Smothered Onion Sauce

I know it’s been a really long time since I last posted. No excuse, really, just general laziness. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I made Marcella Hazan’s Smothered Onion Sauce. Ohhhh goodness, I didn’t know onions could be so deliciously sweet! This is an easy recipe, albeit a bit time consuming.

Ingredients:

1- 2 tablespoons butter, with
2- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3- 1 1/2 lbs onions, sliced very thin, about 6 cups
4- salt
5- black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
6- 1/2 cup dry white wine
7- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
8- 1 -1 1/2 lb spaghetti or 1 -1 1/2 lb another pasta

Directions:

Put the butter and olive oil, and the onions with some salt in a large sauté pan. Cover and turn heat to very low. Cook for almost 45 minutes to an hour until the onions become very soft.

Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and cook the onions until they become colored a deep, dark gold. Any liquid the onions may have shed must now boil away.

Add liberal grindings of pepper. Taste and correct for salt. Bear in mind that onions become very sweet when cooked in this manner and need an adequate amount of seasoning. Add the wine, turn the heat up, and stir frequently while the wine bubbles away. Add the parsley, stir thoroughly, and take off heat.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the grated Parmesan. As you toss, separate the onion strands somewhat to distribute them as much as possible throughout the pasta. Serve immediately.

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Low Fat Fettuccine

I like fettuccine, but I don’t like how how in fat it is. This is a recipe I found online, but then tweaked a bit to make it my own. I will definitely be making this quite often.

Just as a note, I also added pancetta to the sauce to add a bit of natural saltiness. Instead of adding it directly to the sauce, I think I will saute it next time separately and then add it on top of the dish at the end. I would have liked it to keep its crunchiness.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour, plus 1 tsp, if needed
  • 2 1/3 cups low fat milk
  • about 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino Romano because I like the sharp taste of it)
  • 4 tablespoons low fat cream cheese
  • Small head of broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • 1 box fettuccine
  • pepper
Directions:
1- Cook pasta according to package directions.
2- Add about an inch of water to pan and steam broccoli for about 4 minutes. Take the broccoli out and set aside. Pour the water from the pan and dry with a cloth.
3- In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic. Let the garlic flavor the oil for about three minutes. Add the broccoli.
4- Add the milk to the pan.
5- Slowly whisk in the flour.
6- Cook about 6 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add the additional tsp flour if needed.
7- Add the Parmesan and the cream cheese.
8- Toss with the pasta.

Semi Homemade Four Layer Lasagna

Well, maybe I should be more accurate. This is more than semi homemade. We made the noodles and the sauce by hand, but we cheated and instead of making a white sauce and using fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, we used ricotta and Sargento shredded cheese.

I think homemade noodles hold up SO much better than boxed noodles. Homemade noodles don’t get mushy in the oven. It’s a little more effort, but with all the leftovers lasagna usually makes, you’ll end up saving time by not having to make dinners the next few days:) And if you’re making the homemade noodles, you might as well make a homemade sauce because while the sauce simmers, you can make the noodles!

The noodle recipe is from Marcella Hazan. I have that memorized by now. And the sauce recipe is also from Marcella. One time we made her Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce (https://the365cook.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/homemade-lasagna), but this time I just took a sauce recipe from her book that looked like it would fit well in the lasagna. I used my Dutch Oven to layer up the lasagna because my regular lasagna pan doesn’t allow as many layers as I wanted.

So, finally, here are the steps and ingredients:

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1- 5 tbs butter
2- 6 tbs each onion, carrot, and celery, finely chopped
3- 29 oz can San Marzano tomatoes plus two small fresh tomatoes chopped (because one can isn’t quite enough)
4- salt

And about a lb of ground turkey or beef to be cooked separately and added to the sauce later.

For the noodles:

1- 2 cups unbleached flour
2- 4 egg
3- Pasta machine

For the ricotta mixture:

1- 30 oz ricotta
2- 1 egg
4- 3/4 cup shredded cheese

Directions:

Start the sauce first:

1- Place all ingredients into a pot and cook, uncovered, at a very low simmer, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2- Brown the meat and then set aside.

While the sauce simmers, work on the noodles:

1- Put the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well and add the eggs. Use a fork to break up the egg and to incorporate the flour. Use only as much flour as you need to make a dough. Add more if needed. The eggs I use are always super absorbent, so I always need more flour.

2- Once the dough has come together and is no longer sticky, knead for a full 8 minutes.

3- Cut the dough in to about 10 small manageable pieces and start putting through the pasta roller. Start at 7 and work your way down to 4 putting the dough through twice on each number. Once rolled out, place on a kitchen towel. If the pieces are long, you can cut into a more manageable size.

Somewhere in the midst of this, start boiling a pot of water and have an ice bath prepared.

4- Once the noodles are cut, add them to the pot of boiling, salted water. Allow the water to come back to a boil and boil, literally, for about 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath. Take them out and run them under cold water to remove excess starch. Lay on a kitchen towel.

For the ricotta mixture:

1- Mix the egg, ricotta, and cheese together. Easy.

Now preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Add the browned meat to the sauce and stir to combine. Begin to build the lasagna.

Layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, etc. If you have extra noodles, you can cut into strips of pasta and save for later.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to see if a crust has formed. If not, boost up 50-75 degrees and bake another 10 minutes. Do not bake more than 15 minutes is what Marcella Hazan says.

Let cool and enjoy. And of course you know lasagna is always better the second day:) We just had it for dinner last night and I put the rest in the freezer.

Prosciutto Panini on Ciabatta with Tomato and Parmigiano-Reggiano

The word “panini” is of Italian origin. In the Italian language, however, “panini” is plural. In the US and lots of other countries, it is singular. You might go into Panera or someplace else and order a panini and get one sandwich, while in Italy, if you say panini, they might wait to hear how many. The proper singular word is “panino”. I guess this type of thing happens all the time with words…

Panini are typically made on ciabatta and are stuffed, most popularly, with prosciutto (or another type of cured meat) and cheese. I chose the prosciutto and cheese combo last night. The most important thing is balance when making panini. You definitely don’t want to over stuff the sandwich and you want to make sure the flavors compliment one another.

Ingredients:

ciabatta, tomato, cheese, prosciutto

Directions:

For our panini, I cut two fairly thin slices of ciabatta per person and lightly brushed them with olive oil.

I cut four slices of tomato, two per sandwich, put two slices of prosciutto on each sandwich, and then cut six slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano, three per sandwich.

I then put the panini on the pan and set the temperature on low, took another pan and lightly pressed down. After a few minutes, I checked the bottom to see if the desired darkness had been reached. I then flipped panini and repeated.

I served them with a salad.

Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken

This past Saturday we got married in New Brunswick, NJ. It was a beautiful wedding and a fantastic reception- the music, the food, the photographers, everything. It’s a shame neither one of us was super hungry at the reception. We’ve been talking about for weeks how we weren’t going to be one of those couples who doesn’t really eat at their reception, but alas, we were. After the reception, we were talking and we were wondering if people don’t eat because they’re too busy greeting people or because they were so nervous the whole day that they just didn’t have an appetite? For us, it was the latter. Not nervous to get married, but anxious about everything going smoothly, which it did.

Anyway, one of our gifts was a pasta machine which rolls out flat the dough and cuts the pasta! It makes homemade pasta making alot easier! So, as our first post-wedding dinner, we made homemade fettuccine with a light Alfredo sauce with lemon pepper chicken and steamed broccoli.

For the pasta, use either store bought fettuccine or follow the recipe for homemade pasta, which can be found here: http://dessertcomesfirst.wordpress.com/?s=homemade+pasta. Allow an extra two hours if you’re going to hand make the pasta. If using broccoli and chicken, make before the alfredo sauce because it will be reheated in the sauce at the end.

What I realized when reading recipes is that I can’t stand when I’m moving along at a good pace, but come to realize I forgot to cut the pepper or the onion, or forgot to prep something else. This might be my fault because I never read recipes beforehand. I look at the picture, decide if we’ll like it, and then get cooking. So for all those people like me, I think what I’m going to do now is make a list of things that should be prepped before even getting started.

To prep ahead:

1- Cut broccoli into small bite size pieces

2- Mince 5 cloves of garlic

3- Grate 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

This is what we did for the broccoli and chicken:

  • For the broccoli, we used one small head. Cut into small pieces and steam until desired tenderness.
  • For the chicken, put it in a Ziploc bag, coat lightly with olive oil, add some salt, pepper, some dried or fresh herbs, and some minced fresh garlic. Toss around to coat and let sit at room temp for about 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, just heat some olive oil in the pan, add the chicken, and cook through. Once done, put the chicken aside and start the sauce.

For the alfredo sauce, these are the ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil (eyeball it!)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups skim milk

1 cup chicken broth

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden brown. Remove from pan and put aside for now.

In the same saucepan, stir together milk, chicken broth, flour, salt and pepper over low heat until smooth and thick (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic. Continue to cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thicker (about another 5 minutes). Stir in Parmesan cheese and let melt (about 1 minute). At this time stir in the broccoli and chicken and add the sauce to the pasta. Toss.

Enjoy with some bread, a salad, and a glass of Chardonnay, which is what we did:)

Homemade Pizza Dough

Yes, it’s so easy to just pick up the phone and order a pizza and that’s ok on some nights, but making your own crust is very satisfying…and cheap. This is a recipe I recently came up with after attempting (and tweaking) lots of recipes. This one ended up with a perfect crispy thin crust. We topped our pizza with sauce and fresh mozzarella. There are tons of other toppings from which to choose. Just remember if you decide to put any veggies on, make sure to pre-cook them.

Ingredients:
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups flour (I like to use half white and half whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp sugar (This acts as food for the yeast)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil (Plus a little more for the rising portion and also brushing of the crust)
Corn meal for dusting

Directions:
Oven: 500 degrees to start

1- Dissolve yeast in the water- let sit for 5 mins to activate
2- Mix flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl
3- After 5 mins, make a small hole in the middle of the flour and add the yeast/water, as well as the oil
4- Mix until dough starts to come together. Once it comes together, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 mins.
5- Put a small amount of olive oil in a small bowl, put the dough in the bowl, and coat with the oil. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm dry place for 1 hour.
6- After 1 hour, punch dough down to remove air pockets
7- Split dough into 2-4 pieces depending on the size pizzas you want.  I split my dough into two pizzas for two people and this was enough for 2 nights worth of dinner.
8 -Roll the dough into a circle (or rectangle or anything you want) on a lightly floured surface until about a quarter of an inch thick. Roll ends over and push them down to make a crust.
9- Place crusts on a cookie sheet or pizza stone. At this point, you can stretch the dough by hand if you want it a little thinner. Brush crust with olive oil.
10- Bake in a 500 degree oven for about 10 mins or until slightly crispy. Pierce any air bubbles with a fork.
11- Remove pizzas from oven and at this point, put the sauce and any toppings you want on the pizza
12- Bake pizza in a 450 degree oven until cheese is melted and desired crispiness is attained

Entirely Homemade Lasagna (even the pasta) with Bolognese Sauce

I read an article in the NY Times recently about how as a society we no longer value the benefits of personal interaction. We are so addicted to our little gadgets that even dinner is no longer really dinner because as soon as one person stops to text, check their email, or even take calls, the whole table also pulls out their phones. The author of the article quipped that the dinner table is really just a chance for a mass of people to gather and engage in a big old thumb wrestling contest with their little gadgets. Then as soon as one person puts their phone away, the rest follow suit. and the conversation moves on as if nothing happened. It’s so funny because it’s so true. A majority of people can rarely go a full day without their gadgets, myself included. I definitely feel like there’s something missing when I do not have my phone. This brings me to my point which is: Italian cooking. Italian cooking, when done totally from scratch, presents an amazing opportunity to put everything down and just concentrate on the intricacies of the food, the smell, the ingredients, the taste. It demands your attention. Not to mention it is amazingly satisfying to know you made an entire meal with your own hands. Is it time consuming? Of course, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s a chance to put everything down and put all your attention on this one thing.

The day we made this dish, it was absolutely miserable outside. There were 50 mile per hour winds, sheets of rain, and an angry ocean, but inside a Bolognese sauce was simmering lazily just waiting for the paper thin green noodles we were putting through the pasta roller. Lasagna made the “American” way, I have come to find out after making this, is so overstuffed and the noodles are so starchy. Properly made lasagna should have delicate noodles and not be overly stuffed. You should be able to taste the flavors you worked so hard to put together. A typical lasagna lasts two people about 3 evenings, that’s 2 nights without cooking, so why not take the time to make something you can enjoy and be proud of?

These recipes are from the book Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. We ended up getting the book as part of of the free gift from Bed Bath and Beyond for buying the All Clad Stainless Steel cookware set (we also got a free All Clad lasagna pan and a pair of oven mitts!!). While the pots and pan are very very awesome, the book is even more fantastic. It outlines the history of Italian food by region, the many ingredients, and of course gives the recipes, three of which I used for the lasagna. The Bolognese Sauce doesn’t have to only be paired with the lasagna. The people of Bologna also enjoy this sauce with tagliatelle, a very wide noodle because it soaks up the sauce so well.

At last, here are the recipes needed to make this wonderful lasagna.

What you need to know before starting:

The Bolognese needs to simmer for at least 3 hours, so start that earlier.

About 2 hours before you want to eat, start making the noodles. You may need less time…we’re slow.

About 30 mins before you want to eat, make the white sauce.

Lasagna Ingredients

1- Full amount Bolognese Meat Sauce (See below)

2- Bechamel Sauce (See below)

3- Green Pasta dough (See below)

4- 1 tablespoon salt

5- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

To prep ahead:

1/2 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped carrot

1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (refrigerate for the lasagna later)

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Ingredients:

1- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil because it imparts too much flavor)

2- 3 tablespoons butter

3- 1/2 cup chopped onion

4- 2/3 cup chopped celery

5- 2/3 cup chopped carrot

6- 3/4 lb ground beef chuck (80% lean)

7- Salt and pepper

8- 1 cup milk

9- Nutmeg

10- 1 cup dry white whine (ex- Chardonnay)

11- 1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

Directions:

1- Add the oil, butter, and onion to a small saucepan. Turn the heat on medium and cook until the onion is transparent. Add the chopped celery and carrot and cook for another 2 minutes. Make sure to coat the veggies well.

2- Add the ground beef with a large pinch of salt. The salt helps to draw the juices from the beef. Break the meat up and cook until all of the redness is gone.

3- Add the milk and let it simmer. Simmer until all of the milk is evaporated (no more white should be visible). Add a dash of nutmeg at this point and stir).

4- Add the wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. You’ll be able to tell this has happened by both sight and smell.

5- Add the tomatoes and mix everything together. Allow the sauce to begin to bubble, once it does, turn the heat down to a very low simmer. You should only see the intermittent bubble. Cook uncovered for three hours or more. Give a good stir every so often. If the sauce begin to dry out while cooking, add a 1/2 cup of water. This didn’t happen to me though. At the end of the 3 hours, taste the sauce and add more salt if needed. Don’t be afraid of the salt.

While this simmers, go do something fun! If you need to leave while the sauce is simmering, turn off the heat and leave, but not for too long. Continue simmering upon your return. Be sure to finish the sauce in the same day.

At 2 hours before dinner, start the noodles.

Noodle Ingredients:

1- 1/3 package frozen leaf spinach, cooked in a pan with a small amount of water and wrung totally dry. Chop into small pieces. The spinach won’t look too appetizing after it’s dry, but it’s going straight into the dough.

2- 2 large eggs

3- 1 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

1- Put the flour on a clean work surface. Create a well in the middle. Add the eggs and the spinach to the well.

2- With a fork, beat the eggs and the spinach. As you beat the eggs, draw in the flour. As soon as the eggs are no longer runny, start using your hands to draw in more flour. Don’t draw too much in at one time. Continue drawing in flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Chances are you will not use all the flour on the table.

3- Wash your hands. To test the dough for doneness, stick your thumb in the dough, if it comes out clean, it is ready for kneading.

4- Kneading: Knead for 8 minutes. When kneading, make sure to go in one direction. Fold the dough in half, turn, fold, turn, fold. Go like that for 8 minutes. The dough should be as smooth as a baby’s butt when you’re done.

5- Now for rolling the dough out. You can either hand roll or put it through your pasta roller. Either way, you want the dough to be paper thin. Flour the dough before rolling so it doesn’t stick.

6- After rolling, lay the noodles on a towel. You can cut the noodles later. We were a little afraid because we had so few noodles when we first rolled them out. We ended up making the lasagna in a smaller pan in order to build up the layers. In the end, we had 6 layers. After all the noodles are on the towel, start the Bechamel Sauce (See Below).

Bechamel Sauce:

Ingredients:

1- 2 cups milk

2- 4 tablespoons butter

3- 3 tablespoons flour

4- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1- Bring the milk to the point of boiling over medium low heat.

2- In another pan, melt the butter. Over low heat, mix in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue mixing until it is dissolved. Do not let it turn brown.

3- Take the pan off the heat and start adding in the milk, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir until the milk is dissolved then add another 2 tbsp. Continue in this method until you have added 8 tbsp total. Then add a 1/2 cup at a time.

4- Place pan back over low heat, add the salt, and stir constantly until the mixture is thick.

5- If not ready to use yet, place the mixture over a double boiler and set the heat as low as it will go. Stir every so often.

Now cook the pasta and prepare the lasagna.

To cook the noodles:

1- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt. Bring back to a rolling boil.

2- While the water boils, put a second bowl with cold water next to the pot on the stove. Also put a clean towel on a work surface.

3- Add the noodles, allow the water to come back to a boil, and boil for a few seconds. Take the noodles out, plunge in the cold water, and then run them under cold water. Put the noodles on the towel to dry for 5 minutes.

Prepare the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425.

1- Coat the bottom of the pan with white sauce. Stir the remaining white sauce into the Bolognese Sauce.

2- Place noodles on the white sauce, spread Bolognese on top of the noodles, followed by a layer of cheese. Continue like this (noodles, sauce, cheese).

3- Bake for 15 minutes. If after 8 minutes, you don’t notice a crust forming, boost the heat up by 15 degrees.

4- Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before serving! Serve with bread, salad, and the rest of the wine from the Bolognese!

Enjoy eating and savour the time spent creating such a fabulous meal!

Oh and for dessert, it’s chocolate fudge brownies with peanut butter frosting.