Tag Archives: Pasta

Pasta Bolognese

pastabolognese300x181Ragu Alla Bolognese is a rich and creamy tomato-based sauce, typically made with a variety of meats, heavy cream, wine and beef broth.

I was surprised how easy a task it was to translate this dish to a lighter meatless version.

As with many recipes that contain meat, it is actually the supporting “cast members” — the dry white wine, nutmeg, sweet carrots, celery and red onion — that give dishes like my Bolognese sauce its distinctive and deliciously familiar flavor.

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 medium red onion
1 medium carrot
1 large stalk celery
1-12 oz. package vegetarian ground beef style crumbles
3-4 slices chopped vegetarian bacon (optional)
1 lb. fresh or canned tomatoes (look for a smooth crushed tomato)
4 T. margarine
2 T. olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 c. good quality dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup “beef” flavored vegetarian stock
1/2-3/4 c. unsweetened soy milk

To prepare:
To make preparation easier, use a food processor and process onion, carrot, and celery until very finely chopped.

Heat the margarine and oil in a heavy pan. When the oils are just warm add the vegetables and saute for 5 minutes. Add “beef” and “bacon” and continue sauteing for another 10 minutes stirring every so often.

Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Simmer mixture for 15 minutes before adding the nutmeg and broth. Continue cooking for about another 20 minutes.

Taste the sauce to be sure all ingredients are well blended and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, add the soy milk, and continue cooking on very low for another 10-15 minutes. Keep the heat low, so the bottom doesn’t burn.

At this point, when the sauce is done, prepare the pasta. (I don’t recommend egg-based pasta because this sauce is too robust.) When the pasta is al dente, add the pasta to the sauce and combine and cook over very low heat for a few minutes.

Top off each serving with another drizzle of fruity olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Note: With a little imagination and the inclusion of modern soy products, converting any meat-based family favorites is easier than ever. “Ground beef” style vegetable protein crumbles add consistency, texture, and nutrients, while eliminating fat and cholesterol.

Parsley Tofu

Parsley Tofu

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This recipe is an old German family favorite. Although when my mother made it, she used chicken, the parsley sauce was always my favorite part of the meal. And, this was one of the first dishes from my childhood that I was able to successfully convert to vegetarian and now it has become a new family favorite. Serve with egg noodles, macaroni, or my preferred way, over steamed potatoes.

Serves 4

Ingredients
I pkg. extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, cubed
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying

1/2-1 c. fresh chopped parsley
5 c. mild vegetable stock
8 T. margarine
8-10 T. all purpose flour
Salt and pepper

To prepare:
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tofu and Kosher salt and brown tofu until crispy. When the tofu is finished, remove and drain on paper towels. Without rinsing the skillet, add margarine to the pan and melt it down. Allow it to get just a hint of color, then add the flour a few tablespoons at a time, stirring continuously. When all the flour is blended, begin whisking in the stock a few cups at a time. Once the sauce is nicely smooth, add the tofu and continue cooking for a few minutes, then throw in the parsley and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot on a bed of noodles or steamed potatoes.

Note: You can replace the tofu with your own favorite chicken substitute such as Quorn Tenders or Tofurkey.

Pasta with Red Onion, “Bakin,” Radicchio, and Edamame

Pasta with Red Onion, “Bakin,” Radicchio, and Edamame

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This was a dish that I grew up with and have adapted. It’s so easy to make in a pinch and a wonderful way to use up leftover pasta. Use any vegetables you like, but keep the edamame. It’s firm texture holds up well against the al dente pasta. Edamame are also superior in nutrition to many beans and children really like their sweet, crunchy snap. Vegetarian bacon adds salty flavor. The trick with vegetarian bacon products is to cook them separately and to help maintain a crispy texture, add back in at the end. The amounts given in this recipe are guidelines, so you can use as much or as little as you wish.

8 oz. penne (or your pasta of choice)
3 T. olive oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 ½ c. radicchio leaves, sliced thin
½ pkg. vegetarian bacon of choice
2 c. edamame beans, frozen and parboiled
Small handful torn basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large shallow pan heat oil. Chop the vegetarian bacon and fry the pieces until browned and crispy. Remove the “bacon” from pan and set aside.

Add pasta to the boiling water.

Add a small amount of oil to the pan you cooked your “bacon” in and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the parboiled edamame and red pepper flakes and sauté for a minute or two.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and, without rinsing, add the hot pasta directly into the onion mixture, turning everything over to heat it all through. Add in the cripsy bacon pieces, the radicchio, basil, salt, and lots of pepper, tossing to combine well. The radicchio will wilt slightly when it comes into contact with the hot pasta mixture. Plate and top with a sprinkle of picada if desired.

Summer Pasta with Tomato, Arugula, Basil, and Red Onion

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Ingredients:
1 box ziti or pasta of choice
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, in large dice
1 ½ c. baby arugula
1 c. basil leaves
½ small red onion, chopped
1 ½ T. good quality balsamic vinegar
About ¼ c. olive oil
Salt and fresh black pepper
Cold Fontina cheese (optional)

To prepare:
In a small bowl add vinegar and red onions, stir well and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Next, in a fairly shallow casserole dish, add diced tomatoes, basil, arugula, and onions along with the vinegar. Add about half of the oil. Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of kosher salt and combine. Gently mix as you would a salad, to coat all the veggies with the dressing. While the pasta is cooking continue to gently fold the veggies.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil. When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Drain the pasta, quickly, and, without rinsing, add it to the casserole dish. Fold the pasta in gently bringing the veggies up from the bottom to the top, until well combined. If desired, add about five gratings, using the larger blade of a box grater, of Fontina cheese. Season with more salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper. Serve at room temperature. This pasta is equally delicious as it cools.

Fontina is a fairly soft cheese, that melts quite nicely. Keeping the cheese cold makes grating or slicing much easier. Macerating* the onions in vinegar not only softens the onions but imparts a subtile and delicious flavor with out any overbearing vinegar flavor.

*Macerating is process used in food preparation where raw, dried or preserved fruit or vegetables are soaked in a seasoned, usually acidic, liquid before cooking. Macerating is often confused with “marinating.” The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, however they have a different purpose. Macerating refers to the softening or breaking down of tough fibers in foods using a liquid. This process not only helps make food more flavorful, it also makes them easier to digest. This is especially helpful with raw onions. Fruit, on the other hand, is usually sprinkled with sugar and a little fresh lemon, then left to sit and release their own juices.

Pesto Unlimited

Pesto Unlimited

Pesto brings to mind large handfuls of fresh basil, olive oil, and nuts and, while this is the most common way people think of it, lots of other vegetables and leafy herbs can be turned into a pesto, which simply means “paste.”

Last night I made a broccoli pesto, but I have also made pesto from asparagus tips, leeks, artichokes, roasted peppers, or even spinach. What follows isn’t an actual recipe, it’s more of a “method” it’s dead easy.

Take about a quarter to a half pound roughly chopped steamed broccoli tops and place them into your food processor bowl. Add two ot three cloves of fresh garlic and some salt. Pulse the broccoli-garlic mixture into a fine chop, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pine nuts or almonds and process the mixture into a paste. Drizzle in some oilve oil and continue to process until you have a nice smooth consistency. I usually add a bit of crushed red pepper, but it’s optional. Toss the broccoli pesto, as you would basil pesto, with your cooked pasta and serve it hot. This is also totally scrumptious spread on toasted Tuscan bread as a bruschetta.

Pasta Leftovers

Pasta Leftovers

Leftover pasta can be a great quick meal when you’re in a time crunch, but the longer you store it the tougher and starchier it gets. Four days is about the limit for keeping plain, undressed pasta. After that, the best you can do is add it to a soup.

My method for bringing leftover pasta “back to life” is to warm a little olive oil in a skillet over low heat and toss in the pasta to warm it up slowly. This method gives a much better, more appetizing result than re-boiling it or microwaving it.

Another delicious option is to fry it in a little olive oil until the pasta is brown and crispy, then season with salt and pepper and serve it as a side dish.

Don’t toss it away – try my tips for creating a delicious, easy, and quick meal with your leftover pasta.