Tag Archives: pasta

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad

This week is a big one for my family because we get to celebrate my Aunt Janice’s birthday and nuptials!  In honor of Auntie Jan I am posting her famous Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad.  I have so many memories of having this dish at her house.  I used to spend at least a week at her house in Upstate New York every summer growing up and I would LIVE on this salad.  Its a great summer dish because its served cold/room temp and the leftover are just as good as when its fresh.  Perfect for a summer BBQ, picnic or easy weeknight dinners.  I finally managed to finagle the recipe out of her and I have been making it like a fiend all summer.  I tweaked the original (of course) just a little to make things a bit easier on myself and also because I like roasting rather than poaching chicken.  This is also a great salad to use up extra ingredients you have in your fridge so feel free to throw in snap peas or green beans etc if you have them on hand.  I am so happy for Auntie Jan and I am SO happy to have this recipe.

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad 

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons black (or rice wine) vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 minced or grated garlic clove
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 2 pounds bone in skin on chicken breasts
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red) cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 a head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

In a medium sized bowl wish together the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and peanut oil.  The sauce can be made several days in advance, just store in the fridge.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees and roast the chicken breasts on a baking sheet for 45 minutes, until cooked through.  Let cool and shred.  Chicken can also be made one or two days in advance.  Cook the pasta according to directions and drain.  In a large bowl toss the pasta with the sesame oil and set aside.  In a small dry skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes (be careful not to burn).

When ready to serve toss the chicken with the pasta and spread on a large platter.  Top with the napa cabbage, pepper slices, scallions and sesame seeds.  Drizzle on the sauce and toss – my aunt likes to set out the whole salad composed on a buffet and then toss with the sauce right before serving.  It makes for a great presentation.

DSC05577

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

img_0949

It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

dsc04269

Creamy Meyer Lemon and Fig Pasta

Oooooh figs!  I love their sweetness, their amazing color (inside and out), the way that they can go savory or sweet.  I love figs so much that I planted a fig tree in our backyard.  Allegedly it should produce fruit this year, fingers crossed, but in the meantime I scour the farmers markets when they are in season. Equally fleeting is the meyer lemon season.  If you have never tried one it’s like if a tangerine and a lemon had a baby.  The skin is ever so slightly more orange than a regular lemon and as you can see it’s smaller and smoother.  They have such a bright sunny flavor so I stock up as soon as I can get my hands on them.  If you can’t find meyer lemons or they aren’t in season you can use regular lemon, I would just omit the zest and have a lighter hand with the juice since it’s more pungent.  Paired together with creamy goat cheese, the fig and meyer lemon all come together for a super quick and delicious pasta dinner. This post is dedicated to my friend Ashley who is even more obsessed with figs than I am – if I get any figs this year I will make sure to send some to Denver Ash!

Creamy Meyer Lemon and Fig Pasta 

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 6 ounces dried mission figs, stems cut off and quartered
  • 1 pound short cut pasta
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon meyer lemon zest
  • 4 to 5 ounces soft goat cheese
  • the juice of 1 meyer lemon

In a large skillet heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  At the same time bring water to a boil and add the pasta and salt.  Add the shallot with some salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes until softened.  Add the figs and cook for an additional minute.

Add the wine and zest and let it cook for about 3 minutes until most of the wine has cooked off but not all.  The pasta should be al dente now so drain, saving a cup of pasta water, and add to the skillet.  Toss the pasta with the wine, shallots and figs and cook for 1 more minute so the pasta can take on some of the wine.  Turn off the heat and crumble in the goat cheese.  Stir it around so the cheese can melt and become a sort of sauce.  Add some of the pasta water if you need to thin it out.  Squeeze the meyer lemon all over, toss and taste for salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Lasagna

DSC01346

The great thing about getting comfortable with a lasagna recipe is that you can change it up pretty easily depending on your mood, what’s in the fridge, or in season.  Remember the Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna from June?  I made that with tons of fresh basil and a light tomato sauce.  Now that it’s fall I took the same recipe and method and just swapped out basil for sage and tomato sauce for pumpkin sauce.  The rest, the 3 cheeses and prosciutto, stay the same.

This version is a “bit” richer so you definitely want to pair it with a light salad and have a nice warming red wine on the side.  This sauce would also be lovely just over regular pasta, maybe with some cubes of roasted butternut squash tossed in as well.  I won’t bore you all to tears with step by step pictures in this post, if you need a reminder of what it should look like during assembly just refer back to the original post and follow along.  I will definitely be coming up with a winter and spring version of this lasagna – it’s just that good.

Pumpkin Lasagna 

Pumpkin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, or one large, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 16 ounces pumpkin puree (make sure its plain pumpkin not pie filling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment de espellete (if you don’t have that, well let’s assume you don’t, use 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream

Rest of the Lasagna

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped sage
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

First make the pumpkin sauce – in a saucepan over medium heat add the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for 7 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the pumpkin, nutmeg and red pepper and turn up the heat to medium high.  Cook on this higher temperature for 3 minutes, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t burn.  Add the broth and cream and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  This makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, sage and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.  Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.  Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.

Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

Chicken Riggies

If you have ever been to Upstate New York you likely to be familiar with Chicken Riggies.  This is one of those great regional American recipes that seems to have evolved over time and become ubiquitous.  Every time I go to visit family I try to get my hands on this Italian American dish that is simultaneously sweet, spicy, creamy and satisfying.  Since today is my dear Aunt Janice’s birthday I thought it would be fitting to take a stab at my own version of this Upstate classic in her honor.  She has been one of my best cheerleaders during this blog and even got me my very own A Capitol Contessa apron!

This isn’t a light dish but those folks in Syracuse and Rochester deserve some hearty comfort food given the winters they have to endure.  I have searched and searched for lots of different versions – just like most American dishes people take the base recipe and make it their own.  Rachel Ray (Upstate New York girl) has done a version on her show that I have tried but it didn’t quite do it justice.  Some sleuthing found that the addition of sherry really adds a subtle sweetness that is great with the hot peppers and cream.  I also tossed in some spicy arugula at the very end to add some green (that cancels out the cream right?) and add another layer of flavor.  Happy birthday Auntie Jan – sending lots and lots of love your way.

Oh and apologies for not posting on Wednesday – I was traveling internationally for work and didn’t quite get my act together.  It was my first missed post which I think is pretty good but I promise I won’t make a habit out of it!

DSC00963

Chicken Riggies

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (or approximately 10 mini bell peppers), sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or less if you don’t want it as spicy)
  • 6 to 8 hot pickled peppers (like pepadews), sliced
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni (riggies!)
  • a couple handfuls of arugula
  • grated parmesan

Heat the largest skillet you have over medium high heat and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the pieces are browned and just about cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and add more oil if you need it.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until the onions and peppers soften and they take on a little color, about 5 minutes.  Add the pickled peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook down for another minute or until most of the sherry has cooked off.  Carefully add the crushed tomatoes (try not to splatter yourself) and chicken, then stir everything together until combined.  Meanwhile boil water and cook the rigatoni in salted water until tender, about 7 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking let the sauce cook down over a low simmer.  Add the cream to the sauce, stirring it in until everything is nice and pink.  Drain the pasta and stir it all together (if your pan isn’t big enough just pour the sauce over the rigatoni in a larger bowl).

Stir in the arugula so it wilts into the dish and serve with parmesan.

Basil Pesto

The classic.  So good all you basically need is a spoon.  It is summer in a sauce, especially since it’s no cook!  I realized I had posted different pesto variations but never the classic basil.  I have tried lots of different versions over the years and finally worked out my own that borrows from all the rest.  Most pestos will only use pine nuts but I like a mix and by happy accident tried it with pecans once (out of walnuts) and really liked the flavor.  A little lemon zest is also nice here to really amp up the lemony flavor of basil.  This is my base recipe – it doesn’t contain any cheese so it’s perfect to freeze or for vegans.  I like to freeze the pesto in ice-cube trays or mini muffin pans (silicone is the easiest to get them out) and then just defrost and let my imagination run wild.  If I want to stay true to the classic I just fold in grated parmesan but often I skip the parm and mix in goat cheese which really mellows out the garlic and makes a wonderfully creamy sauce.  Make a whole bunch with the rest of your summer basil and freeze it so you can have a little bit of summer this winter.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons pecans (or walnuts)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 5 cups basil leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • optional add ins – goat cheese, parmesan, butter, ricotta, yogurt, a spoon…

In a food processor add the pine nuts, walnuts and garlic cloves.  Process until chopped together.  Add the basil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.  Process again for a couple of seconds and then with the food processor running pour in the olive oil until it comes together as a pesto.  This can now be served on its own or mixed with cheese, kept for several days in the fridge under a layer of olive oil or frozen for several months.

Swiss Chard Pasta

Pasta and cream – oh you are so yummy but oh so bad for me.  Honestly any kind of carb covered in any kind of cheesy or creamy sauce is something I can get on board with, but know I should limit.  So what if you add a ton of dark leafy greens and lean white meat chicken to the mix?  Still not healthy?  Ok fine maybe not healthy but this one pan meal is super satisfying, delicious and not nearly as bad for you as it tastes.  A scant 1/2 cup of cream for 4 servings means only 2 tablespoons of cream per person, which is the smae amount you probably sloshed into your morning coffee anyway.  My mom passed this one down to me (though I have taken some creative liberties) and I loved it from the first time she made it for me.  If you have never cooked with swiss chard before it’s that beautiful green you may have seen at the market with the vibrant red or multi colored stalks.  Most recipes will tell you to just use the leafy parts and cut out the tougher stems but I love their flavor and the bite they give to this pasta.  If you want to mellow them even more you can add the stems first and then the leaves later so you cook them down more.  The red from the chard stems also turns the onions pink which is just fabulous in and of its self.

DSC00102

The key to chard or really any green is making sure its nice and clean.  Grit can easily find its way into greens and the last thing you want to do is chew down on sand when you are eating.  Prewashed and bagged greens help with this but for all other greens I really like a salad spinner.  It’s an easy way to get them clean and can double as a storage vessel for greens in the fridge.  When you come home from the store just wash the greens, run them through the spinner (I have and really like this one) and then keep in the fridge, they will last a lot longer and be ready to use when you want them.  For this and most recipes where you want to wilt down greens I also like to leave just a little water still clinging to the leaves – this will help create some steam in the pan and move along the wilting process.  This is a really fast dinner, made more substantial by the addition of chicken but it could easily fill vegetarian folks up without.  And the smell of the onions cooking in butter…mmmmm so good.

Swiss Chard Pasta 

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 8 ounces penne or other short cut pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 to 2 rotisserie chicken breasts, chopped or shredded into bite size pieces (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a skillet.  While butter is melting also bring a pot of water to boil for pasta and cook the pasta while making the sauce.  When the butter is melted add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Start adding the swiss chard in handfuls, tossing with tongs if necessary to wilt the greens and get them all to fit.

Season with salt and pepper.  Cook the chard down until wilted, about 5 minutes, then throw in the white wine and allow it to all cook out, about 2 to 3 minutes.

When the pasta is ready toss it in the pan along with the red pepper flakes, the nutmeg and cream (and chicken if including it).  Toss the pasta and sauce together and let cook together for a couple of minutes more allowing the cream to coat the pasta and the flavors to meld.

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna

DSC00128

I have already mentioned that I am a reformed ricotta lover, previously eschewing it in any form until I had good ricotta.  Maybe that is why I also was never a big lasagna fan as so often it was stuffed with a ton of bland crumbly ricotta.  Also I think back in the 80’s lasagna was just plain boring – always the same fillings, always meat sauce with ricotta and rubbery noodles, always overcooked and heavy.  I have come a long way since then, as has lasagna.  Now you see more and more veggie options, using bechamel sauce, different cheeses, less pasta and more fillings.  There are several recipes I like, some heavier than others but for the summer a lighter flavor profile seems appropriate.  The best thing about lasagna is that you can make several in advance and freeze them.  I will admit that putting them together can be sort of tedious but then just make a whole bunch at a time so you have a quick dinner any night of the week.  There are two schools of thought on freezing lasagna – to pre bake or not – and I fall in the not category.  Assemble the lasagna, cover it with saran wrap and foil and then when you want to bake it off just leave it in the fridge over night and bake the next day.  I find if you bake then freeze then bake again it can really dry out but try it for yourself and see what you like better.  This recipe would make one large lasagna for about 8 people, or 2 smaller ones for 4 each.  I like to serve it with an arugula salad tossed with a lemony dressing to add some sharp notes but it would also be great with sautéed escarole or a caesar.

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna 

  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either homemade or a good quality like Rao’s)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, basil and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.

Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.

Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  As you can see I just sort of dabbed  the mixture on.

Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap (tomato sauce plus tin foil makes for a bad reaction and the saran adds an extra layer of protection from freezer burn anyway) then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.  Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

%d bloggers like this: