Posts tagged with Italian:

Pecorino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie

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The past couple of weeks we have found ourselves up to our ears in unpacking since having moved into our new home in San Luis Obispo’s downtown on November 24th. 
It is a labor of love seeing for the first time in a long time so many of our possessions.  Uncovering  my dishes, utensils, cookware, small appliances, vases, flower pots, etc. is like being reunited with an old friend after a long separation.
Our new kitchen has a hard act to follow since as you know I loved my former remodeled kitchen dearly.
Leaving it was equivalent to leaving a very old friend with whom I spent countless hours happily cooking, baking and creating. 
So now I have another beautiful kitchen, a bit larger and a different layout with high ceilings and  lots of windows (which I love) in a totally different setting. 
It will take some time I’m sure for us to become as good friends, but with each dish I prepare I know I will be one step closer.
Two days ago I cooked Ina’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti, a favorite recipe.
I realized I didn’t have any Pecorino Romano ( which goes into the meatballs as well as freshly grated on top of the sauce ) just abut the same time that my husband phoned on his way home to see if I needed anything.
Coincidentally he was just checking out a new little cheese shop in our wonderful downtown.  It was my lucky day!  He brought me home some delicious imported Pecroino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie which only opened a couple of weeks ago.
We stopped by yesterday on our way back from the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market and I got a chance to check out Sophie’s cheese shop myself.  I told them that I loved the Pecorino Romano and that I am in the neighborhood and they will be seeing a lot more of me!

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese at a Deli in Shell Beach

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A couple days ago we went to Shell Beach, just 15 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, this lovely area is popular for fishing and kayaking.

You can sit on a park bench and look out at the expansive ocean, explore the sandy beaches and coves or dine outdoors with a picnic basket or a take-out sandwich.

And speaking of take-out sandwiches, my husband and I shared a delicious large meatball sandwich and some antipasto from a deli there.

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But my real reason for finding this deli goes back to my first trip to San Luis Obispo when we first began thinking seriously of moving here.

While exploring SLO’s charming downtown for the first time a couple of years ago we wandered into an olive oil shop.  We sampled a selection of olive oils and ordered some to ship back home to Maryland.

While chatting with one of the salespersons there about how delicious fresh mozzarella cheese is drizzled with really good olive oil, he told us of an older, retired pediatrician who makes his own mozzarella cheese early every morning and sells it out of an Italian deli in Shell Beach.

I, of course, wanted to find it immediately, but we ran out of time since we were due back in LA, and were hoping to avoid traffic.

On subsequent visits to SLO we still hadn’t made it there.

Now that we are here, and staying in the hotel we have plenty of time to explore the area so lunch at Shell Beach was on today’s agenda.

We found the DePalo and Sons Deli where the famous fresh made mozzarella cheese is sold.

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I brought it back to our hotel, picked up some other items on our way home at what will become “my Trader Joe’s,” and along with a couple of complementary drinks from our hotel’s daily happy hour, I set up a nice little happy hour of our own in our room.  Actually, it was our dinner.

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I was told the mozzarella should sit out for the first 24 hours and it is best to eat it the first day.  But, it will last up to 5 days in the fridge.  It really is so good!

The story of Dr. Louis M. Tedone who, at 90 years old, still handcrafts these balls of fresh mozzarella daily for the deli is even better… Here’s a glimpse of his work…

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses

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With spring on the horizon there still remain enough wintry days to cook up some one dish meals such as this Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses.

Soon we will be  turning our thoughts to all the great grilling possibilities, and endless salads and such that will be heralded by the opening of the farm stands everywhere.

Until then consider making this delicious baked rigatoni dish which is great for feeding a crowd ( just make several) or a family dinner (with leftovers for lunch the next day).

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses

(The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes)

 serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the baking dish

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces

1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces

1/2 cup red wine

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 cup soffrito (see recipe in Giusi’s Ragu post)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

1 pound rigatoni

1 cup (8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta

8 ounces Fontina or Taleggio, cubed

8 ounces mozzarella, cubed

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Pecorino Romano)

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted (I used Panko breadcrumbs)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring the pasta water to a boil and add salt.

Ina large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up as it browns, about 5 minutes. 

Add the wine, turn the heat up to boil, and cook until much of the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.

Add the oregano, soffrito, seasonings, and tomatoes along with their juices.

Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes, or until thick and savory.

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Cook the rigatoni a minute less than the time required on the package (since it will continue cooking in the oven), then drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.

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In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the fontina and a splash of the pasta water,

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then add the drained rigatoni and continue mixing. 

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Add the sausage mixture and mozzarella, tossing to mix well. 

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Oil a 9x13-inch baking dish, and then pour in the pasta.  Sprinkle the Parmigiano and breadcrumbs on top.  Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden flecked and hot.

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Pappardelle with Porcini and Garlic

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This is a delicious quick dish for any night of the week or for guests.  I’ve been making it for years.  Although the recipe suggests porcini and pappardelle almost any kind of mushrooms and most pastas will do.

You can’t miss with this classic blend of sauteed mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan or my favorite Pecorino Romano.  Enjoy!

Papardelle with Porcini and Garlic

(adapted from Pasta, Food and Wine Books)

Serves 4

3/4 pound pappardelle pasta

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound porcini or other wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used a combination of shitake and cremini this time)

5 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

3/4 cup chicken stock, or low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

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In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pappardelle until just done, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over moderately high heat. 

Add half of the mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.  Cook stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms and if you want discard the garlic.  I prefer to leave it in.

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 Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the stock, butter and parsley.  Simmer over moderate heat for 1 minute.

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Drain the pasta.  Toss with the mushroom sauce and and the Parmesan or Pecorino.  Serve with additional grated cheese and cracked pepper.

Giusi’s Ragu

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I’ve really been enjoying The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes this past week.  So far I’ve posted the Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes  recipe which includes the Roasted Tomato recipe.

Now I’m sharing with you Giusi’s Ragu.  Giusi is one of the authors’ close friends whom they met early in their move to the Tuscan countryside, and who, like the others, has  shared passed-down, hallowed recipes each with their own creative touch.   To quote the author…

Slow and easy-long-simmered ragu is the quintessential Tuscan soul food. There are as many ways with ragu as there are cooks. This is ours, learned originally from Guisi, who’s made it a thousand times.  By now, I think we have, too.  On many Saturday mornings, Ed makes a huge pot of ragu-tripling, quadrupling the recipe-and another of tomato sauce.  We consider these our natural resources. For lunch, while the pots are still on the stove, we spoon ragu over bruschetta, add some cheese, and run it under the broiler.  By  afternoon, we’re ready to fill several glass containers of different sizes and freeze them.  We’re then free to pull out one during the workweek.

Serve ragu in lasagne or over spaghetti and, as you eat, you know you’re participating in a communal rite that’s being enacted all over the Italian peninsula.

Now for the ragu

Giusi’s Ragu

(serves 10)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound ground lean beef

1 pound ground pork

2 Italian sausages, casings removed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 to 2 cups red wine

1 cup soffritto (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart heavy pot with a lid.  Over medium-high heat, brown the meats, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. 

Add the salt„ pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine.  After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.

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Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer.  Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then.  Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense.

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Soffritto

A quick saute of carrot, onion, celery and flat-leaf parsley starts off many sauces and meats.  It is similar to mirepoix in France.  Depending on the recipe, you can add a variety of other ingredients to the soffritto:  2 minced cloves of garlic, 4 or 5 torn basil leaves, or other aromatic herbs. 

Use this in ragu or soup and  as a seasoning for zucchini, peas, or other vegetables.  Mix some with breadcrumbs and stuff tomatoes with it.  Add a cup of chopped, oven-roasted tomatoes to a soffritto, and you have a perfect sauce for spaghetti.

For a quick dinner, make a big batch ahead of time and freeze in 1/2 cup portions for you to grab for your recipe.

The following makes 1 cup of soffritto

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, minced

1 carrot, minced

1 celery stalk, minced

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

(You can mince by hand or in a food processor)

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Saute the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

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Proceed with your recipe, or cool and freeze.




Easy Pizza with Roasted Tomato Sauce

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Remember that Roasted Tomato recipe featured in the previous post for Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes …here’s another delicious way to use it other than as a topping for bruschette, in a frittata or risotto.  Use it as a topping on a quick pizza.

Yesterday I found I had some whole wheat pitas (from Trader Joe’s, I think) in my freezer.

I pulled them out, and with  a drizzle of olive oil on both sides of the pita I placed them on a baking sheet, smeared them with some left-over roasted tomatoes, added some sauteed mushrooms, some shredded mozzarella cheese, a sprinkling of dried oregano, and popped them in a preheated 375 degree oven on an upper rack for about 6 to 7 minutes til the cheese was melted and the pita was toasted.

Delicious!  And fairly healthy with that whole wheat pita! 

You will notice there’s one in the photo without any tomato sauce.  While my husband would never eat a slice of pizza without tomato sauce, I love it both ways.  So for this one I added some grated Pecorino Romano to the mozzarella, and threw on some pitted Calamata olives along with the mushrooms.  Yum!

The combinations are endless, but please do make some with those flavorful roasted tomatoes!  You won’t be sorry!

Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes

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Much has happened this past week.  Last Friday our home officially went on the market.

Beginning then and through the weekend we had realtors bringing clients to show the house which meant my husband and I were “out of here”…prospective home buyers don’t feel comfortable looking at the house with the home owner within earshot, so we found ourselves having breakfast, lunch and dinner out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…and killing a lot of time. A movie in between meals, a trip to Georgetown window shopping in between meals, having coffee in between meals, etc., and all the time wondering what was going on at home.

To say we were excited, nervous, crazed is an understatement.  I pride myself in keeping a very clean, orderly home, but the pressure of having everything perfect for whomever walks through our door knowing they will be looking in every nook and cranny is challenging to say the least!

Will that tulip which is drooping or the wrinkle in the pillow case put the kabosh on a possible sale… did we remember to put every single light in the entire house on before we left..and if we did will a bulb burn out while we’re away…did I empty the coffee grinds from the coffee maker… if yes, did the trash with the coffee grinds in it get taken out…  did my husband forget to put his slippers away since he is no longer allowed to wear shoes in the house??? You get the picture…

So you can imagine how shocked, thrilled and elated we were to find out on Sunday evening we had a couple of offers, and by Monday we had a signed contract!!!

And by Tuesday we didn’t have to eat breakfast out! 

Today I was really looking forward to making a nice dinner for the first time in a while. Last week there wasn’t a whole lot of cooking going on.

So for dinner tonight I made a recipe from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, a holiday gift from my son and his girlfriend.

Written by  Frances Mayes’s (the best-selling author of memoirs about Tuscany ), and her husband Edward Mayes, this is her first-ever cookbook.  In it she and her husband share recipes they have enjoyed over the years as honorary Tuscans: dishes prepared in a simple, traditional kitchen using robust, honest ingredients.

Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes (serves 4)

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, dredged in about 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup mixed black and green olives, pitted

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup chopped oven-roasted tomatoes (recipe below) (Make in advance)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces, 2 minutes on each side. 

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Season with the salt and pepper.  Add the wine, raise the heat to high for 1 minute, and then transfer everything to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix the olives, parsley, and tomatoes, and pour this over the chicken.

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Bake uncovered for  30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, turning the chicken once.

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I spooned some of  the sauce from the chicken over spaghetti as a side dish.

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Roasted Tomato (The Tuscan Sun Cookbook)

…In summer, the trio of chopped, luscious tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh herbs, sings the national anthem.

In winter, canned or boxed tomatoes attain a new depth of flavor during a long nap in the oven.  The plump little darlings garnish a roast or chopped, wake up a last-minute risotto or frittata.

If you want heat, scatter a tablespoon of peperoncini, red pepper flakes, over the tomatoes while cooking.

Ingredients

60 or so cherry tomatoes, halved, stem ends trimmed; or 25 medium tomatoes, quartered; or 3 28-ounce cans San Marzano plum tomatoes, drained, cut into quarters.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons dried

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons dried

3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons dried

5 garlic cloves, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

 Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a parchment-lined 12 by 16-inch sheet pan.  Drizzle the olive oil over them, scatter the herbs and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 2 hours, turning the tomatoes once.

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Coarsely chop the tomatoes for bruschette,or simply press a tomato onto each crostino.

Leftover tomatoes can be packed into jars, topped with olive oil, and stored in the fridge for a week.




Chicken Milanese

Last evening I  satisfied a craving I’ve had for fried chicken with a much lighter meal of Chicken Milanese.

Milanesa refers to a lightly pounded beef or chicken fillet that has been gently dredged in flour, dipped in egg, and then dredged again in breadcrumbs before sauteeing to a golden crispness.  This is a popular preparation in many Latin American countries as well as Italy, Mexico and the U.S., lending itself to many varied dishes.

To streamline the breading process which is an important step in making this dish  I offer the following advice…

Set up a standard breading procedure in 3 wide deep plates.  I like to use pyrex 10 inch glass pie pans. Fill 1 with flour, 1 with the beaten eggs, and 1 with the panko and grated cheese. Season the chicken breasts with salt. Using one hand for dry things and 1 hand for wet things, take each piece of chicken through the breading procedure: dredge lightly in the flour, then the egg wash and then through the bread crumbs. Lay the breaded chicken on a sheet tray and refrigerate for about an hour if time allows.

Chicken Milanese (adapted from Parmesan Chicken, Ina Garten)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

1 cup flour (I used white rice flour because it crisps so well)

2 large or extra large eggs, beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon of water

1 and 1/2 cups of panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus additional for serving

Unsalted butter

Extra Virgin olive oil for frying

Salad greens and sliced cucumbers for 4   (your choice of greens, but a mesclun mix or arugula would be great…I had romaine so I went with it…cucumbers are optional)

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Pound the chicken breasts with a smooth mallet between 2 sheets of waxed paper on a cutting board.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in one dish or pie plate.

Beat eggs lightly with 1 tablespoon water in second dish.

Combine panko crumbs and grated cheese in third dish.

Coat chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into egg mixture letting the excess drip off before dredging both sides in panko mixture, pressing lightly.  Refrigerate if time allows.

When ready to cook, heat 1-2 tablespoons of butter and enough oil to to cover 1/2 inch in a large saute pan.

Cook  2 fillets at a time on medium-low to medium for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until crisp and cooked through.  The pan should sizzle when you add the chicken if it is at the right temperature.  Do not allow the butter to burn.  If need be, wipe pan clean with a paper towel before continuing with the next batch.

Toss the salad greens with the Lemon Vinaigrette.

Mound salad on top of hot chicken breast and serve with extra cheese.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper.  Pour enough of the dressing on the greens to moisten.  Toss well and check for seasoning.

Caponata

Colorful food and holiday parties…they seem to go hand in hand.  At this  time of the year many of us are either giving or going to holiday parties, or doing both.

Occasionally the participants of my aerobics dance class get together after class at each others’ homes to snack and socialize.

Yesterday I had  invited everyone to my home for what’s becoming my annual aerobics class holiday party.  Last year I served potato latkes for lunch, along with chili.  This year I served pulled BBQ Brisket sandwiches along with the latkes. And always homemade applesauce to accompany the potato pancakes.

The entree as well as the appetizers and desserts have to be dishes that can be prepared well ahead since I literally leave class a little early to welcome the rest about 20 minutes later.  ( I don’t live far from the community center where our class is).

Among the appetizers this year was an old stand-by of mine which I’ve adapted from a recipe called Everyday Caponata from Giada De Laurentiis.  I’ve made a few changes, substituting zucchini and yellow summer squash for the eggplant. Sometimes I include the eggplant as well.  I’ve also added some olives.

This caponata, with its wonderful sweet-and-sour taste,  is a traditional Sicilian vegetable dish which can be served as a relish along with chicken, pork or fish, as part of an antipasto, spooned on toasted bread or crackers, or used as a topping on sandwiches. 

It can be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature, making it the ultimate vegetable dish for a casual party.

Caponata (adapted from Everyday Caponata by Giada De Laurentiis)

(6 side-dish servings or 12-14 appetizer servings)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1-2 celery stalks,chopped

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 (14 and 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices

3 tablespoons raisins

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

4 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon drained capers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup small Spanish olives or your choice, preferably pitted

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame.  Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the zucchini and yellow squash (and eggplant, if using), and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. 

Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano.  Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes.  

Stir in the vinegar, sugar, capers, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and serve on a platter surrounded by assorted crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Penne With Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes and Sausage

Pasta, I’ve missed you!  It’s  a few weeks since Thanksgiving, my husband and I have worked through the left-overs and I’ve even reinvented some of them, turning the turkey carcass into turkey vegetable soup, and the mashed potatoes into fried potato cakes.

I guess this is proof that it is possible to get your fill of stuffing, potatoes, and gravy if you put enough effort into it.  Which I did.

And what I was really craving last week was a simple plate of pasta.

So, a simple pasta was called for…one that required little cooking time and on hand ingredients, since I’ve been cutting back on my kitchen hours (I’m a wee bit tired), and taking a much needed break from trips to the store (for me and my wallet).

In rummaging through the pantry and freezer I found I had the makings for this classic combination of Penne With Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes, and Sausage.

Before long I know I will be re-energized with thoughts of the holiday season….the first night of Hannukah is only two weeks away..so latkes, cookies, jelly doughnuts and other delicious foods fried in oil cannot be far behind. 

But for now…let’s just enjoy a simple plate of pasta!

Penne With Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes and Sausage

( adapted from Pasta by Food and Wine Books)

Serves 4

2 red bell peppers (I used some long sweet red peppers as well)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound mild or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices

( I used a natural brand with no preservatives)

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

3 and 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (28-ounce can), drained and chopped

(I substituted 2 -14ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained and chopped,  because I was out of the 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 pound penne

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Fresh Italian parsley or basil for garnish

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1.  Roast the peppers over an open flame, or broil 4 inches from the heat, turning with tongs as each side blisters and blackens, about 10 minutes in all.

When cool enough to handle, pull off the skin.  Remove the stems, seeds, and ribs.  Cut the peppers into 1/2-inch dice.  Reserve any liquid from the peppers.

2.  In a large fryhing pan, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and salt.

Cook over moderately high heat for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the roasted peppers with any juice.

3.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done.  Drain.  Return the pasta to the hotpot.  Add the sausage mixture with the black pepper and toss.  Sprinkle chopped parsley on top or garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.   Serve with the grated cheese, and more pepper.