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Pasta e Fagioli

30 Apr

This upcoming week is crazy busy for us. Alex has to create, administer and grade final exams for all of his classes. And I have to bake like 30 dozen cookies for my friend Kim’s wedding (so exciting!).  Not to mention its hockey playoff time and Alex spends every free waking moment watching the games.  Then there is the dentist appointments, my brother’s school play, so on and so on.

For weeks like this, I try to make something that is quick, easy and will be good to keep as leftovers in case we don’t have time to make dinner.

Pasta e fagioli, “pasta and beans” in Italian and pronounced as “pasta fazool” by Americans, is a rustic peasant dish that epitomizes Northern Italian cooking.  Although it is typically served as a soup, it can be prepared a variety of ways.  This recipe of baked pasta and beans, or Pasta e Fagioli al Forno, is hearty and delicious. Plus it takes less than a half an hour to make. Winning!

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Stuffed Shells

15 Mar

I, like many people, go through obsessive phases in my life. Last year I was obsessed with going to the gym during my lunch break. I mean, I was REALLY into it. I had a sweatband. That lasted about 2 ½ weeks before I reverted back to my usual slothful self. Then I was obsessed with lemon water. I would go through 2-3 lemons a day. I was eating so many lemons that my dental hygienist actually recommended that I start using Pronamel toothpaste.

So what is my latest and greatest obsession? CHIA SEEDS!

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Winner – Pasta Puttanesca!

16 Feb

The winner of this week’s poll, with 45% of the votes, is Pasta Puttanesca!  This type of pasta dish is native to Naples and is very simple to make.  The key ingredients to Puttanesca sauce are: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, olives and capers. In the Lazio region of Italy, they also add anchovy paste for a little saltier sauce.

Interestingly, the term Puttanesca derives from the Italian word “Puttana” which is a vulgar term to describe a prostitute (I have refrained from using the direct English translation for modesty sake).  Why would the Italians name their pasta something so crude? There are two legends that explain the origin of the name:

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Back to the basics

2 Nov

Bechamel is considered to be the mother of all sauces. It is commonly said that the recipe was originally created in France by the chef of Louis XIV. However, there have been disputes over the origins of bechamel. Some say that the recipe was born in Italy during the rise of the House of Medici, which was over 100 before Louis XIV was even born.

Regardless of its origins, this creamy white sauce is now widely used in an array of cuisines. It is the foundation for many of my favorite Greek, Italian and American recipes. All of which I hope to share with you in the future. But for now, I just want to bring it back to the basics and go over the technique of making a great bechamel.

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My experiences with pasta

19 Sep

Even though I grew up eating mostly Thai food, I have a soft spot in my [stomach] for the Italian cuisine.  I love the wines, cured meats, cheeses and pastas.  My love for Italian food originated in early 2007 when my best friends and I went to Italy to study for a semester.  We learned about amazing artists like Caravaggio, Bernini and Michelangelo.  And we even learned how to cook Italian food in a farm house in Perugia.  Everything about that experience was so wonderful.  Then, in 2011, my (now) husband and I returned to the eternal city and it just completely re-solidified my love for all things Italia.  Their passion for food and quality of life is just so inspiring.  Not to mention they make the best porchetta I’ve ever had in my life!

Now, I do not consider myself an expert in Italian cooking by any stretch of the imagination.  But I do try my best to recreate some of the fabulous meals I’ve had while abroad (some attempts are better than others). Cooking is all about trying new things, failing and improving.  So here are some things I’ve learned over the years about cooking pasta. Continue reading

A presto pesto!

18 Sep

In an attempt to be more green, I have been desperately trying to grow a garden for the past two years.  However, my attempts have sadly been to no avail.  Last summer I was able to harvest 2 cherry tomatoes, 1 teeny tiny strawberry, and 1 banana pepper.  Pathetic, right?  This year was even worse, but at least I could blame it on the “drought” and the fact that I was too busy planning my wedding to have time to nurture the garden.  The only plant I managed to keep alive this time is my basil plant, which does not speak much to my green thumb as I heard that basil is the entry-level gardener’s plant.  But hey, it’s better than nothing right? Who needs chives, dill, green onions, or thyme? Basil is the king of herbs, the crème de la crème.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Pesto is a great way to use up all that extra basil we have in our gardens at the end of summer.  This recipe is simple yet delicious. Pesto is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, but I just use a food processor. It’s also easy to freeze.  Make the recipe sans the cheese and pour it into an ice-cube tray.  (My good friend Maddie claims that you can freeze the pesto sauce with the cheese and it is still wonderful, but I have not tried it this way). Leave it in the freezer overnight and transfer all the pesto cubes into a freezer bag to store.  When you want to have pesto later, just defrost and add the cheese.  One pesto cube makes one generous serving.

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