Spaghetti aglio e olio — Every man needs to know how to make this

During our daily morning meeting today, I mentioned that it is World Pasta Day. Upon doing so, one of my co-workers said that she had made the most fantastic pasta last night that was really light and simple, and tasted so good. She said it only had 5 ingredients. Right away I knew she was talking about spaghetti aglio e olio; spaghetti with garlic and oil.

This recipe is very easy. Every man, especially a young bachelor, needs to have this recipe in his recipe repertoire. As long as he doesn’t burn the boiling water, he is sure to impress a young lady with his cooking skills.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in the oil until the garlic begins to brown. Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to over-brown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is done, drain, return to the pan, and drizzle the oil mixture over the spaghetti. Stir until evenly combined. Sprinkle the grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on top and serve.

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Lobster Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

I understand that making your own ravioli isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but when you get home at 7:00 pm and you’re hungry, you certainly don’t have the time to make it. Times like these call for a little cheating. Target sells a brand of good refrigerated pastas called Pasta Prima. It bills itself as 100% natural and their website extols their green energy production; both admirable qualities.

A tip on boiling your stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini: do not boil it hard. Bring your water to a boil, add the pasta, and when it begins a gentle boil, turn the heat down to maintain the gentle boil and not a rolling boil. This is also the time to begin timing the cook time. A refrigerated or fresh pasta should only need about four or five minutes of boiling. Also scoop your stuffed pastas out of the water rather than pouring into a colander to drain. This helps prevent splitting any of the ravioli open.

Here is what I did for tonight’s dinner.

Ingredients

2 8oz packages of refrigerated lobster ravioli
1 14.5oz can roasted, diced tomatoes with garlic
½ Cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ cup reserved water from ravioli plus any lobster filling that may have come out of ravioli

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add ravioli and reduce heat to sustain a gentle boil. Meanwhile, in a skillet, simmer can of tomatoes and cayenne pepper about five minutes. Add cream and simmer until sauce begins to thicken; about 10 minutes. When ravioli is cooked, scoop out ravioli and drain with a pasta ladle. Reserve about a quarter cup of pasta water. Carefully pour out remaining water so any bits of lobster that have come out of the ravioli remain in the pan. Add any of the loose lobster to the sauce and then add back enough of the reserved pasta water as needed to make a smooth, creamy sauce.

It’s National Lasagna Day!

Sure it’s the end of July. It’s hot and humid. What better time to heat up the oven and kitchen with a pan of lasagna. But by the time the dish is finished cooking, the house will be filled with unbearable goodness and you’ll be more than ready to enjoy a big piece of lasagna. I’m sure of it.

Ingredients

1 lb. Italian sausage (casings removed)
1 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can tomatoes (Italian Seasoned)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 t dried basil crushed
1 t dried oregano crushed
¼ t Fresh ground pepper
6 dried lasagna noodles
1 egg beaten
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
3 T fresh parsley
1lb sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

For Sauce: Cook sausage in large saucepan along with onion and garlic until sausage is no longer pink. Drain fat if needed. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile: Cook noodles for 10 to 12 minutes or till tender but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

For Filling: combine egg, ricotta cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Layer half the cooked noodles in a two quart rectangular baking dish. Spread with half of the filling. Top with half the meat sauce and half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Sprinkle top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake in 375° oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 – 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Spaghetti con Gamberi (Spaghetti With Shrimp)

Seafood plays an important part in the Italian diet; especially in the southern regions. Here is a simple, quick recipe that uses shrimp but can also use langoustines which is a small lobster. It also contains yaki nori which is a roasted seaweed that most people will recognize from sushi. When you first taste this dish you are greeted with a sweetness coming from the cherry tomatoes which is then replaces with a bit of spiciness.

Ingredients

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
11/2 cups dry white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
10 oz. spaghetti
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 sheet yaki nori (roasted seaweed), cut in slivers; optional
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Heat ¼ cup oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, chile flakes, and garlic; cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add wine; cook until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add shrimp; cook, turning once, until just pink, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and add pasta to skillet along with cooking water, remaining oil, parsley, nori, and juice; cook, tossing, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara is another dish who’s origin is quite muddled. One story has the dish originating with Italian coal miners. There may be some truth as the Italian word carbonara means coal burner. Another story says the dish originated during World War II when the Italian people were given bacon and eggs from the US soldiers. This story holds merit as the recipe doesn’t appear in Italian cookbooks until after WWII.

Regardless of origin, this dish is one you will want to make again and again.

Ingredients

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta cut into ½” pieces
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

Instructions

Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale or pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Blend together the egg and yolks with 1 and ½ cup of Parmesan; set aside. Transfer guanciale/pancetta  mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly, you do not want the oil to begin cooking the eggs; add the Parmesan and egg and yolks mixture and stir to combine; set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup water; drain pasta and transfer it to guanciale mixture. Toss, adding pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. (You may not need the whole cup of water.) Season with salt and pepper; serve with remaining Parmesan.

A Different Flavor of Pesto — Linguine with Walnut Pesto

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Most people think of a green sauce made primarily of basil when they hear the term pesto. Pesto is a generic Italian term for anything that is made by pounding and hence pesto can be made from a wide variety of base ingredients. Another favorite of mine that I may have to blog about at a later date is red pesto made with a base of sun-dried tomatoes. Here is a very simple, very tasty pesto made with a base of walnuts.

Ingredients

½ cup walnut pieces
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp walnut oil (or extra-virgin olive oil if walnut oil is not available)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup whole cow’s milk ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb dried linguine

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

While the water is heating, put the walnuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor and process to a coarse paste. With the motor running, dribble in the olive oil and walnut oil and process just until combined. Transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the parsley, Parmigiano, and ricotta. Add a few grinds of pepper and stir the mixture until it is well combined and creamy.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and spoon in about three-fourths of the pesto. Add a little of the cooking water and toss until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.

Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls, top with a dollop of remaining pesto and sprinkle a little Parmigiano and black pepper over each serving. Serve immediately.

Not your mother’s eggplant Parmesan

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I remember the first time I ever had eggplant. It was at my Aunt Bertha’s. I was probably about seven at the time and I really wasn’t too impressed with the idea of eating this purple oblong thing. That is until I tried it. It was surprisingly good.

Tonight I made Eggplant Parmesan; a ubiquitous use of eggplant. It was a toss-up between that or ratatouille and I figured the former would be a little more successful.

Susan claims this was the best eggplant Parmesan she has ever eaten.

Here is what I did:

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded provolone cheese

Directions

1. BREAD EGGPLANT. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of each eggplant and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice. Place flour in shallow dish. Beat eggs in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes.

2. COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.

4. ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. You may also serve with a thin spaghetti. If you do, plate spaghetti and then top with sauce, eggplant slices and remaining sauce.