Category Archives: pasta

Hamburger Soup

zippysoup

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Soup is one of my favorite meals and since so many soups are quick to make, they are a  staple in my house. Filling, warming and satisfying soups make for the perfect dinner when paired with crusty bread and make even better leftovers for lunch the next day. And just about anything can be turned into a satisfying soup. This recipe, adapted from The Noble Pig has quickly become a favorite in my house where I liberally substitute the vegetables and even the ground meat depending upon what I have on hand. And thanks to the tangy and flavorful V-8, another favorite pantry staple, the broth is rich and flavorful without hours of cooking.

So if you are looking for a fast and tasty weeknight dinner idea, look no further than this soup. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

HAMBURGER SOUP

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

2 pounds ground beef

1-1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick coins

1-1/2 cups celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup frozen corn

4 cups beef broth

1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

15 ounces V-8 vegetable juice

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound small dry pasta

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • Place a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, using a spoon to crumble the meat.
  • Drain off the fat.
  • Add the carrots, celery, leek, corn, broth, V8, garlic and oregano to the meat mixture.
  • Increase the temperature to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Return the temperature to high, add the pasta to the pot and cook until the pasta is al dental,8-10 minutes depending upon the size of your pasta.
  • Stir in vinegar right before serving.

Serves 6-8

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Pappardelle w/ Sausages, Fennel & Ricotta Cheese

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love this pasta dish from Williams Sonoma. Their version has you making homemade pasta which while not difficult, is too time consuming for a Fast Friday dish. I used fresh pasta from my local grocery store which when combined with ricotta cheese, fennel sausage and fresh sauteed fennel, produces a wonderfully satisfying dinner in a matter of minutes. I did, however, use my own fresh ricotta cheese (which I already had on hand). Not only is making your own ricotta easy, but when I use the wonderful fresh raw milk that I can buy from local Belgian farms, it simply tastes so good.

PAPPARDELLE w/ SAUSAGES, FENNEL & RICOTTA CHEESE

10 ounces fresh pappardelle or other long pasta

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound loose fennel sausage

2 fennel bulbs, cored and julienned

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup diced shallots

1/4 cup chopped garlic

2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium high heat.

When the oil shimmers, add the sausage and fennel to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage into small pieces.

Saute, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the wine, shallots, garlic and thyme and cook until the the wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth to the pan and continue to cook until the sauce is further reduced by three-quarters, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cooked pappardelle to the pan along with the reserved cooking liquid. Toss well to coat.

Transfer the pasta to warmed serving dishes, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and top with dollops of the ricotta cheese. Diners can stir the warmed ricotta into their pasta making their own creamy sauce.

Serves 4

Ravoli w/ Gorgonzola & Pears

IMG_4183

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

There is nothing like a perfectly ripe pear. Sweet and juicy, for me, eating one is a special treat. The only thing that makes a pear better is coupling it with a bit of salty and pungent gorgonzola cheese. In fact, I love this combination so much that both pears and gorgonzola cheese are kitchen staples. So these ingredients were my inspiration for my latest quick and easy “experimental dinner”. (“Experimental dinners” are what I affectionately refer to when I’m pulling together a dish for the first time). And after eating this dinner my entire family agreed that this meal was a success. Not only was it delicious but it was truly fast–as in I was able to pull all of the ingredients together and have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

RAVIOLI w/ GORGONZOLA & PEARS

12 ounces fresh 4-cheese ravioli, cooked according to package instructions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

dash freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • While the ravioli is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the shallot and saute, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes or until the  shallots are beginning to soften.
  • Add the pears and stir gently taking care not to break the slices. Saute for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until the pears are soft.
  • Add the cooked ravioli to the skillet and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.
  • Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Divide the ravioli between four serving dishes then sprinkle with the gorgonzola cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Ricotta & Artichoke Pasta

IMG_7905

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

What makes an already fast dinner even faster? Cooking the entire dish in one pan and that is exactly what you have with this recipe that has been adapted from Cooking Light. The fresh pasta cooks quickly right in the skillet with the vegetables and the cheese. Easy peasy and oh so tasty. Enjoy!

RICOTTA & ARTICHOKE PASTA

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup prechopped onion
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups artichokes, halved
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 14.5 ounce can tomatoes
9 ounces fresh fettuccine
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  •  Preheat broiler to high.
  •  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
  • Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic to pan and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chicken broth, the artichokes, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and pasta to pan, and bring to a boil. Stir to combine.
  • Cover; reduce the heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and dot the pasta mixture evenly with the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.
  • Place pan under broiler. Broil mixture 2 minutes or until cheese melts.
  • Sprinkle evenly with basil.

Serves 4

Tuscan Sausage & White Bean Soup

soup
It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
Tonight calls for soup. After a holiday season filled with rich treats and perhaps a late night ringing in the new year, tonight’s dinner needs to be easy, fast and on the lighter side while still being warming and comforting (since the weather is anything but). So soup it is. And this soup, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe fits the bill perfectly. It is warm and satisfying without being heavy. And in true Fast Friday form, it is fast. So go ahead and make a pot tonight. Just add some crusty French bread and dinner is served.
TUSCAN SAUSAGE & WHITE BEAN SOUP

1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 (14.5-ounce each) cans diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups uncooked small pasta

9 ounces spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

  • In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned, 3-4 minutes, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
  • Add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, basil, salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil.
  • Add the shell pasta, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking.
  • Stir in the spinach and simmer for another minute until the spinach is wilted.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Because some things never go out of style:

mac n cheese

 

Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

Penne a la Vodka

photo 2-190

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Penne ala vodka only sounds complicated but in reality it is a super easy and fast dish to make. This recipe is courtesy of Williams Sonoma and is the perfect way to end a busy week. The combination of tomatoes, cream, and vodka with just a touch of red pepper flakes make for a spicy yet creamy and satisfying dish. The alcohol in the vodka cooks off leaving just a hint of vodka flavor. If you like your dishes on the spicy side feel free to add additional red pepper flakes. The pasta and sauce cook simultaneously so this dish is truly fast. Add a green salad and a bottle of Italian red wine and dinner is done.
PENNE A LA VODKA
1 pound penne pasta
6 large tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vodka
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water accordingly to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, seed the tomatoes and cut them into a small dice.
  • Warm the olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and saute until it just begins to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka.
  • Return the pan to medium heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture in the saute pan.
  • Add the cream and cook, stirring over medium heat until the pasta is well coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Serves 4

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