pasta

In the Kitchen with Dad: Steamed Clams, Pasta, and Clam Sauce

My Dad is the best. Over the holidays, I decided that my Dad needed to do some culinary exploring. And I knew that he would be more than happy to do some cooking with me.

Growing up I always remember my Dad for making those big delicious meals. On a Sunday I’d get up to see that he’d already gone to the store and picked up a turkey, or a flank steak (my personal favorite, right Dad?), or the makings for a delicious summer barbeque. You know, the kinds of meals that you could just eat and eat and eat. Until you felt ready to explode. Then you’d have some more. Oh, and he makes the BEST scrambled eggs with corned beef hash. No joke.

So for Christmas, Dad got some gourmet gifts from O & Co. on Newbury Street. The ingredients for a great dinner: chili infused olive oil, basil pesto, olives, and pici pasta. He was a happy camper, and even happier when I told him this meant he had to make dinner with me, and that steamed clams would be involved.

To find clams, we ended up at about 5 different stores. We obviously decided to do this the same day the blizzard hit NY, but we were persistent, and we finally found Cherry Stone clams to use. In a blizzard. Some things in life are important.

Pasta and Clam Sauce with Steamed Clams

Ingredients for the Pasta and Clam Sauce:

  • 1 pound of pasta (recommended: fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti – we used the pici pasta, but that’s not so easy to find)
  • Olive oil
  • Chili infused olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 small cans (6.5 oz each) Snow’s Bumblebee chopped clams
  • 1/4 cup of the liquid from the steamed clams

Ingredients for the Steamed Clams:

  • Fresh Littleneck or Cherry Stone clams (we used 36 Cherry Stone clams, but use as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Chile infused olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of a white wine (pick one you like)

To prepare the clams, submerge them in a large bowl with cold water. This will help any dirt come out of the clams before cooking. I let them sit for about an hour before I started cooking. Also, put on the water for the pasta to come to a boil.

In a large pot, add both olive oils for the steamed clams over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and let them cook until they turn translucent.

Drain the clams well, then transfer them to the pot. Add the white wine and cover. Let the clams steam over medium heat. Once they open fully, they will be ready to eat. This took about 25 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, add both olive oils for the sauce to a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook while you wait for the pasta water to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiled, add pasta and cook according to directions.The pici pasta took at least 20 minutes to cook. It is a much thicker pasta, which needed more time than the usual fettuccine or linguine.

With about 4 minutes left on the pasta, add the chopped clams and liquid from the steamed clams to the sauce. Stir and let simmer for about another 5-10 minutes before serving.

At this point, your clams should be ready and open. Discard any that did not open.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, with the steamed clams on the side to enjoy together.

Everything was so good. The chili infused olive oil gave it just a slight kick in the back of your throat, very slight but a great flavor.

Thanks for cooking with me Daddy! He asked if we cold make it again for breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s safe to assume he liked it. I already have our next meal together planned out.

We also made some toasted bread by cutting up Italian bread, brushing both sides with olive oil, then toasting it under the broiler of the oven for about 2 minutes per side. We used the basil pesto as a spread and it was awesome.

And the best part about cooking? The unspoken rule is that if you cook, everyone else cleans. Thanks to our clean-up crew: my sister Melissa, her boyfriend George, and my little munchkin Abby, who just loves to help.

Ready for our next meal Dad?

The Red House, Cambridge

This was a night that happened completely on accident, but ended up being perfect. I had plans with friends to go out for dinner, when I got a call from my colleague at work. I had our corporate card, which she needed for an event that night, meaning I had to drive to Cambridge to meet her and drop off the card. I was so disappointed to be missing this dinner date with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I grumpily headed to Cambridge while Dane tried to keep my spirits up.

We got to Cambridge, found parking (shockingly), and started walking around when we found this little place. The Red House looked really cute and was on a quiet street (well, more of a large path that could accommodate cars, but was really for pedestrians) with outdoor seating. We kept it in mind as we went to meet my co-worker.

After we made the drop, we headed right back over and decided that since we were in the neighborhood anyway, we might as well enjoy a dinner together. We walked straight back to The Red House and opted for seating on the deck outside, which had a great view of all the passersby.

We ordered up some wine, and I was feeling much better about our evening. Then we ordered dinner, and all memory of having been disappointed was all gone.

I went with a seasonal soup that was a special of the day, spinach soup with crab meat, for a starter. For dinner I ordered Fettuccine Bolognese, and Dane ordered the Stuffed Lobster.

My soup was absolutely delicious. The ingredients were fresh and seasonal, and the Rock Crab meat added a nice texture and flavor. The soup actually had a little kick to it, which was a nice surprise. My entree was also great. The meat sauce was hearty and the pasta perfectly al dente.

Dane loved his lobster. I think we might have had a little too much fun with it though.

The lobster was incredibly filling, according to Dane, which is no surprise since it was stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and bread crumbs. Besides tasting great, we obviously had fun with the meal.

Thanks Red House, for an unexpected and much appreciated, great meal!

Red House on Urbanspoon

Fried Ravioli

That’s right. Fried. Ravioli. Two words could not go more perfectly together. The first time I tried these was at our wedding, and they were delicious. My sister Jenna and her boyfriend Rich became totally obsessed with fried ravioli after our wedding, so when they came to visit recently, I knew I just had to make them. Jenna had (not surprisingly) figured out how to make them, so she gave me some suggestions and I took it from there.

So thanks Jenna, for the instructions. Here how you do it.

Fried Ravioli

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of frozen mini round ravioli (or square, whichever you’d like, but make sure they are the smaller variety)
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Marinara sauce for dipping

First take the ravioli out of the freezer to defrost about 10-15 minutes before you plan to start cooking it. I put them all out on a wire rack because sometimes they freeze together and you have to separate them. It was just easier for me to separate them all this way before getting started so you’re not doing it while your hands are messy.

Next get your eggs and breadcrumbs ready to easily dip your ravioli in. I scrambled three eggs (but I made two bags of ravioli, you should only need two eggs for one bag) and put about a cup of bread crumbs in a small bowl so that I could easily transfer the ravioli from the egg, to the breadcrumbs, to the pan.

Heat about 1/3-1/2 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dip the ravioli in the eggs. I put a handful of ravioli in the eggs at a time so that it wouldn’t take quite as long. Then transfer the ravioli to the breadcrumbs to coat the ravioli. I took the ravioli out one at a time from the eggs, then put 6-7 in the breadcrumbs before shaking it up to cover them all. Place in the hot oil to fry, making sure there is enough oil in the pan to mostly cover the ravioli.

This will take about 3 minutes per side. You just want the ravioli to become golden brown and they’ll be done. After the first side is done, flip each ravioli and cook for another 3 minutes. When the ravioli are nice and crispy, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to collect any extra oil and cool.

Once cooled for a few minutes, serve with some marinara sauce for dipping.

This is a great appetizer to serve at a party. They’ve been a hit for me so far with friends and I would definitely recommend them for something fun and a little different. My sisters and Rich scarfed these down when they got to our apartment, so for them it was more of a meal, but I think they were totally OK with that.

I’ll close with a picture of my sister Melissa and I in cool hats. Go make some Fried Ravioli!

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I’m an Italian girl. Well, Italian, Irish, and Polish, but that’s besides the point. The point is that I love pasta and meatballs. LOVE. These are always delicious and a perfect meal.

A few months ago when I was visiting home, my mom made a turkey meatloaf. I had never had meatloaf that wasn’t beef, but it was good and I felt slightly more healthy since it was turkey. I decided to try this with meatballs too. I improvised a bit, and the meatballs ended up being super yummy.

Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 a medium onion finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of ketchup
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper

Add the onion (make sure it’s finely chopped, you don’t want to bite into bit pieces of onion!), bread crumbs, and cheese to a large mixing bowl. Mix it together well. Add the ketchup and egg, and mix it up so that it’s well combined.

Now add the ground turkey and mix it all up! I usually get in there with my hands at this point, it’s just easier to make sure everything is combined. Don’t overmix it or the meatballs will get tough.

Begin heating a skillet a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. Now form little balls with the meat (resist the urge for a TWSS joke) and fry the meat so that the meatballs cook most of the way through.

Once the meatballs are mostly cooked, add them to a pot of sauce. If you need a recipe for tomato sauce, you can find mine in the Recipes tab at the top of the page under Entrees. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for at least 20 minutes. This will help flavor the sauce and finish cooking the meatballs through. When you’re all done, serve the meatballs and sauce over your favorite pasta! Enjoy!

Baked Mac and Cheese with Sweet Peas

I know, I know. You’re sick of hearing about my obsession with macaroni and cheese. But I can’t help it! Who can resist a pasta smothered in an amazing creamy cheese sauce?

I’ve tried some great recipes, each better than the next for mac and cheese. The way I make it now is a mix of a few, and it is YUMMY!

Baked Mac and Cheese with Sweet Peas

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cavatappi pasta (you can really use whatever kind you want. if you’d prefer, elbows always work well)
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cups of shredded cheese (I used 4 different kinds and mixed it up)
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Italian breadcrumbs (about 3/4 cup)

Start by cooking your pasta. Put the water on in a large pot to boil. Get started on the cheese sauce while you’re waiting for the water to boil.

Use a medium-large saucepan and add the 4 cups of milk. Heat over medium heat. Smash the garlic cloves and cut them in half, then add to the milk. Whisk the milk frequently to ensure it’s not scalding on the bottom, and cook over low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes. This will infuse the milk with an amazing garlic flavor, which I LOVE in mac and cheese. If you aren’t big into garlic, you can leave this part out.

In a large saucepan (you’re going to add the 4 cups of milk to this, so make sure it’s big enough!), melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk together. Make sure you get any lumps out. This will help thicken the cheese sauce later.

Strain the garlic cloves from the milk and discard them. Add the four cups of milk to the saucepan with the butter/flour mixture and whisk well to combine.

It’s probably time to put your pasta in to boil now, so check on that! Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than it says on the box. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so you don’t want it to get too mushy.

Back to the cheese sauce. Heat the milk mixture over low-medium heat and begin adding the cheese. I used a mixture of cheeses including sharp cheddar (bought in a block and I cut it up into small cubes), a bag of shredded cheese (approximately 2 cups) which was a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack, and about one cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. The cheeses are all about your preferences. I like a much sharper flavor, so I went with sharper cheddars. All together I had about 5 cups of cheese.

Add the cheese about one cup at a time and whisk well. For me, it took awhile for the cheddar pieces to melt in, but the shredded cheese melted much faster. The sauce will begin to thicken. Make sure the cheese totally melts! This might take some patience and extra whisking, but you can do it. Take a quick taste too, just to see if it needs a little salt or pepper.

Your pasta should be cooked and slightly under done by the time your cheese mixture is ready. Add the pasta to your cheese mixture and stir it together. Then add the frozen peas and make sure they are mixed together and evenly distributed. The peas can be added straight from the freezer, no need to thaw them.

Now add this to a large casserole dish that has been greased with butter lightly (so it doesn’t stick!). I had a little bit more pasta than there was room in the casserole dish, so I made two mini mac and cheese dishes that could be individual portions.

Now sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. I used about 3/4 of a cup, but use less or more depending on what you like. Once it’s ready, put in the oven on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. The breadcrumbs should get slightly browned on top and the sauce will be bubbly and amazing. It will be hard, but let it cool for 10-15 minutes before you dig in. It will be super hot!

Now grab some friends (or don’t, you could just eat it yourself) and dig in! We had two friends staying with us when I made this and it was a huge hit. Baked mac and cheese is always a crowd pleaser!

Tomato Sauce with Sausage

One of our go-to meals is always pasta and sauce. It’s quick, easy, and always delicious. Most people have their favorite jarred sauce, but for me that isn’t an option. Both being from Italian families, we much prefer to make our own sauce. Yes, you could just heat up some sauce that’s already made, but it really doesn’t take long to make your own scrumptious sauce!

Tomato Sauce with Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 links of sausage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Italian seasoning (or whatever seasoning you prefer)

First begin heating a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cut up about 1/2 an onion into a small dice (you don’t want to bite into huge chunks of onion in your sauce, or maybe you do, that’s up to you). Add to the saucepan to start caramelizing. Mince up the garlic as the onion begins cooking, and add to the saucepan as well. Let the onion and garlic cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the small can of diced tomatoes. I used petite diced for the smaller pieces. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. I usually add my seasoning at this point too. Some salt and pepper, and whatever your choice of flavors might be. We usually go with some Italian Seasoning, which is a mix of several different herbs.

While the tomatoes, onions, and garlic are simmering, start cooking the sausage. We used two sausage links, removed the outer casing, and cooked it in some olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. While it’s cooking, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the sausage into small pieces that will be added to the sauce.

When the sausage is mostly cooked (it will cook the rest of the way through in the sauce) add it to the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Then add the large can of crushed tomatoes. Stir together, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the more the flavors come together, so if you have some extra time, leave it on the stove for a while. Taste the sauce and season it again as needed.

Cook your choice of pasta according to the directions. When the sauce is done, pour some over your pasta and enjoy!

Awesome Accidental Finds: Fornax Bread Company and Tony's Market

While in Roslindale, before going to Geoffrey’s Cafe, we walked around the stores to do some window shopping. The window shopping idea didn’t last long, because we found these two places.

Dane has a weakness for bread. Any kind of bread, if it’s freshly baked. He used to work at a bread bakery in PA and seems to have an uncanny ability to find fresh bread almost anywhere we go. We saw this place just around the corner from Geoffrey’s Cafe, and Dane had to go in.

The smell of fresh bread will get you every time. We went in to look and walked out with two fresh loaves of bread, the Sfilatino and the Garlic Twist. We always seem to find something we can use bread for, even if we have to make things up.

Not to mention the tons of different pastries, cookies, and other baked goods. Now that I think about it, I’m kind of shocked we only ended up with two loaves of bread. Everything looked absolutely amazing and I’d certainly go back to give everything else a try.

On our way back to Geoffrey’s, we saw this store right next door. We actually joked, because in the window was a sign that said something about giving meat to your Valentine. Not what you’d typically think of for a Valentine’s Day gift. We decided to check it out and see if there was something we could pick up to make for dinner that night. And there was.

Tony’s is a traditional Italian market with a great selection of fresh meat and domestic and imported Italian ingredients. I made a bee line for the pastas when I saw my favorite kind.

I love papardelle, but you don’t see it often in stores. I was so excited to bring some home and got to thinking about what to make with it. The perfect idea came to mind: tomato sauce with sausage. Coincidentally, Tony’s also had fresh sausage which is made on site. We picked up a few other things for the sauce before heading out.

I love stumbling upon places like both of these. If you’re in the area, go visit the Fornax Bread Company and Tony’s Market!

What are your favorite specialty stores to shop for ingredients?

Fettuccinne with Garlic & Cauliflower

This is one of my favorite quick meals. I’m not sure when I actually learned this, but I’m been making it for a while and have it down to a science. Since Dane doesn’t love cauliflower, I get to make this all for myself. This recipe is all about the garlic flavor, so embrace it!

Fettuccine with Garlic and Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • Fettuccine
  • About 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 3 cloves of garlic
  • Frozen cauliflower (or use fresh if you prefer)
  • About 3 tablespoons of water
  • Pecorino Romano cheese for sprinkling on top

Start with the garlic. Add the olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over low heat. Mince the three cloves of garlic (I used my Garlic Zoom) and add it to the saucepan to begin flavoring the olive oil and to start to brown. You do not want the garlic to burn, so be careful about the heat. Once it starts browning, it can quickly burn, so try to keep this over low and medium heat.

Let the garlic cook for a few minutes, then add the frozen cauliflower (or again, fresh if you want, it just won’t take quite as long). Add the water to help steam the cauliflower and cover. You want the cauliflower to cook through and to slightly brown. Every few minutes check the cauliflower and garlic and flip the pieces as needed.

Start the water to boil and cook the pasta until it’s slightly under done. Drain it and reserve about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Once the cauliflower is just slightly browned, add the pasta to the cauliflower, garlic, and olive oil and toss in the saucepan. Add the pasta water and toss together. The pasta will finish cooking and the starch in the pasta water will help the flavors come together on the pasta.

Once the water has cooked away, serve the pasta with Pecorino Romano cheese grated over the top. Yum!

Top 5: Pasta shapes

I consider myself a pasta connoisseur. I always have a ridiculous amount on hand, ready to be made at a moment’s notice. Dane is always a great consumer of whatever I make, and for the different sauces I cook I tend to have favorite pastas. The shapes are made to be served with certain sauces so that it can compliment or hold the sauce.  But there are some that, no matter what, I will come back to and use for everything any anything.

Top 5: Pasta Shapes

#5 Elbows

I probably love these because they’re the integral part of my mom’s world famous macaroni salad. Elbow macaroni are also the most commonly used shape for macaroni and cheese, and I think my love of cheese smothered pasta has been well documented.

#4  Shells

These hold any sauce really well. I remember growing up that having shells was always a treat. We loved the shape. Now I love the different sizes, from small shells to large shells you can use for stuffed shells.

#3  Rigatoni

Much like shells, the ridges hold sauce really well. And who hasn’t painted rigatoni and made necklaces out of it when you were a kid? (Really hoping that wasn’t just me, but it probably was). This is also Dane’s favorite pasta, so we have it all the time.

#2  Fettuccine

With fettuccine alfredo being one of my favorite all time pasta dishes, this has to make the list. I recently found fettuccine rigate, which I didn’t know existed. It’s fettuccine, except with ridges, like rigatoni. I love pasta you can twirl around your fork.

#1 Pappardelle

This is my favorite, but I don’t have it very often because it’s not easily found in most grocery stores. Pappardelle is long like spaghetti or fettuccine, but much thicker, usually about an inch thick. I first got pappardelle from a pasta shop in Little Italy in the Bronx, NY about 5 years ago. They make the pasta fresh and cut it to the thickness you want. Since then I’ve been on the look out for it and found it in specialty shops and a few times in Trader Joe’s. It’s always a treat to find it!

What’s your favorite pasta shape?

Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes, but also one of those that you probably shouldn’t eat all the time. The more times I’ve made fettuccine alfredo, the quicker I’ve been able to prepare it. Of course, this is awesome for me, when I have limited time but really have a craving for it.

The other night I was able to make this whole meal in about 25 minutes (take that Rachel Ray and your 30 minute meals). We had a meeting to get to after work, so I had to make dinner quickly.

Here’s what I did for 2 servings.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 box of pasta (you can really use whatever you want, I happen to love fettuccine)
  • 1 cup of light cream
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • About 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 bunch of broccoli

Start by filling up a pot with water for the pasta and putting it over high heat to boil. My stove takes a long time to do this, so I knew I had at least 20ish minutes between waiting for the water to boil and waiting for the pasta to cook that I could use to make the alfredo sauce.

While the water is heating, steam the broccoli. Cut the broccoli up into small pieces so that you can mix it into the pasta easily. I steam my veggies using a pot of boiling water and a veggie steamer. It took about 12 minutes for my broccoli to be done. You can put the broccoli aside until you’re ready to mix it in.

When the water boils put the pasta in and cook according to the directions. The fettuccine took about 13 minutes to cook to al dente. While the pasta was cooking, add the 1/2 stick of butter to a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Once the butter is melted add the light cream and whisk together with the butter. Season it to your taste with some salt and pepper. Smash the garlic cloves (I used three because I LOVE garlic, but use what you’d like) and add to the mixture. This is just for flavor, so you don’t need to chop the garlic. Make sure you are frequently whisking the mixture.

Once the butter and cream are heated through, add the Pecorino Romano cheese and whisk in. This will thicken the sauce. I used about 3/4 of a cup of cheese, but again, add what you like to thicken and flavor the sauce.

When the pasta is done, drain it, then add it back to the pot. Remove the garlic cloves from the alfredo sauce. Pour the alfredo sauce over the pasta and add the broccoli. Toss it together and it’s ready to eat. If you feel like the sauce needs to be thicker you can add some more cheese.

I love my carbs. This was so yummy and a great quick dinner. Give it a try!

Kristen

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