My wife Dana is a great cook and loves to dabble in recipes that center around Italian cuisine. She previously made Rigatoni Alla Vodka, but she has improved on it by using pancetta. Yep, she added bacon! No wonder I married her. This is quite possibly my favorite meal of all time. You have to try it!
My wife Dana is from New York City! When we visit NYC, we like to purchase food items to bring back Virginia. One of those food items is fresh pasta. Our favorite is Manicotti. You just can’t beat the flavor of the pasta, from the pasta stores in New York. Since we haven’t been to NY in a while, our stash has run dry. So I wanted to surprise Dana with some handmade Manicotti. I must say the three cheese Manicotti was freaking fantastic. Even Dana said it was the best that she had eaten. That says a lot.
Dana and I were organizing our cabinets the other day and we found our pasta attachment for our kitchen aid mixer. Looking at it, we knew what our next recipe was going to be. We are making fresh pasta. This recipe is an all-purpose flour based pasta. I would have loved to make a semolina flour based pasta, but I was unable to find semolina flour at any of my local stores. I have some on order. I will make a semolina pasta soon!
Sometimes we have a remainder meal. What is that you ask? Well it is a meal using the remaining ingredients of all of the other cooks. Throw the ingredients in a pot and serve. Goulash is my perfect remainder meal. For this meal we had a bunch of remainders lying around. We had 1/4 box of rigatoni and a 1/4 box of penne lying around from various pasta recipes. We had a couple of cloves of garlic left from the Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi post. Plus a can of tomatoes lying around from our various different spaghetti sauce concoctions. Throw it all together and you get goulash. This works with any pasta, any ground meat and whatever seasonings you have lying around. While my concoction has these exact ingredients, feel free to play around with it.
In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the beef over medium/high heat. Once browned drain the fat.
Add the onions and garlic and cook till the onions are translucent. Roughly 10 minutes.
Add in the remaining ingredients minus the pasta. Stir and cover. Stiring every 5 minutes or so. Cook for 25 minutes.
Add the pasta and cook till tender. Roughly 25-30 minutes.
If you find that there is not enough liquid add a 1/2 cup of water when adding the pasta.
Remove from the heat, remove bay leaf and serve.
This meal is delicious and easy to make with whatever you have lying around. Feel free to swap out the ground meat, add a vegetable, use tomato sauce or even switch up the seasoning with whatever you have lying around.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large yellow onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cups water
- 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tsp basil
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tsp seasoned salt, or to taste
- 8 oz uncooked pasta (chef's choice)
- In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the beef over medium/high heat. Once browned drain the fat.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook till the onions are translucent. Roughly 10 minutes.
- Add in the remaining ingredients minus the pasta. Stir and cover. Stiring every 5 minutes or so. Cook for 25 minutes.
- Add the pasta and cook till tender. Roughly 25-30 minutes.
- If you find that there is not enough liquid add a ½ cup of water when adding the pasta.
- Remove from the heat, remove bay leaf and serve.
The Marinara Sauce from the other day is not Bill’s only specialty. My Father-in-Law also makes a mean Shrimp Marinara. This is a simple dish that utilizes his Sunday gravy. Sauteed shrimp and garlic mixed with awesome marinara sauce makes for a great meal.
Bill’s Shrimp Marinara
Peel and de-vein the shrimp.
Make sure to keep the shrimp cold while working with them.
In a large sauce pan heat up the marinara sauce over medium heat.
Preheat 6-8 quarts of salted water in a large pot for the spaghetti. When the pot is boiling add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box. Set aside.
In a large skillet heat 3 tbs of olive oil and add the garlic.
Saute the garlic until lightly browned.
Then add the shrimp.
Cook the shrimp roughly 1.5-2 minutes on each side, or until they turn light pink.
Transfer the shrimp to the sauce pan and then allow them to simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cooked spaghetti to the pot and toss.
Once the spaghetti is coated with sauce serve.
- 6 cups Marinara Sauce
- 2 pounds raw shrimp
- 3 cloves garlic - finely diced
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- In a large sauce pan heat up the marinara sauce over medium heat.
- Preheat 6-8 quarts of salted water in a large pot for the spaghetti. When the pot is boiling add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box. Set aside.
- In a large skillet heat 3 tbs of olive oil and add the garlic.
- Saute the garlic until lightly browned.
- Then add the shrimp.
- Cook the shrimp roughly 1.5-2 minutes on each side, or until they turn light pink.
- Transfer the shrimp to the sauce pan and then allow them to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked spaghetti to the pot and toss.
- Once the spaghetti is coated with sauce serve.
I know that when the average foodie hears the like of Rachel Ray they cringe, but I just tried a take on one of her recipes and it was pretty darn good. As a man that likes to eat I will try just about anything once. Granted I have tried a couple of her recipes and had less than great results. However, this one hit the nail on the head. Her Christmas Pasta recipe is great. I modified it a bit to help with standard shopping ingredients and sizes, but for the most part left it as-is. The pancetta to start if off adds some great flavors. Plus this recipe makes a ton of sauce and then allows you to cook only the pasta necessary for each meal. Only two of you, make 1/2 lb of pasta and you are good to go. Want some leftovers for lunch, boil some fresh pasta and toss it with some leftover sauce. There is nothing like fresh pasta to make leftovers not taste like leftovers. I also changed the name as it is more of a Ragu than anything.
Quick Ragu Pasta
Heat a dutch oven or large heavy bottom pot over medium high heat.
Add oil, bay, and pancetta bits and brown for 1 minute. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Make sure to stir frequently so the garlic does not burn.
Add meats and brown. Using a wooden spoon crumble and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
Add stock and tomatoes to the pot.
Stir in parsley, allspice and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes minimum before serving.
Cook as much of the pasta as needed. Toss the pasta with a couple of ladles of sauce.
Finish the pasta off with some freshly grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- ¼ pound pancetta, thick cut, chopped into small bits (Italian cured pork, ask at deli counter)
- 1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
- 1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup Cabernet Savignon
- 14oz can beef broth
- 2 (28-ounce) cans chunky style crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbs flat leaf parsley leaves
- ¼ tsp allspice
- Coarse salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 boxes penne
- Grated Pecorino Romano
- Heat a dutch oven or large heavy bottom pot over medium high heat. Add oil, bay, and pancetta bits and brown for 1 minute. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Make sure to stir frequently so the garlic does not burn..
- Add meats and brown. Using a wooden spoon crumble and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
- Add stock and tomatoes to the pot.
- Stir in parsley, allspice and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes minimum before serving.
- Cook as much of the pasta as needed. Toss the pasta with a couple of ladles of sauce.
- Finish the pasta off with some freshly grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.
Nobody was more surprised than me by how easy and delicious this recipe actually was.
You have to try this out!
A couple of weeks ago Chris over at NibbleMeThis made Spaghetti and Meatball Pot Pies. They were ingenious! If you have never been to his blog, I would definitely check it out. He is a master with a grill. His Pot Pies have stuck in my mind for a while now and I decided to make my own version. Dana’s favorite meal is Baked Ziti, so I decided to make Baked Ziti Pot Pies.
Baked Ziti Pot Pies – (Adapted from NibbleMeThis Spaghetti Pot Pies)
- 1 pizza dough – (recipe for Basic Pizza Dough)
- 1 lb box ziti, rigatoni, tortiglioni or ditalini
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 cups marinara or 24oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- 15oz tub ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 4 tbs butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp parsley
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 4 ramekins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large pot, boil 6-8 quarts of water and cook the pasta till partially done. I used Ditalini as it was smaller and therefore, more could fit into each ramekin. For Ditalini, cook it for 8-9 minutes and drain. Then set aside.
In a large saute pan, brown the meat. Then add the sauce and stir. Check for seasoning. It may need a little salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and egg. Mix until well combined.
When the sauce is cool to the touch, fold the ricotta mixture into the meat sauce. Set aside.
Grease the ramekins with vegetable oil or spray. Then add one slice of mozzarella to the bottom of the ramekin.
Then add a couple spoonfuls of sauce.
Add two tablespoons of noodles.
Then add another slice of mozzarella, some sauce and more noodles. Top off with some sauce and a handful of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Roll out the pizza dough and then cut four circles out of it. Use your biggest circle cutter or a bowl and a pizza cutter. Then roll out the circles so that they are about 5 inches in diameter.
Press the pizza dough circles over the top of the ramekins. Melt the butter and add the garlic, parsley and thyme. Then brush the garlic butter over the tops of the pot pies.
Place the ramekins in the preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Remove and brush another coat of garlic butter on them. Then place back in the oven and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until they are a golden brown.
Remove and let sit until you can handle them with pot holders.
Invert the pot pie on a plate and remove the ramekin to serve. The trick is to give the bowl a sharp twist and then pull up.
These were some of the best pot pies I have ever had. They were reminiscent of the Domino’s Bread Bowl Pasta. Super delicious.
Thanks for the great idea Chris!
I like to keep fresh produce lying around, but it spoils so quickly. So I have determined a few ways to keep fresh produce on hand but have it last as long as possible. First tip, cherry tomatoes. They keep for a long time and you can use them for everything from sandwiches to pasta. Second tip, Spinach. I have no idea why, but spinach seems to last forever in my fridge. Once again, I use it as my green addition to everything. My third tip is for protein, chicken freezes very well. So I always buy it in bulk. The best way to freeze chicken is to…. Trim it, wrap each piece with plastic wrap and then tightly wrap with aluminum foil. Use a marker to write the date and you are good to go. It thaws in about 5-6 hours in the fridge. So using my go to ingredients I made a quick pasta. Delicious.
Chicken, Spinach and Tomato Pasta
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup zesty Italian dressing, bottled or click here for a recipe
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 6-8 oz baby spinach
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbs fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3/4 lb spaghetti, angel hair or cappellini pasta
- 1/4 freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Prepare the Chicken
Marinate the chicken in the Zesty Italian Dressing (feel free to substitute regular Italian Dressing) for at least 1 hour.
Then grill over medium/high heat until the juices run clear. Remove from the heat and let the chicken rest.
Once cooled, cube the chicken and set aside.
Make the Pasta
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente. My suggestion is to set a timer for 1-2 minutes less than the amount on the pasta box. Take a sample when the timer is up. If it has a little bite to the pasta it is perfect.
Prepare the Sauce
Place a large skillet over medium/high heat and add the olive oil. Then add the garlic and stir for 10 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and cook until they are caramelized and the water is removed from them. This will fill the pan with tomato juice.
Then add the spinach and cover. Let cook for 1 minute. Then remove the top and stir. Continue to cook until the spinach starts to cook.
Add the basil, chicken, pasta, salt and pepper. Stir until fully incorporated.
Plate and serve. I have found that it is easiest to use tongs to do the plating. Grate a little Parmesan over the top and you have a light and healthy meal.
This meal was a home run. Quick, easy and delicious.
Dana’s favorite meal of all time is baked ziti. I have never made it, so I decided to tackle it. I used a basic marinara sauce and then went from there. My first problem was that the local grocery stores did not carry ziti. They carried penne and rigatoni. I opted for the bigger rigatoni noodles. It turned out to be a great choice. Dana loved it and gave the recipe two thumbs up.
Bake Ziti – (From Jane Duffin)
- 1 lb box ziti, rigatoni, tortiglioni or penne
- 3 cups marinara or 24oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- 15oz tub ricotta cheese
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese
- 2 oz freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 13×9 pan
- Aluminum Foil
- Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large pot, boil 6-8 quarts of water and cook the pasta till partially done. For ziti or rigatoni cook for 10 minutes and drain.
Grease a 13×9 pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the marinara sauce and the ricotta cheese.
Mix well until the cheese is thoroughly blended. Make sure not to have any huge ricotta lumps.
Add the drained pasta to the pan. Then pour the marinara and ricotta mixture over the top. Also add half of the mozzarella cheese.
Top the pasta with the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is browned.
Serve with some garlic bread and you have a great meal.
I received my Christmas present a tad bit early from my soon to be in-laws. They got me the KitchenAid pasta roller and cutter attachments. Basically the perfect gift for a food blogger. I have been wanting to make pasta from the minute that I unwrapped the present. Luckily within a few minutes I was making pounds of spaghetti. The KitchenAid attachment makes it super easy. Thanks Jane and Bill!
Basic Egg Noodles – (From KitchenAid)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tbs water
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
Using the bowl of your mixer, add the eggs, water, flour and salt. Then use your flat beater to mix the ingredients. Turn the mixture to speed 2 and let it mix for 30 seconds.
Then pour the mixture out onto a flat surface and knead for a couple of minutes.
When the dough comes together, let it rest for about 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting attach the sheet roller attachment to the mixer. Then divide the dough into four equal pieces. Then flatten the four pieces slightly before running them through the roller.
Set the roller to 1 and then run the dough through it. The first time is going to be a little hard. You will end up with dough that is a little patchy. That is ok. Fold the dough in half and run it through again. This time it will be easier. The dough will look more uniform and things only get easier from here. Fold in half and run through again. Repeat another 4-5 times until you have a nice uniform dough sheet.
Change the roller setting to 2 and run the dough through. Repeat changing the dough setting until you reach the thickness that you desire. I roll mine out to 4 to make spaghetti using the spaghetti attachment.
Set the dough aside and lightly flour while you change the attachment to spaghetti. Then run the sheets through to make the perfect strings of spaghetti.
Cook the fresh spaghetti for 2-4 minutes and you have a great meal.
Overall the KitchenAid attachments were awesome. It took me a few minutes to get everything up and running, but in the end it was the easiest way I have found to make pasta. I would totally recommend that you get these if you have a KitchenAid mixer and eat pasta at all.
Tips for Using the Attachments
- Flatten the dough before running it through for the first time.
- Lightly dust the dough between each run through the machine.
- Take your time and run the dough through the sheeter a couple of times.
- Use a bowl to catch any little bits of pasta that might break off when cutting the spaghetti or other shapes of pasta.
- Make sure to let the pasta rest before rolling.
- Egg pasta does contain perishable ingredients so don’t let the pasta sit out for more than an hour.
- Don’t over-cook the pasta.
My CSA comes with unlimited basil each week. Therefore, I have been making a ton of pesto. I love the fresh taste of pesto. After a few tries, I found that the best pasta for pesto is Cellantani. It is a spiral macaroni pasta with rigati grooves in the outside. The spiral along with the grooves helps the pesto stick to the pasta. Top this off with some grilled chicken and you have a great meal.
Grilled Chicken over Cellantani Pesto
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 lb Cellantani Pasta
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/2 toasted pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2-2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and Freshly cracked Pepper for seasoning
Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place directly on a preheated medium/high grill. Grill for roughly 6 minutes per side.
When the chicken is fully cooked and the juices run clear, remove and let rest.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the Cellantani according to the box instructions. Usually it takes 8-10 minutes to cook. Drain and return to the pasta to the pot.
Make sure to rinse your basil. Especially if it is farm fresh. Need to make sure to get all of the dust off the leaves.
In a food processor combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If you like your pesto a little on the runnier side you can add a tad more oil, or even a little water if you want it to be a tad bit healthier.
Pour the pesto over the pasta in the pot and add the cheese. Mix until combined.
Plate the Cellantani Pesto and then top with the chicken sliced thinly.
This dish is awesome. It is quick and easy. A great way to get rid of some extra basil.
I was looking for a meat free dish the other day and Dana suggested manicotti. I have had this stuffed shell dish, but have never attempted to make it. So here is my attempt and ultimate success. They were delicious. The cheese and spinach stuffing was the best.
Served with a basic marinara these manicotti were awesome.
This months issue of Food and Wine has a some great pasta recipes in it. One that sparked my interest was Orecchiette with Veal Capers and White Wine. Orecchiette is the pasta that looks like little ears. Unfortunately no store around me has this type of pasta. Further, I am not the biggest fan of capers. I had a bad experience with them once at a wedding reception and it has pretty much ruined them for me. I know that I should try them again, but it was horrible. After a little tweaking I think it is an amazing dish.
Substituting shell pasta for the Orecchiette gives a similar texture that holds on to the meat.