No doubt you have had this dish at any one of thousands of Italian restaurants around the world. It really is quite simple once you have prepared the sauce. You can use canned tomatoes, but in this case I used 2 larger fresh tomatoes, NOT plum. I simply chopped them up. One thing of note – do NOT use more than 3 – 4 tablespoons of vodka, as it will leave the dish bitter…
Penne alla Vodka
- 28 oz. whole plum tomatoes, undrained OR 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 3-4 Tablespoons vodka
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons cold butter
- Salt/Pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. Penne
- Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Puree the tomatoes in a blender, food mill, or an immersion blender and set aside. You can decide how chunky or uniform you’d like the tomatoes to be. I simply chopped them up!
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced garlic and the basil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and softened.
Turn off the heat.
Add the vodka to the pan and let it sizzle. Turn the heat back to medium and reduce the vodka until there is about a Tablespoon left.
Add the pureed tomatoes and let it simmer for 45 minutes or so, allowing it to reduce and become quite thick.
During the last 12 minutes or so, cook the penne according to package instructions. For saucier pasta, use ¾ lb. instead of the full pound. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.
Add the heavy cream and the red pepper flakes to the sauce.
Add 2 Tablespoons cold butter to the sauce, along with 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir to combine.
Season with salt/pepper if desired.
Add in the drained pasta.
Garnish with roughly chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese and serve!
In the process of cleaning out our freezer and realized I had 500 gm of ground lamb. What to do? I have always liked moussaka in a Greek restaurant, but never made it at home. Good old Pinterest to the rescue, for what appeared to be an easy recipe and without the potatoes on top….less calories. The recipe looks complicated, but I decided to prepare the ground lamb ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator until I was ready to make the complete dish. It gave me time to prepare the eggplant while I was cleaning up from the lamb prep. The dish turned out perfectly, with our guests taking home this recipe! The photo below is from the Pinterest pinner…we got so carried away enjoying the dish that I forgot a photo. Check out Sniff It Out on Pinterest for more tantalizing recipes!
About 500g of lean minced (ground) lamb
2 Aubergines (Eggplants) medium to large in size
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 rounded tablespoons tomato purée
3 fl oz. (75 ml) red wine or more
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the yogurt topping for the Greek Moussaka – I used a large CorningWare casserole dish and ended up doubling the yogurt in order to cover the top.
150ml Greek yogurt (double if necessary)
1 medium egg, beaten
50g feta cheese or more
25g freshly grated parmesan or more
- Preparing the Aubergines
Leave the skins on and slice the Aubergines into approximately 10mm thick slices.
Put the slices into a colander and sprinkle them with about 1 level dessertspoon of salt. Stand the colander on a plate to catch the water which comes out of the Aubergines and put another plate on top of the aubergine slices.
You now need to weigh this plate down with something heavy (I find that a couple of tins of soup works quite well) and leave them for about an hour to let the juice come out.
After an hour, squeeze out any of the excess juice from the aubergines and dry them well in a clean cloth.
Spread the aubergine slices on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over them tossing them around to get a good coating.
Put the baking sheet in a pre heated oven (around 200 degrees) and roast the aubergines for 30 minutes or until they are browning at the edges.
I usually roast the eggplant simply because the baking tray is much bigger than the frying pan and I can get the slices done all in one go, but, if you would rather sauté the eggplant to use in the moussaka you can do that too.
- Preparing the lamb for the Moussaka recipe (I did this step first)
Because the mince can have quite a lot of fat come out of it I usually dry fry the mince until it is nicely browned then remove it from the pan and put it to one side then discard any of the fat which has come out of it before using it to make the moussaka.
Then heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions, garlic and thyme gently, without colouring, for about 10 minutes.
Stir the minced lamb back in and add the parsley, cinnamon, tomato purée and red wine and stir to combine the ingredients. Season the mixture well and cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Prepare the topping for the Greek Moussaka recipe
It’s true that Moussaka isn’t the most healthy dish on the planet, that’s why I prefer a yogurt topping for my moussaka recipe because it is a bit lighter than others I have tried but that is purely my preference. Mix the yogurt with half of the cheeses and the beaten egg and season with ground pepper.
- Putting everything together for the Greek Moussaka!
Line the bottom of a casserole dish with slices of aubergine, then spoon over some of the meat mixture. Build the layers of the moussaka up until all the meat and aubergine has been used.
Cover with the topping mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC / 350ºF for about 1 hour until golden and bubbling.
Let the Moussaka stand for about 20 to 30 minutes before cutting and serving and this will ensure that it keeps its shape when you serve it.
First had this at one of our favourite restaurants in nearby Merida – Il Caffe Italiano. Had to try and duplicate this subtle dish. Et voila as the French say. PINTEREST as I say…LOL. I would highly recommend it for your Christmas Eve or New Years dinner. Suggestion is to serve it with grilled asparagus spears…I chose not to…
Ravioli with White Wine Butter Sauce (and Asparagus – optional)
- One 9 ounce package chilled fresh ravioli
- One bunch asparagus (about 15-20 spears), trimmed and cut into two inch pieces. You can use just the tips or if you like lots of asparagus, use the stems as well! OPTIONAL
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 leeks carefully washed and chopped into 1/4 inch slices. Dont use the dark green parts!
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
- ¾ cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for garnish
- Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and olive oil, and then asparagus. Cook asparagus until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, and remove asparagus with a slotted spoon, leaving the water boiling. OPTIONAL – just boil some water for the ravioli !
- Add one tablespoon of butter to a medium size skillet and melt over medium high heat. Add leeks and garlic and stir until soft, 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Now add butter, cube by cube, stirring until each one is melted into the sauce.
- While the sauce is cooking, add the ravioli gently to the boiling (asparagus*) water (I like to lower them in with a slotted spoon) and cook according to package directions until just done, about 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in a single layer on a plate until the sauce is finished.
- When all the butter is melted, stir in the chopped thyme.
- Divide the ravioli between two plates, (and tuck the asparagus tips in between the ravioli – OPTIONAL). Drizzle a generous portion of sauce over each serving, garnish with fresh thyme and shaved Parmesan and serve at once!
Canadians…Are you tired of turkey already? Try this easy one for something different.
Skillet Italian Sausage and Peppers with Penne
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes
This comforting Italian sausage and pepper penne pasta is cooked in one skillet and comes together in 30 minutes or less for a quick and easy weeknight meal.
- 12 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta
- 1 pound Italian sausage links (1 package)
- 1 small green pepper, sliced
- 1 small red pepper, sliced
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
- ½ cup red wine (merlot or pinot noir)
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 12 ounces water
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Parmesan Cheese for finishing
- In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve starchy cooking water.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Brown sausages on all sides, until almost cooked through, remove and cut into ¼ inch slices. You don’t have to worry about cooking them all the way through, they will finish cooking while the sauce simmers.
- In the same pan drizzle another teaspoon or so of olive oil and sauté the peppers and onions until slightly softened, about five minutes.
- Return sausage back to the pan and deglaze with red wine.
- Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for ten minutes.
- Add penne to the skillet, toss with sauce. If needed add starchy pasta water to loosen the sauce up.
- Season with salt and pepper and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
Easter Sunday dinner with 16 friends. Menu of spiral ham (from Costco of course), scalloped potatoes and BBQ green beans. Salads courtesy of our guests along with desserts. Larry was chef for the day. To make life simpler, I put the ham out in its foil for about an hour to warm it up. After uncovering it, I sliced off a fair amount and put the slices in our slow cooker. I added one cup of Fresca soft drink to keep the ham moist and set the timer on low for 1 and 1/2 hours. When the potatoes and beans were ready, so was the ham. A great way to serve ham for a buffet! And now for the potato recipe courtesy of Canadian Living Magazine with Larry’s modifications.
Classic Scalloped Potatoes (Canadian Living Magazine)
• Prep time 25 minutes Total time 2 hours Portion size 8
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
• 3 cloves garlic, minced or more
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh thyme
• 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
• 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) milk **
• 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, (about 2 lb./900 g)
• 1 small onion, sliced
• Parmesan and old cheddar cheese shredded to taste
**or use ½ milk and ½ media crema if you are in Mexico!
In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; cook garlic, stirring, for 1 minute. Add flour, thyme, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in milk; cook, whisking constantly, until boiling and thickened, about 8 minutes.
Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Layer one-third in greased 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish or casserole dish; spread half of the onion over top. Spread some of the cheese over each layer. Repeat layers. Arrange remaining potatoes over top. Pour sauce over top, using back of knife to ease sauce between layers. Top with any remaining cheese.
Cover and bake in 350F (180C) oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake until lightly browned and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. If necessary cover with foil to keep warm.
Checked the pantry and found a large can of clams…should I make chowder or linguine? No potatoes…decision made…linguine! Pinterest to the rescue again.Quick and fairly straight forward if you use the canned clams. Certainly would make a special dish for a memorable dinner…
Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Yield: serves 4 to 6**
• 1 pound linguine
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 4 anchovies, packed in oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 18-ounce jar diced tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
• 2 pounds littleneck clams* OR 13 oz. canned clams drained (save the juice)
• Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add linguine and cook for 3 minutes. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Strain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and set aside. If using clam juice discard the pasta water
2. In a very large sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add anchovies, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 minutes until the anchovies “melt” and the shallots become translucent. Add wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Next, add tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of parsley, thyme, and reserved pasta water or clam juice. season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
3. Add linguine and clams to the sauté pan and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the clams open. Discard any clams that do not open.
4. Garnish with the remaining parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately. Pass the cheese…
As a kid we used to pick asparagus along the ditches near our home in early spring. Mother always boiled it…YUCK!
Both of us love asparagus and it is in season here right now. In the past I always have done it on the grill, with garlic and Parmesan cheese. Sometimes I make asparagus fries in the oven with panko, egg and Parmesan. Feeling lazy I looked for something simpler. It was a lot less time consuming.
Baked Lemon Asparagus (http://natashaskitchen.com)
• 2 bunches asparagus
• 1 lemon
• 4 Tbsp butter
• Olive oil
• Salt & Pepper
• ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Rinse 2 bunches of asparagus and break off the ends by holding the base end and snapping it wherever it snaps.
2. Place asparagus in a large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
3. Squeeze ½ of a lemon over the asparagus. Cover the top third of the asparagus with lemon slices from the other half of your lemon (optional).
4. Thinly slice 4 tbsp of butter and line the center of the asparagus with butter.
5. Bake at 400°F for 12 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Remove asparagus from the oven and set oven to Broil.
6. Sprinkle the center of the asparagus with Parmesan cheese and broil 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.
Just realized that one of my favourite go-to recipes has never appeared here! When you get tired of that turkey, my American friends, you might give this dish a try. I’m leaving the kitchen for a few days but wanted to share this with you before I put all the dishes away…LOL…Buen Provecho as always!!
Reg’s Lasagna (easily feeds 8 people)
1 cup diced white onions
1 cup celery chopped
1 cup carrots sliced
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef and pork mixed (you could use ground chicken or turkey instead)
1 or 2 garlic cloves minced
14 oz. can cubed tomatoes
5 ½ oz. can tomato puree
1 19 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
½ cup red wine (optional)
2 TBSP. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. each of basil and oregano
12 lasagna noodles oven ready
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 package fresh spinach stems removed and chopped
1 small package of fresh mushrooms sliced
1 large bag shredded manchego or mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan (don’t use the Kraft powdery stuff!)
In a little olive oil, brown the carrots, celery and onions until tender and slightly browning. Add in the pork and beef mixture and cook until browned and almost no pink visible. Drain off the fat if there is an excess. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, ½ of the tomato sauce, sugar and seasonings. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add in the sliced mushrooms and continue to simmer until they appear softened.
While this has been cooking, mix the ricotta cheese with the chopped spinach in a bowl. Set aside.
In a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish pour a little of the remaining tomato sauce and spread over the bottom. Place four noodles in the bottom of the dish. Add ½ of the meat sauce to cover the noodles. Add 1/3 of the grated manchego or mozzarella cheese.
Cover this with four more lasagna noodles. Add the layer of ricotta and spinach. Add four additional lasagna noodles. Cover with the other half of the meat sauce and 1/3 of the cheese.
Add four more lasagna noodles ( if you have no sauce left, heat the remaining half jar of spaghetti sauce and pour over the top noodle layer. Cover with the remainder of the cheese. Over top of this add the Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Cover with foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Test the noodles with a sharp knife to make sure they are softened. Remove from the oven and let sit before cutting into desired portion sizes.
I make this a few hours before company comes and let it cool before refrigerating. 45 minutes before serving remove from refrigerator to let the dish warm to room temp. Return to 350 degree oven for about 15 to 25 minutes.
How to get friends and family to eat asparagus….. we served these last night and they were INCREDIBLE! Our friend who never touches the stuff had seconds. I would serve this again as a side dish, as well as a great appetizer for a buffet…..
Check out the source of this recipe http://www.closetcooking.com/2013/05/crispy-baked-asparagus-fries.html
If you subscribe to the site you will receive an eBook of other recipes he has come across…
Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 20 minutes Servings: 2+
Asparagus coated in panko bread crumbs and Parmesan and baked until golden brown and crispy.
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan), grated
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Dredge the asparagus in the flour, dip in the egg and then into a mixture of the panko, parmesan, salt and pepper.
2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a wire rack on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 425F oven until golden brown, about 7-13 minutes. If you don’t have a baking rack, use parchment paper.
Nutrition Facts: Calories 312, Fat 8g (Saturated 4g, Trans 0), Cholesterol 172mg, Sodium 174mg, Carbs 44g (Fiber 6g, Sugars 5g), Protein 19g
For a very special dinner, we like to prepare this seafood lasagna in a white sauce. Yes, it is very rich, but there is never any leftover!!! Use whatever seafood you favour, but I like shrimp, scallops, lobster or crab in any combination. Think New Year’s Eve!!! The recipe can easily be halved…
If seafood isn’t your thing, substitute chicken! Add some slivered almonds to the Parmesan cheese sprinkling….
Seafood Lasagna (Cooks.Com)
8 Tablespoons butter
8 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1 package “no-boil” lasagna
10 ounces of spinach (you could use frozen if thawed and drained)
16 ounces of ricotta cheese
8 ounces of mozzarella cheese (I preferred Manchego from Spain)
8 ounces of Provolone cheese
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
2 sliced onions
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tomato, cut and peeled
1 1/2 pounds of seafood
parsley and rosemary to taste
Melt butter and add flour. Take it off the burner, add cream, milk and broth. Put back on burner. Stir constantly.
When everything is mixed, take it off the heat. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Saute onions and mushrooms in butter and a little oil. Add tomato, parsley and rosemary. Add all of the seafood.
In a greased lasagna pan pour some sauce, place a row of lasagna, followed by 1/2 of the seafood, some mozzarella or Manchego, ricotta (mixed with the spinach), and Provolone. Press it down before adding a second layer. Follow same order as first layer, ending with another layer of lasagna noodles and sauce to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes. Cover with foil if it is browning to rapidly!!!
It will be rich, so do not give your guests large portions to start with. Serve with a nice fresh salad.