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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Maybe I was a rabbit in another life. Or maybe it’s just my normal summertime affliction, but greens have dominated my meals as of late.

What fuels this obsession, and it can certainly be called one, is the availability of the ‘live’ lettuce heads my grocer has started carrying. I found these last summer and the love affair was ignited like an inferno; a big bunch of varied lettuces are packaged with the root ball intact. They can be planted and grown at home, or like I do, simply chopped off at the root, washed and held in the fridge. The amount of lettuce one gets in these offerings is grand, the quality is terrific and the price is exceptional, a bargain if there ever was one. I’ve bought two at a time and happily dug into their depths for countless meals, relishing the ease, the taste and the light fare. The bonus is that it’s a locally grown product by Minnesota’s own Bushel Boy.

Still, I’m chomping at the bit to get into Market season, where farmers by the score sell buckets of fresh lettuces for insanely cheap prices. A dollar gets me a five-quart buckets worth of fresh lettuces, almost more than I can manage, but that never seems to stop me. Once June is ever-present and the weather beckons me to other options, ones that don’t include standing over a stove, having fresh greens in the fridge gives me endless options for meals. I’m satisfied to have a plate of leafy goodness that hides all sorts of other crunchy vegetable options, a grain and legume for protein with a simple squeeze of a fresh lime and a dash of balsamic, and maybe a piece of chicken for Griffin to help his carnivorous cravings. With these offerings, and a few decent salad dressings, my young man surprised us all recently, including himself, when he ate a grilled chicken salad with amazing gusto and exclaimed  “That was the best salad I’ve ever had. And I never expected to use the words ‘best’ and ‘salad’ together ever!!”

Well, neither did we, and it was an awfully nice thing to hear.

So it was with great anticipation that I awaited the start of one of my favorite local satellite Farmers Markets and drove towards it with excitement. Imagine my disappointment when the normally over-crowded parking lot where it is held instead was home to just about half a dozen vendors, with only one selling any type of green stuff. I felt like a slowly deflating balloon, but shouldered on, purchasing a sackful of organic spring greens, spinach and radishes. At least it was a good start, and while I was heading back home with my goodies, the sack of spinach, crammed full of dark green curly leaves, gave me the idea of making Spinach Pesto and then dinner was born.

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Pesto is a favorite around here, well- of the adults anyway. A few summers in the past, I had a garden bounty of basil that I turned into approximately 20 cups of pesto that I coveted in the freezer for months to come.  I’ve been slow to experiment with other forms of pureed greens, but no more; this spinach pesto, combined with some remaining roasted red peppers that I found in the fridge, was so light, delicious and flavorful that now the craving for pesto, in any form, can be squelched with nary an effort outside of cleaning a bounty of my favorite leafy green.
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And it turned a plain box of pasta into a superb weeknight meal.

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Spinach Pesto
by Kate

4 c. washed spinach leaves, stemmed
1/3 c. olive oil
3 T. toasted pine nuts
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. This pesto can be frozen for quite some time with only minimal loss of flavor. Do not add cheese to pesto if planning to freeze, otherwise, add to taste your preferred hard cheese.

For the Pasta-
Heat water to cook pasta.

I diced two ripe tomatoes and sliced a medium shallot. Sautè the shallot in olive oil, in a deep sided pan, until soft and starting to turn slightly golden. Reduce heat and add tomato, cooking over low heat until it begins to break down only slightly. Stir minimally.

When the pasta is ready, lift all the pasta with tongs straight from the cooking water and into the saute pan. Stir to coat with the tomato mixture, then spoon in about a half cup of the prepared pesto. Using a little of the pasta water, thin the pesto slightly and toss to coat. Add more pesto if so desired. Top with grated cheese and toasted pine nuts and season to taste.

I stirred about a cup of chopped spinach leaves into this as well for a little more color and texture.

Simple Tip of the Day:
When you use spaghetti for a pasta dish, do you break apart the strands before placing them in the boiling water? Does tiny shards of broken spaghetti fly all over the kitchen?

Try this instead:
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Leave the pasta in the box and bend the box over the edge of your counter. All the broken pieces stay in the box, eliminating the annoyance of finding them scattered around your kitchen for days to come. Also, if you salt your pasta water, pour the salt directly into the box with the pasta while you wait for the water to boil. That way, you’ll never forget to add it.

Pesto Magic!
Pesto is so endlessly versatile. Have you ever stirred pesto into burger meat? It’s one of my favorite ways to use it. The oil helps to keep the meat moist and it gives the finished product huge flavor. Griffin won’t eat pesto on pasta, but when I turn the remains into a grilled and fragrant burger, he spares no restraint in consuming it without question.

Pesto is also wonderful in a grilled cheese. We didn’t get around to utilizing this method with the spinach pesto this time, even with wonderful Jalapeno Cheddar bread available as a base, but in the foreseeable future, I’m pretty certain this will be dinner.

Spread some pesto on slices of french bread, a pocketed ciabatta or crusty semolina sesame and sprinkle a little grated hard cheese over the top. Try something different than parmesan or asiago- maybe manchego?- and then place the slices under the broiler for a few quick minutes. Watch carefully! This is an excellent appetizer. Thick slices of fresh tomato can also be spread with pesto and cheese and broiled to a sizzling snack.

Roasted vegetables get a nice enhancement from being served with pesto, especially potatoes.

Pesto salad dressing is wonderful. A tablespoon or two can be added to your standard oil/vinegar mix, or thinned slightly and simply tossed with your greens.

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Life isn’t simple anymore. Not that this is a shock to anyone with an adult’s perspective. It seems that everything has gotten so much more complicated, and while we burst through life determining what path to take that is right for us, we are constantly faced with decisions and truths that require a ‘turn on a dime’ change of direction. It’s just not like when we were kids.

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Of course, this isn’t a bad thing either. It’s nice to look at our past and see where we’ve ‘grown up’ even if, somewhere inside us, we still are surprised at the face that looks back from the mirror. I still can feel like I’m 12 again, or 24, or 30 and a brand new Mom. Of course I wish that I could still run barefoot from June to September, the sun hot on my skin and nothing more pressing in my day except where the next adventure would take root; I think about Kool-Aid, Popsicles and A&W Root Beer with a hard scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in it. I think about one-room air conditioners, the smell of bed linens fresh off the clothesline and how it seemed so perfect to take a peanut butter sandwich outside to the backyard for a picnic. And while all of this speaks more to the carefree days of childhood and what I find I can no longer freely indulge in, it’s more than just a nostalgic turn; I think I just yearn for a time when I was blissfully unaware that life existed outside the realms of my neighborhood. With all the gloom and doom present in our daily media, it’s no small feat to try and close it out. And while I can grasp my adulthood fully with both hands and move ahead with the changing world, there still are times that I want something that reminds me of simpler days.

Not too long ago I posted about finding plenty of nostalgia in a perusal of food blogs, and it got a conversation rolling with Jamie and Kristen about foods from our past. Kristen especially tickled me in a discourse we had over cream soups and some of the dishes we used to make with them, and part of what we talked about was that although these foods often have good memories attached to them, they aren’t all that healthy. Looking around me in the grocer, I had to wonder if it was possible to bring them back with less guilt, and possibly more flavor.

The ubiquitous Tuna Mushroom Pasta was a standard from my childhood; macaroni, canned mushrooms and tuna, cream of mushroom soup and a crush of potato chips over the top was a mainstay for dinner. No one really went “Ooooooh!!!” whenever it was presented, and I recall a time when I clearly told myself I would never eat it again. And in that representation, I never did.

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One good thing about following the flow of life is watching your food mature around you. I’m glad to be far away from the foods of my past, although it’s nice to think I can recreate them, but better. And more flavorful.

mushroom-tuna-and-pasta-012(Not exactly the Beauty Queen of Cuisine…..but oh so delicious!)

No one is chained to Campbells soups anymore; Amy’s Soups has a lovely creamy mushroom soup, Health Valley Organics makes a completely natural line of cream soups, and then there’s my favorite- this Portabello Mushroom soup from Imagine Natural Creations. When the desire strikes for a meal that not only satisfies my need for a little nostalgia, but also will bring smiles to both Mike and Griffin- who absolutely LOVES this dish- this is where I turn; better ingredients, and a more sophisticated method.

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Kate’s Mushroom Tuna Pasta

1# dry pasta, cooked to taste
1 pkg. Baby Bella mushrooms
1 large leek, split and washed, sliced very thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1-2 3-oz pkgs Tuna (or other tuna of choice)
1 16-oz container Imagine Portabello Mushroom soup (or equivalent)
1/2 c. frozen peas
Butter and olive oil for cooking
Worchestershire sauce (optional)

Other optional add-ins: Toasted seasoned bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese.

In a medium sized skillet, warm approximately 2 T. olive oil and 2 T. butter  and add leek, cooking for about 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring regularly. When soft and beginning to brown in spots, add in yellow pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in peas, cover and keep over low heat.

In a separate pan, warm 4 T. of butter and 2 T. olive oil, add mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until mushrooms begin to release their liquid. If using, at this point add about 2 T. worchestershire sauce to mushrooms, along with a generous grind of black pepper. Stir to combine and continue to cook, allowing mushrooms to sear and brown.

Drain pasta, reserving about a half cup of pasta water, but don’t shake off excess. Return to pan and add in soup, tuna, the leek mixture and the mushrooms. Stir to combine. Add in some of the pasta water if the mix is thick. Season to taste with salt and more fresh ground black pepper.

KATE’S NOTES:
This method, while a bit futzy, produces a very flavorful end result. By no means is it carved in stone. I do heartily recommend a separate pan for cooking the mushrooms, solely for the flavor it will impart, but in a pinch you can cook all the vegetables together. Regular chopped onion is fine too, it seems lately I’m kind of on a leek fix. Skip the butter if it isn’t your thing.

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My love for toasted bread crumbs knows no boundaries. I prefer Panko for this application, reserving the bread crumbs I make from scratch for use as a filler or bond. I mix about a cup of Panko with melted butter and some olive oil, then add in a multitude of dry seasonings such as dried basil, garlic and onion powder, fresh ground pepper, maybe some dried mustard and then heat them gently in a pan, stirring continually, until they are fragrant and browned. Be sure to remove them from the pan when they’re done or they will burn. They keep in the fridge for a while, although I’ve never determined exactly how long because I make up excuses to eat them.

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Admittedly, I like to break convention. I’m not one to conform to stereo-typing, I don’t mold myself to any expectation and I refuse to adhere myself to a certain role. At home, I’m just as easily found outside shoveling, chopping ice on our north-facing driveway, spreading mulch or digging a hole for a new garden plant as I am in the kitchen whipping up something delicious. I don’t think in terms of ‘mans work’ or ‘womens work’, and while we do have some things in our house that may fall into those categories, I don’t think that any job should be defined by your gender. I would have never succeeded as a single parent for 7 years with that belief.

In my life too, I’m the one who would most likely encourage you to step outside the box. Years ago, in an outing with women I was working with, we spied a parking spot outside our destination on the opposite side of the street from where we were. Here’s me in the backseat telling the driver to make a U-turn, while the other women in the car want to play it safe and go around the block. When I’m in the minority, I tend to be slightly insistent about what I feel, and apparently I was loud enough that the driver whipped around the steering wheel in a speedy U-turn and scored the parking spot. Later she confessed that she’d never done anything like that. I asked her if she liked it, and after a moment’s repose, she replied with a grin “I think I did!” Stepping outside a comfort zone, or taking one of life’s U-turns is hard for some people. I’m generally not one of them.

This trait, good or bad as it can be, is part of me in the kitchen as well, and here it really tends to take off soaring because I’m the majority cook in the family and no one is standing about trying to tell me what to do with a recipe or certain dish. I rarely follow a written recipe, and when I do I’m most always disappointed. I know what I like, and after a lifetime of cooking, making mistakes and blending every ingredient under the sun, I have a storehouse of knowledge in my brain as to what works and what might not. My brain can see how any recipe from any source can become something else altogether, and knows just how to make it delicious.

Take this roasted vegetable pasta dish; I don’t recall the origin of the dish as the only note I have on it says  “eggplant, tomato and pasta” – yeah, that’s concise- but I recalled enough to know that you roasted the veggies, pureed them with pasta water and some olive oil and mixed it with cooked rigatoni. I also recalled that the finished dish, while not a beauty queen, was delicious. Sometimes, ‘delicious’ is all I can remember, and really, do you need to know anything else? Well, a method might help.

For my roasted veggies, I used an eggplant and a pint of grape tomatoes, halved. I also cut an onion into eighths, large diced a red pepper and rough chopped six cloves of garlic as additions. Mix it all up in a bowl with a few good glugs of olive oil, some seasoning of choice, and toss.

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Don’t give in and add more oil; the notoriously thirsty eggplant will drink up some of it and the rest of the vegetables will get their fair share. Too much oil on eggplant in the oven and it just becomes soggy. Spread the veggies out on cookie sheets, with plenty of room, and roast at 400 until the tomatoes are nice and wrinkly, the eggplant is browned and everything smells amazing. This took me about 25-35 minutes.

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Cook the pasta while the veggies roast. You want the pasta water for the puree; I always place a pyrex measuring cup in the colander to help remind me to catch that good starch. Drain the pasta, reserving up to two cups of the water. Keep the pasta warm.

Place the veggies in the food processor with some salt and pepper. You can save some of the roasted pieces to top the pasta, if you wish.

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Add in about a cup of the pasta water and another healthy glug of olive oil. Whir the veggies to a consistency of choice- I like it a bit chunky- and scrape down the sides. Now take a look at the mix- it should be fairly thick. Add in a little more pasta water to make it to a spreading consistency. If it’s too thick, it won’t coat the pasta well enough.

You can also add in some kalamata olives, and be sure to have some fresh grated parmesan ready.

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And if you’re like me and enjoy something crunchy, toasted and seasoned on top of your pasta, make some bread crumbs. I took a shortcut this time and put the remains of these bagel chips through the food processor.

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Oh my, this was a really good addition!

Once the veggies are processed, scoop some of the puree onto your rigatoni or other large shape of pasta. This is such a hearty dish that a tiny shape would get lost in amongst the lovely vegetable mix. You may not need all the puree so add as you go to make it the consistency you like. Stir, taste, season with salt and pepper and taste some more.

Then, take your serving, add in the parmesan and crumbs and pick up a fork.

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Mmmmm….. who needs convention anyway??

The puree was really thick and delicious- not so visible in these photos but trust me…each bite was a huge flavor burst in the mouth. There was plenty left over even after I coated the pasta with quite a bit. The next day I could hardly wait to take the remains of the vegetable mixture, spread it on toasted peasant bread and top it with fresh mozzarella. This made for a quick and delicious light lunch. I also think it would make a wonderful appetizer for a party.

Ok, if you need a set of instructions, follow the jump…..

(more…)

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In getting used to living without dairy in my diet, I have found some easy loopholes for my own personal use of casein. Most everyone lacks the enzyme in their body to digest cows milk protein, or casein, but many people simply don’t recognize any discomfort, or equate it with consumption of milk products.  I do not have an allergy to dairy as many people quickly assume; when I eat dairy products I just get a very bad stomach ache as I’ve now been able to recognize that I can’t digest the protein in cows milk. A dairy allergy is when the body can go into shock upon consumption of dairy, or an anaphylactic reaction. My friend Angela has this. For me, it isn’t that dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable. But as I learn to manage this in my daily eats, I have found some interesting outcomes. I cannot consume any milk product made from mass-produced, factory raised cows. Period. A slice or two of supermarket cheese and I am in agony. A blob of sour cream has the same outcome and lets not even talk about cream or milk. Pizza has sadly disappeared from my menu, although sometimes I am willing to suffer for a slice or two, popping a Lactaid to help. But….and here’s the interesting part….. I can consume high quality cheeses, artisan style products that are made from small batches of humanely raised cows, grass fed cows, or pastured animals. These products do not affect me. Top quality yogurts that are chock full of beneficial flora also do not bother me. For these reasons, you will still see some dishes on the blog that contain cheese. I can still eat cheese, it’s just pricier for me to do so and that doesn’t bother me.

But…..back to cream-less pasta sauce.

One aspect of eating dairy free, obviously, is avoiding milk at all costs and thankfully it’s really easy these days as most outside sources such as restaurants, coffee shops and the like will offer a dairy-free alternative,  but when I look at a restaurant menu and see pasta after pasta dish with cream sauces and the lone dairy free alternative is red sauce, that ain’t making me want to skip for joy. So I was thrilled upon opening a menu at one of my favorite little bistros to find a cream-less alfredo sauce on the menu. My friend Joanna and I pounced on it as we were splitting an entree that night along with our half-price bottle of wine. I do love a good alfredo, but with the heavy cream and butter, the calories and fat are astounding and now that most milk makes my insides implode, alfredo is definitely off the list.

This ‘alfredo’ dish, however,  was made with pureed cauliflower, and although it did have cheese in it, it was an artisan style cheese that my stomach can tolerate. And it was divine. With my first mouthful I swore to recreate this at home.

My first attempt, surprisingly, was pretty good.

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Nothing like the wan light of winter to make a food look so unappetizing! But then again, how do you photograph pasta to make it look good at all?

If you’ve ever used cauliflower as a sub for mashed potatoes then you can grasp the concept of this ‘sauce’ made from pureed cauliflower. Cooked until very tender, the cauliflower is placed in a food processor with some of the cooking liquid and processed until smooth. Cheese, salt and pepper is stirred into it, then it is mixed with cooked pasta. I also added in broiled roma tomato for some color and extra nutrition.

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The first attempt was pretty good, but more cheese would have added to the flavor and I had thought my fridge held more than it did. It also needed a little more seasoning with the salt and pepper but overall was a really good first try. I think that a handful of chopped kalamata olives would have really sealed the deal. Be sure to cook the cauliflower until it’s pretty tender as it helps to make a very smooth ‘sauce’ once processed.

Cream-less Alfredo Sauce

One medium head cauliflower, washed and sectioned
1/2-3/4 c. top quality shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Steam cauliflower until very tender, reserve cooking liquid. Spoon cooked cauliflower into food processor and add about a half cup of liquid. Process until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Pour back into saucepan and add cheese, stirring to melt. Season with salt and pepper and adjust to taste, adding more cheese or S&P if needed. Asiago, or romano cheese can also be used to add more flavor to the sauce.

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Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

Food and Wine Magazine Feb 2008
3/4 pound gemelli
2 whole roasted red peppers from the deli counter (6 ounces)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove
9 large basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound salted fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch dice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gemelli and cook until al dente. Drain the gemelli.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the roasted red peppers with the olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic and 3 basil leaves until smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Scrape the sauce into a large bowl and toss with the pasta until well coated. Tear the remaining 6 basil leaves into the pasta and add the mozzarella. Toss the mozzarella, basil and pasta and serve warm or at room temperature.

Browned Panko Crumbs:
In a small skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add in about a cup of Panko crumbs and stir to combine. I also add garlic and onion powder, basil, oregano, some rosemary, sea salt and pepper. Stir continually over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove and immediately scrape onto plate to cool. Don’t cool in pan or they will burn; trust me!

KATE’S NOTES:
I roasted my own peppers for this dish. I also lightly browned the garlic in oil on the stove before adding it as I don’t care for the taste (or aftertaste) of raw garlic. This needed a lot of seasoning; don’t be shy with the S&P. I think some of the fresh mozzarella could be added to the sauce before blending, as the whole chunk seemed to be excessive and we didn’t even come close to adding it all in. Stir some in the hot pasta and top it with more; I love the different textures. Add lots of basil to the finished product. I didn’t have quite enough and it seemed to need more.

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Pasta with Prosciutto and Chevre
original recipe from Thyme for Cooking (changes marked * and in bold)

1 red onion (*i used shallots)
2 cloves garlic
12 Greek or black olives, pitted (did not use)
12 green olives, pitted (did not use)
8 oz white beans (cannellini) ( *used one 14-oz can)
1 tbs olive oil
3 oz (60gr) fresh spinach (*used about 6 oz)
6 – 8 slices (4oz, 125gr) Prosciutto, Serrano, Bayonne (mine) or other dry-cured ham (*used 5 oz)
2/3 box chevre (goat cheese) – the little cartons of creamy goat cheese, 5 oz (150 gr)
(Chavrie in U.S. Chevraux in France) (*i used Stickney Farms Garlic/Herb goat cheese- one log)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (*did not use)
1 1/4 cup pasta (* I used 1# Ronzoni Seven Grain pasta)
Half a container of Grape Tomatoes, sliced in half.
1/2 c. frozen baby peas

Katie’s Thyme for Cooking method: Cook pasta according to package instructions.
While waiting for the water to boil, prepare sauce:
Thickly slice onions. Mince garlic. Slice ham into large strips. Cut olives in half. Drain and rinse the beans. If spinach leaves are large cut in half. Heat oil in medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add garlic and ham. Sauté for 10 minutes longer, until ham is slightly crispy. Add olives, beans and goat cheese and heat through. When pasta is done, drain but don’t shake every last bit of water off. Put the spinach on top of the sauce in the skillet, add the hot pasta and stir to combine. Sprinkle with cheese, stir again and serve.

Kate in the Kitchen’s Method:
Thinly slice shallot, mince garlic and chop prosciutto. Drain and rinse white beans. Rinse, and de-stem spinach. Slice tomatoes. While pasta water boils, heat olive oil in large skillet and add shallot, saute for about 5 minutes. Add in garlic, stir and cook for about a minute. Add in prosciutto, cook for about 10 minutes. Add pasta to pot when ready and cook al dente. When prosciutto is slightly crispy, add in crumbled goat cheese and break up with a spoon. Scoop up some of the pasta water and add it to the skillet, stirring it into the goat cheese to melt and loosen; add the peas, beans and tomato. Stir to combine and add in spinach. Allow to simmer on low heat while pasta cooks. Drain pasta, reserving more of the water; add pasta back to pot and pour goat cheese mixture over it, stirring to combine, adding in more pasta water if too thick. Heat through and serve.

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Hearty Minestrone (from a certain FN chef)

2 quarts chicken stock
1 head garlic, halved
1/2 # small rigatoni
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
3/4 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 15-oz can cannelloni or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
Coarsely ground black pepper
12 slices baguette
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

-Combine the stock and halved garlic head in a big saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes to give the stock a nice, garlicky taste; strain out the garlic. Keep warm.
-Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the rigatoni.
-Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the sage, rosemary and thyme and warm the oil over medium heat to infuse it with the flavor of the herbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage with the side of a big spoon until well browned. -Chop the carrots, celery, and onion in a food processor. Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
-To the pan with the sausage stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, cannelloni beans, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
-Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water for 6 minutes; it should be slightly underdone. Drain and stir into the simmering soup. Add the parsley, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs.
-To serve, preheat the broiler. Put the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a couple of the baguette slices on top.

RECIPE NOTES: For the chicken stock, I used about a half a head of garlic and took off the paper, smashing the cloves with my knife to release the flavor. The result was such a delicious garlic infusion. I only poured in 1 1/2 qts of broth too; this should be a thick soup, and along with the tomato puree, the 2 qts was too much. I used mild italian sausage because the meat counter at the grocer had it in bulk and I could buy exactly what I needed. In addition to the fresh herbs in the oil, I added a handful of chopped celery leaves because I just love that flavor. I used extra carrots too.

The 15 minute simmer time once all the ingredients are together doesn’t seem like enough, and I think I would go an extra 15 next time I make it. The vegetables were still super crispy after 15 min, and my preference is to have them slightly softer. I also thought it could have used more time to build its flavor, even though it tasted really wonderful. The parmesan croutons were delicious; they broiled super fast though, so watch carefully. I set off our smoke detector (hehehe). A really crusty loaf makes for a perfect boat in this broth.

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