pasta

Grandma Mac and Cheese

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All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Comforting Pasta Amatriciana

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When you feel let down or sad you need to do something special to help cheer yourself up.

Some people shop, some go to a spa for a facial, some exercise like crazy (when my brother was going through a divorce he ran super marathons -- 110 miles!)

To say that the election of 2016 was a disappointment for me is a huge understatement. 

I need cheering up, and my favorite coping mechanism is: eating. Mostly potatoes. So one night I had two baked potatoes for dinner.

But now I need real, actual food, a regular dinner entree. Something more substantial and also comforting. 

Pasta! 

With red sauce. AND smokey with (I use Jack's Gourmet Facon) bacon and (I used Jack's Gourmet Sweet Italian Beef Sausage) sausage. And a little gentle (chili pepper) heat.

Bucatini Amatriciana!

Yum.

Celebration-worthy.

Kosher Pasta Amatriciana

  • 4 ounces kosher beef or lamb bacon, chopped
  • 3 ounces kosher Italian style sausage, diced
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, chopped (or use canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound cooked bucatini

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over low-medium heat until lightly crispy. Add the sausage and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the meats are browned. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour the olive oil into the pan. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the garlic, cook briefly, then add the tomatoes, parsley and red pepper. Return the bacon and sausage to the sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Pour over the pasta, toss and serve. 

 Makes 4 servings

 

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Some people are lucky enough to grow tomatoes and by this time in August the vines in their gardens are hanging low with red, ripe, wonderful stuff waiting to be picked.  Some of those lucky people have so many tomatoes they don’t even know what to do with them.  I am not one of those people. As I have  written , I got two measly little tomatoes from the plants I tried to grow in my backyard.   But a friend took pity on me as she does every year. Because this happens every year. She nods her head at my pathetic little tomato patch and brings me a whole harvest from hers. I am so lucky to have her in my life (for many reasons).  I know what to do with those tomatoes too. After having my fill on  sandwiches , eating them with avocados and  stuffing  and baking them as a side dish, I make red sauce for spaghetti.  Red sauce made with fresh tomatoes is an entirely different thing than the kind made with canned. I am not saying either is better. Just different.  See for yourself. This recipe is really easy:  Fresh Tomato Sauce     16-18 plum tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes  3 tablespoons olive oil  1 medium onion, chopped  1 large clove garlic, chopped  3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste     Heat a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes. Cook for 20 seconds. Drain the tomatoes under cold water. Pierce the tomato near the stem end with the tip of a sharp knife and pull back to remove the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-30 minutes, or until it has reached the desired consistency. Makes enough for one pound of pasta (about 3 cups)      

Some people are lucky enough to grow tomatoes and by this time in August the vines in their gardens are hanging low with red, ripe, wonderful stuff waiting to be picked.

Some of those lucky people have so many tomatoes they don’t even know what to do with them.

I am not one of those people. As I have written, I got two measly little tomatoes from the plants I tried to grow in my backyard. 

But a friend took pity on me as she does every year. Because this happens every year. She nods her head at my pathetic little tomato patch and brings me a whole harvest from hers. I am so lucky to have her in my life (for many reasons).

I know what to do with those tomatoes too. After having my fill on sandwiches, eating them with avocados and stuffing and baking them as a side dish, I make red sauce for spaghetti.

Red sauce made with fresh tomatoes is an entirely different thing than the kind made with canned. I am not saying either is better. Just different.

See for yourself. This recipe is really easy:

Fresh Tomato Sauce

 

16-18 plum tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Heat a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes. Cook for 20 seconds. Drain the tomatoes under cold water. Pierce the tomato near the stem end with the tip of a sharp knife and pull back to remove the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-30 minutes, or until it has reached the desired consistency. Makes enough for one pound of pasta (about 3 cups)

 

 

Baked Ziti and Cheese

I’m always surprised when I hear people say that vegetarian food isn’t filling or satisfying. I guess if your image of a meatless meal is a plate of steamed zucchini, carrots and broccoli, well then, you would indeed probably be hungry after that in an hour or so. 
 But how about those sumptuous dishes, some of them even our favorite, so-called comfort foods? Like Macaroni and Cheese or Chili? 
 Baked Ziti (or Penne) with Cheese is among my favorite no-meat dinners. Add a salad and we’re done. Or, if I am feeling ambitious, we’ll start with Minestrone Soup. 
 Baked Ziti and Cheese 
 1 pound dried ziti or penne  15-16 ounces ricotta cheese  2 to 2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese  1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (or a mixture of the two)  2 large eggs  3 cups Marinara sauce  pinch or two of crushed red pepper, optional 
   Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Mix thoroughly, add to the pasta and toss the ingredients. Add the Marinara sauce and a pinch or two of crushed red pepper, if desired, and toss again until the color is even. Place the mixture in the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cup (or 1-1/2 cups) of mozzarella cheese on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until hot, bubbly and lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings

I’m always surprised when I hear people say that vegetarian food isn’t filling or satisfying. I guess if your image of a meatless meal is a plate of steamed zucchini, carrots and broccoli, well then, you would indeed probably be hungry after that in an hour or so.

But how about those sumptuous dishes, some of them even our favorite, so-called comfort foods? Like Macaroni and Cheese or Chili?

Baked Ziti (or Penne) with Cheese is among my favorite no-meat dinners. Add a salad and we’re done. Or, if I am feeling ambitious, we’ll start with Minestrone Soup.

Baked Ziti and Cheese

1 pound dried ziti or penne
15-16 ounces ricotta cheese
2 to 2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (or a mixture of the two)
2 large eggs
3 cups Marinara sauce
pinch or two of crushed red pepper, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Mix thoroughly, add to the pasta and toss the ingredients. Add the Marinara sauce and a pinch or two of crushed red pepper, if desired, and toss again until the color is even. Place the mixture in the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cup (or 1-1/2 cups) of mozzarella cheese on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until hot, bubbly and lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings

Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs

I think it’s possible, when you work out, even with a trainer, and all you talk about is food the entire session, that you can gain weight just from the conversation.  I suffer through “squats” and some awful exercise called “mountain climbers” (I HATE those!) and my trainer yaks about not eating carbs but then we frequently wind up our session talking about all the wonderful pasta dishes his mother and grandmother used to cook.  Robbie is from an Italian family so he also mentions the braciole, the broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic and olive oil, the cheesecake.  But, I digress from the no-carb thing.  Robbie recently mentioned that his grandmother made a spaghetti dish and topped it with breadcrumbs. He told me that a lot of old timers did that because grated cheese was so expensive and breadcrumbs were a good substitute.  I had to try it.  This dish is really good. Also cheap. Also easy to make for a quick dinner.  I’ll have to do even more mountain climbers to keep the pounds off I guess.      Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs      1 pound spaghetti  1/3 cup olive oil  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped  1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes  1 cup fresh breadcrumbs  1/2 cup chopped parsley  1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon peel  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese  optional: mashed or chopped anchovies or 2 tablespoons rinsed capers     Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook briefly. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and toasty. Add the parsley and lemon zest stir and cook for another minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, but reserve about a 1/2 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan with the breadcrumb mixture and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and enough cooking water to moisten the pasta. Add the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and serve. Makes 4 servings   

I think it’s possible, when you work out, even with a trainer, and all you talk about is food the entire session, that you can gain weight just from the conversation.

I suffer through “squats” and some awful exercise called “mountain climbers” (I HATE those!) and my trainer yaks about not eating carbs but then we frequently wind up our session talking about all the wonderful pasta dishes his mother and grandmother used to cook.

Robbie is from an Italian family so he also mentions the braciole, the broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic and olive oil, the cheesecake.

But, I digress from the no-carb thing.

Robbie recently mentioned that his grandmother made a spaghetti dish and topped it with breadcrumbs. He told me that a lot of old timers did that because grated cheese was so expensive and breadcrumbs were a good substitute.

I had to try it.

This dish is really good. Also cheap. Also easy to make for a quick dinner.

I’ll have to do even more mountain climbers to keep the pounds off I guess.

 

Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs

 

1 pound spaghetti

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon peel

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

optional: mashed or chopped anchovies or 2 tablespoons rinsed capers

 

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook briefly. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and toasty. Add the parsley and lemon zest stir and cook for another minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, but reserve about a 1/2 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan with the breadcrumb mixture and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and enough cooking water to moisten the pasta. Add the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and serve. Makes 4 servings

 

sprinklefingers: sharing jamie

sprinklefingers:

one of my all-time favorite cookbooks is jamie’s italy.
and my favorite recipe from that book is probably the simplest.

my husband calls it ‘baked pasta’ but that phrase has so many negative grade school cafeteria/high school graduation party connotations for me that i always make sure to…

The recipes I inherited from my grandmothers and their friends never had precise measurements. They always listed stuff by the handful or glassful. The challah recipe I make — from my grandmother’s collection — started out as “8 hands of flour” and so on. It took a while to figure out!

I always assumed the “glass” in “1/2 glass water” meant the little Yahrzeit glasses Jewish people use. These are small glasses filled with a candle that is lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. They burn for 24 hours. But they are not the size of an ordinary glass, like a tumbler for milk or juice or iced tea! And in fact today’s yahrzeit glasses are teeny compared to the ones I remember as a kid, so a measurement of “1/2 glass” would be different today than way back then.

Anyway, I think it is fun to interpret recipes like that. Makes you think and consider what you are doing and what part the ingredients play in the dish you are preparing. It also shows that recipes can be flexible. That’s a good thing because you can change things to suit yourself.

Thanks for this blog post Sprinklefingers! This was fun. I enjoyed hearing what you did with the recipe. Sounds delish. I also like the tips you give (like making some sauce way ahead).

Keep blogging. I really love your posts!