Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

Puttanesca originated in Naples in the mid 19th century and is usually made with pasta, capers, tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers. Since I had a spaghetti squash I need to use up, I made this dish. It turned out wonderfully. Below is my own version of this!!

(Hidden under that luscious sauce is the shredded spaghetti squash!)

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash cut in half horizontally with seeds removed
  • ½ pound lean ground beef
  • 1 diced jalapeno pepper or red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 2 stems of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup of whole black olives (optional)
  • 2 cups of Prego pasta sauce
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions

Drizzle olive oil over each half of squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side  down in a Pyrex dish and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven uncovered for 60 to 75 minutes.

Remove squash and let cool before shredding each half with forks. Be careful not to puncture the squash skin! Cover loosely with foil. Let it rest while preparing the sauce.

In a large frypan (or wok – I love using a wok when preparing sauce for spaghetti), brown the beef, stirring frequently. When there is no more pink, add the 2 cups of pasta sauce.

Stir to combine all of the meat, adding the diced jalapenos (optional) or red pepper flakes

Add the pitted black olives and 1 stem of basil LEAVES and stir to combine.

Uncover the bowl of spaghetti squash shreds and pour the sauce the shreds.

Garnish with Parmesan cheese and the leaves from the other basil stem.

Serve.

Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

With a package of frozen meatballs in the freezer, a jar of marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella and rotini pasta in the pantry, this recipe was so easy to throw together. Best part You dont need to precook the pasta!!!

Just make sure those meatballs are thawed before you start the recipe…

Hidden meatballs…

Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

Total Time 55 minutes         Servings 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta
  • 1 (24 or 25 ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (14 ounce) package fully-cooked miniature (cocktail-size) meatballs (if using frozen meatballs, make sure that they are completely thawed before using)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped herbs (such as basil, oregano, and parsley for garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, and meatballs. Season with salt to taste; stir. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.

3. Uncover; stir. At this point you should check the pasta to make sure that it is al dente (firm but just about finished cooking). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven until pasta is al dente. Then move on to the next step.

4. Sprinkle mozzarella over the top and bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes (or until cheese is melted and pasta is tender).

Smoked Salmon Carbonara

Some days I just want to be able to throw something together for dinner quickly. Pasta is usually the answer! In this case, I just happened to buy some smoked salmon at Costco to use in salad and I still had some left.

Voila ! Smoked Salmon Carbonara. Bonus – no creams, just fresh eggs and Parmesan for the sauce. Read the recipe carefully, as you don’t want to overcook the eggs and Parmesan. The pasta MUST be a little cool to avoid scrambling the eggs!!! It looked and tasted great. You can skip the capers if it’s not something you like.

NOTE – Capers are immature flower buds from the Capparis spinosa (aka the “caper bush”), which grow all over the Mediterranean, just like olives do. Caper buds are picked before they can bloom into flowers. They are not a fish as some people mistakenly assume, but can be a little salty. Great on pizza, too.

Smoked Salmon Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 14.1 oz (400g) linguine pasta, or similar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 5.2 oz (150g) smoked salmon, sliced thinly
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. of capers (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the linguine or long pasta shape of your choice. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, cut the smoked salmon into thin strips and finely chop some fresh parsley (this is optional).

3. Next, add the eggs to a bowl and whisk together, add the grated parmesan and a good pinch of salt and pepper, stir to combine.

4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it back into the pot you cooked it in. Sprinkle over the strips of salmon then add the whisked eggs and parmesan mixture, immediately stir the pasta to coat it evenly in egg and to distribute the salmon throughout the pasta evenly.

5. Tip: wait exactly 1 minute before pouring over the egg mixture. If the pasta is too hot the eggs will scramble but if it’s too cool the eggs will remain raw.

6. The pasta should be creamy and evenly coated in sauce. Divide the smoked salmon pasta between bowls and top with a scattering of chopped parsley and an extra grinding of pepper, serve.

Add capers.

Notes

I’ve seen and made many pasta carbonara recipes in my time and I find that using 1 egg less as many servings works best. Does that make sense? For four servings I use 400g/14oz of pasta (100g per portion) and 3 eggs.

Elevated Campbell’s Tomato Soup

How to dress up a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for company? This recipe turned out well, but alas, I did not take a photo. You will just have to trust me…LOL

Elevated  Campbell’s Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Fresh Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Cup Dried Bread Cubes (I use the ones meant for stuffing)
  • 1 Can Tomato Soup
  • 1 Can of Chicken Broth (I pour my chicken broth into the tomato soup can after pouring the tomato soup out.)
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh Chopped Basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fresh Chopped Thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

I recommend using 3 or 4 (depending on size) Ramekins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl toss together bread cubes, 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese, pinch of salt and pepper. Set off to the side.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the tomato soup, chicken broth, basil, thyme, and vinegar until smooth.
  4. Evenly distribute the bread cube mixture among the ramekins or fill the entire bottom of the circular casserole dish you plan on using.
  5. Next you want to evenly distribute the soup mixture among the ramekins or slowly ladle over the bread cubes in a singular casserole dish.
  6. Use the rest of the remaining cheese to float on top of the soup mixture, by slowly sprinkling it onto the soup.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10minutes, then switch to a low broil and allow to cook until the cheese becomes golden brown and bubbly (about 5 minutes in our oven, but this can happen quickly so watch carefully to be sure).

Penne alla Vodka

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 Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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!

 

 

Greek Moussaka

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!

Moussaka

Greek Moussaka

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

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

 

 

Ravioli with White Wine and Leeks

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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 !
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. When all the butter is melted, stir in the chopped thyme.
  6. 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!

 

Skillet Italian Sausage and Peppers with Penne

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve starchy cooking water.
  2. 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.
  3. In the same pan drizzle another teaspoon or so of olive oil and sauté the peppers and onions until slightly softened, about five minutes.
  4. Return sausage back to the pan and deglaze with red wine.
  5. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for ten minutes.
  7. Add penne to the skillet, toss with sauce. If needed add starchy pasta water to loosen the sauce up.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

http://www.ohsweetbasil.com/skillet-italian-sausage-peppers-penne.html

Classic Scalloped Potatoes

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
Ingredients
• 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!
Preparation
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.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

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**
Ingredients
• 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
Directions
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…