Tag Archives: pasta

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo…

I haven’t posted this in a while but I made it for dinner tonight and thought I would. It is so simple but yet so delicious. Substitute any vegetable for the broccoli.  

Spaghetti con broccoli, aglio, olio e brodo 
(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth) 

Yield: 4 servings 

½ pound spaghetti
¼ cup virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 large head broccoli, chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Pasta for a winter’s eve…

If you’ve been to this blog before then you know a few things about me. One is that I like one-pot meals such as rice or pasta…especially pasta. And this is a good example. I’ve been ill for the past few days (a cold) and actually took the day off work yesterday, which is unlike me. But while being self-sequestered at home had difficulty doing absolutely nothing, so I did something that nourishes both body and soul…I cooked, and also baked bread. Checking my fridge I came up with the ingredients for this dish and it turned out to be just what I needed…perfect comfort food for a winter’s evening. And as usual, this recipe is simply a guide and not a blueprint…it is really just a sort of elaborate variation of the many aglio e olio recipes posted on this blog. Add or remove whichever ingredients you have at hand or suit your taste.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Kale
Serves 2-4
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups kale, coarsely chopped
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
2 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Boil the spaghetti al dente, drain, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and sautes them until they begin to brown, then add the garlic and hot pepper and saute another minute or two. Stir in the kale and sun-dried tomatoes, coating it with the oil and seasonings, then add the broth and salt. Bring the broth to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the broth for 5-10 minutes, or until it reduces by two-thirds and is concentrated in both flavor and viscosity. Add the cooked spaghetti and simmer it while stirring gently for a minute or two, allowing flavors to permeate the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4

½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.


Urban Simplicity.

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

This is such an easy summertime recipe you’ll want to make it all the time, especially if you have your own victory garden. It’s bursting with flavor and it comes from the vine-ripe tomatoes, twice cooked garlic, and herbs. And the best part is that the entire dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes (if you are somewhat organized). I finished the dish with a liberal sprinkling of crushed hot pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (which are not reflected in the recipe).
Penne Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Twice-Cooked Garlic

Serves 4


½ pound whole wheat penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped


Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water, then drain it and set it aside. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a sauce pot over medium heat and cook the garlic slowly for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the diced onion and pepper to the hot oil. Cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes. While the onions and peppers are cooking, mince the cooked garlic. When the onions and peppers just begin to brown add the garlic back to the pot and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and becomes slightly thick. Add the pasta to the sauce, gently turning it to coat it evenly and to reheat it. Then stir in the basil and parsley and remove the pot from the heat.


Urban Simplicity.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses (yum!)

Okay. So this is really delicious. How delicious is it, you may ask? Well if you notice in the servings I wrote that it makes either four small or two large portions. When I first put it in the oven I looked at it and thought it would easily serve four, but when it came out it was so delicious I ate half of it.

Anyhow, as usual this is just a guide…use different ingredients or interchange them. I just happened to have some cauliflower in my cooler I needed to use up. You can also multiply this recipe, or make extra because leftovers are equally good.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses

Make four small or two large servings

1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ head cauliflower, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 tomato sauce

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

2 ounces grated Parmesan


Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses (yum!)

Okay. So this is really delicious. How delicious is it, you may ask? Well if you notice in the servings I wrote that it makes either four small or two large portions. When I first put it in the oven I looked at it and thought it would easily serve four, but when it came out it was so delicious I ate half of it.

Anyhow, as usual this is just a guide…use different ingredients or interchange them. I just happened to have some cauliflower in my cooler I needed to use up. You can also multiply this recipe, or make extra because leftovers are equally good.

Baked Macaroni with Caramelized Cauliflower and Two Cheeses
Make four small or two large servings
1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ head cauliflower, sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 tomato sauce
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan

Preheat an oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni al dente, drain it, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, then add the cauliflower and onion. Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper; cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in the tomato sauce, bring it to a boil and simmer it for a minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat. Carefully fold in the macaroni and most of the cheese. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese across the top of the macaroni, then bake it for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the macaroni is thoroughly heated and the top is brown and crispy. 

Verdure aglio e olio (due ricette)

Okay. By now–if you’ve been to this blog before–you know that I like things cooked with olive oil and garlic. A lot. I could eat it in variation nearly every day…and I almost do. I posted a similar recipe about a month ago but this combo was too good not to share…whole wheat penne with broccoli aglio e olio, layered with spaghetti squash cooked in the same fashion. I also used extra garlic and hot pepper in the recipe and a liberal dousing of Parmesan to finish it. Yum. I just ate but I salivate at it’s remembrance. Anyhow, the recipe for the penne and broccoli is below (substitute penne for the spaghetti, and vegetable broth for the chicken broth if you want to keep it vegetarian). To see how to cook, shred, and saute a butternut squash in this fashion (with pics and step-by-step instructions), see this post. For multiple recipes on cooking nearly anything aglio e olio, click here.

 

Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

                                        Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pounds spaghetti

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups chopped broccoli florets 

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Pasta Fra Diavolo

Pasta with seafood…yum! It is one of my favorites. And Fra Diavolo is likely my all-time version of seafood pasta. It’s name–Fra Diavolo–translates from Italian to “Brother Devil,” and the dish has a somewhat interesting history (to read about it go to this post). This recipe can be made with nearly any seafood and any shape pasta, so long as the other ingredients are involved…tomato sauce (I still had a pint of sauce in my freezer from last summer’s tomatoes), hot peppers, anchovies (yes anchovies!), and red wine. The recipe listed below includes penne and halibut, but the one pictured–the one I ate for dinner tonight–was made with tilapia and ziti. This is delicious, healthy, and really easy to make. Anyhow, if you’d like to see additional pictures of (variations) of this being made, click here or here.

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate


Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.


Urban Simplicity.

Simple Pasta Recipe = Comfort Food

I had mentioned in recent posts on how I am in a particularly stressful period right now at work. Crazy busy. Just one lunch and dinner after another. Today, at one point, I think I was making five different recipes simultaneously while I was also directing my staff. I’m not mentioning this to be a braggart–on the contrary–but just to illustrate the difference between cooking at work to cooking at home. At work I have to cook things simultaneously and in large batches…sauces by the gallon, soups in 20-30 gallon batches, entrees by the hundreds. And all the while barking out orders to the cooks. It’s a wonder I make it through the day sometimes. Really. Okay…sorry for being so whiny. My point is what a juxtaposition it is then to come home and cook dinner for myself. My son was not home this evening so it was just myself and my pugs. So after I fed the dogs I poured myself a glass of wine, put a pot of water on the stove to boil (for pasta), tuned into NPR on the radio, sat on a stool and waited for the water to boil while I sipped my wine. Quite a difference from the frantic cooking I did earlier in the day; without looking I knew the water was ready because I could hear it boiling. After I boiled and drained the pasta I made the following recipe. It’s one of my favorites and I have posted many variations of it on this blog. The recipe below uses spaghetti but tonight I made it with penne. Use whichever type of pasta you like and whichever vegetable you like. (For many other variations with better photos, click here.) And as I ate and listened to the radio I thought about how much I still love to cook–at home and at work (but not when it’s so busy)–and how good food tastes when you make it yourself. When I was almost done eating but had a little left on my plate, I fed it to my dogs (who had been sitting patiently and staring at me the entire while I cooked and ate), then I poured myself another glass of wine and turned up the radio a bit while I washed the dishes.


Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

                                        Yield: 4 servings
3/4 pounds spaghetti
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chopped broccoli florets 
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Penne Bolognese (senza latte o panna)

Pasta with meat sauce. Mmm…I love it; easy to make and really delicious. But first I have to say that while I am most definitely not a vegetarian I do not eat a great deal of meat (for a variety of reasons). Sometimes I go days, even a week or so with out eating meat (as I have this past week…up until today), and then when I do eat it it tastes that much more special. And while I call this Bolognese I know that there are purists out there who will twist themselves in knots as they read the recipe, but this is my variation. I, for example, do not use milk or cream in the recipe (I cook far too much creamy stuff at my job) and I use olive oil in place of the butter. I also prefer pork instead of a combination of meats. Anyhow, this is how I make mine, and it’s really good (my teen-aged son ate three helpings); I hope you enjoy it.

Penne Bolognese

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet, then add ground pork and cook it until it begins to brown. If there is a lot of fat drain some of it, otherwise leave it as is. Add a diced onion, bell pepper, a couple cloves of minced garlic, a peeled and diced carrot, and a diced stalk of celery. Cook the vegetables another minute or so. Add a pinch of fennel seed, crushed hot pepper, basil, and oregano; stir it into the meat and vegetables, then add a glass or two of wine; white or red, whichever you prefer (I like red). Bring the wine to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two, then add enough tomato sauce to just cover the meat. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower it to a slow simmer; season it with salt and a pinch of black pepper. While the sauce cooks, boil your pasta. Cook the pasta al dente, then add it to the simmering sauce, gently stirring it in. Allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for a couple minutes to absorb flavors. Just before removing from the heat stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves (if you have it on hand). Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. 

Urban Simplicity.

Twenty Minute Pasta with Beans and Greens Recipe

This recipe–as I say about all the recipes that I post on this blog–is really easy to make, nutritious, and super delicious. And it only takes twenty minutes (or less) to prepare, granting you have your beans cooked and have good knife skills (in other words, if you can chop things fast). The only meat in the recipe is the chicken broth, but it can easily be vegetarian/vegan by using vegetable broth. If you do prefer to have animal protein in this recipe almost any poultry or meat (or even fish) would be good, as would a bit of ham, bacon, or smoked sausage. It would just take a little longer to cook. I also doused it with a liberal helping of Parmesan cheese (which is not listed in the recipe). Anyhow, here’s a few pictures of it being prepared; the recipe follows.

Beans and Greens
Serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon fennel seed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups cooked beans
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups (about 5oz) chopped fresh spinach
½ pound whole wheat pasta

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot and add the onion, green pepper, and garlic; saute for a couple minutes. Stir in the salt, paprika, hot pepper, basil, oregano, and fennel seed; stir and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the bean mixture for about 10 minutes, or until it reduces by 1/3 and start to thicken. Then stir in the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in plenty of boiled water. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans and spinach, allowing it to absorb some of it’s flavor. 

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

This is by far one of my favorite seafood/tomato sauce recipes. It’s easy to make and really delicious…and it has an interesting history also. To read more about it’s origins, the reason certain ingredients are included, or to see photos of it being prepared, click here. (And no, to some of the squeamish readers who may be afraid of anchovies, you don’t taste them in the sauce…they are more of a nuance–I personally love them and ate a few straight from the can–and yes, to the same group of readers, you can omit them from the recipe…but it’s not quite the same.)

ShrimpFra Diavolo 
Makes 4 portions
6tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2small onion, diced
2cloves garlic, minced
2anchovy filets
1teaspoon crushed red pepper
2teaspoons minced parsley
1/2teaspoon basil
1/2teaspoon salt
2/3cup red wine
2cups tomato purée
1/2pound linguine
1/2pound large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

Heat3 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepot. Add the onion andgarlic; sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the anchoviesand hot pepper; sauté for 1 minute, mashing the anchovies with awooden spoon. Stir in the parsley, basil, salt, and red wine. Simmerthe wine for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato puree. Simmerthe sauce slowly fore about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes toothick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boilthe pasta until aldente,rinse it and set aside.

Heatthe remaining 3 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Patthe shrimp dry and carefully add them to the skillet. Stir and tossthe shrimp in the hot oil for a minute or two, then add the sauce.Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the shrimp for just a coupleminutes. Make sure the pasta is drained well and add it to the sauce.Cook just long enough to reheat the pasta.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#391)…and a few comments about repairs

Things on the bike: A cardboard box containing two hand-crank pasta machines and two ravioli plates, a plastic bucket containing a partially mixed batch of Ezekiel Bread, and a canvas bag containing–among other things–a few books and a mini tripod.

A couple comments: The reason the dough on the bike is partially mixed is because I still do not have my mixer back from repair (as discussed here)…actually, I’m not quite sure where it is. A few weeks ago I took it to Sears to have it repaired. The national phone service told me that they do indeed repair Kitchen Aid mixers, but when I brought it there everyone seemed pretty confused. To make a long story short, after numerous phone calls (and various people telling me it was either shipped or received elsewhere) someone finally called me back from Florida. She told me it was shipped to an incorrect location and that it had to be shipped back to the Buffalo location before it can be shipped out to the correct repair location in the Midwest. Where does it have to be shipped to? I don’t know. What’s wrong with it? Still not sure. Has anyone actually looked at it? Doubtful. How long will this take or how much will it cost or do I even know where the hell it is or if it can actually be repaired? Don’t know…to all of it.No one seems to know. If I don’t hear from them by Monday (as promised) I’ll start my barrage of  phone calls again.

Sorry, just had to vent. If you happen to see a tired-looking middle-aged guy picketing outside Sears in the freezing cold while standing next to a bike loaded down with odd objects it’ll likely be me. Please stop and say hello…or better yet, bring me a warm cup of coffee.

Urban Simplicity.

Handmade Pasta

Homemade pasta is not only simple to make but also fun. And besides that I really believe it is one of the most brilliant foods there is. Think of it’s versatility, nearly every culture has a version of it, and its most basic form it is nothing more than a paste made with flour, and sometimes eggs. The word pasta is in fact the Italian word meaning “paste;” Spanish is the same, and in French it is often called pâte (paste) or pâtes à l’œuf (paste with eggs)…but it does sound more appealing to eat pasta than paste. When cooked with other meager ingredients, pasta becomes not only delicious but a delicious meal…the paste–or pasta–absorbs the flavor of whet it is cooked in. We made this for employee meal today for the simple reason that I enjoy making it, but more importantly, love eating it. Anyhow, I originally had the below text and recipes published in Artvoice some years ago, but I also posted on this blog previously (where you can see additional pictures of the dough being made).

On Making Dough


In today’s world that so often seems to be racing and spiraling out of control, and in a time when restaurant food performs gravity defying feats on a daily basis, there is no other therapeutic food to create with your hands than pasta. This is not to imply that pasta has curative properties, but rather, the act of making pasta can actually be a form of relaxation and meditative medium. It’s a humble and inexpensive food, and can easily be an entire meal; in its most basic form pasta is simply a paste of eggs and flour.

The art of making pasta dough by hand is one that should be relished—ditto for bread dough. But with the proliferation of mechanical means—fancy electric mixers, food processors, bread machines, etc.—the age-old process of producing silky smooth pasta by hand is often overlooked and forgotten. Though it would be untrue to state that pasta mixed manually was an easy task, once mastered the process is quite enjoyable. The dough has to be mixed enough to develop the gluten in the flour, and then kneaded further until it starts to break some of the gluten down to a certain extent and incorporate some air into the dough, which, in turn, will yield a perfectly smooth and workable dough. One should not approach this task in an anticipated state of drudgery, but hopefully, with appreciation.
 
For inspiration while cooking, I’ll often set before me the ingredients at hand, in the case of pasta this entails flour and eggs, and sometimes water, oil or salt. It’s interesting to look at these few items and visualize their origins, functions, how they change when combined with one another and what the resulting product will be. Try to imagine the grains of flour swelling to accept the liquid, and the proteins aligning and clinging to themselves, almost fighting against the force of your hands to create structure in the dough. Ultimately, the ingredients will not be distinct and separate any longer, but something new, one single component or mass: dough. And though, I’m sure, that all of these ingredients were harvested separately with the use of mechanics, when they are set out in their most simple and basic form, it often seems unsuitable to mix the dough with anything other than your hands.  

Pasta is, as its name suggests, a paste. The paste is most often made with flour and eggs, water sometimes replaces all or a portion of the eggs; vegetable purées can be added, and also salt, oil, herbs or spices. There is no need for special equipment; your hands are the best tools that you can ever own. The finished dough can be rolled and cut using a simple rolling pin and large knife, or with the aid of a hand-cranked pasta machine, the latter taking less effort and offering more consistent results.

There is no denying that for a beginner, to make pasta by hand takes practice—the making of the dough is actually very easy, it’s the kneading and rolling that takes quite a bit of effort. The incredibly inspirational writer and culinary educator Madeleine Kamman states the benefits of making pasta entirely by hand in her voluminous book The New Making of a Cook. One of the benefits, she says, is that you will be 1 or 2 pounds lighter in weight upon completing the task.

To make a basic egg dough begin by mounding an appropriate amount of flour on a counter or table, and make an indentation, or “well” in the center of the mound; crack eggs directly into the well. If you decide to use water, oil, salt or other flavorings, add these ingredients now. Using an ordinary dinner fork, start to beat the eggs as if you were scrambling them. As you do this, begin to

incorporate some of the flour into the eggs. When enough flour has been combined with the eggs to form a loose paste or batter, mix in the rest of the flour with your hands and bunch it together to form a crumbly ball. Begin to knead the dough by pushing and stretching it away from you with the heel of your hand, then fold it and pull it back towards you with your fingers. In a very short while you will have before you a homogenous ball of dough, that’s the easy part. The more difficult process is to knead it for another 15 minutes. What you have to do is develop the gluten in the dough which will give it strength, and then knead it beyond that point until it starts to break some of this gluten down, which will make a smooth dough that is easy to work with. Eventually, after a sufficient amount of kneading, you’ll note a change in the dough—it will become much smoother, slightly lighter in color and more pliable. Wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside for 30 minutes, the gluten needs to relax.

After the pasta has rested it can be rolled out to a desired thickness (roll it thinner than actually needed as it will swell when boiled). This done, it can be cut into any number of shapes, or used for lasagna, ravioli or tortellini. Raw sheets of dough can also be floured and layered between sheets of parchment then frozen for future use.

Cooking fresh pasta takes a fraction of the time as dried. It needs only 3 or 4 minutes to thoroughly cook in rapidly boiling water; stuffed pasta takes longer to cook for obvious reasons.

The next time you’ve time on your hands and are searching for culinary inspiration, make pasta by hand. It will be good for you.

Basic Pasta Dough
Yield: 6 portions

   3 cups all purpose flour
   4 large eggs
   1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place 2-1/2 cups of the flour in a mound on a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, water and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes while working in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.
                       

Roast Red Pepper Pasta Dough
4 portions

      1 large red pepper
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      2 large eggs
  1/4 teaspoon salt

Roast the pepper by placing it directly over an open flame, either on stove indoors, or for a smokier flavor, over an outdoor grill. Cook the pepper until the skin is almost entirely black, then place it in a paper bag. After the pepper has been resting in the bag for 5 minutes, remove it from the bag and rinse it under cold running water and rub the charred skin away. Gently tear open the pepper and remove and discard the seeds and stem. Purée the pepper in a blender until it is perfectly smooth, then pour the purée into a measuring cup. The purée should measure 1/2 cup, if it does not, add enough water to compensate. On the other hand, if the purée is greater than 1/2 cup, remove the excess portion and reserve for future use.  

Mound the flour on a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, pepper purée and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.

Whole Wheat Pasta Dough
Yield: 6 portions

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
      4 large eggs
      3 tablespoons cold water
  1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the flours together in a small bowl, then mound 2-1/2 cups of the mixed flours onto a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, water and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes while working in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.

Urban Simplicity


Meatballs…or polpette?

Likely everyone in America has an opinion on the recipe and/or origin of classic tomato sauce and meatballs, especially if you are of Italian ancestry. Some say this is purely an American recipe that was adapted by early Italian immigrants out of necessity, while others believe it has its roots in the “old country”…and surely no recipe is as good as your mother’s or grandmother’s. Anyhow, I am not of Italian ancestry but grew up eating spaghetti-and-meatballs (made from scratch), and it’s still one of my–and my son’s–favorites. It’s easy to prepare, delicious, and you can make enough meatballs and sauce to freeze for a future meal when you’re in a hurry. We had this for dinner tonight and it was so good I believe I’ll go back for another helping.

Likely you have a recipe for this, but in the event that you don’t I’ve included a basic one below. If you’d like to read an article I wrote on pasta in general some years ago (which was originally published in Artvoice but is still floating on the Internet at AlterNet),  click here.

Ziti with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Yield 2-4 servings

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled andminced

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup red wine

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1-1/2 cups tomato purée


Heat the olive oil over medium-highheat in a small sauce pot. Add the onion and sauté untiltranslucent, but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.Stir in the sugar, basil, salt, and pepper; sauté another minute.Add the red wine, and allow it to simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in thebroth and tomato purée.Bring the sauce to a slow simmer.


For the meatballs:

8 ounces ground beef

1/2 small onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons grated PecorinoRomano Cheese

1 large egg

1 slice wheat bread, crust removedand torn into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil for sautéing


Combine all of the ingredients in asmall bowl, and knead them for a minute or two, or until they are ahomogenous mass. Roll the meat into 16 mini meatballs. Heat a fewtablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.Place the meatballs in the hot oil and brown them on all sides.Remove the meatballs from the skillet and transfer them to the sauce.Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 45 minutes. If the saucebecomes too thick add water or broth until desired consistency.


To complete the dish:

1/2 pound ziti

grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

crushed hot pepper


Cook the ziti in plenty of boilingwater until al dente. Drain the pasta thoroughly, then transfer it toa large bowl. Pour the sauce and meatballs over the pasta; toss untilcombined. Serve while hot with grated cheese and crushed red pepper.

Urban Simplicity.

Super Delicious (and simple to make) Pasta con Vendure

This is a dish that I served to our staff at work yesterday. I was trying to use up some vegetables because we are closed for the first week of January. It’s really just a more complex version of any of the aglio e olio dishes I’ve posted here before. But before I start the recipe I have to qualify some of the ingredients…most are out of season, which is unlike me when I cook at home. But this was at my place of employment where we are primarily a banquet house, meaning what I purchase and serve is dictated by what the customers request. Unfortunately, to many, everything is always in season (it’s always overflowing in the supermarket isn’t it?). OK, sorry for the brief rant, I’ll get back on topic about the actual recipe. Anyhow, and as aforementioned, this is basically a version of an oil and garlic style pasta dish…but with more stuff in it…mainly how it was seasoned.

Here’s the ingredients I used (but you can adapt this to any ingredients…especially more seasonal vegetables), they’re listed in the order of application…

Olive oil, onion, carrot, sweet red pepper, garlic, crushed hot peppers, fennel seed, saffron threads, smoked paprika, white wine, chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian), kosher salt, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cooked whole-wheat penne rigate, grated Manchego cheese (proportions are up to you; the more vegetables the better…and I use lots of garlic and hot pepper).

This is how to make it…

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrot, and sweet pepper; cook it until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, crushed hot pepper, and fennel seed; cook a couple minutes longer, making a sort of sofrito. Then add a small amount of smoked paprika and a few saffron threads; cook just a minute longer to bring out their flavor. Add some white wine and allow it to evaporate for a few minutes as it cooks, then add an equal quantity of broth. Season the liquid with kosher salt, and while it is boiling add the tomatoes and asparagus. Stir and cook the vegetables for a couple minute, until some of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables are al dente. Stir in the pasta and allow most of the remainder of the liquid to absorb into it. Toss with the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Broccoli Aglio e Olio

Vegetables can be so beautiful. I’ve posted on cooking things with aglio e olio many times in the past, but I had this for dinner last night and thought it was so beautiful and delicious I thought I’d share a picture. Click here or a recipe (with pasta); click hereto see many other versions of this dish.

Urban Simplicity.

I Like to Cook at Home

“Cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet,” says Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress.” “And while stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. It’s a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight and even sizzling sound.”

I could easily start and finish this post with it’s title: I Like to Cook at Home. Though I cook all day at work I still like to cook at home; it’s my favorite place. Often the busier the day at work the more I want to cook myself dinner at  home. I don’t eat like I cook on the job–most chefs don’t–otherwise I would be either as big as a house or in the grave. At work I cook tons of red meat and often use cream and lots of butter. At home my meals are based on pasta, olive oil, bread, pizza, and vegetables. On-the-job cooking is often stressful; at home it is relaxing. Cooking at home can be a form of therapy. Most often it is just my son and I, or even just myself. The above picture is tonight’s meal in progress. Chicken ragu in one pot, macaroni boiling in another; broccoli aglio e olio sauteing in the foreground, and a seven grain mixture boiling in the rear (which I’ll make into seven grain bread in the morning). At work I never allow a radio or stereo playing (there’s enough white noise in a stressful kitchen), but at home I always listen to music or NPR; tonight I was listening to Fred Eaglesmith. I can’t image not wanting to have the desire to cook for myself; I feel blessed. People ask me all the time if I don’t get tired of cooking. No is always the answer. But if I were to elaborate I would say that while I still enjoy and feel lucky enough to cook for a living–no matter how stressful–my most favorite place to cook is at home, and sometimes just for myself.

I don’t have a typed recipe for tonight’s meal to offer, but this one–which contains fish and is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes–is really good and similar to the chicken version we had tonight. If you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice a few years ago on these very same thoughts, click here.

Urban Simplicity.