Posts from the ‘Pasta’ Category

Mushroom Ravioli with Crispy Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce

Got this recipe from Epicurious.com to try and find some inspiration for a ravioli dish. I came across this one and saw some things that I wanted to tweak to make this more of a complete dish in my mind. One of which was frying the sage for a little color and texture to top the ravioli’s before serving (besides the fact that fried sage tastes amazing). I also added garlic because the fact that the recipe was absent of such an ingredient made me and little mad, for I am also a garlic freak (if you haven’t noticed). Find a place that packages freshly made ravioli because there really is nothing like fresh pasta. That’s pretty much it, the sauce comes together in like 10 minutes and the ravioli cooks until it floats then add it to the sauce and you’re done. Maybe takes 30 minutes total, including prep time. It’s kind of like a Rachel Ray recipe minus the 20 unnecessary ingredients you’ll find in her recipes, the stupid names and having to listen to her ridiculously annoying stories. And I’ll go out on a limb and say its just as good as recipe you’d make of hers and its about twice as easy to put together.

This is stupid easy. It’s so delicious. It’s super fast to prepare. Don’t be a coconut…make this now!

Ingredients:


16 Fresh Mushroom & Cheese Ravioli (Honestly I don’t know how many pounds of dried, I’m guessing like 1 or 2 packages but just go out and find a place the makes fresh pasta and packages it…don’t you want to eat only the best?)

1 Bunch of Fresh Sage, Half Chopped, Half Left Whole

1 Handful of Pecans

1-2 Shallots, Chopped

1 Garlic Clove, Chopped

1 1/2 Cups of Good White Wine

1 (Approx.) Cup of Cream

2 Tablespoons of Butter

Parmesan Cheese

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Take your shallots and cut off the tops, slice them in half or separate the two bulbs (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever used a shallot before, sometimes they come like a mini onion, sometimes they come like two mini onions hugging each other). To make a fine dice, make several horizontal cuts across the shallot followed by several vertical cuts across the shallot. Then just dice away…click the images below to get the idea!

Use the same technique to cut the garlic as you did the shallot. Or you could just SMASH the garlic and run your knife through it. The reason I cut it the way I did below is to practice knife skills. Do what ever you feel comfortable doing, but don’t you want slamming knife skills? I do!

Roughly chop the pecans.

…same with the sage…

Bring a pot of salty water to a boil. The fresh ravioli’s are going to cook for about 3-4 minutes or until they start to float so your going to want to time things perfectly. Once the water is boiling, start your sauce by heating a pan to medium high heat and melt the butter. Once hot, throw in your pecans and the whole sage leaves (NOT the chopped sage). This is merely to toast the pecans and to fry up the sage so its a nice and crispy and crunchy topping to finish your plate with. After about 5-8 minutes or once the sage leaves are starting to crisp up (don’t wait till they are crispy, they keep cooking once you take them out so make sure not to burn them) and transfer them to a plate.

Return the pan to the heat and add the garlic, shallots and chopped sage and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the wine, reduce for a minute or two, then add the cream. Increase the heat a little bit and boil the sauce till it reduces, around 5-6 minutes (just enough time to cook the ravioli).

Once you turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, drop the ravioli in the boiling salted water. Cook those for about 4-5 minutes, or until they start to float. Then strain and add to the sauce.

Let the raviolis cook in the sauce for a minute or two so the raviolis start to absorb it. When they are done, plate up the ravs, spoons some of the banging sauce all over it, top it with the pecans and sage, sprinkle parmesan cheese all over and drizzle a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil to finish it off reallll nice!

Now all you gotta do is like, eat it, ya know, I mean, c’mon. Is it easy? Yes. Does it look good? Yes. Does it taste good? Yes. Are you going to make this tonight? Yes. Are you going to take a picture of it and send it to me to show off how great a cook you are? YESS!!!! OHH great, I’m so happy, you guys are truly the best!

In all seriousness, please, if you ever make a recipe of mine, take a picture of it and email (scusato@gmail.com) it or twitpic it to me. I want to see what you’ve created and then show it off to everyone who listens to me. And of course, by all mean, if you want to tweak the recipe, DO IT, I love that even more then you following recipes word for word. I don’t do that so I really can’t expect you to either. Be creative and daring and you will bang food out in the kitchen everyday!

Toasted Gnocchi & Mozzarella/Rainbow Chard/Cannellini Bean/Tomato Sauce

Maybe one of my favorite pasta dishes. Its got everything, nutrition from the rainbow chard, protein from the beans, cheesiness from the mozzarella, deliciousness from a good homemade tomato sauce. Best of all, you don’t have to get out a big pot of boiling water to cook the gnocchi. Toasting them gives them a good flavor and makes your life easier. If this shot below doesn’t make you want this, you may have problems!

Ingredients:

1 Package of Shelf Stable Gnocchi

2 Cups of Tomato Sauce (Please don’t use jarred tomato sauce, its too easy to make, see previous post)

1 Can of Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans)

1 Bunch of Rainbow or Swiss Chard, Washed and Chopped

1 Cup of Good White Wine, Approx.

1 Onion, Thinly Sliced

5-6 Cloves of Garlic, Halved and Thinly Sliced

1 Ball of Fresh Mozzarella

Olive Oil (and Truffle Oil if you’ve got it, I do)

Salt & Pepper

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As always, get your stuff together. Halve and thinly slice the garlic and the onions.

Trim off the rough ends and rinse the chard and pull the leafy green parts from the stem, reserving the stems for sauteing. Although I have no picture to illustrate it, you should roughly chop the chard, my bad. Then stack up all the steams and  finely chop then add it to a bowl with the onions and garlic.

Drain and rinse your beans.

You’re all set…get cooking…heat a big skillet on medium-high heat. You want to make sure you pan is hot enough or when you add the gnocchi to toast, it will stick and not be good…so be sure its hot enough and then add the gnocchi. Once it starts to get some color and looks toasted, transfer to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium and add another lug of oil. Add the onions, garlic and chard and season with salt and pepper. Once those get soft, deglaze the pan with the white wine (by deglaze, I mean using a liquid to grab all the little bits stuck to the bottle of the pan, that is pure flavor).

Cook the wine for about 2 minutes then add the chard, season with more salt and pepper and put a lid on it. Cook it for about 5 minutes until its wilted down and mixed into the onions, garlic and chard.

Turn on the broiler in your oven and add the tomato sauce, the beans and the gnocchi, mix together and taste it to check for seasoning.

Slice up some mozzarella then place it on top of the gnocchi mixture, you can also add Parmesan cheese if you have it, but I forgot it here. Once your broiler is blazing, throw it in the oven and let that mozzarella toast until it has nice color.

To plate this, spoon some out into a bowl and drizzle a little bit of truffle oil, not too much. If you have none, you can use olive oil.

It’s just too easy to put together for you to not try this dish. DO IT, you are only depriving yourself if you don’t. Let me know how it went, what you think and what you might do different (scusato@gmail.com).

The Best Damn Tomato Sauce

I mean, I know there is better tomato sauce, but if I had a garden of fresh tomatoes it might be.  All my life I had this really particular idea of what I though was perfect tomato sauce. I usually don’t ever order pasta with a tomato sauce anywhere because I don’t trust that its my kind of sauce. Like everything else, it all starts with quality ingredients, especially the best tomatoes you can find. To me there is no substitute for San Marzano whole canned tomatoes. They are the sweetest and most delicious ones you’ll find (unless you have  a garden of fresh tomatoes). I buy two cans so I can make extra to freeze and use for any number of things in the future. I like mine smooth with no big chunks of anything which means a blender is somewhere in the equation.  The color is important too. I don’t want my sauce to dark, I prefer a lighter color. To me, the only way you can really determine if you have a great sauce is whether or not you could literally drink it all by itself…and I guess if you could eat an entire loaf of bread with it. For me, this sauce right here is everything I want in a basic tomato sauce…the texture is there, the color is there…and you can drink it like wine.

Ingredients:

2 28 oz. Cans of Whole San Marzano Tomatoes

2 Small Fresh Onions (1 large onion), Roughly Chopped

2 Medium Sized Fresh Carrots (1 large carrot), Roughly Chopped

6-7 Garlic Cloves, Roughly Chopped

3-4 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

1 Cup of White Wine, Approx. (One that you want to drink)

Pinch of Red Pepper Flake

6-7 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6-7 Basil Leaves, Thinly Slice (aka chiffonade)

Salt

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Roughly Chop the garlic, onions and carrots.

Heat a decent sized pot over medium-high heat and when hot add the olive oil, the garlic, the onions and the carrots.

Add the red pepper flake.

Add a good amount of salt. Don’t be afraid, the tomatoes need it.

Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple minutes.

Add the tomato juices and use your wooden spoon to hold back the whole tomatoes. You can use the spoon like I do, but your hands are really the best tool for crushing the whole tomatoes. They don’t have to be fully broken down because later your gonna blend it to make it smooth.

Cook at at a light simmer for at least an hour, though the longer you cook it, the better it gets. After its done cooking, get your hand blender ready. If you have a blender, use that. If you don’t have anything like that, then seriously go out and buy a hand blender like the one below. They aren’t that expensive and you can use it on so many amazing things without having to store some big ass blender.

Taste it to see if it needs any salt. Always be tasting your food while your making it. You can’t make things taste better after you’ve plated it. If you keep tasting you can always be adjusting and tweaking to get it to where you want to be, even if you are following a recipe. It should taste amazing right now so finish it up by adding some thinly sliced (chiffonade) basil.

Now you can either use it for some pasta or chicken parm now or you could put it in a container for later. It will last a week in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer. I’m saving it for my next post…Toasted Gnocchi with Swiss Chard, Cannellini Beans with Melted Mozzarella…coming soon!

Spinach Fettuccine with Lemon, Chorizo, Ricotta and Crushed Peas

Just want to reiterate, please disregard the little pink flower next to this post, I may have to keep repeating this disclaimer with every post until I figure out how to get rid of it.

I recently fell in love with Spanish Chorizo. A few weeks back, I made up this Mussel dish using Chorizo and it was amazing. I wanted to make that yesterday but apparently there were none to be had. I was looking for Prince Edward Island Mussels because they’re pretty much the best. I went to two credible sources for fresh fish on the Upper East Side, first to Agata & Valentina’s followed by Eli Zabar’s Market. Both were sold out it and I got really pissed off. I walked around Eli’s for about twenty minutes looking like an idiot that had no clue what he was doing shopping for food. I called my girlfriend to vent my frustration. (The pictures below are her work, good job Alex) We talked about what else we could make with Chorizo. We decided on a pasta recipe we had made a few months ago that called for hot Italian sausage. We figured Chorizo would work just fine and forget about it…we’re about to make Spanish pasta…kind of!

As a side note, I just wanted to disclose that behind the scene, while sharpening my Knife, I nicked my thumb like a dummy. Since my knives are slammin’ (Wusthof 8″ Chefs Knife) it started to bleed, a lot, so I had to wrap it up real quick. I would have liked to document that for you but I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, too bad. it brings up an important lesson though, when you sharpen your knives, don’t try to do it like an Iron Chef, just be easy and careful, unlike me. Ignore the bandaid on my thumb in the following pictures.

Serves 4

1 lb fresh or dried spinach fettuccine (I use fresh in this recipe cause I like it, dried work great too)

1 lb Chorizo with casing removed & chopped (I had it on hand, works nice, I’d recommend hot Italian sausage casing removed)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 -3 cups frozen or fresh peas (I used frozen even though fresh peas are in season, I had frozen in the freezer)

1 cup whole milk ricotta (If you’re like me, you’ll want the good stuff. If not, I suppose you can use Poly O if you must)

1 bunch of fresh basil, thinly sliced

½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

½ lemon

Olive oil, on standby

Salt and pepper (use kosher salt and whole peppercorns in a peppermill)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.

While you’re waiting for the water to bowl, get your stuff in place or as my brother and his fancy chef friends would call it Mise en Place, a French phrase that basically translates to, “everything in place.” That would consist of measuring, weighing, cleaning, cutting and dividing all of your ingredients and preheating your oven, if needed. Restaurants do this as a way of preparing everything before the lunch and dinner rush so that they can quickly and easily assemble dishes. So it would only make sense that if you, as a  home cook, could implement the same technique, just on a smaller scale…you too could assemble a dish just as easily and just as fast. So make a habit of it, its important if you want to be a better cook.

Smash and chop the garlic.

Score the Chorizo and peel off the casing. Slice each link length wise into strips. Dice the strips into tiny pieces. If you use sausage, you can omit this, just break it up with the back of a spoon when you add it to the pan, Chorizo is denser and harder to break up.

To chiffonade (another fancy word for rolling up and thinly sliced) the basil, stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll it tightly. This is a good chance to practice your knife skills by trying to slice the rolled up basil as thin as possible. Keep those fingertips curled in. If you make sure your fingertips stay curled and in safe distance from the knife, I promise you will never cut yourself. (Trust me, I’ve cut myself like an idiot many times before I made this a habit…haven’t cut myself in 2 ½ years, forget my thumb, I wasn’t chopping anything, sharpening is a whole different animal).

Get everything you just chopped together along with all the other ingredients and you’ve got all your stuff in place. Your ready to bang it up, no problem.

Heat a two-count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chorizo and garlic to the hot oil (if your using sausage, use the back of a wooden spoon to break it apart). Cook till browned.

Move chorizo garlic mixture to one side of the pan. Add peas to other side of pan and crush lightly with the back of spoon.

Drop the pasta in the boiling water; if using fresh pasta, cook 1-2 minutes, if using dried pasta, follow box instructions (if the box calls for 10 minutes of cooking, cook the pasta for 7-8 minutes it will finish cooking in the chorizo and pea mixture).

Add the ricotta to the pea and Chorizo mix.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss.

Save a cup of pasta water and add a little bit at a time till the sauce thickens in the pan.

Add a little more ricotta, the chopped basil, Parmesan or Pecorino Romano,  lemon juice, salt and pepper (to taste).

Take some tongs and grab a nice portion of the pasta and kind of twist it into a bowl to plate.

Top with a dollop of ricotta, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil to garnish (I always try to practice my plating skills, remember, I’m a food freak).

If you make this dish, I for sure want to know how it went, what you thought of it and what you might do different…email me at scusato@gmail.com and we’ll talk about it.