Summer Seafood – Linguine & Clams

As Labor Day approaches there is still time left to enjoy the fruits of the sea here on the East Coast. By this time I had my fill of BBQ meals so I thought I would share one of our favorites when getting together with friends and family, Linguine & Clams. No matter what the season is this meal is good anytime.

It’s simple to make and feeds a crowd. A fresh loaf of Italian bread, a delicious green salad, some white wine, and Parmesan cheese and you have a Summer feast.

linguine and clams

Linguine with Clams

1 pound dried linguine

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed clean and sand purged

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 cup dry white wine (I prefer using Pinot Grigio when making seafood)

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into small cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, zested, for garnish

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water.

Add linguine, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking together.

Cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. When almost smoking, add shallots and garlic and saute until soft and translucent,

about 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the clams and wine. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the clams have opened.

Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Whisk in butter to thicken sauce slightly.

Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water – this will remove the pasta’s natural starches.

Pour linguine into a large serving bowl or large platter – arrange clams over linguine and pour the sauce overall.

Garnish with remaining parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Skillet Chicken Cacciatore

chicken cacciatorre

I am all about making a good meal at home even on a weeknight. I look for easy recipes that take less than an hour from start to finish, recipes that don’t take too much time to prepare but are flavorful and might go even with a nice glass of wine after a busy day. Here is my weeknight one-pot chicken cacciatore.

Skillet Chicken Cacciatore

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 – 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered or sliced

2 large bell peppers, sliced (a mix of 1 red and 1 green)

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 3/4 cups beef broth

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (28-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce or homemade

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 lb Spaghetti

Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a shallow dish, combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Roll chicken in flour mixture, coating completely.
  2. In a large heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until hot; brown chicken on all sides for 5 minutes. Remove chicken from the skillet; set aside. Add mushrooms, green/red peppers, onion, garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and cook 5-8 minutes, or until onions and peppers are slightly tender, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat a bit as to not burn the garlic.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, including remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; return chicken to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until chicken is fork-tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the meal simmers have a pot ready to cook the spaghetti then serve over cooked spaghetti, top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Memories of Italian Easter Pies

Spring has arrived and Easter is only two weeks away. When I was growing up I remember my mother just before Easter making Italian Grain Pie and on occasion, a meat and cheese filled pie which I never knew the name of back then, but both were so delicious.

Italian Grain Pie

The Italian Wheat Grain Pie is a tasty dessert of cooked wheat berries, sweetened ricotta, the delicate flavors of lemon and orange peel and a bit of candied citron fruit. I have never made the pie myself but thinking this might be the year to give it a try. My mother’s recipe is only a scribbling of pencil notes but I did manage to find a similar recipe that looked close to the one I have.

Easter Grain Pie

This fruity ricotta and wheat pie is dense and moist. A real Italian treat for Easter

Ingredients
• 5 cups water
• 1/2 cup whole wheat berries
• 6 eggs
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 (8 ounces) package mixed candied fruit
• 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
• 1 tablespoon shortening
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 pastries for 9-inch lattice-top pies
• 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions
1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Pour in wheat and allow to boil 40 minutes. As wheat is cooking, beat eggs in a large bowl while gradually adding 1 cup sugar to eggs. Mix in fruit, ricotta, vanilla extract, cinnamon, lemon rind, and orange rind.
2. When wheat is ready, drain in a colander and rinse with warm water. Place 3/4 cup of cooked wheat in a small bowl, and mix in shortening and salt. Stir until shortening is melted, then stir wheat mixture into ricotta mixture along with the rest of the cooked wheat berries.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4. Line two 9 inch pie pans with pastry. Cut remaining pastry into strips for tops of pies. Spoon half of filling into each pan. Cover with pastry strips to form lattice tops. Crimp edges.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle each pie with 1 tablespoon sugar and allow to cool at room temperature. Chill overnight before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Pizza Rustica or Easter Pie

Over the years, I learned that delicious meat and cheese pie I remember eating was called Pizzagaina or Pizza Rustica. There are so many versions of this recipe to choose from. I have made several versions over the years from a simple easy to make quiche recipe to others that were much more labor intensive but so amazingly delicious. Easter Pie is traditionally served noon or later on Easter Saturday or as my mom would say “After the church bells ring” signaling the end of Lent.

This is the first version of Pizza Rustica I made:

Pizzagaina

pizzagaina

1/2 lb ham (sliced thick from deli-counter or cubed pieces of boiled ham)
• 1/4 lb prosciutto (regular prosciutto)
• 1/4 lb capicola (spiced-hot capicola )
• 1/4 lb genoa salami
• 1 lb mozzarella cheese (1 entire brick of whole milk mozzarella, shredded)
• 2 lbs ricotta cheese (whole milk)
• 1 stick pepperoni (sliced) about ¼ lb or so could be more
• 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
• 12 -14 eggs (start with 12 and if too dry add 1 or 2 more)
• 2 lbs pizza dough (homemade or store bought)

1. Cube ham meat. Cut sliced meat by rolling & slicing or cutting with scissors. Shred mozzarella. In a very large bowl, add ricotta. Add 12 – 14 eggs. Add 3 heaping tablespoons Grated cheese – then stir in the cubed meat and cheese.
2. Brush pan (Large deep lasagna pan about 9 x 13 or 9 x 15) with oil then melted butter. Roll out & lay dough. Add cheese/meat mixture. Add top layer of dough and pinch bottom & top dough seams together tightly.
3. Brush top with oil then egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Make Easter Cross with a large fork to vent. Bless.
4. Bake 375º x 10 min. Then 350º x 60 min. Then 325º x 30-45 minute.
5. Remove from oven. Brush top with melted butter. Cool 2-3 hours.
Turn upside down overnight on large board. Cover pizza tightly with paper towels, foil, & dish-towel. Refrigerate.

The Pizza Rustica I am most proud of was one filled with Spinach and Peppers. It was so beautiful when sliced.

Pizza Rustica with Spinach & Peppers

Easter Pizza Rustica

Pastry Dough
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
3 large eggs, beaten
3 T ice water, or more as needed

Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Blend in the eggs. With the machine running, add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, with 1 piece twice as large as the second piece. Flatten the dough pieces into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes (and up to 1 day).

Filling
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (or 2 300-gram boxes of frozen spinach)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce/475 gram) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup plus 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 large egg yolks
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
4 ounces thinly sliced salami
1 (10 to 12 ounce/300 ml) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 large egg, beaten

Position the rack on the bottom of the oven, and preheat oven to 375F. Squeeze the spinach to drain off as much liquid as possible. Heat oil in medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and sauté until heated through about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Blend the ricotta, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the egg yolks in a food processor, until smooth.

Roll out the larger dough ball on a lightly floured surface to a 17-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle half of the spinach mixture over the bottom of the dough. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese over the spinach. Spread half of the ricotta mixture (about 1 cup) over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange half of each of the prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami over the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella over the meats. Arrange half the roasted red peppers in an even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining spinach mixture over the peppers. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the mozzarella over the spinach. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the remaining prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami over the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over the meats. Arrange the remaining roasted peppers over the cheese.

Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch round. Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the doughs together to seal. Using scissors, trim the edge of the dough to 1/2 inch. Fold the dough edges in, creating a decorative rim atop the pizza. Brush some of the egg over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the top. Bake on bottom rack until the crust is brown on top and around the sides (cover the top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly before the sides are brown), about 1 hour.

Let the pizza stand until just warm, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves: 8 – 10

A Few Weeks left of Winter – Ox Tail Ragu

With only several weeks left of “official winter” and daylight saving time around the corner, I’m hoping to share a few more dishes that fight off the last of the chill. It won’t be long before these recipes are put away, so let’s enjoy them while there is still some time left.

Ox Tail Ragu is just the right meal for a chilly winter Sunday. It’s a hearty dish, takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s easy and delicious.

Oxtail Ragu

Serves 8

4 to 5 pounds oxtail, cut into 3-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour, for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3  celery ribs, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, crushed
3 cups dry red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels then dust with the flour, tapping off any excess. Season with salt and pepper on all sides.

Place a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when glistening, add the meat (metal tongs come in handy here) and sear on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding.

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Transfer the meat to a plate. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Add the meat and enough water to just barely cover the meat. Return to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat, is fork tender and falling off the bones.

Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pieces of meat to a plate. Skim any visible fat from the surface of the sauce. Pick the meat from the bones, pulling away and discarding any pieces of fat, and then return the meat to the pan. Pluck out the bay leaves, and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Serve atop gnocchi or any pasta meant to withstand a hearty sauce. The ragù can be made a few days ahead; keep covered and refrigerated, then reheat over medium-low heat.

Recipe Notes

  • This is a hearty, chunky sauce. If you prefer something more uniform in texture, blend a portion or all of the sauce with an immersion blender.

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Homemade Pizza

my crispino pizza

A few weekends ago a dear long time friend we hadn’t seen for a very long time was stopping by for coffee and some of my homemade cheesecake. As it turned out, our guest arrived several hours late because of an issue at there job. We chatted for several hours and I put out cheese and crackers to start. We had lots to catch up on and before you knew it, it was well past dinner time.

Being this dinner with a guest was unexpected we decided to order Pizza. I don’t know about how you all feel about pizza but being from New York pizza needs to meet certain criteria. My husband an I have been seeing changes in several of the local pizzerias in our area. Tough crust, minimal toppings and too little sauce to the point where the pizza was dry.  As a girl born and raised in Brooklyn, NY I can tell you Brooklyn has some of the best pizza in NY. Growing up I watched my mom make pizza at home from the usual cheese pizza with red sauce to the White pizza topped with spinach and cheese. I remembered those days and learned to make pizza myself not so much on the fly but when I would work it into one of my weekly menus.

Needless to say the pizza we ordered for our guest was marginal and disappointing. Tough crust, very little sauce on one of the pies. So our hunt goes on for a better local pizzeria, but until then I think I will go back to making my own pizza once again like when the kids were growing up.

As a home cook I am the first to admit my pizza’s aren’t the most beautiful pies you have ever seen but they are pretty tasty. Here are a few of my favorite recipes I like to use.

My favorite recipe for making homemade pizza crust is adapted from the cookbook Laura in the Kitchen by Laura Vitale.

This recipe will make two 10 inch pizza pies or one large size Sicilian Pie. 

For the Dough:
3 ½ cups of All Purpose Flour or Italian 00 flour if you can find it.
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/3 cups of Warm Water, 110 degrees (check with a thermometer if you have one , if your water is too hot it will kill the yeast)
1 Envelope of Yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons if you buy your yeast in a bulk package like I do)

Preparation
To make the dough:
1) Add the yeast to warm water and set it aside for about 3 minutes.
2) In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough attachment, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil. Stir the yeast in the water to make sure it’s all dissolved and add it to the flour mixture.
3) With the speed on medium, mix until everything is combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix for 10 minutes.
4) Oil 2 bowls with olive oil and set aside. Divide the dough in two pieces and roll into a ball. Place each ball of dough into the oiled bowls, seam side down and brush the tops of the dough with a little oil to stop them from drying out.
Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until it doubles about 1 1/2 hours.
6) To make the pizzas, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat it for 20 minutes. (if you don’t have a pizza stone you can use a large baking sheet just place it in the oven upside down so there are no edges)
7) Sprinkle some flour onto your counter, take 1 ball of dough and dredge it in the flour on all sides. Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10 inch circle.
8) Using a pizza peel (or a baking sheet upside down so that there are no edges) place the rolled out pizza dough on it and start topping it.

To make a red sauce pizza: Use a ladle and add your favorite pizza sauce then using the back of the ladle swirl it all over the top of the dough spreading out the sauce, not too much but not too little.
Top it with the shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese and any preferred toppings you like mushrooms, cooked sausage, veggies etc. using the pizza peel slide it onto the pizza stone.
Cook for 20 minutes, rotating half way through to insure even cooking.

A cooking Tip – If you think the dough will not slide easily off the peel because the toppings are too heavy you can do one of two things. 1) lightly dust the peel with cornmeal. or 2) what I usually do is put a piece of parchment paper between the peel and the dough when I first set the dough on the peel this way it will easily slide onto the pizza stone. Cook it right on the parchment paper and it will still be a crispy crust.

For a quick No cook Pizza Sauce:

1 1/2 cups of Tomato Puree or use and immersion blender and crush a can of San Marzano tomatoes and use 1 1/2 cups of that.

Dried Oregano, to taste

Dried Basil, to taste

Granulated Garlic, to taste

Granulated Onion, to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of Sugar

To make the sauce simply mix together all of the sauce ingredients and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Set aside. No need to cook the sauce a head of time as the tomatoes are already cooked and the sauce will heat through while baking.

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Seafood on Christmas Eve – Muscles & Clams

xmas eve 1

We are a small family so our holiday traditions are a bit limited. Some years my menu is little more traditional and other years we tend to mix it up with a theme of some sort.

Even though I am part Italian I was never raised with the traditional Seven Fishes tradition for Christmas Eve but we would often have some sort of seafood. My mother would usually make a shrimp dish of some sort, maybe fried scallops or a breaded and fried flounder along with the other array of assorted dishes and desserts. Mom wasn’t a seafood lover so the selection was pretty limited.

My husband and I on the other hand have been enjoying seafood dishes we learned to make for over 40 years. One year we might do shrimp another year steak and lobster.

Here are several easy to prepare seafood dishes we enjoy with our family not just on a holiday but anytime throughout the year.

Homemade tagliatelle with muscles in garlic butter sauce

Muscles Over Linguine with a White Wine Garlic Sauce

Prep Time: 15 mins, Cook Time: 20 mins, Total Time: 35 mins Yield: 4-6

2-3 pounds mussels, rinsed

1 pound linguine

¾ to 1 cup white wine (I usually use something like a Pinot Grigio , Riesling or Chardonnay whatever white wine we happen to have in the house)

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the mussels and remove beards if necessary, discard any that do not fully close when rinsing (these are dead).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt to the boiling water, and cook linguine until al dente.

Meanwhile, with linguine still boiling, combine all remaining ingredients (except for the cream and Parmesan cheese) in a large covered sauce pan on medium-high heat.

Cover and simmer mussels in the white wine sauce until fully cooked and shells open up, about 5-10 minutes. Stir sauce and mussels to coat in the sauce.

When linguine is finished, strain and stir into the mussels and white wine sauce. Now add cream and Parmesan cheese. Simmer for 5-7 minutes while covered, stirring occasionally until the sauce slightly thickens.

Serve topped with a pinch of fresh basil or chopped fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese. (Yes, it’s perfectly safe to have cheese with seafood if you enjoy it, LOL!)

For those who would prefer a red sauce with Muscles here is a red sauce version.

Mussels Marinara

2 lbs Mussels

1 cup white wine (use what you like to drink)

1 small onion

3-4 garlic cloves

1 quart your favorite marinara sauce

4 tbsp olive oil

Preparation:

Scrape mussels clean – Toss any that are not closed

Mince onion and garlic

Cooking:

In a tall pot, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until they are translucent (don’t burn the garlic).

Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, cover pot and cook until the  mussels are fully opened (toss unopened mussels).

In a separate pot bring the marinara sauce to a boil, then pour it over the mussels.

Turn heat off and serve over linguine or you favorite pasta.

Serve with garlic bread and some more of that white wine. Heaven!.

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Linguine with Clams

1 pound dried linguine

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 pounds little neck clams, scrubbed clean and sand purged

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2-1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into small cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, zested, for garnish

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water.

Add linguine, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking together.

Cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. When almost smoking, add shallots and garlic and saute until soft and translucent,

about 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the clams and wine. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the clams have opened.

Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Whisk in butter to thicken sauce slightly.

Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water – this will remove the pasta’s natural starches.

Pour linguine into large serving bowl- arrange clams over linguine and pour sauce over all

Garnish with remaining parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

christmas-cooking-chef-holidays-greetings

 

 

Countdown to Christmas – Italian Wedding Soup

10 Days until Christmas

The final Christmas countdown is here. Hope you have all gotten a good jump on your holiday shopping. It’s a gray rainy day here in the Northeast, I have just a few more things to put together for the holidays so on days like this I want a meal that will warm me up but is fast and easy. I just love a good bowl of soup that won’t take all day to cook when I’m busy.
Here are two ways to make this soup, one is quick and easy the other requires just a bit more prep work but either are simple and delicious.

Simple Italian Wedding Soup
This is the standard version of the recipe
Meatballs
1/2 lbs lean ground beef*
1 egg, slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon EACH dried basil leaves and onion powder
Soup
2 32 oz cartons of chicken broth
2 cups thinly sliced fresh escarole or spinach*
1/2 cup (about 3 oz.) Orzo or Acini de pepe (small size soup pasta), uncooked
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
Grated Parmesan cheese (Optional)

In medium bowl, combine meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese and seasonings;
shape into 3/4-inch balls. In large saucepan, heat broth to boiling;
stir in meatballs, escarole or spinach, orzo and carrot. Return to a boil;
reduce heat to medium. Cook at a slow boil 10 minutes or until orzo
is tender and meatballs are heated through, stirring frequently.
Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with a nice crusty bread for dipping in the soup.
4 to 6 servings

*The quick and easy version is to use * 1 lb (about 30 meatballs in a package) of frozen Italian meatballs in place of making meatballs and substitute 1 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach for fresh escarole or spinach.

A Basic Tomato Sauce

On a Sunday many home cooks like to make a traditional Italian tomato sauce or gravy as some may call it. It takes lots of preparation and several hours of cooking. But what happens when there are those Sundays when the family gets busy and there isn’t the hours to prep a large pot of sauce? This may be a simple work around recipe for those days. It’s still home made and very delicious and takes about an hour.

A couple of  years ago member in an the online cooking group I belong to shared a basic tomato sauce recipe they had discovered. This recipe is adapted from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.

I like to add basil to this sauce either fresh or dried.

 

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Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Makes 8-10 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 45 minutes-1 hour

INGREDIENTS
• Two 28 ounce cans San Marzano peeled plum tomatoes
• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
• 1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 pound dried pasta
• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the tomatoes in a large saucepan. Add in the butter, onion and salt. Cook, uncovered over medium heat so that the sauce maintains a slow but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir with a wooden spoon every now and then, mashing up large pieces of tomato with the back of the spoon. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Remove the onion before using the sauce. You can definitely eat it if you like.

Serve the sauce over pasta or use for the base for pizza or with anything you want a basic tomato sauce. Sauce keeps in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. Enjoy!

Still a chill in the air – Baked Ziti

Hopefully Spring will be around the corner. Mother’s nature is taking her sweet old time about it though. I figured I might as well get in one of my last cold weather meals this past week. I haven’t made Baked Ziti in quite a while. Baked Ziti isn’t a difficult dish to make and for a long time I just didn’t think the way I was making it was anything special. So some years back I had belonged to a recipe newsgroup (I’m dating myself here for those who remember those days of CompuServe and GEnie) Someone had shared a recipes that came from a New York City Italian restaurant. So I gave it a try and was really happy with it and have been using this recipes ever since.

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Restaurant Style Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 pound ziti
16 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 cups marinara, (or meat sauce) homemade or jarred
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook ziti in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm, 10 to 12 minutes.
Drain well.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, eggs, 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano
cheese, salt, pepper, and parsley.
Mix to blend well.
Toss cooked ziti with 2 cups sauce.
(At this point I also add sliced cooked sausage and/or meatballs
cut into pieces)

Place half the pasta in an deep 9″ x 13″baking dish or foil lasagna pan.
Top with the ricotta mixture and half the mozzarella cubes.
Top with remaining ziti, remaining 1 cup sauce, mozzarella cubes , and Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Bake until casserole is heated through and cheese is
bubbly and lightly browned on top, approx. 35 to 40 minutes.