Pasta Arrabbiata – Great Pasta, Great Times…

Often simplicity makes the tastiest dishes, and when it comes to pasta, in my house, I always opt for simple. What makes any good pasta a great pasta – in my opinion, is the base tomato sauce. Cooking it for a long period, cooking out the acidity of the tomatoes is the secret, infusing all the flavors of the herbs.

With the addition of chili – “Arrabbiata” literally means “angry” in Italian, and the name of the sauce is due to the bite from the chilies.  Make it as hot as you want, or mild, depending on your likes.  I like mine to have a little punch, but I add extra chili in in the end as not everyone likes the heat.

Pasta Arrabbiatta

1 can whole peeled tomatoes
4 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 pkt tomato paste
½ house Fresh garlic
Fresh oregano, finely chopped
Fresh chillie’s – to the heat you can handle, finely chopped
2 tsp Basil Pesto
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Knorr vegetable stock pot
1l boiling water
seasoning
Grated parmesaan cheese
olive oil

**Add a few strips of crispy bacon if you wish to skip the meat free option

Preheat the oven to 200°C, place the garlic on a roasting try, sprinkle with coarse salt and olive oil.  Roast for 25 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and set aside.

Over a medium heat, add a generous amount of olive oil and fry the onions off in a deep pot, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, chillies and tomato paste.  Fry for a few 5 – 7 minutes, followed by the whole peeled tomatoes, oregano and seasoning.
Add the stock pot and water; drop the heat to a gentle simmer and let cook out for 2 hours. Stir sporadically to ensure it doesn’t burn.

The tomatoes should break up and become a thick sauce, however if you want to use a stick blender at this point to blitz up the sauce, do so now.

Add the basil pesto and balsamic vinegar and crispy bacon if you are using.

Boil pasta according to packet instructions, or best use freshly made pasta – find out here.

Mix the sauce and pasta together, add some grated paramasaan and you have a delicious meal waiting!  Traditionally you would sprinkle with parsley.

Pasta Ariabata

Now you guys get to weigh in!  Share with me your Favorite Pasta Sauce!

 

Back to Basics – Pasta Dough…keeping it simple

My pasta machine has to be one of the best gifts I have ever received! It sits proudly on my counter, always ready to be used.  Often when we have people over, they play with the handle, or spend a few moments inspecting it, and it brings such a warm smile to my face.  It is a great conversational pieces.

Nothing beats homemade pasta, the love you feel when I make it overflows when you eat it.  To me, that is pure happiness! I understand the convenience of store bought, I get how much easier dried pasta is, but the whole process from start to finish just brings such satisfaction to me.

Basic Pasta Dough

500g stone ground flour
5 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1tbsp olive oil

I knead my dough by hand, you are welcome to place all ingredients into a Kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment until all the ingredients form a ball, continue to mix for 5 – 7 minutes.  I love the therapeutic process of kneading dough.

Mix the flour & salt, place on your work surface and make a well. Break the eggs into the middle of the well with the olive oil, slowly, using your fingers, mix the eggs, gently bringing in a little flour at a time.  Bring all together and knead until you have a smooth ball.  This will take you about 10 minutes, don’t stress of your dough is not coming together.  Just add a little more oil, but not to much.  Practice makes perfect!

Let rest for at least an hour, bring to room temperature before you start rolling it out.

Make sure you pasta is well floured before you put it through the pasta machine, you don’t want it sticking to the machine.

Bring water to a rapid boil, salt and toss the pasta in.  Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, remove from water and add to desired sauce.

You can try my pasta al vodka, or keep it simple, toss with a little olive oil, chilli, fresh parsley and parmasaan, or toss with a pesto you have in your fridge with a little crumbed Danish feta.  Go wild!

Enjoy!

Now the whole debate of salt and oil in the water when you cook your pasta.  My opinion…salt the water as it starts to boil, do not use oil, the only reason your pasta sticks together is if the pot is to small and you toss in too much pasta.

Stuffed Chicken Breast served on a bed of Pasta

The weather is all over the place, just as we get a taste for the Spring that is promised, we are reminded that Mother Nature is still in charge and when she is ready, we may bask in the Spring weather and that Summer time we all ling for.

With Spring comes the start of many new things, I am organizing at the moment, want to do a Spring clean, toss out the old, start with the new…and I will be starting on my closet.  But more about that in another post…

I love pasta…so versatile.  Pasta often find place on our dinner table.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

Serves 4

4 Skinless Chicken Breasts
½ packet of lean bacon
½ cup of cut mushrooms
1 cup of spinach
½ onion, diced
5 tbsp crumbed feta
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
¼ tsp nutmeg
seasoning to taste

For the Sauce
½ onion, roughly chopped
½ tsp sugar
1 time whole peeled tomatoes
1 sprig of rosemary chopped finely
½ cup white wine

1 Packet of your favourite pasta, or 500g of freshly made pasta.

For the Sauce
Fry off the onions, with a little sugar, add the whole peeled tomatoes, white wine, rosemary, season to taste and let simmer on a low heat.

Preheat oven to 180°C

Fry off your onions, bacon, mushrooms and spinach, rosemary, in a dash of olive oil.  Set aside to cool and add the feta and nutmeg, and season to taste.

Using a sharp knife, create a pocket from the top of the chicken breast, do not slit the whole breast open. Fill the pocket of the chicken breast with your spinach filling, and close opening with a toothpick.

Place on a baking tray and into the oven for 23 – 35 minutes.

Cook your pasta according to instructions on the packet.

Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for 2 – 4 minutes.

Slice chicken and place on a bed of pasta, and cover with your homemade tomato sauce.

Simple dinner that sounds complicated but is so easy

Pasta al Vodka

I have posted this recipe before, long ago but took it down when I deleted my old blog. However, watching Masterchef on Tuesday, and the food memory topic really got me thinking. There are so many great food memories, and I will still do the post of my childhood food memory, but this one not only brings back great memories, but my husband loves this dish!

When I lived in Chicago, I worked for a Jewish orthodox family, the mom was of Italian decent and wow could she cook. I use to watch her when she made the Shabbats dinners and learnt many way of cooking Kosher, however, when she made Pasta al Vodka, it soon became my favourite pasta sauce. I have tweaked it slightly.

The best part of this sauce is that you can make it vegetarian or you can add meat, I do the latter as my husband does tolerate my meatless moods, however he leans towards having his protein as meat, not legumes or beans that I try and feed him.

I am going to try and be as exact as possible, however, for those who are loyal followers of my blog knows that as a chef, I cook by feeling, so go with what you are in the mood for. In this dish, I like to have strong flavours that all marry together.

Pasta al Vodka
serves 3 – 4

350g chicken breasts
300ml cream
100g bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
garlic to taste
1 tin tomato puree
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup vodka
seasoning
½ tsp sugar
Parmesan cheese, grated

Fry off your onions in olive oil until transparent, add the sugar to the onions and let the natural juices release. Add the garlic and fry off a little more, the extra moisture will prevent your garlic from burning and bringing a bitterness to the dish. Add the tomato paste and fry off until the oils release, add ¼ cup of the vodka to deglaze the pot. Add the bacon, fry off and add another ¼ cup of vodka. Add the chicken, and fry until the chicken changes colour, add the whole peeled tomatoes, rosemary, left over of the vodka, season and let simmer on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the cream, and let simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with your favourit pasta, topped with parmesan cheese and enjoy.

Cous Cous – Food so nice they named it twice

I remember cous cous being a rather in depth question in my Food 101 exam…and since then, it has made many appearances on my dinner tables…

Couscous is a Berber dish ( Berber cuisine is considered as a traditional cuisine which evolved little in the course of time) of semolina traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it.

Couscous is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a glycemic load per gram 25% below that of pasta. It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, containing twice as much riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, and containing four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid.

In terms of protein, couscous has 3.6 g for every 100 calories, equivalent to pasta, and well above the 2.6 g for every 100 calories of white rice. Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to 3% for white rice, 5% for pasta, and 11.3% for rice pilaf. (Thank you WikiPedia for the info)

My all time favourite way to use cous cous would be in a salad. It’s easy, quick and healthy…everything I love about food!
We had some friends over, and I had not really planned a salad, so I quickly put this together…

Cous Cous Salad

To make the perfect cous cous, you need to use equal parts cous cous to water. Thats the secret behind the magic in a box.
I used 4 cups couscous to 4 cups boiling water. To the water I added 2 tsp of mint sauce. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap, until all the water has been absorbed.
The best part about this salad, you can add exactly what you feel like…my list of salad ingredients are the following:
Dried pomegranate
Diced onion
Dice jalapenos
Diced capers
Diced feta
Dice red & yellow peppers
Finely chopped fresh coriander

Let couscous cool and add all the ingredients together, season and serve. I drizzled a little Verlaque Cape Lemon Olive Oil Cranberry Balsamic Reduction Pomegranate SPLASH!
This is a great salad now that the warmer weather is setting in and we are coming out of our winter blues.