Carbonara


We’ve put off trying this recipe for a while because it seemed complicated. That couldn’t be further from the truth! It was really very easy, though a bit temperamental. The original post cites Rachel Ray as the original creator as published in Woman’s Day magazine.

Ingredients:
1 box spaghetti (about a pound)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, roughly chopped (we ended up using about 3 ounces because that’s what came in the package)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (we used a pinot grigio)
3 large egg yolks
freshly grated Romano cheese (optional, but J swears it’s better with the cheese. Parmesan works too in a pinch)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (you’ll want to use more pepper than salt!)

Directions:
Boil the pasta according to the package directions in salted water. (You will need to reserve at least a cup of the pasta water for use later in the recipe!) While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat (you;ll be adding the pasta to the skillet). Add the olive oil and pancetta to the warmed skillet. Brown  the pancetta for about two minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for up to three more minutes (remove or turn down the heat if the pancetta starts to burn). Add the wine and deglaze the pan. In a separate  bowl, beat the egg yolks and add 1/2 cup of the pasta water. According to the original recipe, adding the pasta water to the yolks tempers them so they don’t scramble. If you haven’t already drained the pasta, do so now. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss to coat the pasta. Don’t cook the egg! Remove from heat. Add cheese, pepper and salt. Continue tossing the pasta until the egg mixture thickens and the pasta absorbs most of it. Serve immediately with extra cheese.

My opinion:
Salty and creamy, this is the perfect dinner for a fall evening. If you find the dish too salty, cut back on the added salt at the end. When reheating, make sure to use a little olive oil or reheat by covering the bottom of a pan with chicken stock or broth and adding the pasta. Otherwise, it dries out.

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End of season pesto


I’m warming back up to Italian food. For awhile, nothing compared to the food I had in Florence, so I shied away from trying to perfect Italian at home. Luckily, J loves Italian style cuisine so we’ve dabbled in a few dishes (like Pizza Margherita and Eggplant Parmesan). We had a bumper crop of basil that needed to be used, so before the first freeze, (ok the second!), we harvested an armful and got to work making pesto. I found this recipe, but had to modify it a bit for our taste.

Ingredients:
2 cups packed basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan (grated works best)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Add all the ingredients to your food processor (except the salt and pepper) and pulse it a few times. Taste. Add desired salt and pepper. Pulse again. We added the oil a little bit at a time, which left the pesto a little chunky, which we like. If you don’t, add the ingredients except the oil first, pulse, then add the oil slowly, pulsing in between. When it’s the consistency you prefer, pour into a clean mason jar, add a little olive oil on top, screw on the lid and freeze. Serve over your favorite pasta.

My opinion:
I was a bit surprised at how little this actually made. We only got two jars our of an armful of basil. Next year, I plan to make some early in the summer and then again at the end of the season so I end up with more pesto.

Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta


If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be eating squash, I would never believe you. But I am! And I’m loving it! I had no idea these fall vegetables could taste so lovely! I’m always looking for new recipes and when a friend recommended this Self Magazine butternut squash recipe, I jumped at the chance to try it. It was super easy (once I figured out how to cut the squash) and very filling.

Ingredients:
8 oz whole-wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves (Do not substitute dried, it doesn’t taste the same!)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (it’s ok to omit this, but it does enhance the flavors)

Directions:
Cook penne as directed on package (we used spaghetti because we were out of penne, it worked just as well!). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes (this took about 10 minutes for us). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add squash mixture; stir over low heat, adding some reserved cooking water if necessary, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and sage.

My Opinion:
I didn’t expect this simple dish to be as flavorful and wonderful as it was. The only two changes I’ll make are to add more onion and garlic. A great late fall early winter dish. Not to mention a wonderful introduction to the world of butternut squash. What new vegetable should we try next? Parsnips?

Favorite Summer Risotto

I cut this recipe from Self Magazine seven years ago and it’s still one of my most favorite summer dishes.

Ingredients:
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I use a little more)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I use about 4 cloves)
1 small onion, diced (or medium, depending on how much you like onions)
2 cups diced zucchini (feel free to use more!)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pound arborio rice (I just make one recipe, which is about 1 cup dry, otherwise it makes WAY too much rice)
1 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay is my favorite)
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan (I omit this)
18 sea scallops

Directions:
The original directions have you roasting the tomatoes in the oven for an hour. I skip this. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half and put them in a medium pan with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat in the same pan. Cook garlic and half the onion until translucent; add zucchini and cook about 5 minutes. Puree zucchini mixture in a blender with lemon juice and 1 tbsp oil (I only puree about 2/3). Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium pot on medium heat and sauté remaining onion until translucent. Add rice and cook 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, stirring until rice absorbs wine. Add broth 1 cup at a time until absorbed, stirring continually for 20 minutes or until rice is tender (add more broth if necessary). Once rice is cooked, stir in zucchini puree, butter and cheese (if using). Set aside. In the same pan you sauteed the tomatoes, onions and zucchini add another tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper one side of the scallops. Put the seasoned side down in the pan. Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes then flip.

My Opinion:
I’ve made this dish so many times and each time it gets a little better. I’ve learned not to rush the risotto and to not wiggle the scallops to let them get a good sear. This dish reminds me of summer so much that in the middle of winter when I miss summer, I make this dish.