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Artichokes and Pancetta in Spaghetti

I know, more Italian. But I LOVE it SO much!!! That and this is a Mario Batali recipe. ‘Nuf said.

We halved his recipe since we really should never eat 6 servings of anything. Unless one of you would like to come haul us out of the house in a wheelbarrow in 10 years. Anyway, here is the recipe and I’ll walk you through it, too.

First of all, I took a major shortcut and used artichoke hearts from a jar. It might have been better with fresh artichokes, but you know, I didn’t miss it. Plus, it cuts out a big step. I still soaked them in the bowl with the lemons, but I’d probably skip this next time since it’s only real purpose was probably to tenderize the artichokes. Since mine were already tender it was an unnecessary step.

Anyway, get started by chopping all your veggies. You want to basically mince half of a medium onion and thinly slice 4 cloves of garlic. In case I haven’t already mentioned it, we LOVE garlic so I did 6 cloves. The more, the merrier if you ask me.  Also chop up your artichoke hearts (about half a small jar) into bite sized pieces. If you like pancetta go ahead and use at least 2 oz. of it diced. You can use more if you really like it. Next time I’m thinking I’ll use an entire 4 oz package. You should be able to find pre-diced pancetta in your deli section.

Now that you are all ready to go, put about 1/8 of a cup (remember, this is if you are making a smaller batch) of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in a medium to large-sized pan. Heat the oil and add your onions, garlic and pancetta. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened (or until the onions are starting to be see-through), about 10 minutes. Add the artichokes to the pan. If you used ones from a jar also add the wine at this point. 1/4 cup of dry white wine. We used a Pinot Gris, which also went very well to drink with dinner. Cover the pan and simmer over moderately low heat, about 5 minutes or until everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Artichoke Pancetta Sauce

While all this is cooking get your water boiling for your noodles. Cook the noodles about a minute less than you normally would. Drain the noodles, but set aside about 1/4 cup of the noodle water to add to the sauce. Add the drained noodles and the reserved water to the pan with the artichokes. Toss everything together for about a minute over medium-low. Remove from heat and add about 1/4 cup parmesan.  Sprinkle more parmesan on top. We also LOVE parmesan. 🙂

Artichoke Pancetta Spaghetti

Pinot Gris and Artichoke Pancetta Spaghetti

And now for something completely different… (hope I didn’t just break a thousand copyright laws by stealing a Monty Python title)

Spring is here! Okay, not officially, but we are doing yard work and gardening anyway. So far we have ripped up grass (remember our friend from a previous post?) and planted shrubbery and now lots of pretty perennial bulbs between the shrubs. And in the back we have improved our garden (I say “we” but really should say Kev) and are now convinced our vegetables will grow without us even having to plant them. That’s how awesome the garden is. Pictures of the garden forthcoming…

Spring Flowers

Spring also means spring break, which means my mom is coming to visit!!! YAY! And to really top things off, my bestest friends from Las Vegas will be in Portland for a conference next week. Double YAY! March might be my favorite month so far this year. Tonight Kev made the best corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes I’ve ever had (sorry Mom) and to accompany it I had some Irish Cream on the rocks. Aside from green, these are really the only Irish things I know. And no, I don’t like beer. Sorry, it’s so not yummy.

And now I’m off to finish a super challenging puzzle. Hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Until next time, Happy Eating!

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Linguine in Vodka Sauce

This is a super easy dish even though saying it out loud “Linguine in Vodka Sauce” in a very Italian-like accent makes it sound really fancy. You could easily add some chicken and a side of asparagus to really jazz it up and add color.

The vodka sauce was really tasty, but way too runny. I cooked it and cooked it trying to thicken and it never did so we just ate it as is. Next time I’ll leave out the water the recipe calls for. Still, it was super easy to make and really tasty! I added a little extra red pepper flake because we like things spicy, but you could certainly do everything exactly the way the recipe asks and it would be very good.

For those of you with an aversion to clicking on links, here’s the basic recipe:

You first have to make a marinara sauce. I used a recipe for Perfect Marinara Sauce, which in my humble opinion is nowhere near perfect. So I suggest making your favorite marinara sauce. Mine involves browning some garlic and onions very finely chopped in olive oil then adding a can of tomato sauce (a small one because you only want about 2 cups of sauce), basil, oregano, black pepper and a pinch of brown sugar. If you like chunkier sauce use the Perfect Marinara sauce link above. They call for a can of whole peeled tomatoes. They make it taste really good, but also make it too thin for my liking. My Mom would most likely enjoy the chunkier version. 🙂 Whatever you decide, leave out all the extra goodies like olives, zuchinni, etc. in this sauce. Save those things for spaghetti.

After you have made your basic marinara sauce however you like to make it, saute a couple of shallots (or finely dice some sweet onion) in 2 Tbsps of butter. Add the marinara sauce to your shallots or your shallots to your sauce depending on what kinds of pans you use. Then add 3/4 heavy cream to the mixture and heat through. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and stir in 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Add 1-2 Tbsps of vodka and stir well. That’s it. Told you it was easy.

While you have the vodka out… try my drink of the night: Slutty Shirley. I find having a drink or two while cooking makes the experience twice as nice. To make this drink do a shot of vodka (if you have raspberry vodka use that, but regular works fine) in a glass with a few cubes of ice. Fill the glass almost full with Sprite and add a little grenadine for color. Plop in a maraschino cherry and drink.

Now for dessert: Decadent Raspberry Brownies. They are so amazing they need their own post so check back later for the word on the brownies.


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Homemade Cheese Ravioli in Marinara

  

    

Does this look like something you’d like for dinner? If so, you have three choices: follow the directions below and make it, go to your local Italian restaurant and pay for it, or head over to my place and I’ll share! 🙂      

 Anne Burrell scares me. But she also makes really delicious looking pastas on Food Network. As luck would have it we received our monthly Food Network Magazine the other day and she had a recipe for homemade ravioli inside. So I decided to conquer my fear of Anne and pasta and beat those eggs like I mean it. Be aggressive!  Even though Anne scares me, I actually really admire her.  After making this ravioli my admiration is greater than ever. While not too terribly hard, this dish is very time consuming and physically demanding. Seriously, kneading pasta dough for 10 minutes really takes it out of you!     

Kneading

  

That said, the taste of fresh, homemade pasta is SO worth the work. However, if you have never made this before I’d allow at least 2 hours for the whole meal. The pasta dough has to rest for an hour, and if you are like me you constantly check the recipe to make sure you are doing it right. That eats up a lot of time. Anyway, on to the recipe.       

Pasta: 3 eggs, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 Tbsp olive oil, dash of salt       

Pile the flour on a large cutting board or the counter and make a well in the middle. Put your eggs, oil and salt in the well. Beat the eggs in the well with a fork. Then use the fork to break the flour wall and gradually incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. Here is a youtube video to give you a visual http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXr5kQphmJs.       

After the flour and eggs are mixed, gather the dough into a ball and knead. Continue to knead until dough is “smooth and supple”, about 10 minutes. If the dough is too dry (mine was a little dry) get your hands wet and knead the moisture from your hands into the dough. After the dough is kneaded wrap it in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for at least an hour.  

While the dough is resting prepare your filling: 1 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, 1/8 tsp salt. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer the filling from the bowl into a pastry bag (or a ziploc you don’t mind ruining) and refrigerate.    You can also put in some tallegio cheese, but we didn’t have any.  

 

Ricotta Filling

  

Now you have to think about your sauce. I chose to make a marinara because I didn’t have any of the ingredients for Anne’s pancetta mushroom sauce. However, I will be making these again with the pancetta sauce because it looks awesome. The marinara was pretty good. It would have been better with fresh tomatoes, or at least whole canned ones. All I had was tomato puree so that had to work. Here’s how it went: In a large saucepan (big enough to hold your ravioli and sauce) combine 3 Tbsp olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook on medium-low heat until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes.      

Cooking Garlic and Oil

  

After the garlic is browner than in this picture, add 1 can of tomato puree, 1 can of water, 1 Tbsp basil (or a handful of fresh basil leaves if you have it), 1 tsp salt. Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes (it can simmer longer if you need it to, though). Once your raviolis have boiled you will add them to the sauce before serving.      

Your dough should be ready by now. Unwrap it and separate it into 3 pieces. If you have a kitchenaid mixer with a pasta roller attachment you can use it for this. If not you will need a crank pasta roller like mine (you can get one for about $30 at Bed Bath and Beyond and they are super cool!). With your hands, slightly flatten a piece of dough and crank it through the roller on the widest setting. Do this a couple of times. Fold the dough over itself in thirds and feed it through the roller again on the highest setting. Continue to crank the dough through the roller, taking the width setting down one place each time you feed the dough through. When you feed it through on setting 4 on a hand crank roller the dough is done (stop on the second to last setting on a kitchenaid mixer). If your dough gets sticky you can lightly flour it before sending it through again. Your dough should be about 1/16 of an inch thick when finished. Lay the sheets of dough on a lightly floured surface. Very lightly brush the bottom half of the sheet (the half closest to you) with water. See pictures below for visuals for all of this.

Rolling the PastaPasta Sheets

  

   

Pasta Sheets

  

Cut a hole in the corner of your bag of filling and pipe a one inch ball of filling onto your pasta sheets. Pipe the filling on to the damp part of the pasta. Space the filling balls about 2-3 inches from each other.   

Piped Filling on Sheets

  

After you have piped all along the sheets of dough, fold the dough over the filling and use your fingers to press the two sides of dough together around the filling. Try not to have any air bubbles in the filling section. This isn’t super easy. I messed up a couple of times and filling came oozing out of unsealed holes. DON’T PANIC! Just squeeze the edges a little more tightly and everything will be fine, I promise. Use a cookie cutter to cut the ravioli into their round shape . When all the ravioli are cut place them into a pot of boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and into the sauce when they finish boiling.   

Fold Dough Over Filling

  

Press Dough around Filling

  

Cut Ravioli

  

Finished Product

  

Now put the food on your plate and top with some grated parmesan. Voila! You made a delicious dinner!    

I made lemon bars out of the Food Network Mag as well but they are terrible in comparison to my tried and true recipe so I’m not even going to post them. Maybe I’ll post my fav lemon bars soon. We had kind of a strange and busy weekend so the chocolate covered cherries never happened. I will make them soon.   

Until then, Happy Eating!