Entries Tagged as 'Pasta'

Caramelized Shallot and Crispy Sage Macaroni and Cheese

Friday, April 13, 2012

caramelized shallot and crispy sage macaroni and cheese

Attention Readers- The following words just came out of The Boyfriend’s mouth: “This is the best mac and cheese you’ve ever made“.  Yes, I’m telling the truth and, what’s more, I agree with him.  For years now I have been on a never ending quest for a homemade macaroni and cheese that I actually like and had yet to be satisfied until this recipe.  I’m sure my poor father’s heart has been broken many a time over the years because he loves homemade macaroni and cheese whereas I just never could get over the boxed kind.  Luckily, I can tell you exactly why I don’t like homemade mac and cheese: cheddar cheese melts grainy.  That’s it!  I want my mac and cheese to be smooth and creamy, not grainy and stringy.  My solution was discovered by wandering the Trader Joe’s cheese section for some gruyere for this recipe when I stumbled across Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere Melange.  It melts like gruyere but tastes like cheddar and with this one cheese all of my mac and cheese problems were solved!  Now add to this some sweet caramelized shallots and crisped up sage (The Boyfriend’s absolute favorite) and you’ve got yourself a near perfect mac and cheese dinner.  The only negative?  It does dirty up a whoooole lot of pots and pans, so only make this if you’re prepared for the clean up later.

Caramelized Shallot and Crispy Sage Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Cake, Batter & Bowl
Makes 2 entree servings, double if making for a family or if you want leftovers

  • 1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons butter + 1 Tablespoon butter, seperated
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere Melange (or 1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar + 1 cup shredded Gruyere)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  1. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat; add the shallots and sugar, stirring frequently for 18 minutes until shallots are very soft and completely golden brown throughout.  Add the garlic, stir for another minute, then set the pan aside for later use.
  2. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil and toss a little salt and olive oil into the water; cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  3. In a third pot (medium sized), melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk the flour in.  Keep whisking until the flour-butter mixture turns golden brown, about one minute. (This is called a roux and the darker your roux the more nutty the flavor of your final dish will be.)
  4. Whisk the buttermilk and cream into the flour-butter mixture and bring the pot to a boil. (Adding milk to a roux makes it a bechamel sauce; look at all the French this recipe teaches you!)  Once it reaches boiling, lower the heat and stir in the shredded cheese(s).  Once melted and smooth, stir the salt, nutmeg and cayenne into the cheese sauce.
  5. In a small pan, melt the last tablespoon of butter.  Once melted and hot, drop the chopped sage in, let it sizzle for 30 seconds or so, then turn off the heat.
  6. Combine pasta, cheese sauce, shallots and sage in a large bowl and mix until pasta is thoroughly coated and shallots and sage are evenly distributed.  Enjoy!

Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

spicy sesame noodles

Looking for something with a certain flair for dinner, I felt like every recipe I found that night was boring until I came across these noodles.  They’re exotic, easy, and there are a ton of leftovers!  You may have to go to a slightly different section of your supermarket to find sesame oil, but I promise it’s there.  The only problem is that you have to make it the night before because it needs to sit in the fridge overnight, but its worth the wait.

This recipe originally has peanuts in it, hence the Thai label on the A Small Snippet blog.  I find I don’t tend to like Thai dishes that have peanuts in them, which is why you don’t see them in the photo above.  They do add an extra crunch, however, so if you like peanuts then go for it.  The spice level is adjustable and I loved strange tingle the heat left on my lips in contrast to the cold noodles.  Using whole wheat pasta adds a great dimension of flavor and I secretly can’t deny anything with sesame seeds-that goes all the way back to being a little girl and getting excited when we went to Burger King instead of McDonalds because it meant that I could pick the sesame seeds off the Burger King bun and eat them one at a time.  I admit that eating these noodles cold sounded a little strange, but it’s definitely the way to go and I happily ate these for days after!

Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles

Adapted from A Small Snippet

  • 1 lb box of whole wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons and it was really pretty spicy.  Adjust to your tastes)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 6 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • Green onions, green part sliced on the bias (approx one onion per serving)
  • Shredded carrot (mine are pre-shredded from Trader Joes)
  • Sesame seeds (I bought just enough for the recipe on the super cheap from the bulk aisle at my local co-op)
  • Peanuts
  • Cilantro
  1.  In a small saucepan, heat the canola oil, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  Once the oil is heated, leave the oil and flakes on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  When I made it, the flakes looked (and smelled) slightly burned, but there was no burned flavor (I also had the heat a little high).
  2. In the meantime, start the pasta boiling.  You definitely want cook the pasta just until al dente (slightly hard in the middle still), because overcooked noodles will just turn mushy later.  Once the pasta is done, drain well.
  3. After the oil has simmered with the flakes for a little while, pour the oil through a sieve into a bowl to strain out the flakes.  Discard flakes and whisk the honey and soy sauce into the bowl of oil.
  4. Put the noodles into a large bowl (preferably one you can store them in the fridge in with a lid) and pour the oil mixture over the top of the noodles.  Toss until the noodles are well coated in the mixture.
  5. Put the noodles in the covered bowl in the fridge overnight so that the flavors have a chance to meld.
  6. When ready to serve, sprinkle the sliced green onions, sesame seeds, peanuts and cilantro over the top of the noodles and enjoy!

Parmesan Orzo

Monday, November 14, 2011

What a weekend!  The International Food Bloggers Conference was everything I had hoped for and more!  Hopefully you’ll be seeing many improvements coming to the blog very soon (and French macarons now that I’ve had some hands on practice with them).  That said, the one side effect I never expected as a result of IFBC was the food hangover that resulted on Sunday.  I’ve heard people complaining about being sick after too much rich food, but always thought that was ridiculous…until today.  Chef Michael Moore’s dinner was great, but I could barely bike home afterwards and couldn’t even make it to bed-I immediately passed out on the couch instead.

After all that food and, frankly, just being exhausted from a long weekend, I needed something super easy and not too heavy to throw together for dinner tonight.  I had been thinking about making this parmesan orzo for quite a while now, and now that I’ve had a chance to make it I can say that that is just as easy as it looks-it will be ready in less than 20 minutes, most of which are hands-off.  It’s great as a side dish, but tonight the BF and I got some roasted red pepper and garlic chicken sausage, sauteed them, sliced them, and threw them into the pasta.  It made a good filling dish for him, but was still light enough that I didn’t need to be rolled to bed.

Parmesan Orzo
Serves 2-4, depending on serving method
Adapted from Cooking Light via CheapHealthyGood

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Pour the orzo in to the saucepan and cook orzo in the melted butter for 3 minutes until some of the pieces turn toasted brown, stirring periodically.
  2. Add white wine, water, and broth, and bring to a boil (careful, it’ll make a loud noise and lots of steam when you do this, since you’re adding liquid to a dry pot).  Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone.
  3. Remove pan from heat and stir in parmesan and olive oil; salt to taste and serve piping hot.

Penne with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A great Fall meal, this is easy and remarkably healthy-but it doesn’t feel like it!  You have pasta (which can be as healthy or unhealthy as you make it) covered in a thick, rich sauce that is actually mostly just butternut squash puree.  And you know my other qualifications for a good weeknight dinner meal: inexpensive and fast to throw together after a long day at work!

I’m willing to bet that any parents out there might be able to make this for their kids, tell them it’s macaroni and cheese, and watch the whole pot disappear!  Really, sometimes I forget that it’s squash that I’m eating.

The one tiny downfall of this recipe is that you are at the mercy of the squash.  The first time I made this dish, the butternut squash flavor was exactly right.  When I made the dish tonight, the butternut squash was unusually sweet.  Salt and pepper did help balance it all out, but I just now found a recipe from the New York Times that suggests adding nutmeg-it sounds like a perfect compliment to the sweetness.  I’ll have to add some to my leftovers tomorrow!

Penne with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
Adapted from Tart Reform

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 2 lb butternut squash
  • 1 cup half and half (I’m willing to bet yogurt would make a great substitute as well)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan plus more to top
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Dice squash and put in microwave safe bowl with a splash of water, cover with cling wrap and microwave until squash is soft, about 15-20 minutes.  Alternatively, roast in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.
  2. When squash is done, transfer to a pot on the stove, add half and half, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in nutmeg.
  3. While the puree heats to a boil, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.  (I bolded it because I always always always forget this step)
  4. Stir the pasta and the reserved pasta cooking water into the squash puree (or vice versa, whichever has the bigger pot). Stir in the parmesan; season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!


Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So those who follow this blog on Facebook know that at about 4pm yesterday afternoon I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to make for dinner last night.  So I came home and dug into my magazines and cookbooks and pulled out recipe that fit exactly the criteria I was looking for: few ingredients, little cost, and quick to pull together.  The result was “spaghetti alla cacio e pepe”, or spaghetti with pecorino romano and black pepper-a recipe that always looked so classy that I had just never gotten around to trying.

The trick to this recipe is high quality ingredients so I, of course, making a very traditional Italian meal, decided to go to my local Italian market instead of the giant supermarket.  I’m sure you have one near you as well, you may just have to search online to figure out where it is.  (Not to brag…but my local Italian market, Bay Cities Deli, was featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”…but that then means the line is over an hour long for a sandwich on weekends.  It’s worth it.)

Finding the pecorino romano in their cheese section was easy, as I knew it would be, and then I got this crazy idea that an Italian grocery like this would have fresh pasta instead of the typical dried pasta that 99% of us eat.  I’ve certainly never eaten fresh pasta before, so what better time to try it than a time when quality ingredients count?  Bonus: Walked out with a receipt for just $7, despite the fancy stuff I just purchased.

I’ve painted a rosy picture here, but truthfully, I was at the market and panicking because the recipe calls for 3 ounces of cheese and the cheese was only labeled in pounds not ounces, then I realized that the recipe calls for 6 ounces of pasta and, not only is the pasta also labeled in pounds, but fresh pasta certainly weighs more than dried and …wait, how do you cook fresh pasta versus dried pasta?!  Not to mention that once I got home and started cooking, I forgot to save the pasta water as I ALWAYS tend to do so I hope neighbors didn’t hear the screams of rage through my open kitchen window (luckily I realized halfway through pouring out the water so all was not lost).

It turns out, I really just needed to stop panicking because this recipe’s charm is its simplicity and I was totally over-thinking it.  A few final notes: do not eat the cheese off the plate as you’re grating it because you will discover that this is one of the best cheeses you have ever eaten (and I don’t even like hard cheeses like this!) and you will eat the whole wedge before finishing the recipe. Also, do not try eating the fresh spaghetti before you cook it because you will discover that it is so incredibly delicious and you will eat the whole bunch of it before finishing the recipe. Soft and doughy, it has the most amazing flavor and I think I could happily eat it fresh and uncooked for the rest of my life. That all said, if you don’t eat the ingredients beforehand and manage to actually cook dinner, you’ll have a great simple meal on your hands.  If anyone will love this recipe, it’s my sister, who I can remember eating pasta with cheese sprinkled on it for as long as I can remember.

Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper
Serves 2
Recipe from Cooking for Two 2011

  • 3 oz Pecorino Romano cheese; 1 cup of it finely grated plus about 1/2 cup coarsely grated (my wedge of cheese was about .5 lb)
  • 6 oz spaghetti (easier to figure out: just 2 servings dried or fresh pasta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  1. Right off the bat, DO NOT fill a whole pot of water to boil the pasta (I say it because that’s exactly what I did).  Put only 4 cups (1 quart) of water into a large pot, bring it to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and salt; cook stirring often (it may stick to itself in such low water), for about 5-7 minutes until al dente or your preferred doneness.
  3. Next important tip: DO NOT pour the pasta water into the sink.  The whole reason we boiled the pasta in such a tiny amount of water is to make the water super starchy.  Put a bowl in the sink, put a colander into the bowl, pour the pasta in into the colander.  Shake the pasta a bit to make sure all the water is off and toss it back into the pot, leaving the water in the bowl.
  4. Put the 1 cup of grated pecorino romano into a small mixing bowl.  Pour 1/2 cup of the pasta water over the pecorino romano and whisk slowly until smooth.  Whisk the cream, oil, and black pepper into the melted cheese.
  5. Pour the cheese mixture over the warm pasta in the pot.  Toss the pasta with the sauce and let it sit for 2 minutes to soak up the sauce, tossing the pasta a few times throughout the 2 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, use the leftover pasta water to thin it down a bit; just stirring it in until you have the desired consistency.
  6. Add an extra twist of the pepper grinder and the coarsely grated cheese-you won’t need even a sprinkle of salt, because the cheese is a great salty cheese, especially if you put a TON of it on top like I did tonight.