Ricotta Gnocchi

photo(12)

I’ve made my love of pasta, especially gnocchi, no secret to all of you.  I often crave the smooth pillowy heavenly bits, but the thought of peeling and boiling potatoes and making a dough just doesn’t seem appealing some days.

I had heard of using ricotta cheese to make gnocchi before, but for some reason I hadn’t given this option a try yet. Every time I heard someone mention making gnocchi with ricotta instead of potatoes they’d say “once you try them this way you’ll never go back” and I have to admit I think they may be right. First of all, it’s so much simpler, less time consuming and they’re super light and soft. I see many more gnocchi in my future now that I’ve discovered these.

I’ve taken such a break from blogging that I’m not even sure if Fiesta Fridays are still happening! I sure hope so because I’ll bring a big batch of these!  Whew, looks like the party is on today!

Ricotta Gnocchi
16 ounces of whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
1 large egg
pinch of salt
3/4 to 1 cup flour

1. Carefully drain any excess liquid from the ricotta. Add the ricotta, pecorino romano, egg and salt to a bowl and combine. Add 3/4 cup of flour and combine. The mix should have some form to it but still be sticky. If it is too sticky continue adding flour a little at a time until you can roll it into a sticky ball.

photo(13)

2. On a lightly floured surface take a small amount of the mixture and roll it into a log about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the logs into about 1/2 inch long gnocchi.

photo(14)

3. Add the gnocchi to a large bowl of boiling salted water. Allow them to cook about 3 minutes then carefully scoop them out. I find it’s best to cook them in 2-3 batches in order to get them all out in time without overcooking.

4. Add your gnocchi to your sauce, I had made a quick tomato cream sauce (recipe to come) but they go great with just about anything. Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca

photo(4)Here you go, another pasta recipe! I hope you’re not getting sick of these yet. Leave it to me to make be making all these pastas in the summer while everyone else is gearing up for warm weather and swim suit season. Oh well, that’s who I am.

This week I bring you pasta puttanesca, politely translated to the “working girl’s pasta.” Traditional puttanesca has capers and anchovies, but per usual I didn’t have all the right ingredients in my kitchen so I doubled up on the olives to make up for it. Since the olives are pretty salty I don’t add much salt to the sauce, but feel free to adjust that to your tastes.

Pasta Puttanesca

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, cut into thin slices
14 oz crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups pitted kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic
1 lb spaghetti or bucatini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 fresh basil leaves
grated cheese for topping

1. Place the olive oil and onions in a pan on low heat. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt to the pan with the onions and stir to combine. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring often until the sauce starts to bubble.

3. Combine the olives and garlic in a food processor and pulse for just a few seconds until they’re chopped but not too small. Add the olives and garlic to the sauce and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often.

4. While the sauce is cooking, cook and drain your pasta in a bowl of salted water.

5. Once the sauce is done, turn off the heat and add the cherry tomatoes. Then add the pasta and toss. Finish with chopped basil and cheese and enjoy!

 

Summer Veggie Mac and Cheese

photo(108)

I know it’s not quite the season yet but I couldn’t pass up the zucchini and corn in the grocery store this week. Zucchini is probably my all time favorite vegetable, actually they might tie with tomatoes I’m not sure I can pick one over the other. Anyway, I had this idea of roasting all these vegetables together and adding them to a mac and cheese. You know me, I love a good mac and cheese so why not add some vegetables to it??

After roasting the vegetables they looked and smelled so good I was tempted to skip the rest and just eat them right out of the dish. I continued with the plan though and I’m glad I did. I debated over which cheese to use and ended up deciding on a cheddar and gruyere mix. The sweetness of the corn really makes this dish.  Now I have a feeling I’ll be making similar mac and cheese dishes for every season.

And of course I’m bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday! I had a great time co-hosting last week’s Fiesta Friday with Angie, Jhuls and Selma. I can’t wait to see what everyone else brings today!

Summer Veggie Mac and Cheese
2 ears of corn
2 zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 box medium shells pasta
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Carefully cut the sides of the corn to remove the kernels and place them in a bowl. Cut the zucchini, pepper and onion into bite sized pieces and add them to the bowl with the corn. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, paprika and pepper. Pour the vegetable mixture into a large baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes until the vegetables have softened.

photo(111)

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta into a strainer.

3. Add the butter to the pot on low heat. Once the butter has melted add the flour and whisk until combined. Next add the milk. When the milk begins to warm up, turn up the heat slightly, to about medium. Then add the cheeses and stir constantly until the cheese melts and you have a thick sauce.

4. When the vegetables are done take them out and add the cooked pasta to baking dish. Then add the cheese sauce on top. Combine the sauce with the pasta and vegetables until everything is combined. Add the breadcrumbs on top.

photo(110)

5. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake the mac n cheese for about 25 minutes, until the top has browned. Enjoy!

photo(109)

Fettuccine Alfredo

photo(87)

Alfredo is such a heart warming dish. It’s so simple to make, yet a bowl of cheesy warm alfredo seems so special. I remember my brother and I would always get really excited when my mom would announce we were having fettuccine alfredo for dinner.

I like to keep my family’s tradition of pasta on Sundays alive, but lately I’ve been running out of ideas and was tired of the typical tomato sauce. My mom suggested alfredo, and I thought it was a great idea. I unintentionally “lightened” this dish a bit by using 2% milk instead of whole milk since that’s all we had. I also added the last bit of a bottle of white wine we had in the fridge, but you can definitely leave that out or replace the wine with milk if you prefer.

Fettuccine Alfredo
3 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
salt
pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 pound dried fettuccine

1. Add the butter and garlic to saucepan on low heat. When the butter has melted add the milk and stir. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the wine if you’re using it. Next add the cheese and continue to stir until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

photo(90)

2. Cook the fettuccine in a pot of boiling water until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain the pasta and then add it to the pan with the sauce.

photo(89)

3. Mix the pasta with the sauce and top with parsley, basil and extra cheese. Enjoy!

photo(88)

A blogoversary, pasta e fagioli and big thanks!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I first started this blog. When I first started, I was fairly certain no one except my mom would actually read it. I was really shy to share it at first (and was mortified when some of my co-workers discovered it). I’m humbled and thrilled to see all of you reading, commenting and sharing! I want to send a HUGE thanks to all of you. It’s been such a pleasure learning new recipes and techniques and generally just having so many people to discuss food with!

I figured for my blogoversary (not sure if that’s a real word but I’m going with it) post I would re-do my very first post. I wanted to update it a little and add some better photos. I’m not sure if it’s just my lack of photography skills or if this is just generally not a photogenic dish, but unfortunately these pictures aren’t a whole lot better!

I also want to express my thanks to those of you who nominated me for blogger awards! I was shocked and thrilled with each one. I had every intention of completing the required steps to receive them and pass them along, but I always got stuck trying to come up with all the unique facts about myself for each one! So I want to thank all of you here for your acknowledgement! Thank you to Lori and Ngan for nominating me for the Liebster Award, Jillian for nominating me for the Sunshine Award and Nancyfor the Dragon Loyalty Award! If I missed anyone, please let me know!

And now on to the food!  I chose Pasta e Fagioli for my first post because it was the first dish I really learned to cook myself and it got me interested in learning more about cooking.  I’ve made some small changes since the first time I posted it and I think it’s just a little bit better now!

Pasta e Fagioli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashedphoto(88)
4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
16oz crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
30oz (2 cans) cannellini beans, drained
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 box ditalini pasta
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese for topping

1. Heat the olive in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the carrots. Let the carrots cook for about 5 minutes than add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the carrots soften and the onions are translucent.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes to the saucepan. Stir in the reaming spices. Let the sauce cook at a simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about 30 minutes, add the beans.

3. Add the broth, turn the heat up and bring the liquid to a boil. When it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook to al dente, about ten minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Top with cheese (I like lots of cheese) and enjoy!

photo(89)

Italian Wedding Soup

soup4

This recipe was a lesson in using what I had around to create something I really wanted. For the past week or so I’ve been craving a nice hot bowl of Italian wedding soup, so I finally just made it myself. The problem was, I didn’t exactly have the right ingredients. So, I made some substitutes. Instead of ground beef, I used turkey for the meatballs. Instead of escarole, I had swiss chard. And for the pasta, all I had was small shells.

While this isn’t exactly traditional Italian wedding soup, I’m all about changing recipes up to make them my own, so I really enjoyed this little experiment. Not to mention, it tastes pretty close to the original!

Italian Wedding Soup soup3
Meatballs:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Soup:
32oz chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bunch of swiss chard
1/2 box small pasta (I used small shells)
2 Tablespoons olive oil

1. Start by making your meatballs. Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a bowl and mix to combine, careful not to over mix it. Use a teaspoon to scoop out small bits of the meat mixture and form small meatballs. Put the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and add the meatballs to the pan. Cook for about 6 minutes, turn them upside down and cook for another 5-6 minutes, they should be lightly browned.

soup

soup2

2. While the meatballs are cooking get started on your soup. Chop up the swiss chard into bite-sized peices, using the entire green part and about 1/2 of the stems. Add the olive oil to a pot and set it to medium-low heat. Add the chard and your chopped onion to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the chard and onion about 5 minutes. Next add your stock.

3. When your meatballs have finished cooking add them into the pan with the chard, onion and stock. Finally, bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta, cooking about for 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

4. Top with some pecorino romano and enjoy!

soup5

Related: Fiesta Friday

Gnocchi with meat sauce

gnocchi1

Gnocchi are easily one of my absolute my favorite foods.  No matter where we are, if I see gnocchi on the menu I have to order them.  I’m not sure where this obsession came from, but I just can not pass them up.  The troubling thing is, I’ve never been able to made a good batch of gnocchi at home.   I’ve tried multiple times, only to be met with disappointment.

The first time I tried to make them I was making dinner for my husband (then boyfriend).  It was one of the first times I had cooked for him and I was so excited to share my favorite dish.  After taking all the time to mash the potatoes, make the dough and form the gnocchi, I placed them into the boiling water and they disintegrated almost immediately.  Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed and embarrassed.

It took awhile for me to build up the confidence to try making gnocchi again, and my next attempt was not much better.  The dough still wasn’t right, and, even worse, I ended up accidentally dropping a whole potato down the sink drain.  In my ignorance, I figured “no big deal, just run the disposal.”  Well, lesson learned that an entire potato will NOT go down the disposal.  I ended up clogging the sink and eventually overflowing it.

I had all but given up on homemade gnocchi when I was reading through a book my husband gave me for Christmas this year.  The Geometry of Pasta called gnocchi “perhaps the easiest pasta to make.”  Well, I beg to differ, but I certainly couldn’t give up such an “easy” pasta.  So, this weekend I entered the kitchen, mentally prepared for a complete disaster, only to surprise myself with my first successful batch of homemade gnocchi.

Through all of these attempts I’ve learned that one very important aspect of this recipe is to test one or two of the gnocchi before dumping the whole batch in the water.   It’s best to do this before you’ve started forming each individual gnocchi.  If you test one and it disintegrates, add more flour to your dough.  Trust me, this can save you from a lot of disappointment.

Gnocchi with meat sauce
For the gnocchi dough:
2 cups flour
3 eggs, lightly beatengnocchi8
3 large russet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black better
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Make the gnocchi:
Add your potatoes to boiling water and cook under tender (until you can easily poke them with a knife or fork). Drain the potatoes and let them cool enough to touch them. Once the potatoes have cooled, remove the skins and mash them really well.

gnocchi6

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, salt and eggs. Add your mashed potatoes to the flour and eggs and mix until smooth and well combined. Note: it’s important that your potatoes are cooled before adding them to the mixture to avoid curdling the eggs.

Once it’s all combined take a small portion of the dough and roll it into a log about 1 centimeter thick. Cut the log into little squares and test one of the squares in boiling water. It should keep it’s shape and float to the surface in about 2 minutes. If it doesn’t, add more flour and try again. Once you’ve got the right consistency form the rest of your gnocchi, lightly pressing each one with your finger to create a little well for your sauce. Boil the gnocchi for about 3 minutes.

gnocchi3

gnocchi4

gnocchi2

Make the sauce:
In a saucepan on medium-low, heat add your olive oil and garlic. Let the garlic cook for about two minutes then add your chopped onion, salt and pepper. About five minutes after adding the onion add your ground beef, breaking it up into very small chunks. Let the beef cook until it’s browned, about 15 minutes. Next add your crushed tomatoes and the rest of your spices.

gnocchi7

gnocchi5

Lower to a simmer and cook the sauce for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. All the flavors will cook slowly together to a perfect deliciousness. Serve on top of gnocchi with some pecorino romano and enjoy!

gnocchi