Tag Archives: pasta

The thing about buttered noodles…

1 Feb

noodlesHere’s the thing. What is so bad about trying something new? I know that the new is scary. When you walk into a dark room you never know what awaits you. It’s the momentary terror your minds spins into reality. You’ve seen way too many episodes of CSI and NCIS to believe that nothing is lurking in the shadows. But wait… what if instead of a horrifying beast or the suspicious murderous foe, waited a surprise party? All your friends joyously welcoming you to a festivity of laughter and merriment. This my friends, is why the new cannot be missed.

Everyday at work I make the obligatory pan of buttered noodles. Not really a big deal but it did get me thinking. Everyday I have kids that choose buttered noodles over anything else. Some of them I truly believe only like buttered noodles, but others take them simply because they don’t know if they will like the other offerings. It makes me wonder what is so wrong with trying something new. I know that when I was a kid we ate what was put in front of us and we were happy. (Well, unless it was my brother and beef barley soup, that combination was more drama then Jersey Shore) Anyway, the point is this: why don’t kids like to try new foods. They try new games, and TV shows. They make new friends and read new books, but when it comes to lunch it seems to be the old standby, buttered noodles.

Do you ever remember looking a food that you had never seen before and then looking at your mom or your dad and asking if you liked it. Usually they would lean down and say yes. In my family when this happened and we did not actually like what we had just tasted, we would say that our taste-buds had changed. And, rightly so as your taste-buds do change over time. What I can’t seem to wrap my head around though, is the complete lack of curiosity. How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it before. My philosophy is try something twice. Just like when tasting wine, the first taste clears your palette. The second taste is when you really get to know the food. It’s the second date if you will. If the first bite left you unsure, the second will most definitely help you decide.

I can’t knock buttered noodles completely. There was a time during my college career that buttered noodles made up at least 70% of my diet. And, now and then, I love a little butter and parmesan on my pasta. But, if I was presented with the choice of buttered noodles or something much more glamorous, the noodles would fall to second place in a heartbeat. I know what you’re thinking as you read this. If it bothers me this much, why not stop making them. The real answer is that there are kids that will not eat anything else. Literally these kids would rather starve without lunch then eat what else is for lunch. So, I must continue with the buttered noodles. Just in case you’ve never had them and are wondering what’s the big deal…

Buttered Noodles alla Katie

1 pound pasta, cooked
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

in the microwave melt the butter with the salt and garlic. Pour the butter over the cooked noodles and stir to combine serve hot, garnish with grated parmesan cheese if desired. (the last step classes it up a bit)

Always thinking of the next meal


Mac and Frank… the Culinary Mafiosa

19 Jul

Meet my friends Frank and Mac. They want you to know that they’ve seen you with the kraft box. They’ve seen you cheating on making a good dinner and settling for dehydrated cheese and powdered milk. They also want you to know that this is you’re warning. If they catch you again, they’re going to know and they won’t be gentle.

So yes, I realize that there are not too many things that are impressive about hot dogs and mac and cheese. It’s a silly meal for kids and kids at heart. It’s full of fat and calories and in general, it gets snuffed in the world of food. Truly, I think that mac and cheese does not get it’s due.

Yes, mac and cheese is not the healthiest of meals. But there are so many things in life we can’t indulge on, why not had a dinner that brings you pure inhibited joy. When you add in his buddy, Frank (hot dogs) the dish sings. It’s the culinary equivalent of a puppy wagging his tail. You can’t escape smiling whn you hear dinner is going to be hot dogs with mac and cheese. When you mix them together, the dish goes from happy meal to ecstatic meal.

My version ups the flavor ante by using bacon fat and beef stock in the cheese sauce. I’m not a huge hot dog lover, however, a Hebrew National, crispy on the outside, will do any day.

Mac and Frank

2 tablespoons bacon fat
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup beef stock
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup white cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta, elbow, or other curly variety
8 hot dogs, cut into coins

1. Heat a sauté pan. Add in 1 teaspoon oil and the hotdogs. Sauté the hot dogs until golden brown and then set aside in a large mixing bowl

2. Make the cheese sauce. Melt the bacon fat in a sauce pan and then add in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes and then slowly wisk in the milk, being sure to stir out any lumps. Add in the stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cheeses a little at a time until all of the cheese is incorporated. Season and pour on top of the hot dogs. Stir to combine.

3. Cook pasta according to the instructions on the box

4. Drain the pasta and add it to the hot dog and cheese sauce mixture.

5. Serve

If you want to up the ante even more add some crispy bacon for garnish. Yes that’s right… bacon. Or, if you want to pretend that you’re being a little healthy, have a side salad. (Just don’t use ranch)

Always thinking of the next meal


Eulogy at a cheese party

13 Apr

So we had a wine a cheese party last Friday night and sadly there was cheese left over. And while we mourn the casualties, they will be used in a delightful indulgent mac and cheese. So the admission for this event was to bring a bottle of wine or a hunk of cheese. Well, most of the guest decided to bring both and with only 11 people in attendance we had plenty left over.

The truth is that all cheese makes make good mac and cheese. I know what you’re thinking, no way can all cheese make good mac and cheese. But it’s true! Ok so for example, the leftovers from the party were delice de bourgogne, piave, fontina, auricchio, and adams reserve cheddar. It’s an odd mix to say the least, but be assured that it is delicious.

The recipe is one of ratios and balancing flavor, salt and fattiness. As long as you have leftover cheese you can make this dish, and yes you can use blue cheese.

Last Rights Mac and Cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2-4 cups leftover cheese, crumbled or shredded
1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and oil together and add the flour. Wisk in the flour and slowly add the half and half. When the half and half thickens, wisk in the milk. Add the cheeses in slowly letting each addition melt into the sauce before adding in the next amount. When the cheese is completely incorporated taste it and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Pour over the pasta and toss to combine. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until it’s brown and bubbly on top.

Enjoy your leftovers…

Always thinking of the next meal,


Buccantini alla finnochiona, a mouthful that tastes great!

17 Jan

A quick recipe… no real back story here. I was just in the mood for pasta and came up with this. Enjoy…

Buccantini alla finnochiona

Serves 2

8 oz buccantini pasta
1/4 pound finnochiona (fennel spiked salami)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and julienned
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté fennel in 1 tablespoon oil until caramelized. Deglaze pan with orange juice and add in sugar. Cook until the juice is reduced. Add in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Reduce by half and puree. While the pasta is cooking, add the remaining oil into the same pan that the fennel was sautéed in and then add in the finnochiona. Let the fat render for about 2 minutes and then add the shrimp to the pan. Cook the shrimp until all the pieces are pink and almost opaque. Add the puree back in to the pan and then add the remaining water. You can add more water if you need to; you are looking for a consistency of warm maple syrup. When the pasta is cooked, toss with the sauce and meat. Garnish with a fennel frond.

Always thinking of the next meal


Blank Canvas Ravioli

13 Jan

One of my hubby’s favorite meals is ravioli. And, better yet,  he loves my version. This meal is not one that appears regularly on our table, but it gets rave reviews every time. You might be asking why it’s not a regular if it goes over so big. Well, it’s a bit labor intensive. Don’t be intimidated, it’s not hard, just time consuming.

Start with the pasta dough:

1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup semolina
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/3 cup water

combine ingredients except for water. Slowly add in the water until the dough just comes together. Knead the dough until it looks smooth. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Here’s why these are called blank canvas ravioli. I make a filling that is cheesy and flavorful and can used as a great base for other fillings. It is also complimented well by a variety of sauces.

Blank Canvas Filling:

1 cup ricotta salada, grated
12 oz part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

combine all ingredients

You can make a free-form ravioli by brushing the dough with egg wash and then using a biscuit cutter to make your desired shape. You can also use a ravioli mold. I like the mold simply because I like every ravioli to be the same size for even cooking. The free formed ravioli are great for when you want to fill your pasta pockets with larger things like shrimp, lobster or leftover chicken marsala.

My favorite sauce to top these beauties is a simple combination of roasted cherry tomatoes, olive oil and basil. The sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes match up well with the richness of the filling.

Always thinking of the next meal


8 minute dinner, seriously

20 Dec

Tonight called for a fast easy dinner with minimal clean up. I’ve been baking for the holidays all day and I’m just tired of being in the kitchen (if you can believe that!)

My honey was hungry and always wanting to try something new, I thought, hey how about a quick pasta recipe. One of Ryan’s favorite dinners is pasta carbonara. Although delicious, it’s pretty heavy and I’ve been eating, I mean baking, cookies all day.

So here’s what I came up with. Penne alla Ryan. It’s penne pasta with a quick combo of cubed hame, peas, shallots, and a blue cheese cream sauce. As with a lot of my posting, there is not really a recipe here. It’s more or less a combination of ingredients that suits your liking. Here’s what’s in there:

penne pasta (I used a little less than half a box)
ham, left over from last night’s dinner
1/2 of a medium shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (to start cooking the shallots)
about a 1/2 cup of peas, plus 2 tablespoons for garnishing (I used the steamfresh bag from Birdseye)
chicken stock (about a cup)
heavy cream (2 tablespoons)
danish blue cheese (about 2 oz)
salt and pepper to taste
and the secret ingredient… truffle salt.

Now if you don’t fret, but if you do, it adds a lovely richness to the dish. The final product was not too saucy or too thick, as carbonara can sometimes be. I know you can’t really call this carbonara since there are no eggs in the recipe, but it did have that rich, salty, umami satisfaction that you get from eating carbonara. It was an interesting paradox that was both rich and light, salty but sweet from the peas, and creamy but not fatty.

Oh and literally, it too 8 minutes to make. I’m not kidding or exaggerating. I know I move quickly in the kitchen, but everything for the sauce was just thrown into a sauté pan and warmed through while the pasta cooked. Actually, the sauce was finished before the pasta was! If you don’t have pre-cooked ham, use chicken or steak or whatever you have on hand. This one will definitely go into the rotation.

Always think about the next meal, (and when we’ll have this one again)


Congratulations… you failed!

24 Aug

Ok, I just want to preface this blog entry by saying I love soy milk. That’s why it’s in my refrigerator. Let me also share with you one of my favorite quotes which will give you a head start on the tone and hilarity of the following post:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney

So tonight’s dinner was a glorious failure. I attempted to make one of Ryan’s favorites, Bleu Cheese Mac and Cheese. Sounds good right? Well it usually is. I great rich indulgent dinner. Since we hadn’t rewarded ourselves from yesterday, I figured it would be a great meal to toast our success. The key words here are “usually” and “figured.”

Here’s the normal recipe:

1/3 box of pasta. I like cavatalli, but shells, penne, or any hollow pasta will work
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 – 3 cups milk, (please use cow’s milk)
1  cup shredded cheese (Italian blend)
6 oz crumbled bleu cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta and set aside to drain. Melt butter in a separate pan. When the butter stops foaming add the flour and wisk until fully incorporated. Slowly add the milk in 1/2 cup portions wisking quickly to avoid lumps. Once all the milk has been added bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Wisk in the cheeses and stir until they are completely melted. Add pasta back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve hot. Feeds 2-3 people.

So why did it turn out so poorly? Please refer to my earlier statement. I didn’t have any regular milk and since my soy milk was “unflavored” I thought it would be OK. Let me be the first to tell you “unflavored” soy milk still tastes like soy. Yes soy marketing team, soy milk does taste good, but it’s not milk. It will never be milk and to all you foodies reading this, it can not always be used as a substitute for milk.

I followed this recipe as I wrote it, but subbed the soy milk in for the regular milk. I knew it was a mistake right away. The roux which usually smells nutty and buttery was quickly masked by the first addition of the soy milk. As I continued to add the usual mild smell of butter and warming milk, smelled more like roasting soy beans. I thought that it might be OK if I added the cheese. You know bleu cheese is a pretty potent cheese so my logic seemed to make sense. WRONG! I tried to salvage it, boy did I try. I seasoned and seasoned. I added more cheese, but the soy flavor was just too overwhelming.

I did serve it… Oh I did. But I couldn’t even eat it. Ryan was very gracious. He took a few bites, but I know the truth. It was just bad. It’s not all a sad story. I did learn something. I learned that sometimes if you don’t have the right ingredients substitutions can lead to a new revolutionary dish, and other times it can lead you to take out.

Always thinking of the next meal (in this case dreaming of the next meal)