Spinach Pie

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It was the photo that caught my attention on the Epicurious website. I was searching for something, and this distracted me. Spinach pie. A simple, beautiful Irish recipe.

Savory tarts, pies, and quiches are some of my favorite things to serve for lunch, especially for company. They’re not much work, as long as a pie crust doesn’t worry you. Plus, they look so much more special than, say, a casserole.

On this blog there’s a leek and cilantro pesto tart, a recipe by Eugenia Bone, which is more quiche-like, marbled with a cilantro pesto.

I also have a tomato tart on the blog, a recipe by Guliano Bugliali. It’s like a cross between a quiche and a rich tomato soup.

There are just so many ways to create something savory in a crust.

Then I read the recipe through, and there’s no crust in this recipe! So there are no excuses not to make this!

Here is the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Spinach Pie
from Irish Country Cooking

1 lb. 4 ounces spinach, washed
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
10 ounces cottage cheese
10 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam the spinach, drain well, and roughly chop it once it cools down.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked spinach with the onion, beaten eggs, and both types of cheese. Beat well and season with pepper and nutmeg.

Transfer the mixture to one large pie dish, (9″) or individual dishes if using. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

And that’s it!

I served the pie with a simple salted tomato salad, so as to let the pie filling shine.

If I had been thinking, I might have puréed the spinach mixture so that it was more green than mottled with the cottage cheese.

Or, maybe checked with Conor Bofin, from the blog, “One Man’s Meat,” to see if Irish cottage cheese is more like a farmers cheese or even ricotta cheese.

Nonetheless, the taste was lovely.

And I copied the purple flower idea since my borage flowers were blooming!

Reprinted with permission from Irish Country Cooking: More than 100 Recipes for Today’s Table by The Irish Countrywomen’s Association. © 2012 Irish Countrywomen’s Trust. This Sterling Epicure Edition published in 2014.

Tuna Burgers

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Tuna burgers aren’t quite as popular, in my opinion, as salmon burgers. It’s probably because salmon is more fatty and moist, so burgers made with prepared salmon are more apt to be moist and tender.

Tuna doesn’t have the richness of salmon, but it is delicate and flaky, and can definitely lend itself to a burger-type preparation.

So whenever I grill a large amount of tuna, I saved the leftover tuna for burgers.

The fun thing with tuna burgers is that so many approaches can be taken. Do you want Asian burgers? Easy! Do you want them Indian? Really easy! Mexican? Sure!

For these burgers, I decided on Mediterranean flavors.

Here’s what I did.

Mediterranean-Inspired Tuna Burgers

Leftover grilled tuna, about 8 ounces, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
Roasted red bell peppers, diced
Kalamata olives, diced
2 shallots, minced
Chopped parsley
Sweet paprika
Salt
White pepper
Crumbled goat cheese
Bread crumbs, as necessary

Crumble or chop the tuna and place in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise. Add the bell peppers, olives, shallots, and parsley and gently stir. Season with the paprika, salt, and pepper.

Combine with the flaked tuna. Add goat cheese to taste.

Slowly add bread crumbs just until the mixture firms up. (See note.) Form four burgers, place them in a baking dish, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the burgers until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot.

I included a capered mayonnaise with these burgers, which I served without bread.

A good mustard or mustard-mayo mixture would be good, too. Or mayonnaise mixed with paprika creme.

I hope you can tell how tender the tuna burgers are.

Note: When I catered ladies’ lunches for one special client, she often asked me to make crab cakes. They weren’t that unique, but I do believe that they were popular because of their moistness. If you make crab cakes or tuna burgers meat-heavy instead of breadcrumb-heavy, they are a little harder to work with, but they will be tastier and much more enjoyable.

Bacon Egg Salad

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To date, I’ve never written a sandwich post on my blog. I don’t dislike sandwiches – on the contrary, if it weren’t for my lack of self-portion control, I’d probably have a sandwich every day. Simple sandwiches like braunschweiger with mustard, a hot panini, or a multi-layered Italian sub dripping with vinegar… I love them all.

So today is the day I write about a sandwich. The recipe screams to me every time I’m near this book, Gale Gand’s Brunch!

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It’s an egg salad sandwich filling with bacon. So simple and yet so perfect! Who doesn’t grow up loving egg salad, and now you get to enjoy it on bread, with bacon!!!

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Honestly, while you might be shaking your head at the simplicity of this sandwich concept, you’re wanting one at the same time, aren’t you?!!

Here is the recipe:

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwiches

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
4 strips of bacon, diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices white bread, crusts cut off

Roughly chop the hard-boiled eggs and put them in a medium bowl.

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Cook the bacon, and let drain on paper towels.

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Add the mayonnaise and mustard to the eggs, and mix with a fork. Then add the bacon. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
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Spread the egg salad on each of 4 slices of bread, top each sandwich with another slice of bread, and cut corner to corner to make triangles. (Obviously that’s optional.)

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Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to 3 hours before serving.

Obviously, one can change up the ratio of the eggs, bacon and mayonnaise in this mixture. Although less “healthy,” I really love mayonnaise, and would not enjoy an egg salad that is dry.

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I also imagine that some people would prefer more bacon, and that is A-OK. Change up the bread, too. Make this sandwich yours!

Normally I would add lettuce and a ripe tomato slice, but I think I’ll leave this sandwich alone as is. I added a few olives for fun, but a pickled asparagus spear or pepperoncini would be nice also.

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This little unobtrusive cookbook was a gift, and I’m still making recipes from it, like the shakshuka-style Cucurumao I made on Christmas morning that was a huge hit. If you love brunch inspiration, I highly recommend this gem!

Carrot Cider Soup

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My husband and I were lucky enough to go to the restaurant Square One in San Francisco many years ago. And we were on expense account. There’s just something about that benefit that makes the dining experience even more wonderful!

The restaurant, owned by chef Joyce Goldstein, opened in 1984. According to an article I found online, Joyce Goldstein was “one of, if not the first, to explore Mediterranean food with her interpretations of specialties from Turkey, Italy, Greece, Morocco and other sun-washed countries.”

All I remember was that the menu was impressive and the food delicious. I unfortunately don’t remember any specifics of that night. I’m guessing our wine was plentiful, however, this dining experience was 30 years ago!

In 1992 Joyce Goldstein published the cookbook Back to Square One – Old-World Food in a New-World Kitchen.
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Recently I decided to peruse some older cookbooks of mine, and I immediately fell in love with Back to Square One again. There are so many recipes I want to try, like Balkan crab salad with walnuts and lemon mayonnaise. As well as recipes I want to make again, like Catalan-style quail stuffed in roasted peppers with olives.

This weekend we’re having our favorite people over to raclette` and I found a soup in the cookbook that will be perfect to begin our feast.

The actual name of Joyce Goldstein’s soup is French Apple Cider and Carrot Soup. It’s a carrot soup with the addition of hard cider. To make it a little more festive, I decided to top off the soup with a little creme fraiche and some julliened apples.

Unfortunately I’m not so good at presentation, but here is the recipe:
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French Apple Cider and Carrot Soup
Back to Square One

Serves 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/4 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup hard apple cider
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and sweet, 10 to 15 minutes.
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Add the carrot chunks and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are very tender.

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Purée the soup in the blender or food processor, using only as much of the stock as necessary to purée the carrots.

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Transfer the purée to a clean saucepan and then add the apple cider, the cream, and as much of the remaining stock as necessary to think the soup to the desired consistency.

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I actually added the cider and cream while the soup was still in the blender jar.
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Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar or nutmeg if the soup needs sweetening.
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I added a small dollop of creme fraiche, and a few jullienned apples, plus freshly ground nutmeg, and also pink peppercorns.

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note: After making this soup with the uncooked hard cider, I have a few thoughts.
1. In spite of the low alcohol content, the flavor is too sharp and raw for the soup.
2. Perhaps the hard cider would work better after first a reduction of 50%.
3. Regular apple cider would work, but it should be added along with the chicken broth.
4. A splash of Calvados could add a little flavor, but I recommend adding it along with the chicken broth.
5. Including a cored apple or pear to the carrots would add a natural sweetness to the soup.

Flamiche

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A flamiche is somewhat related to a quiche, but with the addition a a generous amount off caramelized onions. It is good.
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Unfortunately, I can not give you the source for the recipe, because it was from the days when I copied recipes out of cookbooks that I borrowed from the library.
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I changed the recipe by adding cheese to the quiche. Why not?!!
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Served with a green salad, it will definitely please you for lunch or a light dinner. You could always add bacon or ham to it.

Flamiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Gruyère
Nutmeg, white pepper, salt
Baked pie shell

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sprinkle on the sugar. Sauté the onion slices until they are caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes, trying not to burn the onion.

Set aside the onions to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and cream. Add your desired amounts of seasoning; I used 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, approximately 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
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Place your pre-baked pie crust pan on a jelly roll pan. Place the grated cheese on the bottom. Top with the caramelized onions.

Add the seasoned egg and cream mixture.


Bake the flamiche for about 40 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 325 degrees and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. You can test its doneness by using a cake tester, which should come out clean.

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Let the flamiche rest for a bit, then cut into slices and serve.
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It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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You could use a dip-dish pie pan; the one I used is quite shallow.

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Pistachio Spazele

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When my family was in Park City, Utah, on vacation recently to visit my mother, we had a very special dinner. What made it special was because it was just my mother, my daughter, and myself. That rarely happens because we live in different states.

On our girls’ night out without the guys and the baby, we dined at The Farm, which we’ve been to a few times before, located at The Canyons just outside of Park City. And again it did not fail to please – from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food and wine.

What really got my attention on the menu was a roasted chicken served with a pistachio spazele, sometimes spelled spaetzle. And it was out of this world! (And I usually don’t order chicken at restaurants.)

I wish I had studied the spazele more, photographed it, something. I don’t even remember if there were pistachios in the pasta dough. I just remember that it was delicious, and that there was a crunch of added pistachios.
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We ate our meals ferociously, as if we had not eaten for days! Our appetites were fueled by the hike earlier in the day, and a few cocktails outside with a gorgeous view of the mountains. But I do regret not inspecting the spazele more.

So now I’m back home and I must try out my own creation for pistachio spazele. I googled, but came up only with pistachio pestos.

I decided it was also time to try out spazele using a spazele maker, instead of the larger, quenelle-shaped variety I typically make using a teaspoon.
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I say they’re quenelle shaped, but really they’re more like rustic blobs.

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So here’s what I did.
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Pistachio Spazele
Serves 4, generously

1/2 stick/2 ounces unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces ground pistachios
Pinch of salt
1 cup white flour
Chopped pistachios, approximately 1/3 cup, or to taste

To begin, make the garlic butter for the spazele by gently melting the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all of the spazele. Add the garlic, stir, and then remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

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To make the pistachio batter, combine the cream, eggs, pistachios and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well.

Before completing the batter, begin heating a large pot of water on the stove. I added a little salt to the water.

Add the flour to the batter until just combined. It should be drippy, but not thin.

Place the spazele gadget over the pot of boiling water, and have the batter next to the pot with a large spoon for scooping. Also have a spider sieve on hand, and a clean dish towel to help remove some of the water. Also have the skillet with the garlic butter nearby.

Begin by scooping a good amount of the batter into the top part of the spazele gadget that moves over the part that looks like a cheese grater. Then slowly move it back and forth. I did this two times and then stopped, so that all of the spazele could cook the same amount of time.


Fortunately the sliding part doesn’t get hot, but the cheese grater part does. It’s a little awkward to use because a hot pad is required. I recommend that you remove the spazele maker from on top of the pot because the boiling water cooks the batter on it.

Once the spazele have cooked about one minute, remove them from the water and place the sieve on the towel to drain a bit.

Then gently toss the spazele into the garlic butter and continue with the remaining batter. Stir the spazele gently and add the chopped pistachios.

Today I served the spazele with peppered pork tenderloin, and it was fabulous.
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I also added a little pistachio “dust” for some color.
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I honestly don’t think the pistachios in the batter did much for the flavor but overall these were probably the best spazele I’ve ever eaten!
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I also thought the spazele themselves would be greener, but that’s okay!


I will definitely make these again!!!
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Easy Creamy Vegetable Soup

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So many people I know don’t make soups because they think it’s difficult. Hopefully after reading this post, many of you will run to the kitchen, with the most minimum of ingredients, and try out this recipe. All you need is a favorite vegetable that you want to turn into a luscious, creamy soup.

Back when I was feeding my young children, it seemed that they would always eat soup over a vegetable. Even if it was the same vegetable! So I made a lot of soups.
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You don’t have to limit yourself to the soup as is. You can always sprinkle on different cheeses, add a dollop of sour cream, add grilled chicken, Polish or Italian sausage, or ham. Then it becomes a meal!

What I love is that there are so many different ways of making a basic soup like the one I’m making today.

For example, the vegetable choices*:
Butternut Squash
Pumpkin
Acorn Squash
Carrot
Parsnip
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Zucchini
Sweet potato
And so forth.

Next, the aromatics:
Onion
Garlic
Ginger
Leeks
Shallots
Celery
Bell peppers

The creaminess:
Heavy cream
1/2 and 1/2
evaporated milk
sour cream
creme fraiche
goat’s milk
almond milk
soy milk
hemp milk
coconut milk
and so forth.

There are many seasonings that can be added to home-made soups as well, but I want to keep this vegetable soup simple. Once you figure out how easy it is, you’ll be excited and motivated to get creative with flavors from your refrigerator and pantry! (I’m talking curry powder, pesto, chipotle peppers, Thai curry paste, etc.)

So here’s my basic recipe, and I hope you make it your own!

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 heads broccoli, approximately 2 pounds after trimming
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
Chicken or vegetable broth
6 ounces evaporated milk, or less
Butter, optional
Salt
White pepper, optional
Cheese, optional

Rinse the broccoli, then coarsely chop it. Place it in a stock pot. Add the onion and garlic.
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Pour in your broth until it comes about halfway up the layer of vegetables.

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Bring the broth to a boil, then cover the pot and let things simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you’re worried you have a lot of extra broth, leave off the lid, or have it offset to allow steam to escape.


Let the mixture cool.
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This is also the time I had a tab of butter, about 1 or 2 tablespoons, a little salt, and a little white pepper. The butter adds a richness to the soup, but it can be omitted, of course.

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Place the vegetables in the jar of your blender using a slotted spoon. Pour a little bit of broth into the blender, just to get it blending.


Then add the evaporated milk until you have the consistency you like.

I do it this way, because if you add all of the broth first, the soup might end up to watery, On the other hand, if soup is too thick, then you still have broth to add. Of course, it all depends how thick you like your soups.

I like my vegetable soups thick and creamy. Thin, watery soups are not my thing.

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At this point, if you’d like to make a cheesy cream to top the soup, mix together a good goat or sheep’s cheese with a tablespoon or so of evaporated milk or cream, and blend until smooth.


If you make a cheesy cream, I hope you’re more creative than I am at making an appealing-looking presentation!
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Alternatively, just crumble the cheese on top of the soup; I used Valbreso. Children would love grated cheddar on this soup.

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You could also top the soup with a few croutons.
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There! Now you’ve made a creamy vegetable soup! See how easy it is?

* Any vegetable can be made into a soup, however, some won’t work quite as well. For example, a cucumber is a very watery vegetable and it’s typically not served warm. It is good in a gazpacho, however, which is a cold soup of sorts. Eggplant would work as a soup, but the color wouldn’t be very pretty. if that doesn’t bother you, then use eggplant. Also, I wouldn’t mix a green vegetable with an orange vegetable. If you’ve ever played with paints, you know that orange and green do not make a pretty color! Soup making is a lot about common sense!

How to Stir Fry!

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Stir frying is something I do quite often in my kitchen. For one thing, Asian stir fries, with traditional ingredients, are simple and delicious. Secondly, they’re quite healthy, because of the lovely balance of meat or seafood and vegetables. They’re also a good use for leftover meat and vegetables, and mostly, I love them because no recipe is required.

It does help to be familiar with Asian ingredients. My stir fries are more on the Chinese side, but add some fish sauce and you’ve got yourself a Thai stir fry! As I have said before, you can certainly follow recipes, but I often cook the inspired way. That is, being familiar with the traditional ingredients of a cuisine, and using those in your dish. It may not be a perfect stir fry according to Chinese chefs and grandmothers, but no Chinese food police are coming to my kitchen to arrest me any time soon!

First, it’s important to have the basics – onion, garlic, and ginger. These can be part of the stir fry, or used in a marinade. If I do marinate meat before a stir fry, I only use a little peanut oil or olive oil – enough to blend the aromatics. Liquid additions are wonderful, but then the meat has to be patted dry before cooking. An oily marinade is just easier.

The seasonings for stir fries are easy to find, fortunately. Soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sherry, sesame seed oil, chile paste, hot sauce, and hoisin sauce. Other optional ingredients include fermented bean paste, shrimp paste, plum sauce (which I don’t care for) and oyster sauce.

One Chinese seasoning is called Chinese 5-Spice, which, obviously, is a mixture of spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, and pepper. I’ve noticed that some also contain fennel. As with most spice and herb mixtures, I hesitate to use them. Just like using a purchased curry powder, every dish you make will end up tasting the same. For this dish today, I just want the meat, vegetables, and seasonings to shine. But use the spice mixture if you like it!
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The protein used in a stir fry has to be good quality and quick cooking. For example, I wouldn’t use beef or pork that requires 4-6 hours of cooking. I’m talking beef and pork tenderloin, chicken thighs and breast, scallops and shrimp.

When it comes to vegetables, anything goes, unless you are expecting the Chinese food police to show up. Of course there’s traditional bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Chinese eggplants, snow peas, and so forth, plus ingredients that play a minor role like bean sprouts, dried mushrooms, chile peppers, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and cilantro. But if you want to use carrots and broccoli, you can make a delicious stir fry as well. Or spinach and tomatoes!

The only requirement of a stir fry is that all the different components are cooked properly at the very end when all of they are all tossed together. So if you’re using carrots and broccoli, steam-cook them first until almost completely tender, then add them to the cooked meat at the end. Perfection! Spinach and tomatoes wouldn’t require any pre-cooking. It’s all about common sense.

Here is the stir fry that I made using what was in my refrigerator one night. Enjoy, and make sure to customize it to your tastes and ingredients!

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

1 1/2 pounds cubed beef tenderloin
1/2 cup olive or peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 – 1 1/2″ piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound sugar snap peas or snow peas
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/8 cup mirin
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 medium onions
2 medium red bell peppers
Fresh cilantro, chives, or chile pepper slices

Drain the beef well on paper towels, then place the cubed beef in a large bowl or re-sealable bag. I used the ends of a whole beef tenderloin, from which I had cut filet mignon slices, which is why the “cubes” are different shapes. The volumetric uniformity of the cubes is what’s important in a stir fry. Mine are on the large size, but uniformity is what’s critical.

Add the oil, garlic, ginger, and salt to a jar of a small food processor.
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Process until smooth, then pour over the meat.
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Toss the meat, or bounce it around in the bag to make sure the beef is uniformly coated with the flavorful oil. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Bring the meat to almost rooom temperature at least an hour before beginning the stir fry.

When you’re ready, begin by trimming the peas, if necessary, and steam them just until crisp-tender. For me, this was 5 minutes of steaming. Snow peas are thinner and would require less cooking time. However, cooking time also depends on how crisp you like your vegetables.


Let the peas cool. If you think you have overcooked the peas, or any vegetable for that matter, toss a cup full of ice over the vegetables in a colander. This will cool them off faster, and the melted ice will drain away. Set the peas aside.
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In a measuring cup, measure out the soy sauce, mirin, hoisin sauce, and sesame see oil. Whisk the mixture, and set aside.
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If you’re not familiar with hoisin sauce, I’d suggest buying some. You don’t need much for fabulous flavor. It’s just a soy bean paste. There are different qualities and brands. This is the one I can find locally, but when I have the opportunity to visit an Asian market, I buy more “authentic” brands.
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Slice the onions and peppers to your liking. I like more of a wedge look. Have these in a bowl nearby.
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Have everything you’re going to use in your stir fry near the stove. A lot about Chinese cooking, much like all cooking, is to have everything on hand during the cooking process. It’s mise en place on crack, because things can move quickly

To begin, heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil* and just when it begins to smoke (have your ventilation system on) add a handful of cubed beef. Let them sit for a minute, before tossing around, then leave them alone for another minute or two. Get the cubes to the point where all sides show browning, but don’t allow any further cooking. Remember, there will be a little cooking boost at the end.


Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, then continue with the remaining beef.
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When you are done with the browned beef, lower the heat on the stove by about half. Add the onions and peppers, and saute them, tossing them around occasionally to create some caramelization.

If you want them cooked softer, you can put a lid on the skillet/wok for about a minute.


when you’re happy with the “cook” of the onions and peppers, add the peas and toss gently.
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Then add the beef cubes and any juices that might have accumulated in the bowl.
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Immediately pour in the seasoning mixture, and combine it gently. Stir occasionally, to make sure the beef cooks through to your liking. Mine, of course, will end up medium-rare.
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If the stir fry seems like it has too much liquid, remove the beef and vegetables, using a spider sieve, and place in a large serving bowl. Then reduce the liquid in the skillet/wok.
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Pour the reduced liquid over the stir fry, toss gently, and serve.
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Most people enjoy rice with their stir fries, but I prefer it as is.

Serve the stir fry with chile paste or sriracha or even cayenne pepper flakes for those who want a boost in heat. I’ve also included dried chile pepper slices, and you can always serve black or white sesame seeds for a pretty topping.
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* You may not need any extra oil if you have enough extra oily marinade. Make sure to use all of the marinade in the stir fry for extra flavor.
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note: Some recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the final sauce for a stir fry, but I don’t bother. If you’re not careful, the sauce will become gloppy, which reminds me of bad Chinese American restaurant food.

Sweet Potato Pasta

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A while back I mentioned that I have a lot of respect for dried pasta, and always try to pick up a few different shapes and flavors when I’m shopping at a gourmet food store. That’s how I ended up with olive pasta recently for dinner, and also mentioned I’d purchased sweet potato pasta.

Here’s a photo of the box. The brand is Viviana, and it contains 8 ounces of fettucine. Cooking time 11 – 14 minutes.
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I didn’t want to smother the pasta in a red sauce, because I wanted to enhance the sweet potato flavor. So I decided on a simple ricotta cream sauce, with the addition of Italian sausage, plus peas to make it an all-in-one meal. Easy, and easily made within 20 minutes. Here’s what I did:

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Sweet Potato Pasta with Italian Sausage in a Ricotta Cream Sauce

8 ounces sweet potato fettucine
1 cup ricotta whole-milk ricotta
1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream
12 or 16 ounces Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced
Frozen peas, optional
Grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to package directions. I cooked the pasta more al dente, because I wanted it to absorb the lovely cream sauce. Drain the pasta.
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Meanwhile, whisk together the ricotta and cream in a large bowl, large enough to hold the finished pasta dish. Add more cream if you want the sauce less “stiff.”
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Add the hot pasta to the cream and toss gently but enough to coat the strands of pasta with the ricotta cream sauce.


Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Slowly begin cooking the sausage. If you start slowly, no other oil is required. Once the sausage renders some fat, you can turn up the heat to get the sausage browning.
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At least once while you’re cooking the sausage, give the pasta a gentle stir. Add a little more cream if necessary.

Then add the garlic, give the sausage a stir, and remove the skillet from the stove.
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Add it to the pasta, as well as peas, if you’re using them.



Serve with grated Parmesan.

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The sweet potato pasta really shined served in this way. I’m going to buy some more because it’s so pretty and tasty.

Double Olive Pasta

25 Comments

There’s nothing quite like fresh pasta in its many forms. The texture is light and fluffy, and yet still durable to hold up to sauces and fillings.

But I must give credit also to the fabulous world of dried pastas. Whenever I’m shopping at a new store, I grab pastas with unique shapes and also flavors. Just for fun. Who wants to only cook spaghetti and elbow macaroni?

So a while back I was on the Open Sky website, and came across a company that sold gourmet food items called Valois Gourmet. (I hope the link works for everyone.)

There were two that I couldn’t resist buying – olive pasta and sweet potato pasta (not pictured).
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The pasta brand is Morelli, and is an Italian product. The pasta actually contains minced green olives, plus dehydrated spinach – perhaps for a little color.

Check out these pumpkin pie roasted almonds from Valois Gourmet, too! What a great nibble to have around during the holidays.

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In any case, to me, there’s nothing quite like a flavored dried pasta that speaks for itself, which is the case of this variety. Because of the olive flavor, so little else is needed. A little shallot or garlic, a little tomato, some capers, and maybe some extra olives for olive enhancement. And there’s always Parmesan. Simple.

So here’s what I did with this olive fettuccine.

Double Olive Pasta

Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
3 shallots
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, well drained*
1 – 8.8 package pasta with olives
Sliced olives, I used a Mediterranean mixture
Capers, optional
Parsley, optional
Toasted pine nuts, optional
Grated Parmesan, optional

Place the olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute them for a few minutes.
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Then add the drained tomatoes.
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Cook the mixture until there almost no liquid remaining in the skillet; set aside.
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Cook the pasta according to directions on the package, which in this case was four minutes.

Have any of you used this handy silicone gadget that keeps boiling water from overflowing? It’s a miracle worker. I think about 4 out of 5 times that I cook pasta the boiling water overflows. And we all know that it’s not that easy to clean up. This product is made by Kuhn Rikon, and it’s called a spill stopper. It comes in two sizes. Just FYI.
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You have two options when you cook dried pasta. Firstly, if you cook it al dente, plan on adding some kind of liquid to the pasta dish once it’s tossed with the tomato mixture. This can be broth, some pasta water, or even cream. The pasta will continue to “cook” and absorb liquid.

Secondly, If you cook the pasta until soft all the way through, plan on tossing the pasta with the tomato mixture and serving immediately.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain well.
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Add the pasta to the skillet and toss everything together.
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Serve immediately if the pasta is fully cooked. If it isn’t, take about 15-30 minutes to add liquid of choice, and let the pasta soften in the liquid, adding as much liquid as necessary. Then serve.


Sprinkle the pasta with cheese, olives, capers, and parsley, if using any or all of these toppings.

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Normally I would add some cayenne pepper flakes to a similar pasta dish, but in this case, I want to enjoy the olive flavor from the pasta.


* If your canned tomatoes are good quality, make sure to save the tomato juice. If the canned tomatoes are in essentially water, don’t bother.

note: In the summer I would use fresh, peeled tomatoes for this pasta, and probably include fresh basil. But during the other months, canned tomatoes are a wonderful substitute – as long as you buy a high quality canned tomato.

verdict: I was truly impressed with this product! There is definitely an olive flavor. The pasta made for a lovely lunch, but for dinner I’d definitely serve it with some good sausages or pork tenderloin.