Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Who says you have to only cook burgers and steaks on the grill? This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy clams…and without the clam knife! I always use hardwood charcoal.

 

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A couple of dozen (or more) little neck clams, washed and purged
1 stick (8 oz.) of unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

 

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The clams should be stored in the fridge until ready to use…not in water, not on ice. Place the clams in a bowl and cover it with a wet dish towel.

Before cooking, I like to purge my clams to remove as much grit as possible. I fill a large bowl with cold water, add sea salt and some corn meal to it, and mix it around. Then I add the clams to this bowl and let them sit in this liquid for at least an hour. They will suck up the corn meal and spit out sand and grit. After an hour, I pour off the water/salt/meal/grit mix, and thoroughly wash the clams. Now they’re ready to grill!

I start my hardwood charcoal grill and divide it in half: coals on one side, no coals on the other.

While the coals are heating up, I grab a disposable aluminum foil tray and place it on a burner on my kitchen stovetop over medium heat. I add the butter, olive oil, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic and salt, and stir it all to combine. Once the butter has melted and everything has blended, I bring the tray over to the charcoal grill and place on the side of the grill without coals. It will stay warm.

Once the coals are hot, just place the clams directly on the grill. (Use tongs, unless you want to remove all of your knuckle hair.) They’re done as soon as they open, but you can cook them as long as you like, from raw to more thoroughly cooked. As each one reaches its desired doneness, place it carefully in the aluminum tray, making sure you don’t lose any of that precious liquid inside the clam shell. Give it a swish in the butter and herb mix.

When all the clams have been cooked and are in the tray, serve them with that herby butter sauce on top of pasta…or simply eat them with a fresh baguette. A glass of great white wine is a must.

 

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Really easy and really delicious!

When my daughter hangs out with me, I always ask her what she wants me to cook for her, and there are a few “Dad” recipes that are her favorites. This is one of them, especially when we’ve got fresh asparagus growing like crazy in the garden right now. And as any parent will tell you, if your kid is craving a dish that has vegetables in it, count yourself lucky–and make it!!
If you don’t have fresh asparagus growing in the garden, not a problem. It works well with store-bought asparagus, too. Just make sure the stalks aren’t old looking and woody. That means they’ve been traveling a long distance from the field to your store…and that’s not good.
Prepping asparagus is easy, and you don’t need a knife to cut off the woody bottoms of the stalks. Simply bend the stalks at the bottom and they will naturally snap off at the right point.
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water salted and boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Sauté the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not over cooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, sauté the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Fettuccine Alfredo are my daughter’s two favorite pasta dishes. When she couldn’t decide which one she wanted for dinner one night, I decided that she’d get both! (Yes, I spoil her rotten!)

 

 

The addition of chicken and peas made for a more balanced plate. This is now one of my go-to dishes when guests arrive, since many parts can be prepared ahead of time.

 

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Start with the chicken…

The breading for the chicken is bread that I’ve toasted, crumbled and put into a food processor to make breadcrumbs. I get a lot more flavor this way than using store-bought breadcrumbs from a can. I add flour to it to lighten it up.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, simply use GF breadcrumbs and GF all-purpose flour in the same proportions.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg, scrambled
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil, for frying

Scramble the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces, and add them to the egg, making sure they get evenly coated. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with about an inch of olive oil. Heat to medium-high, for frying.

In batches not to overcrowd the pan, take the chicken pieces out of the egg and toss them in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Place them carefully in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden. Since they’re small pieces, they should cook all the way through easily. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Do this with all the chicken and set it aside. Try not to eat it all before you make the rest of the dish! (This chicken can also be eaten as is–these are my daughter’s favorite nuggets–or used with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to make a delicious chicken parmigiana.)

 

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The carbonara factor…

Many recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara use pancetta or bacon. But the original recipe calls for guanciale: cured (but not smoked) pig jowls, or cheeks. It’s easy enough to find in a good Italian food store, but I cure my own. I buy raw heritage Berkshire pork jowls from a farm that raises the pigs humanely, and cure the jowls for about 3 weeks in a combination of salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Then I rinse them, pat them dry, and cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping them individually and freezing until I need them. It’s a lot of work, but to me, totally worth it.

3 oz. guanciale

If the guanciale is frozen, let it thaw just a little, then cut it into the smallest cubes you can manage. Place it in a pan and cook them until they’ve browned and crisped beautifully. Keep an eye on the pan, as guanciale can burn easily. Use the fried meat bits for this recipe and save the fat for flavoring a future dish! Set aside.

 

The Alfredo sauce…

Despite what you get in crappy restaurants like Olive Garden, Alfredo sauce should not be runny or soupy. It should cling to the pasta and be rich in flavor. My Alfredo sauce is based on a recipe from the legendary Italian cookbook author, Marcella Hazan.

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. pasta, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper

 

Put 2/3 of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened a bit. Turn off the heat.

Drop the pasta in a bowl of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. (Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer.) Either way, you want to cook the pasta even firmer than al dente, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately when it reaches that firm stage, and transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, tossing the pasta gently for a few seconds to coat.

 

 

Turn the heat under the saucepan with the pasta on low, and add the rest of the cream, all the Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of pepper (no salt because there’s plenty in the guanciale and cheese.) Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is well-coated.

 

At this point, you don’t want the pasta to get to dry, so you add…

1 cup of frozen peas

…tossing gently to warm them through. Also add the cooked guanciale at this time.

 

With or without chicken, it’s delicious!

 

 

Plate the pasta in a bowl or dish and serve the chicken alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m limiting my daily calorie intake on my new diet, but I’m not limiting flavor! Shrimp is a dieter’s best friend because it’s low in calories, high in protein, and delicious! A 4-ounce serving of the following recipe (without pasta) has just 224 calories!
Almost 95% of all shrimp sold in the United States comes from farmed shrimp in countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and India…as well as Latin America. The stuff you buy at the supermarket comes frozen (since shrimp is highly perishable) and then is thawed out and placed on ice to make the display look nice. But the shrimp you’re getting is not “fresh” (unless you’re lucky enough to get some wild caught local shrimp) and it’s from countries where the methods of farming are questionable at best.
Shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America is destroying mangrove forests and because of that, coastal villages as well. Disease is commonplace in shrimp farms, so they’re pumped full of antibiotics and pesticides.
Imported wild shrimp are also a problem because of bycatch. For every pound of wild shrimp caught, several pounds of other animals such as turtles die needlessly in the trawler nets.
Wild-caught American shrimp is the best way to go for your health and the environment. American shrimp fishermen are required by law to reduce bycatch. For example, they’re required to use Turtle Exclusion Devices to stop turtles from being caught in their nets.

The real deal, from CajunGrocer.com.

On top of everything else, wild-caught American shrimp tastes better. And why shouldn’t it? The shrimp are eating their natural foods found in the wild…not some pellets thrown at them that contaminate the water and the shrimp themselves.
My favorite website for wild-caught American gulf shrimp is www.cajungrocer.com. I’ve been ordering my favorite Cajun foods, like Turduckens and alligator sausage, from these people for many years, but they also sell frozen shrimp and live crawfish (in season.) But just about every supermarket in the US now sells wild-caught American shrimp. You just need to read the label.
Don’t cheat yourself, your friends or your family out of something really special. Wild-caught American gulf shrimp costs the same, supports our economy, is better for you and tastes better.
The basics of this recipe come from my friend, Lee, a retired chemist in New Jersey who also enjoys creating in the kitchen. What I found interesting about his recipe was the touch of sugar that doesn’t really add sweetness but rather helps create the light, tasty caramelized crust that forms on the shrimp when you sear it. I tweaked a few things in this recipe, but the essence of it remains the same.

Seasoned shrimp.

 

1 lb. large peeled and deveined wild-caught American shrimp
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 clove of garlic, squeezed through a press
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
Extra Virgin olive oil
Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon sugar in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mash the butter with a fork, folding in the garlic. Add the lemon juice, parsley, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half the shrimp in a single layer to the pan and cook it at high heat until it’s caramelized on one side, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp over with tongs and cook for another 30 seconds. Don’t over-cook it!
Remove the cooked shrimp to a covered bowl and similarly sear the other half of the shrimp, then return the other half of the shrimp back to the skillet. Turn down the heat to medium and add the butter/garlic/lemon/parsley/oregano/salt mixture, occasionally tossing shrimp around in the pan to evenly coat them with the glaze.
If you’re serving the shrimp over pasta, you might choose to increase the amount of butter and olive oil to just lightly coat the pasta. (But I don’t, because I’m counting every calorie!) Toss the cooked pasta into the pan of shrimp to combine.
I like to season lightly at the end with a tiny pinch of Fleur de Sel. Serve immediately.
Shrimp is the perfect food to eat on a diet: full of protein and low in calories. Here’s the total calorie countdown for the entire recipe.
Shrimp = 360 cal.
Salt & Pepper = 0 cal.
1/4 tsp. sugar = 4 cal.
4 tablespoons butter = 408 cal.
1 tablespoon olive oil = 120 cal.
1 tablespoon lemon juice = 3 cal.
parsley, oregano = negligible.
Total calories: 895 for a dish that can serve 4! (Not including the pasta, of course.)

This dish is absolutely delicious and worth the effort. Despite the fact that we first had it in the middle of summer on a vacation to the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, we always cook it around the holidays in wintertime. We don’t have access to that unusual Mediterranean lobster, but our cold water New England lobsters are a fine substitute!

Santorini gets a bad rap these days, because they’ve allowed the cruise ships to take over, and they just can’t support the massive crowds that invade this small, beautiful island every summer. Once you’ve opened the floodgates, it’s hard to suddenly turn around and tell tourists not to come. Santorini’s tourism industry drives the entire country of Greece. Sadly, it seems that many beautiful places in the world, once discovered by the masses, have to deal with this issues. (My beloved island of St. John in the USVI, is another example.)

But despite the hoards of tourists that swarm the island every summer, Santorini remains one of the most amazing places I’ve been to in my life. Having traveled there at least 4 times now, I know all the cruise ship tour bus routes and stops to avoid, and where I can still go to experience the real Santorini.

It was in one of those out-of-the-way places that we first had this dish. Taverna Giorgaros is a simple family-run restaurant that is on the road leading to the lighthouse, past the ancient ruins of Akrotiri. We’ve gone there every time we’ve visited Santorini, and only once did they have the freshly caught lobster that allowed us to enjoy this dish.

 

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

 

Love the signs!

Love the signs!

 

First, it’s absolutely important to make a good stock: the base for all the other flavors to follow.

 

Cooked lobster LTL

 

For the stock…
2 1-1/2 lb. lobsters, slightly under-cooked
12 cups water
1/2 onion, chopped into quarters
3 celery stalks, chopped into quarters
1 carrot, chopped into quarters

 

Under-cook (steam or boil, whatever your favorite method) the lobsters. (You’ll be cooking the meat again later.) Remove the lobster meat from the shells and set it aside.

Place the cleaned lobster shells, claws, tails, legs and bodies in a large pot. (You don’t want any of the internal organs or tommaley.) Crush the shells, if needed, so they fit in the pot. Add the water, onion, celery and carrot. Set the heat on high. Cook it until it’s reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce it until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

 

Pasta with lobster sauce

For the lobster sauce…
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pinch of Italian red pepper flakes
teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lobster stock
1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)
splash of dry un-oaked white wine (I use an Australian Chardonnay)
salt and pepper

 

Final ingredients…
reserved lobster meat
1/2 lb. cooked pasta

 

Add some olive oil to a large pan and sauté the onions until they’re translucent. Season them with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta and drain it before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating thoroughly. Add the reserved lobster pieces and warm them through, tossing in the sauce. Serve immediately.

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: Pour a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes in a food processor and blend. Pour the sauce into a pan and reduce it over medium heat by half, until the sauce has thickened. Use this sauce in the recipe.

Fettucini alla Bolognese is my daughter’s go-to dish when we visit one of her favorite Italian restaurants,  Il Corso, on W 55th St. in New York. But we only go there once a year, so it was about time I tried my hand at Bolognese at home. The dish isn’t difficult, but like many great dishes, it depends on the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on.

Much like meat loaf, I like to use a combination of ground beef, ground veal and ground pork. But I don’t sweat it too much if I don’t have all three, substituting a little more of one or the other, depending on what’s in my freezer at the time.

I use humanely raised grass-fed ground veal that I get down the road from a local dairy farm: Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI. I use ground Berkshire pork, full of “good fat.” And I use grass-fed beef from local farms. Guanciale, a cured pork product that comes from the cheek (jowl) of the pig, is something that I prepare myself. I buy the Berkshire pork jowls raw and cure them at home. (That’s another blog!) If you can’t get your hands on guanciale, a nice slab of bacon will do the trick.

The rest of the ingredients are organic, when available.

This recipe probably feeds a dozen people. I make a lot at once because it takes time to put it together and let it cook on the stove, and it freezes really well. I place leftovers in tightly sealed single-portion containers in the freezer and then re-heat them when my daughter gets the craving, adding it to freshly cooked pasta.

How much pasta you make with this dish depends on how many people you’re going to serve.

 

 

 

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped guanciale or bacon
1 lb. ground veal, 1 lb. ground pork, 1 lb. beef (or any combination to make 3 lbs.)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, squeezed through a garlic press or thinly sliced
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
6 cups ground tomatoes
2 cups whole milk
2 cups white wine (I use an un-oaked Australian chardonnay, like Yellow Tail)
salt and pepper
pasta, cooked (regular or gluten-free )
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Place the olive oil and butter in a large sauce pan with a heavy bottom over high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the guanciale or bacon, letting the fat render out. When it’s almost brown, add the veal, pork, and beef, stirring constantly. Make sure the meat is broken down into small pieces and completely browned.

Add the finely chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring well. Sweat the veggies for a few minutes, letting them get nice and soft.

Add the tomato paste, the ground tomatoes, milk and wine, stirring well. Allowing it to come to a boil will activate the tomato paste’s thickening power. Let it boil for a minute, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for at least 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Add the ingredients one step at a time until the sauce comes together: 1) guanciale, 2) meat, 3) veggies), 4) tomatoes.

 

You don’t want the sauce to be runny, and you definitely want to give it enough time on the stove top for the flavors to blend and for the alcohol in the wine to evaporate.

Carefully give the sauce a taste, and season it with salt and pepper.

Traditionally, ragu Bolognese is served by placing a part of the cooked pasta in a pan, and adding just enough sauce to have it cling to, not drip from, the pasta. It’s not soup!

Top it with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

 

 

 

Although we’re about as far away from picking fresh asparagus from my garden as we can be here in Southern New England, once in awhile I give in and buy some at the supermarket. As long as the stalks are nice, green, and thin–I don’t like the fat ones–I’ll buy some to prepare this simple but delicious recipe.
Prepping asparagus is easy, and you don’t need a knife to cut off the woody bottoms of the stalks. Simply bend the stalks at the bottom and they will naturally snap off at the right point.
My daughter loves this dish, and as any parent will tell you, if your kid is craving a dish that has vegetables in it, count yourself lucky–and make it!!
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Sauté the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not over cooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, sauté the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.

 

I love the combination of tomato sauce and feta, and this dish, served over some pasta, will have you licking the plate.

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8 oz. (or more!) feta cheese
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, ground into sauce
1 lb. (about 24) wild-caught American shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh dill
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon Ouzo
salt and pepper

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place them in a bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over them and toss to mix. Open the can of tomatoes and puree it in a food processor.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onions until they’re translucent and then add the garlic. Sauté the garlic for 10 seconds, until fragrant, then add the red pepper flakes, dill and oregano. Add the tomato sauce, and cook over medium heat until the sauce has reduced a bit and isn’t watery. Add the Ouzo carefully–keep away from open flame! Add salt and pepper to taste.

Line a sheet pan with foil and pour a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Lay the shrimp down in one layer on the sauce, and then cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce. Crumble the feta cheese with your fingers and sprinkle it all over the top.

Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until the shrimp has cooked through and it’s nice and bubbly. Serve over pasta or with a side of your favorite veggies.

Although my daughter goes crazy for my Ragu Bolognese, pasta with meat sauce is one of the easiest things to make, with ingredients you probably have in your home. This sauce is really rich with flavor, and once you put all the ingredients together, it requires nothing more from you than an occasional stir every now and then.

 

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1/4 cup olive oil
3 strips bacon, finely chopped, raw or pre-cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 lbs. ground beef (I use grass-fed beef)
2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1 small can (6 oz.)  tomato paste

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In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the bacon. Once the bacon is sizzling, add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic salt and mix. Add the ground beef and cook until it has browned.

Pour the 2 cans of whole tomatoes into a food processor and blend until chunky…or go the old-fashioned route and simply squeeze the tomatoes with your hands, breaking them up. Pour the contents of both cans into the pot and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the orange tomato foam disappears.

Add the oregano, basil and parsley and stir. Add the salt and pepper and stir. Add the anise seed and fennel seed and stir. Throw in the 2 bay leaves and stir. (I think you get the idea, there’s a lot of stirring going on!)

When the sauce starts to boil, add the tomato paste and stir well. Let it come up to a boil again–the paste thickens best at high heat–then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pot.

Let the sauce simmer on low heat for several hours. Whenever you walk by, give the sauce a good stir.

Serve the sauce over pasta, with some grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

 

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Easter Sunday nightmare at the airport: my wife is stuck in Florida, and it looks like she won’t be home until after midnight. So, our Sunday brunch as a family will have to wait until another time.

My daughter just got back from a little vacation of her own yesterday, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to cook whatever she wanted. (I already knew it was going to be this dish!)

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Fettuccine Alfredo are my daughter’s two favorite pasta dishes. When she couldn’t decide which one she wanted for dinner one night, I decided that she’d get both! (Yes, I spoil her rotten!)

The addition of chicken and peas made for a more balanced plate. This is now one of my go-to dishes when guests arrive, since many parts can be prepared ahead of time. And the gluten-free version tastes as good the original!

 

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Start with the chicken…

The breading for the chicken uses gluten-free bread that I’ve toasted, crumbled and put into a food processor to make breadcrumbs. (I use Udi’s frozen GF bread, found in any supermarket.) I get a lot more flavor this way than using store-bought breadcrumbs from a can. I add gluten-free flour to it to lighten it up. Cup4Cup is by far the best GF flour I’ve tried.

If you’re not on a gluten-free diet, simply use regular breadcrumbs and all-purpose flour in the same proportions.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg, scrambled
1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil, for frying

Scramble the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces, and add them to the egg, making sure they get evenly coated. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with about an inch of olive oil. Heat to medium-high, for frying.

In batches not to overcrowd the pan, take the chicken pieces out of the egg and toss them in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Place them carefully in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden. Since they’re small pieces, they should cook all the way through easily. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Do this with all the chicken and set it aside. Try not to eat it all before you make the rest of the dish! (This chicken can also be eaten as is–these are my daughter’s favorite nuggets–or used with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to make a delicious chicken parmigiana.)

 

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The carbonara factor…

Many recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara use pancetta or bacon. But the original recipe calls for guanciale: cured (but not smoked) pig jowls, or cheeks. It’s easy enough to find in a good Italian food store, but I cure my own. I buy raw heritage Berkshire pork jowls from a farm that raises the pigs humanely, and cure the jowls for about 3 weeks in a combination of salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Then I rinse them, pat them dry, and cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping them individually and freezing until I need them. It’s a lot of work, but to me, totally worth it.

3 oz. guanciale

If the guanciale is frozen, let it thaw just a little, then cut it into the smallest cubes you can manage. Place it in a pan and cook them until they’ve browned and crisped beautifully. Keep an eye on the pan, as guanciale can burn easily. Use the fried meat bits for this recipe and save the fat for flavoring a future dish! Set aside.

 

The Alfredo sauce…

Despite what you get in crappy restaurants like Olive Garden, Alfredo sauce should not be runny or soupy. It should cling to the pasta and be rich in flavor. When making this dish gluten-free, I use Garofalo gluten-free pasta exclusively, because it tastes just like real pasta. (Believe me, I’ve tried every GF pasta out there.) I buy mass quantities at Amazon.

If you’re not on a GF diet, simply use your favorite regular pasta.

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. pasta, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper

 

Put 2/3 of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened a bit. Turn off the heat.

Drop the pasta in a bowl of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. (Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer.) Either way, you want to cook the pasta even firmer than al dente, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately when it reaches that firm stage, and transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, tossing the pasta gently for a few seconds to coat.

Turn the heat under the saucepan with the pasta on low, and add the rest of the cream, all the Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of pepper (no salt because there’s plenty in the guanciale and cheese.) Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is well-coated.

 

At this point, you don’t want the pasta to get to dry, so you add…

1 cup of frozen peas

…tossing gently to warm them through. Also add the cooked guanciale at this time.

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Plate the pasta in a bowl or dish and serve the chicken alongside.