Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chunky Roasted Tomato Sauce

There is something so inherently comforting about baked pasta. I love the moment I take it out of the oven and it is oozing with melted cheese and bubbling gently. The whole house smells amazing! The best noodle in baked pastas is something wide and short, such as rigatoni. For this version I combined a homemade chunky tomato sauce made of fresh Roma tomatoes and canned fire-roasted tomatoes with cream cheese, and it made a smokey, creamy and heavenly sauce. The pasta can be baked in individual ramekins or in a large casserole dish. Add chicken sausage for even more flavor. Enjoy!

Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chunky Roasted Tomato Sauce
An ultra comforting and delicious baked pasta!
Serves 4

3/4 pound rigatoni
10 Roma tomatoes, peeled*
1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
4 oz. pancetta, diced
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 T. dried Italian herb blend
1 T. sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pot or Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pancetta drippings. Add onions and carrots, sprinkle with salt, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes, then add dried herbs and stir. Pour in 1/2 cup of red wine and use wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.

Add the Roma tomatoes and use a potato masher to break them up. Cook for 10 minutes, then add can of fire roasted tomatoes and mash again. Add basil leaves, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of wine and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes shy of the cooking time on the package. Pasta will be underdone but will finish cooking when baked. Drain and pour back into pasta pot.

Add cream cheese to noodles and stir to combine. Then add enough tomato sauce to completely saturate noodles. Reserve any remaining sauce. 

Pour pasta into a large casserole dish or individual ramekins, greased. Spread fresh mozzarella slices over the top and sprinkle with dried herbs. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove tin foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. Top with fresh herbs, cooked chicken sausage, or meatballs if desired.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

*To peel tomoatoes boil them for 1 minute, then shock in ice water. The peel will slide right off!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

I am a firm believer that food cooked on a grill just tastes better. From asparagus to potatoes, bread to burgers, a grill imparts remarkable flavor and really ups the YUM factor! Chicken quesadillas are no exception. Assemble inside, wrap in foil, and grill for 10 minutes and you have a gooey, cheesy, flavorful feast! Make sure and grill a basket of veggies on the side- I love onions, peppers and broccoli doused in lime juice and hot sauce!

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
A delicious Mexican meal!
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
Juice of 1 lime
2 T canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
4 large flour tortillas
½ onion, diced
Cilantro, chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
Hot sauce

Heat a grill to medium-high.

Combine lime juice, oil, cayenne, cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk. Place chicken in a large re-sealable plastic bag and pour marinade over. Massage into chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours. Drain marinade off chicken and grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. Let cool slightly then cut into small bite size pieces.

Place two tortillas on a flat work surface. Cover with a thin layer of cheddar cheese, and then add an even amount of chicken, onion and cilantro. Dot the tortilla with fresh mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with hot sauce, to taste. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and place other tortilla on top.

Wrap quesadillas in foil and grill for 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from foil and grill an additional 1-2 minutes per side until tortillas are lightly toasted. Remove from grill, cut into wedges, and serve with salsa and guacamole. Ole!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage

Fresh tomatoes are one of the many reasons I love summer. There is nothing better than a home-grown, ruby red stunner picked fresh off the vine. Grocery store “tomatoes” belong in another category entirely, as they can’t hold a candle to summer garden beauties! I had a pound of homegrown tomatoes to use up last weekend, so I made my favorite meal- pasta with a homemade tomato sauce! I made it extra special by adding Italian sausage and serving it over pappardelle, a noodle thicker than fettuccine that soaks up the sauce and melts in your mouth. I also added a few other special ingredients to this sauce that I’m sure you’ll love. Trust me, you could never buy anything in a jar that tastes this amazing!

Summer Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage
Homemade sauce with fresh tomatoes... the best reason to eat pasta!Serves 4-6

1 pound garden tomatoes
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 pound ground Italian sausage (I prefer spicy)
1 cup Italian red wine, such as Chianti
8 oz. (1 container) baby portabella mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced (optional)
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. fresh rosemary, minced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound pappardelle, or your favorite noodle

First prepare the garden tomatoes. Use a paring knife to remove the small core where the stem attaches. Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the tomatoes in and cook for 3 minutes to loosen skins. Carefully remove tomatoes and plunge into ice water. When cool enough to handle peel skin off tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze and break up the tomatoes.

Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and add ground Italian sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and cook until no longer pink. Scoop out the meat and set aside. Return Dutch oven to burner. If you’re using mushrooms add them to the pot and cook until browned. Spoon mushrooms into the meat mixture to set aside.

Return pot to burner over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper to 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes, then add the garden tomatoes. Cook and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and sugar. Cook for 5 more minutes, and then add the red wine. Continue to cook until sauce slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the meat/mushroom mixture and fresh rosemary to the tomatoes, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and Parmesan cheese. Taste for seasonings and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook your favorite noodle according to package directions. Drain and add it to the sauce. Stir and allow to cook together for a minute or two. Serve in large bowls with extra basil and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang