Tag Archives: easy pasta dishes

Pasta e piselli (Pasta with Ham and Peas)

9 Nov

These Northeastern storms (Sandy and the nor-easter) have brought out the darker side of humor in many of us, as in “What next: plagues of locusts? Frogs?”

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seem to have taken a liking to New York and environs; they are galloping through with thundering hooves and much of it is pretty horrible. Mind you, we are doing fine at my house, now that the power is back and school has started  – in fits and starts, actually, as sudden power outages have closed us down a few times. We are lucky!

Easy-peasy ham and peas….

But we are striving for normalcy and for me normal is blogging about food. Continue reading

Spaghetti a la Carbonara (or bacon and eggs Italian-style!)

15 Feb

Nowhere does it say that Hot, Cheap & Easy means low-fat, low-carb or low-cholesterol. As it happens, a lot of what I prepare and eat is on the lighter, greener, and grainier side, but I am never averse to bacon and eggs; in fact, sometimes I feel that they are the only possible answer.

Bacon and eggs for dinner? Yeah.

Bacon and eggs and pasta for dinner? Double yeah.

Bacon and eggs and pasta and cheese for dinner? Bring It On.

Thus spaghetti alla carbonara, a dish from Rome that  shows once again, no matter the state of their government, economy or traffic, no one can as consistently make as many people happy with food as effortlessly as the Italians.

Leandro and I threw this dish together in less than 20 minutes. He is getting very handy with the egg-cracking and beating and whether it was pride in his own handiwork, or just the ineffable joy of bacon grease and cheese, he made short work of two heaping bowls of it. We will be doing this on our next camping trip; I may try to make it a one-pot affair and will keep you posted!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

1-2 Tbs olive oil

1-2 Tbs butter

4 oz bacon (about four rashers), or pancetta if you’ve got, cut into ¼ inch squares

1 lb spaghetti or other long pasta

4-5 fresh eggs*, well beaten

½ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or, more typically Roman: Pecorino

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet; add the bacon and sauté until golden and crisping up. Remove from fat and drain on paper towels.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Make sure you have the next step completed before that pasta is cooked so the pasta is piping hot when you turn it into the bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, beat the eggs, ¼ Cup of the grated cheese, and pepper in a large serving bowl. As soon as you drain the pasta, turn it into the bowl and toss well. (If you are worried that the egg hasn’t cooked enough, return it to the pasta pot and stir it around over the still warm burner or a low flame for a minute or two). Add the remaining cheese and serve.

*To make sure eggs are fresh, place them in a bowl of water to cover. A very fresh egg will stay completely submerged. A relatively fresh egg will float up on one end, while the other end remains on the bottom. An egg that floats is an egg that is rotten.

Macaroni and cheese with style (yes, you can make a roux) and spinach

6 Aug

The perceptive examiner of the picture in this post will probably agree that I did not choose an auspicious time to tart-up a macaroni and cheese dinner. I should’ve reached for a box of Annie’s Organic (and believe me, as much as I believe in a home-cooked meal, I reach for the Annie’s with great frequency in stressed times) rather than set out to make a white sauce while my over-tired, over-heated, under-snacked and therefore unpredictable pre-K maniac was in the room. If you decide that I am actually the maniac for trying it, well, I won’t argue.

A proper white sauce is creamy and smooth and tonight’s, while creamy, was not quite as smooth as normal. But I decided to post anyway, because I want to convince you that making a roux isn’t so hard. If I could do it passably well under this evening’s circumstances, imagine what you can do with better timing and fewer interruptions. And to those who get too critical, I say most of the lumpiness in the picture is due to the cheese, which I do not allow to cook much at all, since I don’t want it to get hard or stringy!

A roux is a mix of fat and starch and it adds thickness to dishes. The idea is to get the fat to activate the starch in your flour without burning it. It is the binder for a rich gravy, a thick gumbo, and unctuous macaroni and cheese. This one is blonde – which means it is not colored, so it requires little precision. All you have to do to make this happen is watch your temperature and keep stirring. I mean it.

For more background on roux try Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roux

To make your own, try this!

Creamy, cheesy and easy

Macaroni and cheese with style and speed (and spinach)

½ box pasta of your choice, 6-8 oz (we prefer small shells for this)

1 Cup frozen cut or chopped spinach

2 Tbs butter (salted is fine)

4 tsp all-purpose flour

¾ Cup whole milk

½ Cup grated grana padano or parmigiano reggiano or other cheese of your preference, grated fine for even melting

Salt to taste and additional grated cheese to taste

Cook pasta according to package instructions, adding frozen spinach 4-5 minutes before pasta is ready. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, melt 1 Tbs butter in a heavy skillet at low heat (save 2nd Tbs for later in the recipe). When any foaming subsides, stir in flour 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring frequently until each teaspoon of flour is completely blended in. Then continue stirring while mix (roux) thickens into a paste. Continue cooking at least five minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or coloring (you need this cook time to get the floury taste out).

Add milk and raise heat to medium and stir frequently until liquid becomes thick and creamy. Stir in cheese, stir just enough to mix and then add pasta and spinach mixture and reserved butter. Mix thoroughly and salt to taste. Serve with additional grated cheese.

%d bloggers like this: