Cacio e Pepe – Cheese and Black Pepper – that’s it! It’s a Roman staple and the easiest most delicious dinner to make, any day of the week! First things first – have about 2 cups freshly grated Romano and/or Parmesan cheese. Either grate it yourself or buy it fresh grated. (No green cans here!)
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and try using less water than normal when cooking pasta. (One of the secrets to the ‘cheesy’ sauce is the starchy pasta water. The less water, the more starch!) Once you salt the water (like the sea,) add the pasta and cook to al dente. Meanwhile, melt about 3-4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer and whisk for about a minute, then add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Whisk around and remove from heat. Let stand about 3 minutes.
After about 3 minutes, start adding the grated cheese, little by little, and you’ll see a black pepper cheese sauce start to form. (Do this too quickly after taking the butter/water off the heat and you’ll end up with glue!) Keep adding the cheese until it’s all incorporated. The cheesy black pepper sauce will be fairly thick.
Before draining the pasta at al dente, reserve about another cup of pasta water to the side. Drain pasta and let stand about 3 minutes. Again, too hot, the cheese will turn to glue. Add the pasta, one bunch at a time and continue to toss around in the cheese sauce. Add a little more pasta water, as needed, to lighten the sauce. Once it’s mixed, you’re ready to eat! A little extra grated cheese at this point won’t hurt anything! Buon appetito! Ci vediamo presto!
The word ‘stuffed’ (when describing a dish,) typically conjures up visions of savory cheeses, spinach, and a variety of other delectable ingredients – delicately wrapped inside a piece of tender meat or hearty pasta. Today I made homemade manicotti shells, a la crepe-style, and stuffed them with a mixture of Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, spinach, toasted pine nuts, and crispy pancetta! (Add anything you’d like – mushrooms and/or sun-dried tomatoes would have also been tasty! Leave out the pancetta for your vegetarian friends.) A real show-stopper, especially when your guests find out you made the manicotti shells! It honestly couldn’t be easier: Make the batter, quick griddle the manicotti shells/crepes, mix up the filling – and you’re ready to roll, literally!
1.5 Cups Flour, 1.5 Cups Milk, 6 Eggs – Whisk together until smooth – drop onto lightly greased skillet or griddle – making thin crepe-style manicotti shells. They cook very quickly – maybe a minute or two with a quick flip. Remove from pan to parchment-lined sheet pan.
Spread filling in a thin layer, roll ’em, and place in a baking dish with sauce on the bottom. Top with additional sauce and cheese, and it’s ready for the oven. 375 F (Covered – 30 Minutes) Remove foil and continue baking until bubbly and golden-brown! Buon Appetito!
As the nights get colder, and very cold in some parts of the country, who doesn’t love a warm, satisfying, and delicious pot pie to help you settle into the night? This particular pot pie was made with leftover turkey and green beans from Christmas dinner, and the gravy was made with some of the leftover turkey stock I had made to prepare the gravy. (Shredded chicken and regular chicken broth will work just fine!) In addition to that, I added a half bag of frozen vegetables and some cubed potatoes. Could not have been easier!
To make the gravy, use equal parts butter and flour. (I used 4 TBSP butter/flour with about 4 cups warmed stock.) Start by melting the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk the flour into the butter and keep whisking for a minute or two to cook out the flour taste. Slowly add in the stock, whisking constantly until fully combined. Let “gravy” simmer for a few minutes, adding salt/pepper to taste. (You might want to add a little extra salt/pepper at this point as the frozen vegetables will need the flavor.) Once the gravy is bubbling and thickened a bit, add in all the rest of the ingredients: 2 cups chopped turkey or chicken meat, 1.5 cup frozen vegetables, 1 cup diced potatoes (frozen hash brown size potatoes work here, too,) and any other leftover veggies you want to add in. I also had some leftover green beans that I chopped and added.
For the crust and assembly, it’s up to you. You can put the pot pie mixture into a buttered baking dish and top with your homemade or favorite brand of biscuit dough, or you can go with pie crust – either homemade or your favorite from the store. If using pie crust, you can use both bottom and top crusts. If using biscuit mixture, just lay on top of the pot pie mixture. Before baking, I like to brush dough with an egg wash (1 egg beat with a tablespoon of water) and sprinkle with coarse salt. I use Maldon sea salt. Bake at 400-425 F for about 30-40 minutes until brown and beautiful! Let rest for at least 15 minutes, dig in and enjoy! Any questions, just ask. Buon appetito!
Okay, I admit it. Never had, nor never wanted a crockpot. I love to cook, so I never saw the point. Given that, we got one this year and I did make a delicious Chicken Chili Verde. Although that worked well for that purpose, I still couldn’t think of any reason to use, or want to use, a crockpot. As my dad and I talk about food and cooking most every time we talk, he told me he had just made stuffed peppers in a crockpot. (That surprised me because I never knew the crockpot to be his go-to cooking method.) . I guess I was hungry when we talked because that sounded so good to me, and I knew I’d make enough for a few to go into my freezer pantry. Today being Father’s Day, though my father is 3,000 miles away, was the day I put crockpot stuffed peppers to the test! Results: AWESOME!
3.5 hours on high in the crockpot, then 20 minutes in the oven at 400F (I couldn’t help myself because to me it’s all about the golden color and added texture/taste.) . Here you have it, healthy, delicious, nutritious Turkey, Quinoa, Spinach, Feta, Crimini Mushroom, and Diced Tomato stuffed peppers!
(I had enough extra stuffing left for about 4 more peppers, so I made those directly in the oven. Same result, but with 2+ hours with lots of checking, covering/uncovering, removing liquid, etc.)
Still not a crockpot convert, but it will be my go to cooking method the next time I’m craving stuffed peppers! (Stuffed peppers allow you the freedom to put whatever you want in them, so get creative and have fun. If you want more information about these peppers, let me know.)
Nothing says summer like fresh veggies from the garden! When the abundance of cherry/grape tomatoes is too much to eat now or even give away, why not make this quick and easy (1, 2, 3) fresh roasted tomato sauce? You can enjoy some of it over your favorite pasta today – and freeze in small containers to enjoy when you’re yearning for a taste of summer!
- Wash and dry (remove stems) cherry/grape tomatoes
- Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper on a sheet pan – roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes start to caramelize and the juices escape onto the pan. Cool slightly after removing from oven.
- Blend in food processor, little by little, along with a couple of garlic cloves, a handful of Italian parsley, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and more kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
That’s it! Enjoy over your favorite pasta and bite into summer goodness!
Truly is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – and 4 – Buon Appetito!
You’ve heard of turning lemons into lemonade, well here’s a quick and easy way of turning apples into applesauce! Every have apples sitting on the counter long beyond their ‘shelf life’? Or apples that were pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten? What did you do? Compost? Trash? STOP! Turn your old (or new) apples into homemade delicious applesauce! It’s as easy as 1) Peel and chop apples, 2) Place in small sauce pan on stove top with a little water (1/4 cup?) and a dash or two or cinnamon, 3) Boil/simmer until tender. At that point, I use a potato masher to turn them into a chunky applesauce. (You can keep cooking and blend cooked apples to get more of a pureed consistency, but when it comes to homemade, I like the chunky style.) Enjoy!