Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pasta al Pomodoro

The May issue of Bon Appetit was a big winner on the recipe front for me. Featuring italitan recipes, I've found a couple new pasta sauce recipes to add to my arsenal. The cover photo of Pasta al Pomodoro was so delicious looking that I knew I had to make. I was not disappointed!

I love that this recipe can be made in 30 minutes. It's also got very straightforward, simple ingredients.

A quick tip:
The recipe calls for minced onion. It also requires that you puree tomatoes. So, break out the food processor and mince your onions in there, and sautee them up in the pan. Then, puree your tomatoes in the same food processing bowl.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Bon Appetit

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large fresh basil sprigs
  • 12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp. cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Directions
  1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute more. Increase heat to medium, add puréed tomatoes and season lightly with kosher salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in basil sprigs, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add spaghetti or bucatini and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
  3. Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat. Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add butter and cheese; toss until cheese melts. Transfer to warm bowls; serve with more cheese, if desired


"Mexican" Brownies

Okay, let's be clear. There's nothing Mexican about these brownies at all, except for the fact that they've got little Mexican flags stuck in them....A couple of weeks ago I went to a birthday/Cinco de Mayo party for a friend of mine. I figured brownies were a good treat to bring. I happened to be in a cake supply shop the morning I made the brownies and spotted these little flags and thus my Mexican brownies were born.

These brownies are rich, very dense, and wonderfully chocolatey. They've got that thin, crackly top and chewy texture that I love about brownies from boxed mixes, but is entirely from scratch, so you know exactly what's going in it. Best of all, it's a one-bowl recipe!

The recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker, and adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups (17½ ounces) sugar
  • 1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces
Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
    (Makes 24 brownies)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese

Yum.

A few months ago, Madison held its winter restaurant week - $25 for 3-courses for one week only. My husband and I, along with a group of friends, partook in a dinner at Lombardino's, a popular and very well-reviewed Italian place in Madison. I had never been there before but had heard so many good things about it, I was sure that whatever I ordered would be phenomenal. Well, it was. I ordered their Spaghetti Bolognese and it was hands down one of the best Italian meals I've ever had. EVER.

Ever since then, my weekly craving has been for bolognese. I've never really sought out a bolognese recipe though, so when I got this month's Bon Appetit and saw a gorgeous looking bolognese recipe in an article, I thought I'd give it a try.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, because 1) I don't like veal so I used ground beef instead, and 2) I stupidly bought prosciutto instead of pancetta, so I substituted bacon, and 3) I was surprised to not see any garlic in the recipe so I added some. But other than those minor tweaks, I followed the recipe to a "T" and it turned out wonderfully. This makes a sizable portion. Enough for four very, very large portions or six filling ones. Quite happily, I've got plenty of leftovers to eat the rest of the week.

Here's the original recipe on Bon Appetit

I've modified the recipe slightly below.

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 oz ground beef (85% lean)
  • 3 slices of bacon, finely chopped (original recipe: 3 oz pancetta)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used merlot)
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste (original recipe: 3 Tbsp)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • Finely grated parmesan (for serving)

Directions
  1. Chunk the onion, carrots, celery and garlic into 1-inch pieces and throw them into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add beef, and pancetta; sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to sauce. Cover sauce with lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more stock by 1/4-cupfuls to thin if needed. DO AHEAD Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer ragù to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pasta and toss to coat. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water by tablespoonfuls if sauce seems dry. Divide pasta among warm plates. Serve with Parmesan.