Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Tortellini

I managed not to cook for Thanksgiving this year, except for our annual day-after potluck. Our group of friends all get together to eat deep-fried turkey and a buffet of sides. In addition to making gravy and stuffing, I was tasked with bringing a pasta dish that was hot, meaty, and creamy. Like Top Chef, except instead of a basket of ingredients I got a basket of adjectives. I decided to make a creamy pasta primavera with tortellini and Italian sausage. Tortellini is a nice firm, starchy pasta that can hold up to a thick, creamy sauce without falling apart, and it has little nooks where the sauce and veggies can hide.

When I was at the grocery store I saw Italian sausage-stuffed tortellini, so I grabbed it, thinking I could cut out a step. Unfortunately, it was actually ravioli, not tortellini. Apparently I'm really bad at reading. I didn't realize I had ravioli until I was actually cooking the dish so I decided to just go with it. Ravioli is so fragile, it started tearing when I was mixing it into the sauce. My advice: read your packages carefully and make sure you buy tortellini. If you want to add meat, you can buy Italian sausage and remove it from the casing before cooking.

2 Packages Tortellini (in the Refrigerated Pasta Section)
1 Bag Frozen Spinach (16oz), Thawed and Squeezed Dry
1 Container Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1 Container Sliced Mushrooms
2 Medium Onions, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Container Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Brick of Cream Cheese (8oz), Cut into Cubes
1 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Half-and-Half
Italian Seasoning

Prepare pasta according to directions on the package.

Heat olive oil in a pan, melt butter and add mushrooms and onions. Cook until soft and add garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Take pan off of the heat and add cubed cream cheese, stirring well until melted. Add half and half to reach desired consistency.

Add spinach and tomatoes and mix well.

Add cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

This is best served right away. I tried to make it as close to dinner time as possible, but the boyfriend and I were asked to run some errands on the way out so it was cold by the time we got there. To reheat, I put it in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours to make sure it heated evenly.

It still met rave reviews, despite all of my shortcomings!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sunday = Football and Chili

It looks like this outside today
 So I'm making chili. After I annoy the animals with pictures.

Okay, chili time. I used to be a huge wimp, so when my mom made chili she made 2 batches: 1 spicy and with beans (technically not chili, but we'll get to that soon) and 1 bland and without beans. It was basically meat sauce, now that I really think about it, but that's what I wanted. I've since graduated to spicy chili after realizing that I enjoy spicy foods (yay!) but I still refuse to add beans to chili. Traditional chili does not contain beans, which is a really convenient anecdote for bean haters such as myself. Add beans if you want, just don't call it chili.

1lb Ground Beef
2-3 Medium Onions
1-3 Cloves of Garlic
28oz Tomato Sauce
2 Cans Chili Tomatoes
28oz Diced Tomatoes
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Tortilla Chips, 
Oyster Crackers, Diced Onions to top


Combine beef, onions, and garlic and cook on medium-high heat until beef is mostly cooked through. Drain excess fat if necessary.

Add tomato sauce and chili tomatoes. Season to taste. I use about 2 tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp each salt and pepper, and almost a whole jar of chili powder. Be sure to taste as you season. You'll get a lot of saltiness from the meat and tomatoes, so don't over-season!

Add diced tomatoes and check seasonings. (I added more chili powder)

Let chili simmer until onions are soft.

Top with whatever you like. I add cheese and oyster crackers.

Change the ingredients depending on what kind of spiciness you like. For chili, I like all over heat that kind of sneaks up on you. Like you're halfway through your bowl before you realize your eyes are watering. That's what this recipe does; you feel it in your throat before you feel it on your tongue

If you like instant heat that you can feel on your tongue right away (think hot wings) add chili peppers to the beef, onions, and garlic. You can also add some hot sauce and more cayenne pepper to change the heat profile.

Stay warm!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Crock Pot Pasta Sauce

I like making pasta sauce in a slow cooker because you can let it simmer away all day, allowing the flavors to develop, and because it cooks so gently you can add the pasta in and let the starchiness thicken your sauce. It's your sauce so you can use whatever ingredients you choose; I like meat, lots of onions and garlic, and spinach. My sauce works best with a short noodle (like farfalle or penne) because it's so thick and meaty. 

1 lb Ground beef
2 Medium Onions, Chopped
2 Large Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Can Tomato Sauce
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can Stewed Tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper, To Taste
1 tsp Marjoram
16 oz Pasta
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
10 oz Chopped Frozen Spinach , Thawed
Mozzarella Cheese


Brown ground beef with garlic and onions, until just cooked.

Add to slow cooker. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and stewed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions

In the last half hour of cooking, add cooked pasta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and Marjoram to slow cooker.

Top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. 

Bad picture but delicious sauce!