs.

And cheese.

So that’s what we’re going to do today.  Eat cheese.  And carbs.

This is a twist on the classic fettuccine alfredo recipe, and it’s really not very good for you.  But who cares?  I live in Newfoundland and no one will ever see me in a bathing suit.  If you don’t like blue cheese you can substitute it for something milder.  The key component of an alfredo sauce is that it is parmesan or romano melted in cream, so as long as you have that going for you you’re set.

In a medium frying pan, melt about a tablespoon butter and sauté 3 cups sliced mushrooms until they are brown and tender.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and chuck in enough dry fettuccine pasta for 4 servings.  While your pasta is cooking, melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Add about 2 tablespoons flour to that and whisk it well.

Add 1 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup milk and bring to a boil.  Make sure to stir constantly.  I got interrupted so you can see that my butter browned a bit before I added the dairy.  No matter.  It was still good.

Reduce to a simmer and add 1/2 cup fresh oregano (or 2 tablespoons dried), 2 teaspoons minced garlic, and 1 pinch nutmeg.

Add to this about 3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese as well as 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese.

You can add in your cooked mushrooms now.  You want to do this as late as possible so they don’t get soggy or overcooked and tough.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is nice and thick.

Drain your cooked pasta and add it to the pot, tossing it in the sauce to coat the pasta completely.

Serve immediately, garnished with some more grated parmesan or romano.  Food coma to follow.

Italian Pot Pies

Because the weather outside refuses to cooperate, I wholeheartedly reject the idea that it is actually spring out there.  Accordingly, I’m still making the steamy comfort food characteristic of the winter months.  These little pies come out of the oven molten hot, and the tart flavours of the sauce really accent the classy biscuit topping.

This is a Martha Stewart recipe, and it’s quick and easy and a great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce.  Normally the Pie and I use stuff we make ourselves, but tonight I was lazy and so I followed the recipe (shocking, I know).  I apologize in advance for the lighting in the photographs.  It was late in the day and it’s been a rainy week.

Preheat your oven to 450°F and position your rack on the lowest or second-lowest possible level.

In a saucepan or large skillet over medium heat, warm up about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add in 1 medium onion and 2 carrots, finely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender (about 8 minutes).

Add in 1 pound or so of lean ground beef.  Break up the meat with a utensil and cook until no longer pink (about 5 minutes).  You could also definitely do a vegetarian version of this, just omit the meat and ‘beef’ up your sauce a bit.  I suggest cheese.

Pour in 2 cups tomato or spaghetti sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary, and a pinch of salt.  As an aside, I got the above mortar and pestle for about 2 bucks at IKEA.  It’s a very handy thing to have around.

Make a well in the centre and pour in 1/2 cup milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter.  Stir just until dough comes together.

Set 4 8-ounce ramekins on a baking sheet.  Spoon in the meat mixture.

Mound spoonfuls of dough on top.

Bake until the topping is golden and you can stick a toothpick in it and have it come out clean (about 12 minutes).

Be careful, it’s hot!