pasta

All posts tagged pasta

Red Gold ProductsFirst of all, Chef Jasper, this recipe was not an attempt to copy your Pasta alla Nanni, though I’d be lying if I said that

Le Seuer Pea Pasta with Red Gold Tomatoes

didn’t take one of its ingredients for your famous pasta dish.  But more on that in a minute.

First thing’s first.  Welcome to the first of two #MeatlessMonday Saturday edition posts.  Yes, yes, it’s been well-documented that having #MeatlessMonday on a Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., etc. is just weird.  But I’m making up for lost time.  I missed a few weeks, but I’m back in saddle just in time for lent.  Just remember, on Fridays when you’re not eating meat, you can eat vegetarian.  You’ll love it.  Promise.

Okay, back to the dish.  As I said above, this recipe is in no way an attempt to copy world famous Chef Jasper Mirabile’s Pasta alla Nanni, though I will admit it was a huge inspiration.  In fact, I hadn’t had Le Seuer peas in years until I went to Chef’s restaurant and he served up a  pasta the Pasta alla Nanni to my wife and I.  Now, they’re back to being a pantry staple in the BWD household.

So, to Chef Jasper I give a nod of thanks and I promise that since you won’t give out the recipe for Pasta alla Nanni to anyone (including BWD, Jr.), I won’t publish any guesses on how to make it.  But I bet I can come close. 🙂

With that being said, there’s another ingredient to our battle.  The secret ingredient.

Sorry, I channeled Iron Chef there for a second.

In all seriousness, a little while ago, Red Gold tomatoes sent me the coolest freaking tin of product.  It had three cans of Red Gold tomatoes (sauce, diced, and diced with green chilies), a recipe book, a refrigerator magnet, and a model Red Gold truck that my son loved so much he wrote me a thank you card for it.  So cool. 

So I’ve been holding those cans for something special when I realized that my Red Gold tomato sauce would be perfect for a recipe like this.  Seriously, if you have been using generic tomato suace, I highly recommend you try a good quality sauce like Red Gold tomato sauce next time .   There is definitely a dfference with good ingredients.

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Paul Sorvino FoodsIt’s one thing to get to be sent marinara and vodka sauces.  It’s another to be sent Paul Sorvino’s authentic neapolitian marinara and vodka sauces. 

Now, I’m not one to go ga ga for a movie star, but I really like the movies Goodfellas and Bulworth (both starring Mister Sorvino) so it was kind of cool when someone from Paul Sorvino Food sent me two jars of sauce: one of marinara and the other of vodka sauce.  It was even cooler when I came home to find my wife watching Goodfellas and I could go in to the pantry and grab one the jars (which feature a picture of Mister Sorvino) and ask “Look familar?”

It was less of a thrill when she replied “No.  Who is the guy on the jar?”

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.  It was still pretty cool to review a sauce made by one of the stars of arguably the greatest mafia movie ever (yes, I preferred it to The Godfather. What you gonna do about it??)  And yes, I realize Mister Sorvino is an actor, but let me say he’s a supremely good actor.  Maybe a little too good.

So, just in case, let me say in no uncertain terms that Paul Sorvino Foods’ sauces are the best pasta sauces I’ve ever had.  No questions asked. 🙂

Okay, in all seriousness, Paul Sorvino Foods opened in 2007 when Mister Sorvino decide to release a series of food products based on his mother’s recipes.  Undoubtedly, his mother was a great cook because her sauce, even after it survived the jarring and shipping process was nice and rich and chunky.  That was a very pleasant surprise and more like what I expect from an Italian restaurant.  The vodka sauce was a lot smoother, but creamier.

And how do they taste?

Let’s start with the vodka sauce.  I am not the world’s greatest alla vodka sauce fan.  I like my vodka, I just don’t like it with tomatoes.  With that said, if I had to do penne alla vodka, I’d probably reach for a jar of Paul Sorvino Foods’ sauce.  I really like both its sweentess and its pronounced tang.  I especially liked the lack of overpowering alcohol flavor.  When fixing for guests, I might add a pinch more red pepper flake, but that’s because I like heat and I want it to balance the sweet.

On the other hand, the marinara was definitely my favorite.  When we first tried it, I took some straight out of the jar and put it on my noodles (shells in this case, because they are BWD, Jr. friendly)  and the sauce tasted fine, but it was a little thin. 

After dinner was over, I got to thinking about the thinness of the sauce and went back and read the label.  Sure enough, it said that the marinara needed to be simmered before eating.  So I put it in a sauce pan over medium heat (per the label) and let it bubble away for 10-15 minutes.

The resulting sauce was so much better.  The flavors were bolder, the chunky tomatoes broke down and gave the sauce a much richer tomato flavor, and the chunks of garlic got soft and perfumed the marinara.  Much, much better.  Much better.

So, my suggestion is that you try Paul Sorvino’s mama’s marinara and vodka sauces.  My recommendation is that you set them to simmering about the same time you get your pasta water boiling.  Cleaning the extra pot will definitely be worth all that extra flavor.

The picture was taken from Facebook.com/PaulSorvinoFoods and is used without explicit permission.

Lentils Are Not Catfood

Lentils Are Not Catfood

Hold your hats, ’cause it’s

Lentil Soup Time!

Now, first of all, you may be wondering what’s up with the cat.  Well, I believe that kitty there truly encompasses what most people think of lentils.  People seem to that that they look like cat food, sometimes they smell like fat good, and, of course, if it looks like cat food and smells like cat food, it’s probably cat food.

Well, I say no way!  Lentils are really good, especially if prepared properly.

However, that’s the key…preparing them properly.  The good news is, it’s just not that hard!  Once you master that trick, you will be on your way to wonderful lentils every time!!

Also, I mentioned this recipe has “pistou.”  Don’t be afraid of the term, pistou is just pesto without the nuts!

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Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Also, happy World Pasta Day!  Good grief, so much going on.  We better get right into

Penne with Basil and Pumpkin Bechamel

Wow…so let’s see…  This recipe is my #meatlessmonday post for Meatless Monday. 

It’s also the last of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking recipes for this year (boo!  I know, I’m bummed.)  I’d team up with the awesome Shawna Coronado for any cooking challenge anywhere and I am going to miss all her delicious veggies.  Still, as winter touches the Midwest, all her nude (no chemicals) eco-friendly veggies are going away and without the veggies, it’s hard to feed a family of four for less then $10.50! 

But, if she’s up for it, I’m would love to see a 2010 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative!

Oh, and before I forget,  it’s also World Pasta Day, which can only be celebrated by eating pasta.  Which is how we get to this crazy recipe  I dreamed up.  Continue Reading

JasperEating with Chef Jasper Mirabile

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me mentioning a meal I recently had at Jasper’s in Kansas City, MO.  Some of you may have even gotten the chance to see the picture I took of some of the amazing food Chef Jasper made for us.  Others probably saw the repeated comments that at any moment, I was sure I was going to burst.  Despite the worries about my own mortality, that meal was sooooo worth it.

Jasper – The Tradition

To set the stage for this meal, I should let you know that the Mirabile family has been serving up outstanding Italian food to hungry Kansas Citians for over fifty years.  It all began in 1954 when Leonard Mirabile opened Jasper’s with his son Jasper.  According to their website, back then you could get a three course meal for seventy-nine cents.  (I can only imagine how fat I’d be if I could still get Chef Jasper to cook for me for seventy-nine cents…  Yikes.)

Since 1954, Jasper’s has seen a lot of change.  For instance, they moved from their original location on Wornall to Watt’s Mill on 103rd and State Line.  They have also gone from a neighborhood restaurant to one of the most decorated restaurants in the country, earning a Mobil Four Stars for dining excellence, the AAA Four Diamonds and DIRONA award (among others).  The restaurant has also seen a third generation of Mirabile, Jasper’s sons Leonard and Jasper, Jr., enter the restaurant business.

Chef Jasper – The Culinary Icon

However, Jasper’s is more than a restaurant.  If there is a food event in Kansas City, Chef Jasper is probably there.  He teaches numerous classes all over the Kansas City area, on such varied topics as making mozzarella to teaching kids the joy of cooking.  He has cookbooks.  He has a radio show on AM 710.  His smiling face can be found in any Hen House market.  He works with cheese producers to evangelize good, artisan cheeses.  He helps local food producers.  He knows everyone.

In other words, there may be no single name more synonymous with food in Kansas City (which is saying a lot, since Kansas City is starting to establish itself on the culinary map.)

Jasper’s – The Menu

And there I was with Mrs. WellDone at Chef Jasper’s invitation eating the best (and by several pounds of food the largest) meal I have ever eaten.

For reference, here’s the menu:

  1. Lobster cappuccino with pancetta and foam
  2. Shrimp Scampi alla Livornese Over Polenta
  3. An “Appetizer” of Eggplant Othello and Lobster Ravioli
  4. Half a loaf of good Italian bread
  5. Caprese Salad with Mozzarella Made Tableside, Heirloom Tomatos Chef’s Wife Grew, Basil, and a Homemade Balsamic Reduction
  6. A Pasta “Tasting” Consisting Of
    • Pasta Nanni with Prosciutto, peas, romano, mushrooms, and tomato sauce
    • Gagootsa sauce (Italian gourd) sauce over ditali pasta
    • Rigatoni with a Melon cream sauce
  7. For our entrees:
    • Five hour slow roasted pork shank
    • Chicken Saltimbucco
  8. For dessert:
    • Peach Napolean with Chef’s mama’s pastry cream
    • Death by Chocolate
  9. After Dinner Drink:
    • Homemade Amaretto
    • Homemade Limoncello
    • Homemade Anisette
  10. House Wine

With a menu like that, I don’t even know where to start describing everything.  It was all amazing.  However, in the interest of space, I will limit this article to the two times in the meal when the food was so good I lost the ability to speak English.  (Later, I’ll talk about more of the food and maybe sniff out a recipe or two.)
 

Pasta Nanni – The First Moment of Silence

The first time I lost the ability to speak was when I took the first bite of the pasta nanni.  It came served on a long plate with three individual sections, one for each of the pastas on the tasting menu.  I didn’t know what it was, and frankly, I was far more excited about the gagootsa sauce.  However, I think the nanni was closest to me, so I started with it.

Mere words defy the flavor of the pasta.  I can tell you there was salty Prosciutto, earthy tomato, sweet peas, savory mushrooms, and rich cream.  But those are just words.  They cannot convey how perfectly those ingredients worked together.  The saltiness of the Prosciutto was perhaps the lead flavor, but the tomato sauce and the peas wouldn’t let that flavor dominate.  Then there was the touch of cream, giving the dish just enough richness to take it from great pasta to something magical.

As a side note, I have two regrets from the evening at Jasper’s.  The first was that I shared any of that pasta with my wife and the second was that I saved some it for later.  See, our entrees arrived with the pasta course, so there was other pasta, pork osso buco and my wife’s chicken to eat.  All the while, the pasta nanni got cold and while it was good when I got back to it, it was nothing compared to when they first brought it out.  Plus, I think my wife ate all the Prosciutto.  Which is a crime in some places I think.

To this day, I still want more.  I will not consider my life complete unless I can go back to Jasper’s and eat that pasta again. 

Chef Jasper’s Chicken – Pure Bliss

The second moment of bliss so intense words failed me was when I ate my wife’s chicken dish.  When she ordered chicken Saltimbocco, I laughed. 

When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t think it was anything special.  It’s a Roman dish of chicken breast, ham, a little cheese, and some tomato sauce.  Traditionally, it’s rolled, but Chef Jasper says that it dries out the chicken too much so he left it unrolled.  There’s also a sauce made from lemon, stock, white wine, butter, and sage.  But still, when I saw it on the menu, I wasn’t excited.  I came for the big, the fancy, and the impressive dishes with hard names to say (ie osso bucco.) 

Don’t get me wrong, the pork was fantastic, but the chicken Saltimbocco was unreal.  It just worked.  The chicken was moist and the ham was perfect for adding a bit of salt, a bit of pork fat, and a bit of flavor.  The tomato sauce was gently nestled on to the chicken and added a nice bit of earthy tomato taste.  Then there was just enough cheese to top the dish to add a bit of extra saltiness and keep the dish together. 

Then there was the sauce.  That slightly citrusy, slightly tangy, slightly sagey butter-lemon-sage sauce.  To be honest, I shouldn’t like the sauce.  Citrus and wine together are about my least favorite sauce pairings, but there was I soaking it up with a piece of bread.

More than the ingredients, that dish worked because of the artistry.  You can probably find a frozen dinner with the same ingredients as that chicken Saltimbocco, but you probably can’t find a hundred chefs in the world who could make them absolutely sing like Chef Jasper.  I just can’t get over how there should be nothing special about an unrolled rolled chicken dish, but in a master’s hands, it was simply sublime.

Like the pasta, I would say that I wouldn’t consider my life complete unless I went back and had that dish it again, but I took care of it already.  So that part of my life is complete.  Though I am kinda jonsing for it again.

Chef Jasper Mentioned Melon Pasta Special

Also, I should mention the Rigatoni melon, which was the completely odd, but absolutely fantastic pasta dish with a sauce of melon, parmesan cream, and a little bacon.  If that sounds familiar, you might have seen Rachel Ray make it in her magazine, though Chef Jasper assures me his was the better version because of the bacon.  I refuse to argue against either Chef Jasper or bacon.

What amazed me was that dish its utter potential for chaos.  When you mix sour/salty parmesan cream with sweet melon and salty/fatty bacon, you should have a mess on your hands.  However, in the hands of a master, that combination was something both my wife and I loved.

And so that just part my meal with Chef Jasper.  I plan to talk about so many other parts of that dish and everything I learned from talking with him.  But for now, I need to go.  I hear some pasta nanni calling my name.

The logo was taken from Jasper’s website.

Roasted Red Peppersa

Roasted Red Peppersa

Homemade Creamy Tomato Red Pepper Sauce

Happy 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative and happy #meatlessmonday!  Hopefully you are enjoying many a meatless dish tonight, but if you’re out of delicious meatless ideas have I got one for you?!

This one is super simple and delicious.  I was actually inspired to make it when eating at Em Chamas (please no nasty comments about getting meatless recipes from a Brazilian barbecue…)  They have this fantastic cheese ravioli dish on their buffet made from a sauce of tomatoes and roasted red peppers that was just terrific.  Right next to it, they have a tomato-based chicken stroganoff that is light, creamy, and more than a little tangy.  So I got the idea to blend them together and make a delicious creamy tomato red pepper sauce.

Better yet, you can make it for less than $11.50 as part of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, Shawna Coronado grows chemical and pesticide-free (ie nude) vegetables and I turn them into a dinner for a family for four for less than $11.50.  Ready for the recipe?

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The White Album- Perfect Music to Listen to for a White Meal

The White Album- Perfect Music to Listen to for a White Meal

Okay, so the fashionistas all agree that you can’t wear white after Labor Day, but, I’m wondering about eating white after Labor Day.  Think about it.  If you can’t wear white, you’re probably wearing darker colors and if you spill… yikes!  Who knows…maybe tomorow the manner experts are going to outlaw fettuchini alfredo, sugar cookies, and White Russians!!

Just in case, maybe you should try this all-white Labor Day menu.  It’s not exactly the most waistline-friendly, but that’s not my fault.  I was trying to think of what was white and, of course, I thought of heavy cream!  It’s not my fault this meal is so creamy and delicious.  I have to make sure every one gets one last white meal during Labor Day.

You know, just in case.

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Everyone loves Baked ZitiHow’s everyone feeling?  Still hungry?  Good because unResolution month rolls on!  Today’s suggestion comes courtesy of Spookygirl, who said her favorite bad for her comfort food is baked ziti, which she said is “75% cheese … [b]aked to a bubbly goodness.”

Now, I must admit, until the last few years, no one in my house ate ziti.  Our baked noddle dish of choice was always lasagna so it was only until recently that I understood the magic that is ziti.  And now, I share it with you!

Baked Ziti

Perhaps I’m not up on my baked noodle trivia, but it has always seemed to me that the big difference between lasagna and baked ziti is the difference between order and chaos.  Lasagna, it seems to these eyes, is neatly stacked layers of noodle, cheese, and sauce whereas baked ziti is a crazy free-for-all of noodles and cheese and ground beef or ground faux beef.  Two different philosophies on life, but both equally good!

Making Baked Ziti

Really, because ziti is more freeform, it is actually far easier to make than lasagnas.  To do it…

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Okay, these little beauties are not vegan, but they are awfully good. And they are my wife’s recipe!

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells: The Right Place at the Right Time

So stuffed shells has been one of those dishes that has been a family favorite since my wife and I were dating. I threw it together one night because I thought it might be fun to take traditional lasagna stuffing and put it into shell pasta. My wife loved them. For a while they were the best dish she ever had (or so she said…)

However, stuffed shells require stuffing and, frankly, lasagna speaks to my inner lazy so we do not eat them that offen. Still, we do keep a box of shells around just in case.

Just in case happened this weekend. Normally, we do grocery shopping on the weekends, but last week we just never made it to the store. So come Sunday night, the pantry was bare. No fresh fruit. A few onions formed the bulk of the fresh veggie supplies… We had no bread that was not stale, no milk, no yeast… We were sunk.

What we did have was some Rondele Garden Vegetable spreadable cheese and frozen spinach, a can of tomato sauce, and of course, the abovementioned shells. And thus, we had dinner.

Stuffed Shells

You will need: (meat items are highlighted in orange):

  • 2 1/4 tablespoons, salt
  • 2 tablespoons, garlic powder
  • 1 large box of shell pasta
  • 1 package, frozen spinach
  • 3 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package faux breakfast sausage or real sausage
  • 1 tablespoon, breadcrumbs of smashed crackers
  • 1/2 container of Rondo veggie spread
  • 2 12.5 oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to the 350 degrees.

If you are using real sausage, put it in an oven safe dish and bake for 20 minutes. Once it has been cooked through, drain the grease. If you skip this step, all you will taste is sausage grease.

Make the Shells

Add two tablespoons of salt and all the garlic powder to a pot and add enough water to cover the shells. Bring the water to boil and add the pasta. Follow the cook time listed on the box.

Make the Vegetarian Filling

Take the spinach out of the freezer and let it thaw.

While the pasta is boiling, heat a skillet over high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil. When it is hot, add the onion, the rest of the salt, and the garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent. Then add meat (faux or not) to the skillet and cook until fully browned.

Add the spinach and the breadcrumbs to the mixture and cook until the spinach is heated through. Turn off the heat, add the Rondo and stir until well mixed.

Pull out a large baking dish (my wife used a thirteen inch baking dish) and cover the bottom with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about half of one can of tomato sauce. Then stuff each shell with one heaping spoon full of mixture (do not overstuff unless you want exploded shells.) Put the shells in the baking dish open side down.

Once you are done stuffing all the shells, cover with the rest of the tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake until the cheese is melted and slightly brown.

More Italian Tomorrow

Tomorrow we’ll be talking lasagna and then I think I’ll try bread gnocchi. Then maybe I’ll take the plunge and we’ll do real vegan gnocchi. Until then, enjoy!