Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Homemade Pasta


I recently had a week off in between finishing up my Master’s degree and starting my permanent job.  Since Craig was tied up with studying for the bar exam, I had to come up with fun things to do on my own.  Naturally enough, these things revolved largely around cooking (and eating).  One of the things I decided to do was try this homemade pasta recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  It looked so simple and non-intimidating – no rolling the pasta through a press as I had done in a cooking class a few years ago (the only other time I made homemade pasta other than this gnocchi).  I thought the idea of pairing this rustic pasta with a rustic bolognese, as they did, was a great one, but I used my trusty 4-hour bolognese recipe.  This time around, though, I made it a turkey bolognese with half ground turkey and half turkey Italian sausage.  This pasta was very tasty and surprisingly easy to whip up.  The only trouble I had was that after I cut the noodles with the pizza cutter, I couldn’t get them apart and into the water.  They were fully cut apart in the middle, but still slightly attached on the ends.  Craig had to help me go back through with a paring knife and separate them individually, which was a pain.  Next time, I would either just use the sharp paring knife to begin with or, if I used the pizza wheel, I would move each noodle to a plate as I cut them.  Try these noodles – nothing beats homemade!

This is me cutting the pasta, oblivious to the fact that I won’t be able to move it to the pot in a few minutes.  Don’t be like me.

pasta cut

Homemade Pasta

Recipe from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

ingredients (for 2 servings)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough


1. Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center.  Crack eggs into the well and slowly mix together with your hands.

2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes, until it becomes smooth and pliable, adding more flour as needed.  Cover lightly with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

3. Roll the dough out on the floured surface, as thinly as possible.  Keep in mind that the noodles will plump up when cooked.  Cut the noodles into very thin strands using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel (see my notes about this above).

4. Boil the noodles in well-salted water for 2-3 minutes and dress as desired.

pasta done


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The week before last, something possessed me to step outside my comfort zone and make not one, but TWO dishes that normally would not be my style: beef stroganoff and a shepherd’s pie. These “old school” kinds of dishes typically aren’t my style because I have a tendency to consider them bland and boring. I need a lot of exciting flavors in my dinners. However, through the recipes of Tyler Florence and Michael Chiarello respectively, I was inspired to try both of these classics out. I think that’s a mark of a good chef, and definitely of a good cooking show, if they can inspire you to try something that you normally wouldn’t pick out. And, to be honest, Tyler and Michael have put their own spins on these dishes that make them far more interesting than what was probably served up in the 1950s, so there’s already much less risk of ending up with something bland.

As for the stroganoff, this recipe uses short ribs that are slow-cooked in the oven and then sliced. The meat has tremendous flavor and is so delicious on top of the mushroom cream sauce and hot egg noodles. The method of cooking the meat and the fact that it uses short ribs is what makes this so different from other stroganoff recipes, or as Tyler would say, it’s what makes this dish “the ultimate.” So, even if you’re like me and think this kind of dish isn’t your style, I highly recommend trying this recipe.

“The Ultimate” Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

Source: Slightly adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network


2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped, plus 1 clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed

1 ½ pounds beef short ribs

8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

4 oz. sliced white button mushrooms

¼ cup chopped shallots

Splash of cognac (we didn’t have this, so I used sweet vermouth)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup sour cream

8 oz. egg noodles

1Tbsp. unsalted butter



1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Place the chopped garlic, salt and pepper into a small bowl. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to create a paste. Add the thyme leaves to the bowl and stir to combine. Set short ribs out on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover with herb paste. Roast in the oven for 2 to 2 and a half hours, until they are falling apart. Slice meat into thin strips.

2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes until brown. Add shallots and minced garlic and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes until garlic and shallot become fragrant. Remove pan from heat and add cognac/vermouth to deglaze the pan. Return to heat and add cream. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Turn off heat and stir in Dijon mustard and sour cream. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Return to burner over low heat and warm through.

3. Cook egg noodles in salted boiling water according to directions on package. Drain and toss with butter while still hot.

To serve: Pile the noodles high on a plate, top with stroganoff sauce and finish with rib slices.

Yum. I can’t wait to make this again.

As for the shepherd’s pie, that turned out to be impossible to get a picture of, but very tasty nonetheless. Not as awesome as the stroganoff, but still very good. I mean, the title of the recipe involves the words “scallion-cheese crust,” so how bad could it be?! I also had to hand mince the lamb for the dish using loin chops due to a lack of lamb selection at the store, but that actually turned out to be a favorable development – the hand-minced lamb had a ton of texture. For Michael Chiarello’s recipe, click here.

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fettuccine bolognese

I recently saw a recipe for Anne Burrell’s bolognese over on Kaitlyn’s blog. If you don’t know who Anne Burrell is, she is perhaps best known as Mario Batali’s soux chef on Iron Chef America. She was also recently given her own FN show called Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and while some find her quirky personality a bit off-putting, the recipes get great reviews. I had been meaning to try making a traditional bolognese, so when I saw this version that took 4 hours in Kaitlyn’s blog, I figured it must be the real deal.

However, my bolognese definitely ended up having my own twist. When I was shopping for the meat for the sauce, they were all out of the naturally raised beef I prefer to buy. In fact, the ground beef in general was pretty picked over. That’s when a new item caught my eye – ground, naturally raised bison. I have had bison burgers before, but never attempted to cook it at home. I figured this would be the perfect way to try it – after all, I am pretty sure bolognese in Italy started as a foolproof way to use up cuts of game. For the sauce, since I was making a half recipe, I rounded out my pound of healthy, affordable ($4.99/pound) bison with a half-pound of ground beef chuck that Craig picked up on a calmer grocery day when there was more selection.

This sauce was to-die-for. It definitely made a dish worthy of Anne’s “restaurant chef” title. And, almost as good, it made our home smell like an Italian trattoria. The original recipe would make a ton, so only make the full recipe if you plan to freeze some sauce. The half recipe mixed well with a pound of pasta, making about 5 servings.

I served this with garlic roasted broccoli (instructions below) and a glass of Chianti!

bolognese meal

4-Hour, 2-Meat Authentic Bolognese

Adapted from: Anne Burrell, via Kaitlyn’s blog (see link above)


½ large sweet onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic

Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan and for finishing

Salt (I used my sea salt grinder)

1.5 pounds ground meat of your choice – I used 1 lb. of bison and ½ lb. ground chuck

1 cup tomato paste

1 ¼ cups hearty red wine – I used Chianti – this is Italian, after all!


1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle

1 pound fettuccine

Coarsely grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano



1. In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a paste. In a dutch oven over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until all the water has evaporated and vegetables become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes. Be patient.

2. Add the ground meat and season again generously with salt. Brown the meat to a deep, rich brown. Don’t worry if there is a lot of brown stuck to the bottom of the pan. This should take 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Add about 2 cups of water to the pan, or enough to raise the level of liquid by at least 1 inch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the bundle of thyme. As the water evaporates, gradually add more, 1 to 2 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process; you can always cook it out. I checked the sauce every 20-30 minutes and probably added about 3 additional cups of water in addition to the first 2 cups. Stir and taste frequently. Season with salt as sauce cooks – this sauce will probably need more salt than you’re used to putting in things since it’s almost all meat. Simmer for 3 ½ hours.

5. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the pasta. Salt water well before adding pasta. When the water is at a rolling boil add the fettuccine and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package (for Barilla fettuccine rigate, 7 min.). Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

6. While the pasta is cooking, remove ½ of the sauce from the pot and reserve. Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add the reserved sauce gradually to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water as needed and cook the pasta and sauce together over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and give pasta a drizzle of the olive oil. Toss vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls. Top with grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.


For Garlic-Roasted Broccoli:

Adapted from: None – just looked up a rough cooking time online and then made this one up.

Preheat the oven to 425. Wash broccoli and cut into large florets. Pat broccoli dry. Slice a large garlic clove into very thin rounds. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil. Add broccoli to sheet and drizzle a little more olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and crushed red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Place a slice of garlic on top of each floret (if the garlic touches the pan rather than the broccoli, it may burn). Roast for 12-15 minutes, tossing once lightly during cooking process.

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cajun chicken pasta

cajun chicken pasta

You know a recipe is good when you have to artfully arrange the leftovers in your fine china to take a picture of because you dove into the first servings without waiting, but you still feel it would be a crime not to blog it. That’s this recipe. After ONE BITE, Craig said, “Wow, we need to have this more often.”  I told him that would probably not be in our waistlines’ best interest, but there is no doubt that this recipe will be added to our rotation (ok, so I don’t have a rotation – as I’ve mentioned, I rarely make the same dish twice – but this one will be one of those rare exceptions).  Thanks to Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Edible Experience for sharing the adaptation of an Emeril recipe.  She made it with the original shrimp, but I made this the week before we were headed out of town for 11 days, so I didn’t want to buy my usual 2-pound bulk bag of shrimp.  I decided to make it with chicken, and Craig said he prefered it that way because he could get meat in every bite in a way you wouldn’t if it were topped with 6 or so shrimp.  Of course, you could always chop the shrimp, which might be a fun variation for next time.  And yes, there will be a next time.  Soon.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Adapted from: Elizabeth’s Edible Experience, originally from Emeril Lagasse


10 oz. package fresh fettuccine

¾ pound chicken breast

1 Tbsp. butter

½ Tbsp. olive oil

1 ½ Tbsp. Emeril’s Essence, plus more for rubbing chicken (follow the link to Elizabeth’s blog to see how to make this spice blend at home)

Salt and pepper

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno (I used even less with all the cayenne in the Essence, and it was still pretty spicy.  I used about ½ of a small jalapeno)

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (I added this)

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

½ cup reserved pasta cooking water

1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan



1. Rub the chicken breast with Essence and grill until done.  Let cool and cut into bite-sized pieces.

2. Set a large stock pot of water to boil and add some salt. Place the fettuccine in the pot and stir the pot until the water returns to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender al dente. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

3. While water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Set a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the onions, bell pepper, and jalapenos to the pan and sauté until the onions are softened and lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream, Essence, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Bring sauce to a boil and cook until the cream is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Add the chicken, tomatoes, fettuccine and the reserved cooking water to the pan and cook, tossing to incorporate for 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Remove pan from the heat and add the cheeses, tossing to blend.  Serve immediately.

Note: this does not reheat as well as I thought it would, so eat up when it’s fresh!

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The next Dinner Divas recipe is a Giada recipe for vegetable bolognese. I really enjoyed this sauce. You have to be a mushroom lover to enjoy it, though, which my husband and I both are. It’s really quick, too – you could easily make this on a weeknight. The main change I made was to use creme fraiche instead of mascarpone. I think mascarpone can be too sweet at times, plus I probably wouldn’t have found a use for the second half of the tub and it would have gone to waste. At first, I thought of substituting heavy cream, but when I saw that there was a substantial amount of wine in the sauce, I figured it would curdle. Luckily, the stars aligned and the week I decided to make this was also the week that my regular grocery store decided to start carrying creme fraiche. If you don’t know what creme fraiche is, it’s not as fancy as it sounds. It’s a slightly soured cream, kind of like sour cream, but not nearly as sour and not quite as firm. The awesome advantage of it is that you can add it cold to a hot sauce, even one containing an acid like wine, and it won’t curdle. I thought it made for a perfect substitution in this dish.

Other changes: I used fresh tri-colored linguine instead of dried rigatoni. I used dried thyme and oregano in place of fresh, simply because I can’t ever use up a whole package of those fresh herbs (maybe next year when I have a garden), and I added sliced basil for extra freshness.

This dish was a great way to transition into fall cooking on a day that was cold and rainy from the remnants of Hurricane Faye.

Adapted from: Giada deLaurentiis, Food Network

Tri-Colored Pasta with Vegetable Bolognese


1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 cups hot water

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

½ large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced into pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½  teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

3 oz. crème fraiche

12 oz. package fresh tri-colored pasta (a pound would be a better fit for the amount of sauce, but the fresh pasta never seems to come in 1 lb. packages)

Large handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin

1/4 cup parmesan



1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 ½ cups very hot tap water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften for 30 minutes.

2. Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Process the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.

3. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Slice any porcinis that are too large. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced somewhat, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in crème fraiche and half of the sliced basil and stir to incorporate.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and serve in shallow bowls topped with sauce. Garnish with remaining basil and parmesan.


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One of the things my parents used to do in the summer when I was growing up was Vegetarian Week. It’s exactly what it sounds like – for one week, when summer produce was at its peak, we’d be vegetarians. I like vegetarian dinners and try to cook at least one a week normally. Hence, I’ve carried on this tradition in my own house. Lunches tend to be a bit more challenging during the week because they require a bit more creativity from normal sandwiches. This year, our Vegetarian Week got cut short because we had some unexpected meetings that cut into dinner time, but I did manage to make 2 vegetarian dinners that came out great. The first is this pasta dish that I just sort of dreamed up based on things my husband likes – asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, and blue cheese.


2/3 lb. penne pasta

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed and ends snapped off

1 cup baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

5 oz. cambozola cheese, rind removed and cut into small chunks (If you haven’t tried this yet, you should – it’s a mixture of creamy camembert cheese, which is like brie, and gorgonzola, which is the mildest form of blue cheese. The result is a creamy, yummy cheese with a mild hit of blue cheese flavor.)

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

splash of red wine (you can also use white wine if you prefer – I just think red wine plays well with cambozola)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup milk (skim is definitely fine since you’re mixing in a bunch of cheese)

salt and pepper




1. Prepare mushrooms – heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and sauté until golden and liquid is evaporated. To finish, add splash of wine and cook until nearly, but not fully, evaporated. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

2. Boil and salt water for pasta and asparagus.

3. Meanwhile, cut asparagus into one inch pieces on an angle, to mimic the shape of the penne. Set aside.

4. Add pasta to boiling water and begin cooking. When pasta has 2 minutes of cooking time remaining, add the asparagus. Before draining, reserve a cup or so of the cooking water. If pasta and asparagus finish cooking before the sauce is done, toss in strainer with a small drizzle of oil and cover with a towel.

5. Meanwhile, prepare sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat, then sprinkle the flour over it. Whisk vigorously to cook the roux for one minute, until the color of peanut butter. Increase the heat to medium-high, then slowly add the milk in small batches, whisking vigorously the whole time to prevent lumps. Cook this sauce–whisking constantly–until it’s just starting to boil and thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat (this is very important) and gently fold in the cambozola in small batches until it’s completely incorporated.  Next, add half of the parmesan cheese using the same method (a silicone spatula works well for the folding-in). Season with salt and pepper. Finally, stir in the mushrooms.

6. Return pan to a burner over very low heat, add the pasta and asparagus to the sauce and stir gently to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin to desired consistency.

7. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and serve!


Serves 2 with a lunch portion leftover.


Thanks to NestColleen on the cooking board I frequent for the cheese sauce tips!

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