Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

pasta e fagioli

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a series of entries over the next several months on classic versions of traditional Italian dishes. This is my first in the series, although I may eventually re-tag the bolognese recipe I made recently (see it two posts down from this one). My mom mailed me this recipe from her Marcella Hazan cookbook. There is no doubt that this is a classic recipe, as Marcella Hazan is the absolute authority on traditional Italian food. This soup was delicious and had so much texture, with a nice salty bite. The shredded pork definitely added a lot and made it different from other versions I’ve had. This is certainly not a quick version of pasta e fagioli, but it is worth the time.

One of the key ingredients in this dish is dried cranberry beans. Finding this item took an in-store call to my dad to have him Google and see if Roman beans were the same thing – I had seen pictures of cranberry beans before, and the Roman beans looked the same to me, but I wasn’t sure. Indeed, cranberry beans and Roman beans ARE the same thing, so if your store calls them Roman beans like mine does, now you’ll know what to buy. If you absolutely can’t find either one, you could use light kidney beans or pink beans.

Pasta e Fagioli

Adapted from: A Marcella Hazan recipe as recounted by my mom


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ large sweet onion, finely diced

1 carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

Pork with a bone (you can use a few ribs, country ribs, a ham bone with some meat attached, or two small bone-in pork chops). I used 2 large bone-in country ribs.

2/3 cup Italian chopped tomatoes in juice (I used Pomi)

1 cup dried cranberry (aka Roman) beans, either soaked in cold water overnight or brought to a boil for 2 minutes and then allowed to sit covered for 2 hours

3 cups beef stock

¼ lb. small tubular pasta (I used mini penne)

2 cups baby or chopped spinach or chopped kale

1 Tbsp. butter (this is not optional if you want an authentic soup with a creamy texture)

2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste



1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until pale golden. Add carrot and celery and stir well. Add the pork, turning to brown on all sides, and cook about 8 more minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes with their juice and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans and stir well. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add the stock. Cover pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and stir. Cook partially covered until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding a little water as needed.

4. With a potato masher, mash about half the beans in the pot, leaving the other half whole. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pull pork from the pot and shred with a fork. Discard bones and return shredded meat to the soup.

5. Add about 2 cups of water (as much as needed to thin it out to a slightly thinner consistency than you’d like to serve it), and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add additional warm water if needed. When pasta has 1-2 minutes left, add greens and stir to wilt. Stir in butter and cheese vigorously and then remove from heat. Check seasoning.

6. Ladle into soup bowls and let cool 5 minutes before serving – serve warm rather than piping hot.

Serve with toasted garlic bread!

soup and bread


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Chicken sausage stew

For December, I was selected to choose the recipes for Dinner Divas. The only problem was, between finals, finishing up work, and being out of town for 11 days, it took me until early Jan. to actually cook the recipes I’d chosen! However, I have made them both now, and I am happy to report that they were both very good (Texas caviar to be posted shortly). The people choosing the recipes each month are supposed to choose one Food Network recipe and one non-FN recipe. For my FN recipe, I chose this stew from Dan and Steve (the original Next Food Network Star winners).

This stew is very smooth and velvety from all the flour. I used only 1/3 the amount of butter the original recipe called for (a ridiculous 10 Tbsp.!) and found it to be plenty rich. The most interesting thing about this stew, however, was the addition of fresh fennel and orange zest. These ingredients gave it a flavor much different from the average stew and also very different from what you’d think it would taste like just looking at it. It was very tasty and we both enjoyed it. Rather than mixing in the oven-roasted potatoes from the recipe as they suggest, I topped it with oven fries, resting them on top to keep them crispy. The potatoes were a great addition, but the stew would also be very good with a scoop of basmati rice. I’ll definitely keep this recipe around.

Dan and Steve’s Chicken and Sausage Stew

Adapted from: The Hearty Boys, Food Network


3 tablespoons butter (I reduced this from the original 10!)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 2 -inch chunks (I used 1.65 pounds)

Salt and pepper

8 ounces andouille sausage, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced

½ Tbsp. dried thyme

5 cups chicken stock

Zest of one orange (I did a lazy job of getting all the zest and it was still plenty orange-y)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white wine

Oven roasted potatoes (see below)




1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Just before the butter begins to brown, add the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the andouille and cook 2 more minutes. Remove the meat to a plate and reserve.

2. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in the same pot (do not drain meat juices from pot). Add the onion, garlic, carrot, fennel, and thyme and cook over medium heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.

3. As the vegetables cook, pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.

4. When the vegetable mixture is ready, add the orange zest to the pot along with the reserved meat and any accumulated juices. Mix well. Sprinkle in the flour in batches and stir to coat the vegetables and meat. Cook 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir.  Add the warm chicken stock to the pot 1 cup at a time, stirring as the stock is added. Once all of the stock has been added, bring the stew to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with potatoes, and serve.


Oven potato wedges

Preheat oven to 425. Cut one small Yukon gold potato per person into 8 wedges. On a lightly greased baking sheet, toss potatoes with enough olive oil to coat, plus salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Arrange in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping wedges over after 20 minutes.

Thanks to Ashlee at “A Year in the Kitchen” for providing the proper potato wedge cooking temperature and time in her blog.

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I was searching for something to do with the rest of some boneless, skinless chicken thighs I had, and I came across this Emeril recipe. It called for cooking up a chicken chili in a cast iron skillet and then topping it with cornbread batter and popping the whole thing in the oven! I think this chili came out great and the cornbread was really nice on top. The other unique twist to this chili, which I didn’t have the guts to do my first time making it is that it calls for adding corn kernels and letting them pop in the pan. I wasn’t confident in my ability to make this work, so I just added regular corn, but I am quite intrigued by the idea of popped corn kernels in there. If anyone tries this, certainly let me know – I’d love to hear how it turned out (see the link to the original recipe for instructions on that).

As it was, this chili was very yummy – the chicken stayed nice and juicy and the bread topped with cheese was moist and fresh. It was very spicy. I would say we definitely like moderately spicy food, and we thought this was perfect with a large dollop of sour cream mixed into each serving to cool it down. If you don’t like things too spicy or if you don’t plan on adding sour cream, I would recommend reducing the cayenne a bit. I think we had a fairly hot jalapeno as well, so that played a part too.

Cornbread-topped chicken chili skillet

Adapted from: Emeril Lagasse, Food Network



1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed  (I had about ¾ lb., so I also added a can of black beans)

Sprinklings of cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme, and dried oregano

1 ½  tablespoons vegetable oil

½  cup chopped yellow onions

½  cup chopped red bell peppers (I used green, only because the red at my store looked like they wouldn’t last until late in the week)

1 large minced jalapeno pepper

1 ½  tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 cup corn kernels  (As I mentioned, I used thawed frozen sweet corn)

1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes and their juices

1 cup chicken stock

Cornbread topping, recipe follows

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, for topping (I only had sliced cheddar jack, so I scattered small slices over the top)

Sour cream




1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the chicken with sprinklings of spices (listed second in the ingredients) on all sides.  Mix cornbread topping (see below).


2. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the pan and when hot, add the onions, bell peppers and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the stock, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring until thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add corn and black beans to skillet and stir to heat through. Return the chicken to the pot and cook until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Spoon the cornmeal batter over the chicken mixture, leaving at least a 1/2-inch border around the sides.

4. Bake until golden brown, 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cheese on top. Return to the oven until melted, 2 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with the sour cream. Serve hot.

Cornmeal Topping:

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil (I actually did use the bacon grease – might not have been as healthy, but certainly made a flavor difference!)


In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, beat together the buttermilk, egg and bacon grease. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just blended, being careful not to overmix. Use as a topping for the Chicken Chili.

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My parents sent me this recipe recently as a new page for a cookbook they made me when I moved out of the dorms for my junior year of college. The cookbook is one of the best, most personal gifts I’ve ever received – my dad sent pages to all my extended family so that they could contribute their own favorites. The best pages, though, are the many pages that my dad, who is extremely creative, made himself: complete with pictures of the family eating the dish (taken over the course of many weeks, no doubt), funny comments, and drawings. Anyway, these days, my parents make new pages and send them to me whenever they make a recipe that they deem essential for my collection. I received this one in the spring and have already made it 3 times – a feat for someone like me who rarely makes repeat recipes, simply because I am always excited to try something new. This dish contains 3 of my favorite things – spicy Italian sausage, chickpeas, and spinach. And, it’s super easy and quick to make! Yay.


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ large onion, diced

1 lb. hot Italian sausage (I have tried it with both turkey and pork versions, and the turkey will work, but the pork is preferable because the texture is better in the finished stew)

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cups chicken broth

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I think Goya brand is the best – they’re always firm and never mushy)

2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach

6 slices toasted garlic bread, prepared by brushing French or Italian bread with olive oil, toasting at 400 degrees on a baking sheet until crusty, and rubbing hot bread with a halved raw garlic clove.

Grated parmesan for sprinkling on top



1.       Heat oil in a large sauté pan with high sides (or a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion and sausage, and crumble sausage.  When sausage is about half done, add the garlic.  Sauté until sausage is browned and cooked through.

2.       Stir in the tomato paste to coat, and cook 2 more minutes.

3.       Add broth and chickpeas and bring the mixture to a boil. Add freshly ground black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low to simmer, and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

4.       Add spinach and cover pan briefly to wilt spinach – about 1 minute.

5.       Place a slice of garlic bread on the bottom of each bowl and ladle stew on top. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

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