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Pasta

So as luck would have it, Deb of the fabulous blog “Smitten Kitchen” posted this amazing recipe a few days before Valentines day. As I was deliriously tired from travel home from Malawi and not in my most creative moment, I decided to adapt this recipe for our celebratory meal. So without further ado, this is according to Joey the best thing I’ve ever cooked! Note it takes a few hours to prepare.

Lasagna Bolognese
Serves 12-15, or more, depending on how you cut the squares

Ingredients:
Bolognese sauce

1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tb. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 Lb. ground beef (I used 10% lean)
12 oz. tomato paste (buy the best paste you can afford)
8 oz. red wine (I used a hearty old vine Zinfandel)
Water
2 bay leaves
1/4 Tsp dried basil

Béchamel sauce
8 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 clove minced garlic
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1 box lasagna noodles (I used no cook noodles from Whole Foods)

1. First make the sauce! This will take a few hours. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating blend the onion, carrots and celery in a blender or food processor until more finely chopped. Add the chopped vegetables to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are browned and golden (this is necessary for the sauce to be fully developed) for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are fully browned, add the ground beef and more salt and pepper.Brown the beef for another 10 minutes until fully cooked and browned. Then add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the red wine, deglaze the pan by scraping up anything browned and stuck to the bottom, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the bay leaves and the basil. Cook for another 3 hours or so, adding water about a 1/2 cup of water as the liquid cooks off. This will make about 1.5 times the amount of sauce you will need. It freezes well and tastes wonderful, so you’ll be happy that you made it!

2. Next, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. After it is melted, add flour and stir until the flour is incorporated into the sauce. Cook for a minute to remove the flour taste, and then pour milk slowly (like a slow drizzle) and whisk until the milk is all incorporated. Then add, salt, garlic, nutmeg and a dash of black pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

3. Finally, assemble the masterpiece. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large rectangular lasgana pan, spread about a 1/3 cup of the béchamel, then place a layer of the noodles, then add a cup of the bolognese sauce (make sure to drench the noodles, as they need to be moistened to fully soften during cooking). Then add another 1/3 cup béchamel and sprinkely a layer of shredded parmesan. Repeat the layers adding pasta, bolognese, béchamel and parmesan for three more layers of pasta. Top with another layer of pasta and then add a bit more béchamel and then parmesean. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is bubbly and brown. Rest for a few minutes after removing from the oven, and then enjoy!! It keeps well in the fridge for a day or so, and also freezes well!

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After the flurry of thanksgiving, I wanted to make something that was hearty and light. I had purchased an eggplant earlier in the week. In light of these circumstances, I adapted a recipe for baked eggplant Parmesan and made a scrumptious homemade tomato sauce .

Baked eggplant Parmesan
Serves 5

Ingredients for tomato sauce (Makes 6+ cups)
1/2 Large Onion, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Tb Olive oil
1/16 Tsp Salt
28 oz. Can of Whole Tomatoes
1 Cup Tomato sauce, canned
8 oz. Red wine (I used Bubo Old Vine Zinfandel)
1/8 Tsp Black pepper
1 Tsp Basil, dried
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Remaining ingredients:
1 eggplant
2 eggs, whisked
1.25 cups Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, dried
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 Lb Linguine

1. To make the tomato sauce, saute garlic, onion and salt in olive oil until translucent. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine, black pepper, dried basil and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for ~30 minutes. If desired, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Create the assembly line by placing eggs in a small bowl and the breadcrumbs 1/4 cup dried Parmesan in another bowl.  Boil water in a medium sized saucepan. Slice the eggplant and immediately place in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove the eggplant and place on towels to drain. Dunk each eggplant slice in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.Bake in oven for ~5 minutes on each side.

3. Cook pasta until al dente. After the eggplant fillets are baked on each side, place sauce over the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Place eggplant fillet, sauce, and mozzarella  across the bottom of the pan. Add additional layers until remaining eggplant is used. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve eggplant Parmesan with pasta and the remaining sauce and a green salad.

We had the pleasure of having a houseguest for the past month while he was doing a medical school rotation at UNC. His friend, Casey also graced our household and taught me this wonderful recipe.

Pasta with kale, shiitake mushrooms and a taleggio cream sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 Tb Butter, unsalted
1 Cup Shiitake Mushrooms, diced
3/4 Cup Shallots, minced
1/8 Tsp Salt
1/8 Tsp Pepper
3/4 Cup Milk or Heavy Cream (if you want to indulge)
3 Oz. Taleggio cheese, diced
1/2 Cup Parmesan, shredded
1 Bunch Kale, stems removed and chopped
1/2 Lb Pasta, penne, or something similar

1. Heat butter in a large saucepan. Add mushrooms and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender.
2. In another saucepan, boil water for pasta and to blanch the kale. Cook pasta according to package directions, blanch the kale near the end of cooking by using a fine mesh metal strainer with cooking. Once kale is tender immediately rinse in cool water (or place in a bowl of ice water)
3. Once the mushrooms and shallots are tender, add milk, tallegio cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted. Add pasta and kale, top with more Parmesan and serve.

Apologizes for the delays, life has been a bit crazy lately. Lots of travel for joyous and not so joyous reasons (my beloved Grandma Charlotte passed away, she was 92 and lived a full wonderful life). I’m grateful that I was able to say goodbye with our family in Cleveland. With all of this travel and dissertating stress, as well as the cooler weather, I am back in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

A few people lately have mentioned squash macaroni and cheese lately… and today while I was at Whole Foods, I saw a can of pureed butternut squash and was craving comfort food. This was the result.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Makes many servings!

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can Pureed butternut squash, or pumpkin (or 1.5 cups pureed squash)
2 Tb Butter, unsalted
1 Onion, medium, diced
1 lb Macaroni or Cavatappi
3/4 cup Milk
8 oz Extra sharp cheddar, grated
3 Tb Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 Tb Flour
1/8 Tsp. Mustard powder, dried
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Prepare the pasta and cook to al dente.

2. In a large skillet, saute the onion in butter until translucent. Add flour and milk and stir until the sauce slightly thickens (aka making a roux). Season with mustard powder. Add can of squash, grated cheddar and Parmesan. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra Parmesan if you like. Freezes well, if you can restrain yourself from eating the whole casserole.

Note: Adding nutmeg, or using ricotta or greek yogurt might help mask the squash flavor; though using extra sharp cheddar helps too.

I think that y’all might think I’m Italian.. as lately all I’ve been cooking is pasta and greens. First, before we begin..my apologies for the delay. Life has been a bit crazy since we’ve been back from Texas–impromptu trips to the beach, planned trip to Bald Head, wedding planing/family stress related to wedding planning, etc.

We also had a lovely engagement party thrown by our friend Deepu–thanks Deeps! Anyhow, my co-worker Valerie gave us a Moosewood cookbook that inspired this recipe. For those of you who don’t know, Moosewood is an amazing restaurant that cooks mainly vegetarian in Ithaca, NY. You should go, or buy their cookbooks! Ok, here is my adaptation.. we didn’t have lemons, basil or linguini..so I improvised and made lots for eating later this week.

Zucchini Pecorino Pasta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2-3 Zuchini, cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, pressed (or four Dorot cubes from Trader Joes!)
3 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tsp dried basil
Red pepper flakes
1/2 lb Pasta– penne, lingiuni or the like
3/4 cup Pecornio, grated (about 3-4 oz)

1) Make pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to salt the water too.

2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add garlic and zucchini. When the zucchini browns add salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes.

3) When the pasta is done put into large bowl and toss with the pecorino. Top with the zucchini and serve. Add more Pecorino, especially if you are a cheese addict like me. Bon Appetit!

I love kale! So lately I’ve been trying to think outside of the Kale Pasta box… Here is my first attempt.

Kale and Carrot Gnocchi (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
1-2 bunches kale
2-3 large carrots, diced
1 Package of gnocchi, fresh or freeze dried
4 Tb Olive oil
2 cloves garlic (I use dorot, frozen crushed garlic from Trader Joes!)
Salt
Pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1) Prepare gnocchi according to package directions.

2) While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Rinse the kale under cold water in a colander. Shake off excess water and place in pan. Add carrots and then add salt and pepper to taste and cover pan so the kale can wilt.

3) Once the kale is cooked down, add the diced tomato and cook for a minute. Add Parmesan, more olive oil (if desired) and cooked gnocchi. Enjoy!

This is my favorite way to eat kale, which is my favorite vegetable. I make this at least once a week.. and you should too, as Kale is one of the most nutritious veggies around.

Pasta with kale, tomatoes and parmesean

Serves 3 (or more)

Ingredients:
1-2 bunches kale, stems removed and torn into medium sized pieces
1 medium heirloom tomato, diced (non-heirloom tomatoes are OK)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tb Olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1/2 lb Pasta (linguni or penne)

1) Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2) While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Rinse the kale under cold water in a colander. Shake off excess water and place in pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover pan so the kale can wilt.

3) Once the kale is cooked down, add the diced tomato and cook for a minute. Add Parmesan, more olive oil (if desired) and cooked pasta.