Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

On a recent trip to Healdsburg, a quaint little town in Sonoma wine country, we picked up a lovely book called The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, and it really has turned out to be a perfect cookbook for us with all the wonderful recipes each paired with a recommended wine and an alternative wine.

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One of the first recipes we tried was this fantastic stuffed chicken that was served over a spinach fettuccine (the original recipe calls for linguine but we liked the colors of the spinach.)

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This one’s recommended wine was a Sauvignon Blanc, the backup wine is a Pinot Noir.  And as the book notes, if you choose to pair it with the Pinot Noir, replace the sherry in the ingredients with red wine.

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Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped, roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry (or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes

Chicken and Noodles

  • 4 large chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
  • 6 tbsp sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb linguine (or fresh spinach fettucine)

Directions

  1. To make sauce, in a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Then add garlic and the roasted red peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the sherry, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano and basil.
  2. Increase the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture slightly for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  With a sharp knife carefully cut a deep incision into each breast.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the sun dried tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, the shallots, and chives and mix thoroughly.
  7. Using your fingers, stuff the ricotta mixture inside the chicken, equally into each breast.  Dust with flour.
  8. In a large, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, cook the pasta noodles to package directions.
  11. When the chicken is done, plate the noodles, add the chicken, and then spoon the hot sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped chives.

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

Slow Cooked Beef with Pappardelle and Mint

I LOVE eating pasta.  To the point that it’s not terribly healthy for me to have leftovers around as I end up picking at it.  But on the other hand, this braised beef with mint seemed like such an interesting combination that I had to try it.

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Luckily for us our grocery story only seems to sell fresh pappardelle in 12 oz portions so between us we had not worries about leftovers.  When I first set about to marinade the beef for this, we were rushing home after a fun dinner out (since it’s always nice to pepper in date nights) to get to the grocery store before it closed.  We were able to get in and out in the nick of time, but I realized upon coming home that I had totally forgotten the mint.

I did however have fresh thyme lying around, and so threw that in the marinade for the meat, and then after doing some research, felt okay about continuing with add the mint in the next day for the final product.  It’s not clear to me that the thyme made that much of a difference, but I’m including it here since that’s how we made this pasta that ended up being spectacular.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb trimmed boneless beef shank, cut into 2-inch pieces (or just beef stew cubes)
  • One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
  • 15 mint sprigs, stems reserved
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 35-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 pound fresh pappardelle
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large resealable plastic bag (or a glasslock container or just a big mixing bowl), combine the beef with the wine, thyme and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Drain the beef, reserving the marinade; discard the mint stems. Pat the beef dry. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add half of the meat to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until well browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate. Brown the remaining meat over moderate heat.
  3. Return all of the meat to the casserole. Add the marinade and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and braise in the oven for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, until the meat is very tender.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate and shred with 2 forks. Boil the braising liquid until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Add the meat and the reduced braising liquid and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the pasta is well coated with the brasato, about 2 minutes.
  6. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the mint leaves and cook for 10 seconds. Pour the garlic-mint oil over the pasta and toss. Serve in shallow bowls, passing the cheese alongside.

Shrimp and Arugula Avocado Pesto Pasta

We don’t tend to eat pastas that often, but when we do, we try to go for interesting flavors.  I’m always also looking for easy recipes that I can throw together in the evenings after work, and this concept was recommended to me by a friend at work.

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I came home to assemble it and it tasted like one of the healthiest pastas I’ve ever had!  Plus it helped that it had one of my favorite ingredients, shrimp!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil for cooking shrimp
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 2 avocados

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to box instructions (usually about 13 minutes).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the shrimp with the paprika, about 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large skillet, spread some olive oil and when hot, add the shrimp.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the shrimp has lost the translucent color.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the arugula, avocado, and olive oil and pulse and puree until creamy.  Feel free to add more olive oil if you want a thinner sauce.
  5. Once the pasta has been cooked, drain and return to pot.  Add in the sauce and stir all together.  Add the parmesan cheese here, as well and stir.
  6. Serve onto shallow pasta bowls and place shrimp on top.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Easy Bolognese

As Lisa mentioned, sometimes you just want a hearty pasta on a weeknight that isn’t fussy and is the perfect comfort food.  On one such Monday I made this Ina Garten bolognese recipe that was rich in flavor as if it had been cooked for hours, but in reality was made very quickly.

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound dried pasta, I like using linguine for everything but small shells or penne is probably “technically” better to use
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown.

Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, All Rights Reserved

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/weeknight-bolognese-recipe.html?oc=linkback

 
From Ina Garten, Weeknight Bolognese

Penne Pasta with Broccoli Rabe

Penne with Broccoli Rabe

This is an easy pasta dish that can be adapted to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. I first tasted a version of it about 25 years ago at a restaurant in the Hamptons on Long Island. I have long since forgotten the name of the restaurnat or even if this is actually what I ate there. It’s delicious and is wonderful on a cold winter night. The sauce is very light so this is one pasta that won’t weigh you down and make you feel that you have to hit the gym. And while I actually do enjoy bitter greens, cooking the rapini this way, smooths out the harsh edges.

Penne Pasta with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

16 ounces penne pasta or other hearty pasta

1 large bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), with the leaves torn into pieces. Slice the thicker stems into smaller pieces; thinner stems can just be broken.

3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes cut into julienne

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

EVOO/Meyer Lemon Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used chicken but any kind you like is fine) removed from its casing. Most commercial “hot” sausage isn’t very hot. If you want more heat, you can add some red pepper flakes.

1/4 cup red wine (use what you will be drinking) or chicken stock

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

About 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water

zest of one lemon

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy saute pan, brown the sausage in about 2 Tablespoons of EVOO and the butter. Break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic towards the end of the browning and cook for 2 minutes more. I used chicken sausage which doesn’t have a lot of fat. If you use a pork sausage you might need to drain off some of the fat before continuing.
  2. Add the wine, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg, parsley and fennel seeds. Stir and cook on medium heat for 3 more minutes.
  3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt to a vigourous boil. Add one pound of pasta and boil for 7 minutes. At the end of 7 minutes, add the broccoli rabe to the pot of boiling pasta. Stir through and continue boiling for 4 more minutes. (This is a total of 11 minutes for the pasta)
  4. Before draining the pasta and broccoli rabe, carefully remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add it to the pan with sausage and tomatoes. Drain the pasta and broccoli and put them back in the pot. Add about 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. If you have Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, use that. Add the lemon zest. Pour the sauce over the top and mix through.
  5. Serve with freshly grated cheese – Asiago, Pecorino or a good Parmesan – and a good crusty bread. A green salad consumed after the pasta is always a good idea.

 

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Confit Pasta

When I lived in San Francisco, I kept hearing about an amazing restaurant called “Frances.”  With that name, I thought surely Frances had to go eat at “Frances” even if it wasn’t a great restaurant.  It was one of those foodie destinations where there weren’t very many tables, so between it being a small space and just being plain popular it was so difficult to get a reservation!

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I ended up leaving SF never having eaten there, but on a recent trip back, looked it up on a whim and there happened to be an opening!  Someone must have canceled at the last minute and I was so excited to finally eat there.

Anyways, my friend and I shared many, many small plates of tastiness that the chef had dreamt up, but this one dish we thought really made the whole dinner.  I tried to replicate it based on what I remembered, and it turned out preeeeetty close!  At least I don’t have to go all the way back across the country to recreate a small part of that experience!

Ingredients

1 jar of roasted peppers
1/2 lb of whole wheat pasta
garlic confit (which is basically just taking garlic cloves and simmering them in olive oil for 40 minutes – you can also just roast the garlic in the oven at about 350 F for about 30 minutes)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
poached egg (optional)
2-3 pieces of proscuitto thinly shredded (optional)

Directions

1. On a roasting sheet, pour and spread some olive oil and then add the halved grape tomatoes.  Set the oven at about 350 F and roast the tomatoes for about 30 minutes (you can add the garlic here if you’re roasting it).

2. In a large bowl, add water and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

3. In a food processor, add the roasted peppers and some olive oil and puree until fairly smooth.  Set aside.

4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add back into the pot that it was cooked in.  Add in the pureed roasted peppers and mix it through.  Add the tomatoes and garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  Top with a poached egg if you love eggs as I do, and serve immediately!

Ground Pork Ragu

A while ago I subscribed to one of these meal kit delivery services, where they deliver recipes and all the ingredients pre-kitted and packed.  Unfortunately while the ingredients seemed great, one of the recipes was for something that really did not pique my culinary interest and so the ground pork made its way into my not-so-cavernous freezer.

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I finally decided that I should do *something* with it, as it was very good quality, and because I wanted to make something in the crockpot now that the weather is ever so slightly starting to turn cooler.

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After perusing a couple recipes, it seemed that there were a few consistent ingredients of a pureed mire poix, tomato paste, boxed (or canned) tomatoes, and some red wine (of course in addition to either ground beef or pork).  After making some educated guesses on about how much of each to throw in, I threw it all in the crock pot and crossed my fingers that it would turn out reasonably good.

All I can say is that coming home to the scent of cooking ragu was one of the best feelings, and on top of some whole wheat linguine, made for an extremely satisfying dinner.  Paired with a strong California Zinfandel, it was the perfect Monday night no-brainer dinner.  (It also made for leftover for at least 2 more meals, which is always great for those nights that there really isn’t time to cook much!)

Ingredients

  • 1-2 large carrots
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 box (28 oz) Pomi crushed tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups red wine
  • 1 lb whole wheat linguine (whole wheat optional, but adds nice texture)
  • parmesan cheese, grated (optional for topping)
  • 1 lb ground pork

Directions

  1. Put the onion, celery and carrot in the bowl of a food processor (easier to chop into 1″ chunks first) and puree until fairly smooth.  Empty into crock pot.
  2. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and red wine to crock pot.
  3. In a skillet, heat to medium-high and brown the ground pork unless mostly cooked.  Add to crock pot.
  4. Mix everything in crock pot thoroughly, set for 8 hours on low (longer is okay, as well).
  5. In a pot of salted water, cook linguine (or whichever pasta you prefer) according to box directions.  For us, the whole wheat linguine was 12-13 minutes.  Drain the pasta noodles.
  6. Serve with sauce poured liberally on top.  Add grated cheese if you wish on top and eat immediately!

Serves about 4 very hungry people

Quick and elegant pasta

Image result for trufflesSometimes you want (well, okay – LOTS of times) something wonderful for dinner, but you don’t have either the energy, time or inclination to spend hours working on a great meal. There are many ways to tackle this problem and from time to time, I will, but here is one delicious and elegant way. I’m not promising that it is the least expensive dinner you could produce, but it still beats the price of a pizza. I’m just sayin’.

I always try to keep on hand the fixings for  some kind of pasta and this summer I also am growing some wonderful herbs on my windowsill (and occasionally taken out to my terrace for fresh air). I happen to really like truffles, but there is no way (none, zero, zilch) that I am going to put down the money for actual truffles. I have learned that doesn’t mean that I can’t still enjoy them at some level. I’m sure that true truffle aficionados will tell you how there is nothing like shaving a real truffle over your pasta and I will gladly concede that likely they are correct. And if someone else is paying, call me up and I will happily come on over to eat it. But for the rest of us, well there are some pretty good (and much less expensive) ways to get your truffle fix.

I look for truffle butter on sale and you would be amazed at how far 3.5 oz. of truffle butter goes. (It will also last quite awhile in the fridge if unopened.) I can get it in my local Whole Foods for $9.99 (not on sale) or through Peapod for $5.99 any time. Same brand. I also have Frances to thank for a bottle of white truffle oil, which you can also pick up in many grocery stores or you can order it online along with that Meyer lemon EVOO. I pick up LOTS of mushrooms (different varieties if I can get them) at the grocery store or farmer’s market, market mushrooms along with two big shallots or some onion if shallots aren’t available. I sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the truffle butter with some EVOO until still meaty, but tender and the shallots are translucent. Towards the end of the cooking, I add some finely chopped garlic. I like a lot so I add about 2 teaspoons. If I happen to have some white wine open, I splash some in too. Then I add Kosher salt and lots of cracked pepper to taste and a good handful of fresh herbs. I happen to have lemon thyme and parsley and basil so in they went. It’s really to taste. Remember that the taste of fresh herbs is not as concentrated as that of dry, so don’t get scared off – use plenty. Just as the pasta (use any kind you like but one that has some substance is best) is finishing cooking, take 1/3 cup of that wonderfully starchy pasta water and add it to the sauce. If you are feeling really decadent, throw in some heavy cream at the end.

I top the pasta and sauce with this wonderful Pecorino with Truffles that you can find at Whole Foods or other gourmet stores. A little goes a long way. It’s definitely worth the splurge, in my opinion. If you don’t have that then shave or grate some good Reggiano Parmesan or a good Pecorino on top. Sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsley (flat-leaf, of course) or basil and mangia! Some crusty bread, a bright green salad, a crisp white wine that can stand up to the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffles and you have a meal fit for guests or that special someone. And it took less time to make than it took me to write about it.