Savory Italian Pot Roast Pasta

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(Becky, the Mama.)

What do you get when you put two of mama’s best comfort foods — pot roast and marinara/ pasta — together?

Heaven in a bowl.

This has to be one of my all-time favorite creations using any left-over beef you have in the fridge from pot roast to steak. (I had some grilled flank steak left-over that I cut into pieces and used for this recipe. )  The addition of wine and beef broth (or Lipton onion soup, which is what I had on hand) and splash of heavy cream creates an extra layer of homey warmth to a traditional marinara.  The wide Pappardelle noodles create the perfect nest for this dish.

I am about to head to my daughter Rachel’s home in Texas this weekend awaiting the birth of her second child, a little girl (!) who will be named Corabelle.

rach preg cora

While Rachel is busy and recovering and nursing a newborn,  I plan to whip up some comfort food with the help of my sous chef, Corabelle’s big almost-4-year-old brother, Jackson.

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Rachel and Jared are still mostly vegans, so I will often make things like rice bowls or pasta dishes that are easy to tweak for vegans and carnivores alike. At Rachel’s house, I am going to try subbing Miso for the beef broth. (Miso is the closest thing I have found to bringing out a “meaty” flavor in vegetarian  cooking. In  fact, I love the butter, savory flavor that Miso imparts so much that I often add it to meat-based dishes to upgrade the richness. ) I will probably substitute my favorite vegan meat, Field Roast sausages, sliced and browned in olive oil, then sprinkled on top. (Other options: lentils; or chick peas, roasted in the oven first.)  For creaminess,  I will likely blend up some raw cashews with a little cashew or almond milk, or use use canned whole fat coconut milk.  Either makes a nice substitute for a splash of cream!

No matter how you tweak this dish to make it your own, I think you will love it and that it will soon become one of your go-to favorites!

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P.S.  If you happen to be looking for some funny, uplifting, soul-and-body nourishing books to tuck in your beach bag this summer,  you may enjoy one of our recent books!

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Savory Italian Pot Roast Pasta

1 large 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes with basil added)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cups beef broth or 1/2 package Lipton onion soup mix with 1 cup hot water

1/2 cup red wine

2 t. brown sugar

2 t. oregano or Italian seasoning

A handful of chopped fresh basil if you have it on hand

1 cup diced beef, already cooked (such as leftover roast or steak, or even pulled pork or pork loin would work as well )

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cream

Pappardelle pasta to yield 4 servings, cooked

Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a big skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, broth (or Lipton soup mixture), garlic, red wine,  beef, and Italian seasonings and brown sugar. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until it is the thickness you like for pasta sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat and add cream.  Ladle over Pappardelle pasta in low flat bowls, then grate Parmesan cheese over all.  I am purposely messy with the Parm cheese as I think it makes the dish look rustic and beautiful.

Variations: Add bits of cooked carrots, peas and potatoes to make this a one-bowl meal, and add to the “Sunday pot roast with veggies” feel.

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Pesto Parmesan Chicken


(Becky, the Mama.)

I was famished after a gym workout this week, and decided to grab a bite to eat on my way home. Cruising through the drive-through lane at Taco Bell, I placed my order for a taco. The voice on the intercom sounded confused, so I repeated my order again, louder and with more clarity. And that is when I actually looked at the menu and realized…. I was in line at Starbucks.

One of my Facebook friends quipped, “So did you ask them to make you a Taco Frappucino?”

Granted, there is nothing appealing about the thought of a Taco Frappucino, but you’d be surprised at how many of my favorite recipes are created because of accidents. Or because I am hungry for a particular something, but out of an ingredient or two, so try to make due with substitutes. Time and again, the substitute often proves to be an improvement on the original recipe.

Such is the case with today’s recipe. Typically, when I make Chicken Parmesan, I use thin cutlets. What I had on hand was a couple of monster size breasts (Yes, my husband could not keep himself from making a few jokes about that) and I was in too much of a hurry to pound them thin.

Secondly, I often dip the cutlets in egg whites and grated garlic before rolling in Panko crumbs and Parmesan. Alas, nary an egg or a clove of garlic anywhere in the house.

That is when I spied a large jar of pesto that I’d purchased at Sam’s Club (it is surprisingly tasty, some of the best purchased pesto I’ve tried). One thing led to another and I ended up covering the breasts with pesto, then rolling them in Panko and grated Parmesan cheese. What we ended up with, eventually, was the best Chicken Parm I’ve ever made. In fact, it was the best Chicken Parmagiano I’ve ever eaten. The chicken inside stayed incredibly tender and when you cut through it, you could see the pretty layer of green pesto, golden Panko, red marinara and white cheese. Now that’s amore.

Pesto Parmesan Chicken

Serves 2 people (with big appetites)

Ingredients

2 large boneless chicken breasts

Salt & Pepper (to taste, to sprinkle lightly on chicken)

2 cups marinara sauce (your favorite bottled brand or homemade)

¼ cup fresh or grated mozzarella

1/4 cup olive oil

1 T. butter

1/2 cup Pesto

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Heat Oven to 400 degrees

Instructions:

Heat the marina in a saucepan until hot.

Put olive oil and butter in a large oven proof skillet and heat to medium high.

Rinse and pat boneless chicken breasts dry. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Put pesto in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl mix Panko and ½ c. Parmesan cheese. Lay chicken breasts, one at a time, into pesto first, coating both sides of breast and edges thoroughly, and then in Panko-Parm mixture, coating both sides and edges of breasts thoroughly again.

Saute the breasts on both sides until the coating is crispy and golden. You may have to add a little more oil depending on size of breasts and your pan.  (Drain off excess oil, if there is a lot of it, before putting in oven.)

Then put the entire skillet into the oven and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and ladle each breast with ¼ cup marinara, 2 T. mozzarella and 2 T. Parmesan cheese. Place back in the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken breast is cooked but not overly so. (A meat thermometer is helpful here, but if you don’t have one, just cut through the middle of one of the breasts to check for doneness.)


Before serving ladle each breast with more marinara and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese. This dish is excellent served with a side of angel hair pasta that has been tossed in a little pesto.

Variation:  Use thinner chicken breasts or pound smaller chicken breasts thin.  Put sauce and cheese on immediately after pan frying, and cook in oven only until cheese melts.

Vegetarian or Vegan Variation:
Use a vegan chicken patty (such as Gardien brand frozen chick’n scallopini), tofu, tempeh or seitan instead of chicken breasts. Use or make a vegan pesto (omit the parm cheese in most pesto recipes). The cooking time in the oven following pan-frying may not be needed at all, or just cook for a few minutes with tomato sauce and cheese. Vegans can serve without cheese, or use vegan versions of mozzarella and Parm on top.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pesto Parmesan Chicken
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Jz
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant “Lasagne”

Lemony Pesto Ricotta

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I went on a wild cooking spree, working as I do,  at top speed,  to get several dishes prepared.  Then once the kitchen looked like it had been ransacked by a herd of  goats with ADD, I started in to clean it.  When I load the dishwasher, I know that my husband is pulled in two emotional directions.  On the one hand, he is glad that I’m the one loading it so he doesn’t have to.  On the other hand, he is nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, knowing that I will take a lot of creative license in my loading technique.  He is the one who first said, “Becky, you load a dishwasher just like a drunk monkey.”

In this case, a picture may be worth a paragraph of words:

Greg is my daughter’s stepdad, but in organization and cleanliness, you’d swear they were related by blood.  So, for fun, I sent the picture above to Rachel, and within minutes she sent me this side-by-side comparison:

People ask, “Do your dishes get clean when you load them this way?”  And I say, “Not all of them.  But, miraculously, about 90 percent of them DO!”  I can deal with the other 10 percent later, when I hurriedly run them through the dishwasher again.

Though the kitchen was a disaster for awhile, I did produce several mouth-watering dishes. (Some to be shared in later posts.)  The first dish I made was born from a love of the flavors in pesto, but discouragement with the pesto calories.  I wondered what it would taste like to fuse all the ingredients in classic pesto with ricotta cheese, cutting out the olive oil.  Part skim ricotta has a generous amount of protein while low in calories. I LOVED the results. Light, lemony and creamy with the crunch of walnuts, the zip of basil and garlic.  With the addition of a little Greek Yogurt it made a wonderful dip for veggies and topping for crostinis. (Small slices of French bread, toasted, usually with olive oil.)

Then I wondered how this “pesto ricotta” would taste with broiled  eggplant, in layers, with a marinara sauce?  I could have eaten the entire pan full of it, but my 22 year old nephew Jordan – who is living with us now, and had never had eggplant before in his life  – beat me to it!  He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s an easy, tender,  healthy  and vegetarian dish, loaded with flavor, that I will definitely be making again.  I bet the pesto ricotta would also be amazing on hot pasta with roasted veggies, maybe some sliced vegan or Italian sausage…..

Ricotta “Pesto”

16 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (Vegans can sub Tofutti or mashed drained, white beans.  If you use it to make the eggplant dish, mashed cooked white potatoes would also be great.)

Juice of one lemon, plus all of its zest

½ c. walnuts

Big handful of basil

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegans omit or sub with Vegan Parm cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until walnuts are chopped fine and rest of ingredients are well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ricotta Pesto Topping for Veggies and Crostini

Use the recipe above, but add 2 T. plain Greek yogurt.  Stir and serve with crisp veggies and crostinis

Ricotta Pesto Eggplant “Lasagne”

Ingredients:

Recipe of Ricotta Pesto Above

2 Eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch rounds

Approximately ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

3 cups marina, your favorite brand or homemade (I whirl 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in a blender with garlic, 1/4 onion, handfull of basil, dash red wine, 1 t. oregano, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt — simmer a few minutes and call it marinara.)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like)

Directions

Heat oven to Broil.   Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil,  season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Broil about 4 inches from heat, keeping a close eye on the eggplant.  As soon as it begins to turn golden in places, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, carefully turn over the eggplant with a flat spatula, brush with more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil this side, too,  until slightly golden and eggplant is pliable and soft.  Take out of oven, let cool a bit.

Change oven temp to 350 degrees for baking.

Grease a square pan or round pan with a little olive oil.  Place one layer of eggplant in pan. (Using 1/3 of the eggplant slices.) Top with ½ the ricotta mixture.   Top with 1 cup marinara sauce.  Layer again with eggplant, ricotta,  and marinara in the same portions.  Top with layer of eggplant and final cup of marinara.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.   Bake for about 25 minutes until dish begins to bubble and Parm is golden brown.   Let sit for  10- 15 minutes before cutting in slices to serve.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant”Lasagne”
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Iv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Meat Sauce over Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle

Now and then I get a hankering for something that tempts all the senses: salty/briny, sweet, garlicky, rich and tomato-y. And when I do there there’s nothing like Puttanesca sauce to satisfy.

There are hundreds of variations on Puttanesca, but basically, it is a rich marinara sauce with a touch of something salty and briny (capers, olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and or pepperocinis) to give it an extra tangy zip.  I also like to balance the zip with something sweet — chopped sun-dried tomatoes and/or brown sugar.

I recently served this dish, innocently, to a lovely group of female friends, many of them involved with some sort of Christian ministry.  They loved it, scraped the skillet clean!  In attendance that night was my good friend Lucille Zimmerman who is a writer and a therapist who loves to research little known facts with the passion of Curious George. She went right home and researched the meaning of the word, “Puttanesca.” She wrote to tell me that it means — oh, how shall I say this delicately? –“prostitute, whore, ladies of night, harlot,” just choose your favorite wanton woman term.  Probably not a “word of the day” you’d choose to teach your kids over pasta.

Apparently the potent aroma of this dish from Italy was so powerful that the scent lured in potential customers off the street, serving as an appetizer for, well, the other “desserts” on the menu.

Oh, well. There’s nothing I can do about the origin of this dish, but I can tell you there is something powerfully seductive about it!

Below is how I make my Puttanesca, but don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list: it is what I had on hand in the fridge. Just pull out whatever you have in your fridge or pantry — and as long as you have something salty & briny, and something sweet, to balance the basic marinara, you’ll probably love the results.

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce Over Pappardelle Lemon-Pepper Pasta

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Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Into a medium high skillet (I love my cast iron for this) saute:

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 chopped onion in 2 T. olive oil

Throw in any mixture of the following that you have on hand, stirring after each addition. (I do highly recommend that you use the chopped artichoke hearts, to me they are the most essential ingredient!)

1/3 – 1/2 c. chopped marinated artichoke heart
1/2 c. to 1 cup, any roasted or left over vegies, diced.
1 T. capers
2 T. olives, chopped, any kind
2 T. pesto sauce (if you have it on hand… no worries if not)
2 T. chopped pepperocini peppers
2 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, preferably)
1 – 2 T. brown sugar (this will depend on your taste and also how many “sour” ingredients that you put in your sauce that will need balanced by sweet)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like the ones with basil and garlic)
1 t. Italian seasoning or oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Simmer until sauce is thick and chunky, then season with salt, pepper, and Italian spices to taste.

You can dress up the recipe from here and add some flavorful meat of your choice. It is delicious with ½ lb of ground beef sauteed with ½ pound Italian sausage (chicken or turkey sausage is great) tossed in.  Or you can go vegan and roast garbanzo beans (see recipe below) and serve over your favorite pasta,  or spaghetti squash (see instructions for this below as well).  My daughter and I made this vegan version together (she suggested we try it with roasted garbanzos),  and it was AWESOME.

I personally adore this sauce served over Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta (which is a wide ribbon-like pasta). I looked up the root meaning of “pappardelle” and to my great relief, it simply means “to gobble up.” Whew.  Much better  “Italian word of the day” for little ones.

A light sprinkle of Parmesan (Vegan Parm if you are going dairy-free) and it is ready to serve.  The aroma should draw hungry folks to your kitchen in no time.

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Roasted Garbanzo Beans ( Chick Peas )
Drain, rinse and pat dry a can of garbanzo beans. Pour them evenly on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with olive oil, then roll them around. Sprinkle with salt or your favorite spiced salt. Roast at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are browned and crisped. (Shake them once or twice while baking so they can brown on two sides.)

Spaghetti Squash
Take a spaghetti squash and cut it in half length wise. Scoop out seeds. Put 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a big microwave proof bowl. Put one of the squash halves in the bowl, hole side up. (If it wobbles, trim a thin piece of the squash off the bottom so that it sits more level in the bowl.) Put the other squash half on top of the squash in the bowl. Don’t cover it. Just put in microwave for 10 minutes. Test done-ness by squeezing the top squash with a pot holder. If it squeezes easily, it is done. Take a fork and scrape “strings” of squash in spaghetti-like fashion.
Lightly salt, then top with sauce and roasted garbanzo beans. (You can also serve leftover spaghetti squash with butter and pepper and nutmeg for a side dish.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Seductive Puttanesca Sauce
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ep