BAKED RIGATONI SAN MARZANO

Who does not love bake pasta dishes? Rigatoni, Ziti, Mostaccioli…they’re all good. This one is meatless…with a rich marinara sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes. The rigatoni is tossed with the sauce, and a ricotta/mozzarella/parmesan mix. Then topped with more mozzarella and parmesan. If you bake it right away, it only takes about 20 minutes to cook. But, you can put it together and bake it later…with a longer cook time of course.

This recipe is really cut down using a 9×9 baking dish. Still enough for 4 people.

Ingredients:

For the marinara:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thin sliced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole, peeled, San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sugar or to taste
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter

For the rigatoni:

  • 7 ounces of rigatoni
  • 3/4 cups whole ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme eaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, 1/2 of it diced
  • 3/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  • Place a medium saucepan over medium low heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic for 30 seconds.
  • Add the San Marzano tomatoes and crushed with you hands or mash with a potato masher. Add the fresh basil and bay leaf. Add the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Taste and reseason if necessary. Stir in the sugar and the butter. Optional: using an immersion blender, blend the marinara to your desired consistency.
  • Combine the ricotta, the salt and pepper, thyme, parsley, lemon zest, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, and the egg. Mix well in a bowl.
  • Cook the rigatoni in salted water for about 9-10 minutes. Drain and don’t rinse. Return to the pan.
  • Place the ricotta mix in the pasta and fold in completely. Add 2 cups of the marinara and reserve the rest for another recipe. Freeze it if you like.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Stir every together until well combined then place in a oil-sprayed 9×9 baking dish. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 18 minutes. Remove the foil and turn to broil for about 2-3 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Tent lightly with the foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped parsley and more parmesan.

BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP REDUX

This is one of the soups I have struggled with getting just right. Just right meaning: like Panera’s version. I took a couple steps back…started over…and used An NYT recipe. It worked this time.

With every so-called “successful” recipe, there is always the variable of seasoning. Add the right amount of salt and pepper, especially, is essential. So, it’s usually “Kosher alt and black (or white) pepper to taste”.

Add more broccoli or more cheese according to your taste. The only thing I would suggest different is something to add heat if you like that sort of thing…probably some red pepper flakes. However, I usually like to give a couple dashes of Tabasco or Cholula when I eat it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded + more for garnish
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • Croutons if desired

Directions:

  • Trim the stems off the florets and cut into small pieces, set aside. Cut the floret into 3/4 inch pieces.
  • Place the stems in a small saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, until tender. Drain.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Add the onions and garlic and saute, stirring, for 4-5 minutes. Season with Kosher salt and lemon pepper. Sprinklw with 2 tbsp flour, stir, and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the blanched stems, florets, and stock. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Add the cream, nutmeg, and shredded cheddar.and cook on low until the cheese has melted. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar. Add croutons if desired.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS AND EASY HOLLANDAISE

This Roasted Asparagus recipe gets a nice flavor boost from fresh olive oil, fresh garlic, and a little grated parmesan. Roasting times will vary wildly due to the thickness of the asparagus and your individual oven. Mine spears were a little thin and the roasting time was 12-15 minutes.

The Hollandaise method here is a super simple hack using an immersion blender. Forget the whisking and whisking over a Bain marie!

Ingredients:

For the Hollandaise:

  • 1-2 egg medium egg yolks
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) of unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Cayenne (opt.)

For the asparagus:

  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus (about 10 spears)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Paprika for garnish (opt.)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss the asparagus spears in olive oil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Place in a small baking dish. Roast for about 12-15 minutes until the asparagus is done to your liking.
  • Meanwhile, place the egg yolks, lemon juice, and water in an immersion blender cup. Heat the stick of butter in a small saucepan until it has melted and stops foaming, stirring constantly. Place in a measuring cup with a pour spout.
  • Place the immersion blend head in the cup and start on medium speed. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter very slowly with the blender running. It should take about 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Use immediately, or place in a small saucepan with a cover for up to 20 minutes. Another method for storing is place the Hollandaise in a small thermos bottle and seal.
  • Serve the roasted asparagus on a small plate and spoon on the Hollandaise. Serve the rest of the sauce at the table.

SALSA ALLA MARINARA

One of the 5 Mother Sauces in French cooking is red sauce, tomato sauce…marinara sauce. The basic difference between a classic tomato sauce and a marinara sauce is simplicity. Classic tomato sauce recipes use onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, beef stock, a few spices and several hours of cooking. A simple marinara, like this one, comes together in less than an hour with only a few ingredients.

This marinara sauce works so well with any pasta or as the sauce in a lasagna or baked ziti.

It uses whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, though fresh ripe tomatoes works as well.

Don’t forget: season in layers…taste…then season again. Finishing with a couple pats of cold unsalted butter makes this sauce silky smooth.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 4 small garlic cloves, thin sliced – about 2 tbsp of garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of fresh basil and leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar (opt.)
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp of cold, unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add the diced onions and saute, stirring, abut 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Add the tomatoes paste, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, basil sprig, and sugar.
  • Bring sauce to a simmer, lower the heat to low, and place the cover askew. Simmer for 45 minutes, checking and stirring once in a while.
  • Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Turn off the heat. Add the cold butter and stir until melted.

MUSHROOM LEEK STROGANOFF

We love Beef Stroganoff. But every once in a while we like to go meatless…and make Mushroom Leek Stroganoff. This will have the same savory, creamy stroganoff taste just without the meat. The cremini mushrooms give this dish a similar meaty texture. I substitute half the onions with leeks, and that elevates it even further.

Keep in mind that it is essential for deep flavor development to take your time with the onions, leeks, and mushrooms. In other words, cook them on low with unsalted butter for at least 15 minutes to get them near caramelized, lightly browned.

You can use your favorite pasta, but large egg noodles really are the go-to choice with stroganoff. Serve with a fresh garlic garlic bread (recipe below).

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned, quartered, 1/8 inch slice
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, halved, 1/4 inch slice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved, 1/4 inch slice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy or dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp demi-glace
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 ounces large egg noodles
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Clean and dry the mushrooms. Cut them in half them slice 1/4 inch, leaving the stems.
  • Use the white and light green part of the leek. Cut in half and remove any dirt and sand then cut in quarters. Slice 1/8 inch.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, leeks, and onions and season with salt and pepper. Let them cook, stirring, for at least 15 minutes until the mushrooms have lost all their liquid and are beginning to brown slightly. Add the thyme and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook another 1 minute. Then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the brandy or sherry and bring to a simmer for a minute or so to cook off the alcohol. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the Demi place and let cook in for 1 minute, stirring.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire and the Dijon. Add the sour cream and heat through, stirring. Taste and reseason with salt and pepper if necessary, especially pepper. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to low, and let cook about 10 minutes while you cook the pasta.
  • Drain the pasta, do not rinse, and return to the pasta saucepan. Toss with a little olive oil.
  • When ready to serve, plate some pasta and spoon over the mushroom sauce. Season with more fresh cracked pepper if desired and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with garlic bread.

Garlic Bread recipe

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Mix together 2 cloves of minced garlic, 4 tbsp unsalted room temperature butter, 1 tbsp chopped parsley and a pinch of Kosher salt.
  • Use your favorite French or sourdough bread. Spread cut sides liberally with the garlic butter. Sprinkle on some grated parmesan and place on a sheet pan. Bake until the bread is toasty and golden at the edges, about 10 minutes.

SHRIMP CAPELLINI POMODORO

We love Capellini Pomodoro. We have it quite often as a vegetarian break from heavier meat dishes. It’s so simple…Capellini (angel hair) pasta, diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh sliced basil leaves (chiffonade). Every once in a while, we throw in the garlic sautéed shrimp…and there you have it!

It takes a little prep, but comes together really quickly after that.

First, the tomatoes. I have seen recipes that call for canned, diced tomatoes. Now, I love and cook with canned tomatoes all the time, especially San Marzano tomatoes. However…canned tomatoes need to be cooked or they will have a metallic taste. Pomodoro does not involve actually cooking the tomatoes, but just quickly heating them up in a saute. So…I prefer, and advise you to use, fresh, tomatoes…specifically, fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes. Take the time to skin the tomatoes (directions below), it makes for a much more refined result. You will be happy you did. This dish also requires fresh basil leaves, dried basil will not cut it. Sorry, but this is as fresh a pasta dish as you can get. Also, remember…capellini pasta cooks in about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. It is extremely thin and only works with a short cook time.

This recipe serves 2-3 people.

Ingredients:

  • About 3 ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 8-10 ounces (8-10) extra large (U-15) shrimp
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (rolled up like a cigar and thin sliced)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 6-7 ounces of capellini (angel hair) pasta

Directions:

  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Cut a small X in the small end of the Roma tomatoes. With a small paring knife, remove the core from the tomatoes. Fill a mixing bowl with ice cubes and water. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for no more than 30 seconds or you will stew them. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice water. Let cool for a few seconds. Use you paring knife and peel the skin off starting at the X you placed in the ends. Then half them lengthwise then in half again then slice into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.
  • Make sure your shrimp is shelled and cleaned of the digestive tract.
  • Cook your capellini in salted boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan. Toss with a little olive oil so it won’t stick together, cover, and keep warm.
  • Place a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp to the skillet and spread evenly. Season lightly with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Let cook for 45 seconds then turn and let cook another 30 seconds. Throw in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Toss a few more times for about 45 seconds. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and toss.
  • Place the cooked capellini in a large mixing bowl and add the shrimp and tomatoes. Add the fresh basil chiffonade and toss well. Serve immediately in large pasta bowls with more grated Parmesan.

CREAM CHEESE AND GREEN CHILE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

New Years Eve has always been a quiet time for us over the years. Few parties, staying home (especially this year), and making a few appetizers is about it. Even when I was growing up, that’s why my parents did…laying out an assortment of tasty apps to munch on through the evening. This is one of our favorite items, though most of the time we stuffed the mushrooms with a combination of ground sausage, cheese, and herbs. We kept it vegetarian this time with these tangy cream cheese and green chile stuffed mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • About 8-12 medium to large white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 3 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup mild diced green chiles
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp minced chives or green onions
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs, toasted
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly oil a baking dish or small sheet pan.
  • Stir together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, 3 tbsp parmesan cheese, green chiles, chives, and salt. Whip it fluffy with fork.
  • To a small skillet, add the butter over medium low heat then add the panko crumbs. Toss and lightly brown. Add the chopped parsley. Remove to a small bowl and add the parmesan cheese, mix well.
  • Use a small piping bag or a plastic sandwich bag. Add the cream cheese mixture to the bag. Snip off one corner if using the sandwich bag.
  • Pipe the mixture into each mushroom cap, smoothing and rounding the tops with a small spoon. Carefully dip and press the top of the mushrooms into the panko mixture to coat. Place the mushrooms in the oiled baking dish or sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown and hot. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving, they will be hot.

ROASTED SAN MARZANO TOMATO SOUP

Roast the tomatoes raises the bar on home made tomato soup. And using whole San Marzano tomatoes takes it even higher.

San Marzano tomatoes are a type of plum tomato that come from the San Marzano region of Italy. Typically, they are thinner than regular plum or Roma tomatoes with fewer seeds. They are also grown in the U.S., but try to find the Italian-grown variety. Cento is a good brand…it will say Product of Italy on the can. They are harvested at the peak of ripeness, skinned, then canned immediately.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 small fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With your hand, crush the tomatoes into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the garlic cloves over the tomatoes, drizzle the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, turning half way through. Using a potato masher, mash to break up the tomatoes and garlic.
  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the carrots and onions. Season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring, about 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook from25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and raise heat to medium and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato mixture, thyme sprig and rosemary sprig and stock and bring to a simmer, cover, cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
  • Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add cream and stir. Heat until soup is hot again. Taste and reseason with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tbsp of unsalted butter.
  • Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of creme fraiche or sour cream.

SOUTHWEST QUINOA AND BROWN RICE GRAIN MEDLEY AND ROASTED HONEY SRIRACHA CHICKEN

The Honey Sriracha Chicken recipe works well for any chicken pieces. These are bone-in thighs, but I’ve made this with drumsticks as well as wings. Add more or less Sriracha sauce depending on how much heat you want. The chicken is seasoned with salt, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and baking powder. The baking powder will add an incredible crispness to the thighs.

The grain medley has quinoa, brown rice, black beans, fresh corn, cucumber, jalapeños, red onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Very easy, very refreshing, and very healthy.

Ingredients:

For the Sriracha Chicken:

  • 1 1/4 lbs of bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (4 thighs)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce (more if desired)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • Chopped chives

For the Southwest grain medley:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, dice
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 1 tbsp minced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen white corn
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime jice
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

For the Sriracha Honey Chicken:

  • In a small bowl, mix together the sea salt, garlic powder, baking powder, paprika, and black pepper.
  • Place the thighs on a wire rack over a sheet pan lined with foil. Evenly season both sides of the thighs with the mix. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, uncovered.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, add the honey, butter, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a simmer, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Place the thighs in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn the thighs and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn over again then brush generously with the honey and sriracha mixture and cook another 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees.
  • Garnish with chopped chives. Serve on a plate with the grain medley.

For the Southwest grain medley:

  • Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss thoroughly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

MY CABBAGE SOUP RECIPE

We should have this more often than we do. I don’t know why we don’t…it’s easy as heck to make. When I say easy I mean really easy…put everything in a stock pot at once and simmer, covered, for 1 hour!

It really is a country rustic soup that helps us get back in line with out weight. I know some people who have this for every meal for several days and drop a few pounds.

You could do it in an Instapot, but you’ll need to cut down on the amounts as they are too much for the Instapot to handle safely. The bacon is optional but really does add a lot of flavor. Its rich savory tomato broth is light and slightly spicy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white onion, diced
  • 1 cups carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 thick slices of bacon (optional)
  • 4 cups of cabbage, large dice
  • 1 cup haricot vests or green beans
  • One 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp crush red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup Mr.and Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix or tomato juice
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Mix together well and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Taste and reseason if necessary.