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Cauliflower and Lemon Pasta – Take Three

17 Jan

I keep playing with this recipe.  I have since given up on recreating the original since it was so long ago, and I’ve tried so many other things since then that I’m not sure I even remember what it tastes like now.

Last night, I did the following:

roasted a head of cauliflower (split into florets) with olive oil, salt & pepper at 400 degrees

cooked a few slices of bacon til extra crispy and crumbled what I didn’t devour right away

sliced a large shallot, and cooked it in some of the bacon fat

put the cauliflower in the pan with the shallot to hang out while I did other things

zested and juiced one lemon; added the zest to the veggies

cooked up a batch of pasta

Tossed the cooked pasta in a pan with a little bit of the cooking liquid, the veggies and zest, crumbled bacon, then added the lemon juice and some parmesan cheese.  It’s definitely the best so far, and I guess it just proves that everything really is better with bacon.

Panera Mac n Cheese

18 Apr

I love Panera Mac n Cheese.  I LOVE Panera Mac n Cheese.  It’s the most delicious mac n cheese on the planet, like anywhere ever.  Or at least that I can quickly grab and devour.

It’s so cheesey, and so creamy – it’s like, next level Kraft mac, but a trillion times better.

This is the recipe I use (thank you thank you Tim, husband of Brandi at sixmonsters for being a perfectionist with a savant like ability to taste and dissect a recipe for recreation; and thank you Brandi for posting it).

My only change is to add crumbled Ritz crackers on top because someone in this house loves his mac with crispies on top.  And who am I to argue with that?

8 to 12 ounces small or medium Shell pasta
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
3 slices American cheese, chopped
2 ounces Cream Cheese
1 ounce shredded Parmesan
6 ounces shredded extra-sharp White Vermont cheddar (if you can’t find white, who cares?  so it’ll look more like regular mac, but be just as delicious)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 drops Frank’s hot sauce


1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, do steps 2 – 4

2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.

3. Gradually whisk in cream; cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low.

4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Add a small amount of whole milk to thin out if needed. It should look kind of like vanilla pudding, but a little bit thinner.

5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).



Roasted Cauliflower and Lemon Pasta – take two

8 Jul

I’ve tried before, and I’ve tried again – this time with more success, thanks in part to this recipe from Healthy Green Kitchen.

You’ll need:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
5-10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 shallots, peeled and halved; or some thickly sliced onions
olive oil
salt and pepper
breadcrumbs or crushed biscotti – 1/4 cup or so
grated Parmesan cheese
lemon zest
lemon juice (from 1.5 – 2 lemons)

Preheat your oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil. Put your cauliflower florets, garlic, and onions or shallots on, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss a bit and pop into the oven. The cauliflower will need about 30 minutes (stir once halfway through), but the garlic may be done before then, especially if you’re using small cloves. Keep an eye on them, and pull them when they’re mushy, but before they go as hard as little rocks, which they will do if you overcook them.
While the veggies are roasting, put on a pot of salted water to boil, zest one lemon, and get to toasting your crunchies (breadcrumbs or biscotti) in a little bit of olive oil. Once they’re toasted and golden, combine with the lemon zest and parmesan (a couple of big spoonfuls is good, but who am I to limit your cheese intake? I did BIG spoonfuls personally.). You can also add some parsley for a bit of green, but I tend to skip it. You’ll also want to juice your lemons – I used 1 and a half lemons to get my desired level of lemon flavor in the pasta – but if you just add it bit by bit, you’re bound to get right to where you want to be, based on your lemons and taste preferences. Start with a half of a lemon and work up from there.
Cook your pasta, and when done, drain – reserving a cup or so of the pasta water.
Your veggies should be done too, so just give the garlic cloves the slip (out of their skins that is), and give them and the onions/shallots a bit of a chop.
Put the pasta back in the pot and add all of the roasted veggies. Add your lemon juice, tbsp by tbsp (or half by half, since you usually get about 1 tbsp of juice from a half of a lemon).
Add the reserved pasta water bit by bit to make the pasta a little saucier, and definitely silkier. You don’t want it watery though, so take it easy, and stir between additions!
Serve with the toasted crunchies/cheese mixture sprinkled on top.

So, so, so yummy.

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin

18 May

Pork Tenderloin again!  I know, we hardly ever cook pork over here at See Jen Eat. . . . /sarcasm

The pops is in town and stopped off at Costco, coming home with two giant slabs of pork tenderloin.  Luckily, he did this at 3 pm allowing me to have enough time to plunk one of these bad boys into my slow cooker.

1 cup of dry red wine – I used Malbec
1 cup of water
1 packet of dry onion soup mix
3 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 hours in the slow cooker, turned once or twice, et voila.

On the side, I wanted to serve a pasta, and since onion and wine feature in the pork recipe, I looked for a recipe that features the same flavor profile.  I found this one and well, did you SEE the amount of butter in this recipe?!  I think not.  Thinking there must be a way to tweak my other oniony pasta sauce using ideas from the butter laden one, I came up with this:

2 sliced onions
1/2 cup of white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
1/2 cup of red wine (I used the same Malbec as in the pork dish)
1 can of crushed tomatoes – I used the big guns – San Marzano (that’s a larger can than standard, 28 oz, so you’ll need to use two 14 oz cans if you’re using a different type), which I smooshed through my hands to make “crushed”
3 cloves of smashed garlic
flour or corn starch to thicken
heavy cream because I had it and YUM
1 tbsp of fresh oregano
whole wheat pasta (who are we kidding about the health profile here?)
salt & pepper

Sautee the onions with the smashed garlic cloves until the onions are translucent and soft, maybe a little bit browned.  Add the wine and let simmer til the onions have absorbed it and scrape up any bits off the bottom.  Add the can of tomatoes and some salt and peppter and simmer.  This is the part where you can let that sauce simmer for as loooong as you want.  Half an hour.  An hour.  Eight hours.  Whatever. It’ll only get better, but it’ll still be good even if you can only let it go for half an hour.   If your sauce isn’t thick enough, try adding a roux made from flour or corn starch and wine.

Put water on to boil for the pasta.   Add the pasta into the boiling water and cook til al dente. Sprinkle the oregano into the sauce and continue to let simmer. Stir in some of the heavy cream just for kicks, and season to taste with salt and pepper again if necessary. Serve with pasta alongside the pork dish.

I don’t know that these two went together so perfectly, but they were awesome on their own.  Like super yum.  Highly recommended folks.  Throw in some more of that good wine, and maybe some fresh baguette with a really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you are good to go.


Weird Dinner

11 May

I love buffalo wings.  I make a buffalo wing salad that is super tasty and totally satisfies my craving for wings.

After buying some buffalo wing turkey meatballs over at Trader Joe’s, I wondered if the flavors might translate to a sort of crazy twist on spaghetti and meatballs.  The guy at TJ’s did warn me that these meatballs were salty – oh man, are they salty.  Luckily, in the dish, they worked okay.

I thinly sliced up some green pepper (about 1 1/2 cups), a celery stalk, and a green onion.

I cooked up some whole wheat rotini, heated up the meatballs in the oven per the directions, and made my “sauce” – 1 cup of low fat ranch dressing, and maybe 1/4 cup of Frank’s hot wing sauce.

I mixed the sauce with the veggies, then once the pasta and meatballs were ready, added them in and tossed to coat.

I’m thinking that this might make an awesome cold pasta salad with shredded chicken and blue cheese crumbles – overall, totally strange, but not undelicious.

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta in a Lemon Cream Sauce

23 Mar

Chef Chris DiMinno at Clyde Common in Portland is my new hero.  He made a dish of roasted cauliflower with a lemon cream pasta that blew my mind.  Of course I had to try to make something similar, and this looked like just the recipe to start me off, even though the reviews are pretty hit or miss with some people loving it and others thinking it was too bland.
To start things off, I oven roasted my cauliflower with olive oil and garlic powder – 400 for about 30 minutes, with a quick stir in the middle until it’s soft and a bit golden brown.
I put on some whole wheat rotelli pasta once the cauliflower was done and while that was cooking, I started on the sauce.
The juice of one lemon to start, with a packet of concentrated chicken stock from Trader Joe’s (I love that stuff), then a little bit of pasta water once the pasta was done to make a sauce.  I cooked the pasta til it was still a bit underdone so it could continue to cook with the sauce.  I used some fat free half and half, and a scoop of fat free sour cream to thicken the sauce and make it creamy – though it really just went kind of gritty – I guess I DO need some fat in there somewhere.  I seasoned it up with a bit more garlic powder and the juice of another lemon, some salt & a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
I had some (boiled – I know, shush) chicken that I used to give the dish a bit of protein power.
The texture was all wrong, but the taste was really good.  I’ll keep working on it.

The recipe I mentioned above seems like it might offer up better results – I should’ve taken my own advice.

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 lemon, quartered
2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 (8 ounce) package rotelle pasta
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place chicken in a lightly greased baking dish. Squeeze lemon over both sides of the chicken breasts and season both sides using 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 40 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink inside. 

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, season the chicken broth with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and add lemon juice and pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. 

Cut cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and stir into cooked pasta, along with the cream and lemon zest. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly before serving.

Pasta with sausage and peas

25 Feb

I know I’ve had delicious pastas before that featured crumbled sausage and peas.  I had some chicken (uh, jalapeno chicken actually) sausages in the fridge, and my roommate had some cream and frozen peas that looked stealable.  This could’ve gone horribly wrong, but actually turned into a pretty tasty Scavenged Dinner.
I sliced up the sausage (it had no casing, and is pre cooked or something so I couldn’t crumble it) and set it aside.
I heated two minced garlic cloves in some olive oil til fragrant, then added the sausage.  Once I felt like things were probably pretty close to heated through, I added the frozen peas, the last of my 1% milk, some cream, salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp or so of butter.  I wanted to add lots of romano or parmesan, but only had like, 2 tbsp, boo.  I let it thicken up and added a little bit of the pasta water to make it nice and saucy.  🙂
It actually turned out really well – the sauce was super flavorful and I will totally make it again.

Here is a really close recipe, though I did not use anywhere NEAR the amount of cream or butter it calls for!

Wild. Boar. Ragu. . . . Oink.

3 Dec

I’m finally doing it y’all.
Wild Boar Ragu.

Patrick and I stopped in to Bud’s Custom Meats in Penngrove and picked up a couple of hunks of wild swine (and Bloody Mary jerky, of course) and I set to work marinating for my ragu.
I found this recipe on Chow and proceeded to screw it up immediately by combining ALL ingredients into a bag and allowing them to marinate overnight.  :/
Luckily I did not destroy it (wild piggies are spency) – in fact, it was amazing.

I also stopped into Whole Paycheck and picked up some gnocchi and a little hunk of Parmesan and I am ready to get pan searing and give those Myth gnocchi of my memories a run for their money.

2 pounds wild boar tenderloin, cut into large chunks
carrot, small dice (about 1/2 cup) – I used baby carrots since that’s what I had, but you could use 1 large one
2 ribs celery, small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf

3 fresh thyme sprigs or 2-3 teaspoons dried
1 cup hearty Italian red wine, such as Sangiovese – I used a Pinot Meunier I got from my wine club that I wasn’t wild about, but was good quality so I felt bad chucking it and kept it to cook with
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 -4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium beef broth (or brown veal stock if you’d prefer)
sliced mushrooms
Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Combine boar with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme,tomatoes, tomato paste, broth and red wine in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Remove meat from the marinade and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reserve marinade for later.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add meat and sear until nicely browned, about 6 minutes per side. (You may have to do this in 2 batches.)
Add reserved marinade, and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and place in the oven until meat is fork tender, about 2 hours (but check it – ours was ready after an hour and a half). 
I thought it wasn’t quite rich enough at this point, so I added another tablespoon or two of tomato paste and stirred it through, and added some sliced brown mushrooms and put it back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes.
When meat is tender, shred it with two forks and mix well. Keep ragu warm over low heat until ready to combine with pan seared gnocchi. 
For those pan seared gnocchi?  I just put a tablespoon of unsalted and a tablespoon of salted butter in my pan (because I had them, not because I think you have to – I think all of one or the other would be fine and if you use unsalted you can season to taste) and allowed it to melt.
I chucked in the gnocchi and tossed them about to brown on most sides and crisp up a little.  A couple of scoops of the ragu and a hearty dusting of grate Parmesan and you’re ready to swoon.
It would also be great over tagliatelle.
I don’t know if there are many things better for a chilly December night.

Short Ribs

27 Sep

One of my many mailing lists ( got me all worked up for some yummy ribs.  Especially after I watched Giada make some the other day.  Here are both recipes for two very different takes on short ribs.  There has got to be a way to do Giada’s in the slow cooker, so I’ll have to work on that.
Zinfandel Short Ribs
2 cups good-quality Sonoma Zinfandel
3 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 pounds cross-cut beef short ribs, 1/2 inch thick
Steak seasoning salt, as needed
To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the Zinfandel. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside. In another medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often until the onion is tender. Add the flour and mix well until blended. Add the beef broth and the reduced Zinfandel and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened.
Prepare the grill for cooking over direct medium heat. Season the ribs on both sides with the steak seasoning salt. Place the ribs directly on the cooking grate. Cook for 5 minutes. Flip and brush with the sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes and repeat. Continue flipping and brushing for about 40 minutes, until the ribs are browned and tender. Discard any remaining sauce. Remove to a platter to serve.

Penne with Braised Short Ribs

4 pounds beef short ribs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or ovenproof stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine and mustard. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the beef broth, cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid. Using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a ladle, transfer the cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces. Stir the shredded meat into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and add to the pasta. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the pasta. Toss well and thin out the pasta with more sauce, if needed. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.

** Reader reviews add a bunch of great ideas:
– add tomato paste toward the end to thicken the sauce and add a little depth of flavor
– serve with apple and acorn squash puree versus pasta
– use pork or a traditional roast instead of short ribs
– serve the ribs whole rather than shredding them

Butternut Squash Ravioli

8 Feb


When I need to get my mind off of something, I tend to retreat to the kitchen. The more involved and complicated the recipe, the better. Which means when I’m stressed out or sad, my place is a great spot for time intensive dishes that I don’t usually make or have never tried before. (Come by, bring Tupperware.)
This weekend I bought my very first mandolin down at Soko (plus some plates, and bowls, and spoons, and some slippers over at Ichiban Kan, and maybe a couple of other random things because it’s Japantown and THA CUTE and who can help themselves, yes?). I was all excited to make a tian and was feeling ready to cook my cares away with some nice, comforting, roasted veggies. As I wandered around Nijiya Market waiting for something to tickle my fancy (once I realized they wouldn’t have any of the veggies I was wanting for my tian), my eyes fell on the wonton and gyoza wrappers.
Another hoof over the bridge to Safeway, a 20 minute search for a shopping cart (seriously? I ended up with one from Ikea that I found hidden in a corner of the parking lot; please note that the nearest Ikea is like 12 miles away, over the Bay Bridge), and I got down to business. Spinach and ricotta? Butternut squash? Something mushroomy? I went with the squash thinking that since I was being so healthy with my tian, a little brown butter sage sauce wouldn’t hurt anyone.
I got my inspiration here, was immediately side tracked by this,* bookmarked for a later date * and then got down to business.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 butternut squash – I’m guessing it was about 2 pounds
4 tbsp room temperature butter
2-3 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
a pinch of pumpkin pie spice – maybe 1/4 tsp (or to taste)
1 pkg dumpling wrappers
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp of chopped sage

Heat the oven to 400 and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the pumpkiny seeds and strings and throw those away. Smear the halves with 2 tbsp of the butter (1 tbsp for each half) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until fork tender; I think this took me about 45 minutes – you know I don’t pay attention to that stuff.
Let the squash cool a bit and then scrape out the flesh into the bowl of your food processor. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, the pumpkin pie spice and the honey, and puree until smooth. Give it a taste and decide what you think it needs – more salt, honey, butter, whatever. I was happy with this blend, but you might like it sweeter or richer. The original recipe I looked at for butternut squash ravioli called for you to add heavy cream which you could also do.

Get yourself a little “finger bowl” of water for sealing the ravioli. Dollop about 1 tbsp of filling onto each pastry square and wet two of the sides with the water. Press closed, and then seal by pressing firmly with a fork (but not so hard that you tear the dough). The goal here is to get a nice plump ravioli, but without having the filling smoosh out when you try to close it (which makes it tough to seal, and they’re more likely to bust open when you cook them). I fold mine in half like triangles, but you could go a step further and bring the ends around to make them look more like tortellini.

They don’t take much to get cooked – a couple of minutes in boiling, salted water and they’re done. Be careful though – they’re super delicate.

While mine were in the water I put 4 tbsp of butter into a pan and once it was melted down I added the sage. I let that cook until it was brown, then carefully drained each ravioli and put it into the butter to coat. A little sprinkling of some parmesan cheese, some crushed, toasted walnuts; maybe some biscotti or something, and voila. Nom.

I served mine with the veggie tian I love making, and a mixed greens salad with roasted onion vinaigrette with goat cheese and tomatoes.