Book Review, Main Dishes, Sides

Hemsley + Hemsley Green Goddess Noodle Salad

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If you’ve ever made a zucchini noodle, gnawed on refined sugar-free chocolate fudge, or dug a fork into a mason jar salad, give a nod to all the health bloggers and wellness sites out there, but mostly thank the Hemsley sisters. Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley‚ÄĒknown more commonly as Hemsley + Hemsley‚ÄĒlaunched their brand¬†in 2010, focusing on flavor and relying less on¬†gluten, grains and refined sugar. Lovers of cooking and eating, the Hemsleys began as healthy cooks and caterers for private clients and events, but soon proved to be working towards a larger goal.

To improve their clients’¬†relationships with food, the Hemsleys emphasize the importance of digestive¬†health, and are generally on a mission to make eating well a joyful experience. Their first book, The Art of Eating Well,¬†solidified the Hemsley + Hemsley name as a go-to for all foodstuffs related to making healthier choices, without perpetuating a culture of deprivation. The ladies’ sophomore book is¬†Good + Simple, which dives deeper into their aim to “coach people away from fad diets and unhealthy eating towards an appreciation of the power of real food, properly sourced and correctly prepared.”

The ingenuity behind the¬†Hemsley + Hemsley philosophy is that these women understand that in order to maintain any sort of lifestyle, (“healthy” or otherwise) the methodology must be simple enough to participate in not just often, but every day. Jasmine and Melissa do not suggest¬†that their audience throw out all evidence of bread in their kitchens and become spiral-slicing,¬†grain- and refined sugar-free droids. But they do want to advocate that their practice is attainable enough to introduce into anyone’s routine. Yes, there is a green juice recipe in this book, and zucchini noodles aplenty; but flip a few pages and you’ll find¬†pulled pork and plum clafoutis.

Further, there’s a¬†notion to emphasize a¬†deeper thought process behind eating and cooking: The food we put into our mouths shouldn’t just taste good and look good, it should be thoughtfully¬†sourced. Their¬†holistic approach to food is broken down¬†to three simple words‚ÄĒdelicious, nutritious, sustainable. H + H uses a 15-principle guide, which I find to be refreshingly contrary to the plethora of touters of Health-with-a-capital-H that are so easily lumped together:

  1. Gut instinct
  2. Boil your bones
  3. Forget calories, think nutrients
  4. Meat and two veg
  5. Going against the grain
  6. Fat is your friend
  7. Sweet enough
  8. Drink to think
  9. The real deal
  10. Know your onions
  11. Prepare, chew and combine
  12. Be mindful
  13. Stress less
  14. Tune in
  15. The “better than” rule

I won’t go into what each point means, but I hope you read through them¬†if you find yourself a copy of the book. (In fact, read through all the text¬†that doesn’t precede a recipe. They have something to say; something I can’t paraphrase in a short review.) ¬†The very fact that there are so many “principles” affirms that the Hemsleys¬†understand there’s more to¬†eating than one defining term for everything one puts in their body.¬†Relying¬†on food guidelines rather than restrictions is not only more attainable, but makes for happier eaters.

In addition to the recipes, Good + Simple includes advice for stocking a kitchen, two weekly menu plans (and shopping lists!), and suggestions for lifestyle habits like having a nighttime routine, drinking water, and making time for gentle exercise.

Good + Simple¬†is a cookbook you can actually cook from, which can be a rarity these days. The following recipe is the first I cooked from this book, and I strongly recommend it‚ÄĒfor dinner tonight, lunch next week, or for any upcoming potlucks. While I was slightly turned off by the title, (“green goddess” dressing is a¬†thick,¬†mint-colored substance I truly despise) the photos led me to believe I was not going to be pur√©eing anything¬†creamy. It’s a fresh and immensely flavor-packed¬†dish that was as satisfying to put in my mouth as it was to look at. After three servings for dinner, I went right back to the (plentiful) leftovers for the next two days. The recipe is¬†a keeper, as is the book.

Green Goddess Noodle Salad [from Hemsley Hemsley Good + Simple, by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley, serves 4 as main]

SALAD
10 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles
1 tablespoon extra-version olive oil
10 ounces broccoli florets or purple-sprouting broccoli, asparagus, or green beans
1 medium green cabbage or bok choy, leaves shredded
1 meduim fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, and flesh chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 large avocado, sliced
2 handfuls fresh greens (watercress, baby spinach, lettuce, leftover cooked kale)
1 small handful of nuts (cashews, peanuts, or almonds) or seeds (sesame, sunflower, or poppy)
4 handfuls fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, or basil), roughly chopped

DRESSING
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
1¬Ĺ -inch piece of fresh root ginger (unpeeled if organic), finely grated
2 teaspoons tamari
A pinch of cayenne pepper or chili flakes (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper

Cook the buckwheat noodles in a large pan of boiling water according to the packet instructions (about 7 minutes). Use two forks to tease the noodles apart during the first minute of cooking.

When they are tender, drain and rinse under cold water for 15 seconds. Drain again and then toss in the EVOO in a large serving bowl to stop the noodles sticking together. Set aside.

Using the same pan, after a quick rinse, steam the broccoli (or other vegetable), covered with a lid, in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 4 minutes until tender.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl or shake in a jam jar with the lid on. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drain.

Add the raw vegetables, spring onions and avocado to the noodles with the greens and steamed broccoli. Pour over the dressing and mix everything together. Top with the nuts or seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a minute if you like, and the fresh herbs.

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NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!

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Roasted Beet Ravioli

I think one of the best things about my job is that I actually get to develop and publish my own recipes. I published my first last week!

If you still have yet to try wonton wrapper ravioli, you are¬†missing out.¬†It’s ridiculous how easy this is. And it tastes pretty exactly like regular pasta. With the big v-day coming up, I figured it’s about time to share a pasta recipe with a filling that is roughly the color of a beating heart, possibly a little pinker, but you can deal, right? Unlike the rest of the blogosphere, I have yet to succumb to dyeing everything blood-red. But I have started buying too many chocolate bars at the grocery store, so let’s call that properly getting into the holiday spirit!

As I was developing this recipe, I tried to remember if I ever actually made a ~Valentine’s Day meal~ for a significant other, and came to the realization that I don’t think I have. I’ve made birthday dinners and hey-my-parents-are-out-of-town dinners and Friday night dinners and possibly anniversary dinners, but never have I ever (that I can recall) cooked for my Valentine on Valentine’s Day. Odd, considering how often I cook. Less odd, considering I was kitchen-less and at college for the last four years, plus I didn’t have a Valentine for a couple of those years. I’m not even sure if I’ll be cooking this February 14 either. But you should! If you have a significant other or a spouse or a Netflix-buddy or just a lot of hungry friends, this is the meal you should make, for Valentine’s Day ¬†or any other time you feel like cooking but not necessarily like turning your kitchen into a disaster-zone.

The roasted beet filling is very easy to make, (even a few days ahead of time) as are the ravioli themselves. They also freeze well if you don’t have time to cook before dinner.

Head over to POPSUGAR Food for the recipe!

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160

Fresh Herb Pasta

What is it about February that makes everything so bleh? Is it because the temperature outside is in single digits every day, rendering it impossible to run (or even venture) outside? Partially. Is it because Mercury is/was in retrograde? Perhaps (everyone has definitely been acting weird enough for me to believe there’s at least some truth to all this astrology stuff. Plus it is nice to have something as large as a planet to blame). Is it because we’re all just plain sick of wearing coats? I’m sure it’s¬†at least¬†somewhat responsible for¬†why everything feels off.

I guess the one good thing about the doldrums of winter¬†is that it just feels right to spend hours in the kitchen making things. There’s no warm sunshine telling me to take a walk downtown. There’s no spring¬†breeze coming through an open bedroom window tempting me to wear sundresses¬†instead of my February usual. So my hours of free time (which, honestly, have been dwindling fast- not sure how I feel about it though) have fully become about staying in pajamas and camping out in the kitchen. Chopping sweet potatoes and cauliflower and kale, stirring bowl after bowl of cookie dough, pulverizing almonds in the food processor. It is nice, but it also¬†feels like I’m biding my time.¬†For what? Not sure.¬†I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling like this, so I thought it would be good¬†to share one of the ways I’ve been coping with this endless season: pasta making. I know, I know, not everyone is as insane as I am (i.e. finding joy in rolling dough and the like), but this is actually a really cool activity! Honestly, it’s art. I haven’t experimented with colored pasta yet, but just you wait. We’ll get there, and it will be beautiful. Just FYI, you can very easily roll pasta dough without any contraptions, but it does take a bit longer to do it all by hand. That might be a good thing though! Because as we’ve already established, winter is¬† l o n g.¬†Best thing to do is eat a giant bowl of pasta with a smile on your face. Because really,¬†is it even possible to eat this particular food and feel bummed? I think not.

Pasta (makes 3-4 entree-sized servings; from My Paris Kitchen and Smitten Kitchen with a few alterations)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme, chives, and parsley, but feel free to make it your own!)
2 3/4- 3 cups all-purpose flour
large pinch kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 whole eggs, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
sprinkling of semolina or cornmeal

Whisk together 2 3/4 cups flour, herbs, salt, and pepper. Turn out on to your counter (or preferably a counter lines with parchment paper or a Silpat to control mess). Make a deep well in the center of the mixture and add the eggs. Using a fork or your fingers, mix the eggs together within the well until combined. Begin gradually mixing in some of the flour mixture from the sides of the well.

Continue incorporating the eggs with the flour, lifting up sticky bits with a bench scraper until a shaggy dough is formed. Knead the dough until quite smooth (about 1-2 minutes), adding extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, then form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Let it rest at room temperature for about an hour (ample time to make a sauce if you’re feelin’ it).

Divide the dough into sixths and sprinkle semolina or cornmeal on a large baking sheet. By hand: roll each section of dough until it reaches about the thickness of a credit card. Let it rest for about 10 minutes to firm up, then cut into desired shape! By pasta maker: Flatten it slightly, then pass through the first setting of a pasta maker. Adjust to the next setting and repeat until you reach the thickness of a credit card. Pass dough through desired pasta shape (I went Fettucini). Lay pasta on baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out too much.

If planning to eat¬†right away, cook pasta in salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil for 2-6 minutes. If you’d like to wait a bit, transfer pasta to ziplock bags with a little extra semolina and store at room temperature for a few days and increase cooking time to 6+ minutes, tasting along the way! Toss with your favorite sauce + cheese combo. I’m a major tomato sauce fiend, but actually ate this one naked with just a little pecorino, olive oil, and pepper!

 

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Black Rice Pasta Salad (V, GF)

I got really into black rice pasta this summer. What started out recipe testing for variations on Pad Thai¬†turned into so much more. The texture and flavor is different from pasta, but not in the least bit unpleasant way! Basically, it’s really rad. Obviously like normal pasta it’s extremely versatile, and can be enjoyed hot or cold, but I don’t know, there’s something about one’s pasta being roughly the color of asphalt that’s very inspiring, food-wise.¬†It leads to a great many OBD’s (see definition and subsequent rant about dinner dishes¬†here). This dish is essentially a conflation of several¬†OBD’s I planned on making over a recent weekend. I started with the idea of¬†making a¬†broccoli slaw,¬†but upon realization I was lacking in mayo and plain yogurt -and had no desire to walk to the store because it was raining, even less yearning to experiment with making my own mayo- decided I would do a mustard based slaw. Then that turned into a mustard ginger¬†soy sauce. Which led me to slice in a few carrots and sesame seeds and boom! It was delicious! But a little lacking in terms of a full meal. So the perfect compliment to the flavors all up in my slaw was obviously black rice pasta! Of which I have seven -yes, seven– packets. I’m honestly not sure how or why I have so many. I think every time I go to Whole Foods I put a package¬†or two of it in my cart, forgetting about the others I still have yet to eat. But I’m not complaining.

So backing up to making the broccoli slaw. I bought my broccoli¬†at a tiny local market in town that sources a lot of local produce. So when I opened the farmer-not-machine-plastic-wrapped vegetable and began to rinse my broccoli I noticed something in the sink that was broccoli colored, but not broccoli. It was a little green bug. Here’s something about me: I don’t like bugs. I really don’t like bugs. I don’t like bugs so much that when I see one in my room I tape my windows shut, which is probably terrible because fresh air is more important than a few critters on my wall, but as I mentioned I really don’t like bugs. So imagine my reaction to the little green¬†inchworm making its home in my vegetable. Yeah.¬†My friends convinced me that this was a good thing: that the broccoli was picked and packaged and arrived at the market so recently that the little creature managed to stay alive means it’s super fresh. That it¬†means¬†the farmer who grew the vegetable very likely doesn’t use harmful pesticides in their crops. That at the very least, it’s protein, right? Um.¬†Cut to me soaking the broccoli in salt water for a while, then spritzing it all over with¬†veggie wash, then bathing it in cold water, then hot water. I mean, it WAS $4 I wasn’t going to get back. And also I’m fairly certain if I’d run back to the market hoping for a refund¬†I would’ve gotten a “who’s this city girl upset about her garden-fresh broccoli? She probably uses a lot of hand sanitizer and eats yogurt with aspartame” kind of look. ¬†I’m not that girl, I swear! I just…prefer to get my daily protein from, y’know, beans and quinoa, not multi-legged inch-long critters. Suffice it to say, this was an ordeal (read: I live in the first world with a good dose of privilege, in case you couldn’t already tell from the fact that I write a food blog and am enrolled in college). This is an example of an ordeal in my sheltered life and probably not the best thing for me to be upset about. But anyway. I ate the broccoli and lived to tell the tale. I did not get some sort of bug-to-broccoli-to-mouth illness, and if anything, now I really¬†know how to wash a vegetable.¬†This probably means I should be a farmer when I grow up, right?

PS- if you’re not into black rice pasta/can’t find it, this salad would be just as good with soba noodles, which I’ve been able to find at most grocery stores (though they’re made from buckwheat, not rice, just so we have the facts straight)! But honestly, any noodles would work in this! Pasta rocks!

Salad (serves 1 but easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

1 bundle black rice noodles (I use these)

2 c broccoli

1/2 shallot, minced

2 carrots, peeled

Dressing

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

squeeze lime or lemon

Toasted sesame seeds

Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside. Combine the first seven ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar, give it a good shake (with the lid on!!), and set aside. Using a vegetable peeler or a mandoline slicer slice up the carrots and bottom part (stem? trunk?) of broccoli. Give the top part of the broccoli a rough chop and place in a bowl with the shallot. Add pasta and dressing, then toss everything together. Top with a squeeze of citrus and sesame seeds!

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Quick Weeknight Dinner: Zucchini and Sundried Tomato Pasta

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Emily’s back to share a delicious and easy pasta dish- a perfect one bowl dinner!¬†

Surprise! You all didn’t know that my diet extends beyond desserts/bread, did you? Recently, I surfaced from what can only be described as a 4-month pasta coma, or a semester in Italy. I was eating pasta 5 days a week at minimum and it was awesome. You could say I learned a thing or two about eating and making good pasta. What makes Italian food so good is its simplicity. Nothing is too complicated to make and the fresh ingredients really stand out. I recommend splurging a little and using high quality pasta. With so few ingredients, the pasta is not just a vehicle for sauce, but an important part of the dish. Trust me, it makes a difference. This is a quick and easy weeknight dinner, taking around 30 minutes to throw together. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Pasta

olive oil

1/2 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

4 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced into half-inch pieces

1/2 c. sundried tomatoes, sliced

1/4 t. crushed red pepper

salt

pepper

1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used spinach pappardelle)

1/2 c. grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1 t. fresh basil, julienned

Cook the pasta according to the packaging directions. You want it to be al dente, or firm to the bite. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the zucchini and sundried tomatoes. Cook until the zucchini is tender. Add the crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta directly to the pan along with the cheese and basil, using the reserved pasta water to loosen everything up. Serve with more cheese (if you think you have enough, add a little more).

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Vegetable Pad Thai 

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I love pasta, but every now and then ¬†I ¬†the people I cook for¬†get a little sick of tomato sauce (I don’t know how it’s possible. I guess my abilities to continuously eat fresh tomato sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon, saying over and over that I’m “taste testing”, is where my 1/4 Italian-ness presents itself. No complaints). Anyway, that’s when I bring out this recipe. It’s so simple, but incredibly flavorful. You may not have everything it calls for in your pantry, but I strongly recommend this changes. You’ll be wanting to make this recipe again. So go out and buy that fish sauce! It smells like old ocean but is magic in Pad Thai- don’t be afraid. Now put away your takeout menus and get cooking!

Pad Thai (makes 4-6 servings; adapted from A Beautiful Mess)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

6 tbsp. fish sauce (if you’re vegetarian omit this and add an extra tbsp. of soy sauce)

2 tbsp. soy sauce

4 tsp. ketchup 

4 tsp. worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. sesame oil

4 tsp. brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 

1 lb. fettuccini (or linguini or rice noodles or something fancy like these– you decide!)

1 red pepper, sliced very thin

4¬†broccoli heads, cut into very small “trees”

1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, sliced very thin

1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

chopped cilantro and lime (for serving)

Stir together the first eight ingredients and set aside. Cook the noodles according the directions on the box, but not for the full amount of time (they should be even more undercooked than al dente).

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, fry the bell peppers and broccoli in a splash of oil until just softened. Next, stir in the brussels sprouts and cook until for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the noodles, then pour the prepared sauce over the everything and cook an additional 5 minutes until the sauce has somewhat evaporated and the noodles are fully cooked. Add peanuts. Garnish with lime and some chopped cilantro! 

 

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ninety one

Pasta with Tomatoes and Basil

This recipe is hands down my favorite dinner. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s essentially just pasta and tomato sauce. It has a lot of complicated memories associated with it. But it’s still my favorite. The original recipe calls for the addition of cherry tomatoes in with the sauce, but as you have heard (time and time again), tomatoes aren’t really my thing. Feel free to add them if you’re a fan, it won’t disappoint!

Pasta (adapted from foodnetwork.com)

– Kosher salt

-1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for the pot

– 3 cloves minced garlic

– 2 pints small cherry tomatoes (canned or fresh)

– 1 8 oz. can plain tomato sauce

– 18 large basil leaves, julienned (or if it’s not in season/available to you, 3 tbsp. dried basil)

–¬†2 tbsp. chopped fresh curly parsley¬†(or the same amount dried)

–¬†2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves¬†(or the same amount dried)

–¬†1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

–¬†1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

–¬†3/4 pound dried capellini or spaghetti

– freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt and a splash of oil to the pot.

Heat the 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large, deep saut√© pan. Add the garlic and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, sauce, basil, parsley, thyme, pinch of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften but don’t break up. Keep the heat on low until the pasta has finished cooking, then remove from heat.

While the sauce is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the tomato sauce in the sauté pan and toss well. Serve with Parmesan.

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forty one

**mini post**

Wonton Wrapper Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli

 

I don’t know if any of you saw my homemade pasta post¬†but if you did, I’m fairly certain this was the first thought that went through your head: “Oh man, if I made this for dinner my boss/girlfriend/lover/grandmother/best friend’s brother is going to be SO impressed with me and immediately give me that promotion/rent money/diamond necklace/whathaveyou”. And I’m betting this was the second thought: “Oh….there certainly are a lot of¬†instructions¬†….perhaps I’ll make those frozen¬†mozzarella¬†sticks?” Well I feel your pain, and I am now going to get you that attention you’ve been craving with the help of pre-made magic!

I’m convinced that wonton wrappers are one of the best kept secrets. They’re sold at pretty much any grocery store and they can be used for SO MUCH MORE than wontons! You can use them as shells for sweet tarts or cups for mini-lasagna or baked plain for a new take on pita chips or crust for deep fried hand pies and more than that. They’re awesome. I’m using them here to make a simple ravioli that’s sure to please. It’s so quick and delicious. And if you’re looking to impress even further with jarred tomato sauce, you have to get this one (or any of her other jarred sauces). You won’t be disappointed.

 

Ravioli (makes about 40)

– 1 package of wonton wrappers

– 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

Р 1 shallot, diced

– 1/2 cup thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry

– 1 egg, lightly beaten

Р1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

– 1/2 tsp ground red pepper flakes

– salt and pepper

 

Combine ricotta, shallot, spinach, egg, parmesan, red pepper, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well. Set a pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper and lay the wonton wrapper out. Top each with about a tsp of ricotta filling. One by one, using your finger dipped in water, moisten the edges of the wrapper. Fold ravioli into triangles and press down edges with your finger to seal. Drop the ravioli into the water in 3 batches and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the ravioli and plate immediately with a drizzle of olive oil, parmesan, and your desired sauce OR place in a large serving dish layering oil, sauce, and parmesan with the ravioli to make a little casserole. Garnish with fresh basil if you’re feeling fancy.

 

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Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the final product- it was just too yummy!

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twenty eight

Homemade Pasta

I have a question for the blogosphere: how many times have you been sitting in your kitchen twiddling your thumbs just thinking “oh, if only I could make something extremely simple that already comes in a box into a project that lasts all afternoon?” Never, amiright? I knew it. So why would you ever want make yourself a few batches of fresh pasta? It’s sticky, it requires fancy equipment you probably don’t have, and it tastes pretty darn similar to Barilla or De Cecco or what-have-you. HOWEVER, picture this: You’ve invited a few friends over for dinner. They walk into your kitchen -where you immediately offer them a Campari or a lovely glass of wine called a “Super Tuscan”- so they’re already thinking you’re pretty great. After a few drinks and some fancy cheese you herd everyone to the dining room where they see (atop a beautifully set table) gigantic bowls of Ravioli with Chili Oil, Linguine Puttanesca, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Spaghetti Aglio Olio Peperoncino. They start to applaud; some wipe tears from their eyes! And then you humbly mention you did in fact make all this pasta yourself? Get ready to sign some autographs. Seriously.

Fresh Pasta Dough  (from 4-6 servings)

– 2 cups all-purpose flour

– Semolina flour (no specific amount needed, just make sure you have some on hand)

– 3 eggs

– 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

– 1/2 tsp. oil

– Pasta roller or a pasta roller attachment on a stand mixer (Just fyi- you can still roll pasta dough without one of these handy dandy machines by using a rolling pin. However, if this is the case I would recommend making ravioli; if you’re planning to cut¬†Linguine/Fettuccine/Spaghetti by hand it is going to be time consuming and frustrating and you will probably end up on the floor covered in flour and shaking.)

Begin with a large clean work surface. Combine the salt and the flour and then make a mound with a deep well in the middle (make sure the sides are steep). Crack the eggs into the well (if you tend to generate quite a bit of shell bits, I recommend cracking the eggs into a bowl first, fishing out the unwanted shells, then pouring eggs into the well.) Add the oil. Using a fork, begin to combine the egg/flour mountain by gradually incorporating the flour with the liquids. As the dough begins to take shape start kneading it with your hands until soft and pliable. This can take several minutes.

Divide the dough into four even sections and wrap in plastic. Set aside for 15-20 minutes. If you’re making more than one batch of pasta, now is the time to repeat the first step. Place several dishcloths on a separate table. After the time has elapsed unwrap your first section of pasta, and flatten the dough slightly with your hands until it is a thick oval disk. Begin slowly feeding it through the pasta roller on its widest setting. Repeat a few times, then fold the pasta in thirds, and continue to pass it through the widest setting until smooth again. Adjust the roller to thinner settings until the pasta is at your desired thickness (see photo 1) Helpful hint: four hands are better than two for the process: one set to feed the dough, one set to turn the crank of the roller. If rolling by hand flatten the dough into a thick oval disk with your hands, place on a floured work surface. Begin rolling with a floured rolling pin from the center outwards, constantly picking up the dough, turning it, and re-flouring if necessary to avoid sticking.

Place your rolled dough on the dishcloths (photo 2). Let sit as you complete the above steps for the remaining sections of dough. Sprinkle a decent amount of Semolina flour on several baking sheets and retrieve your first rolled dough. If using a pasta roller, select your desired pasta wideness. If using a rolling pin, see my advice at the end of the ingredients list. Begin feeding your dough through the roller. Once again, an extra pair of hands is a life saver here. Keeping your floured baking sheet close (underneath the roller if possible) crank out your pasta (photo 3) and place on baking sheets (photo 4). Repeat with all your sections of dough. Pasta should dry for a few hours and then can be cooked in boiling salted water for 2-5 minutes depending on how soft you like. Make your desired sauce. Bellissima!

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Baked Mac & Cheese w/ Tomatoes and Chorizo

Looking over recent posts, I realized that basically all I’ve been making lately seems to be dessert. While this is not at allll a bad thing, I feel like I should change it up a bit. And what better way to inch over from sweets to real food than mac and cheese? No better way! Exactly!

So here’s the scoop on this dish: obviously it has been around since pasta and cheese were served together. Macaroni (“Maccheroni” in Italian for anyone who cares) was mentioned in medieval Italian sources, and pasta/cheese casserole dishes have been recorded in cookbooks like the 14th-Century Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cooking/Cookery). That link leads to the original Latin text! Hooray culture! And now for the retro connection: although Kraft introduced their packaged mix in 1937, homemade mac and cheese casseroles made with Velveeta were a popular dinner in the 50s and 60s because it was a dish that pleased parents AND kids!¬†The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook included one of the most popular recipes for the casserole at the time! Quick warning to everyone ever- just do me a favor and never eat Velveeta. This is the ingredient list on the regular cheddar I made my recipe with: milk, salt, enzymes. And this is ingredient list on a block of Velveeta: milk, water, milk fat, whey, whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, enzymes, aginate, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, annatto, and apocarotenal. What. Yeah. Now on to the recipe!

Mac & Cheese

– Kosher salt

– Olive oil

– 1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi

– 1 qt 1% milk

– 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

– 1/2 + cup all purpose flour

– 8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

– 8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated

– 4 oz Pepper Jack cheese, grated

– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

– 1/2 large fresh tomato

– 1/4-1/3 cup diced pre-cooked hard chorizo sausage

– 1 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle a little oil and salt into a big pot of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions (about 6-8 minutes). Drain.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but do not boil. Melt 6 tbsp of the butter in a 4 qt pot and add the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, constantly stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute more, until thicker and smooth. Add the cheeses, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Add the pasta and stir well.

(If you’re seriously hungry, at this point you can nix the baking, add the tomatoes and sausage and be on your way BUT if you realllly want the best mac and cheese, please keep reading)

Pour cheesy pasta mixture into a 3-qt baking dish. Place the tomato slices and chorizo pieces on top, then melt remaining 2 tbsp of butter and mix into breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and bake for 30 minutes. Do NOT consume immediately, as it is super hot. Trust me, I burnt the crap out of my tongue. It was a bummer.  Enjoy!

Left to right layering skills: chorizo, chorizo and tomato, tomato, plain.
Everyone gets the top they want!


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