Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce

I don’t know about you, but pasta is a staple in our house. That means I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. What I like about this one: it WAS quick and easy; the sauce was not heavy, but was flavorful; and, I liked that my kids used the little slices of bread to make spaghetti sandwiches ūüôā You can easily make this vegetarian by leaving out the sausage. Want it meaty, but still vegetarian? Add some mushrooms. Or, use whatever meat¬†you have on hand, such as chicken or ground meat. What I would do different next time: this recipe called for the sausage to be cooked in advance (or if you are not completely paying attention because you keep hearing, “Mommy can I . . .,” like me, you’ll need to grab a separate skillet for the sausage at the end). I would cook the sausage at the beginning, drain the grease, remove the sausage to a plate and then cook the onion, etc, in that skillet. Also, while it had nice flavor, it seemed rather one-dimensional. Next time I’ll run out to my basil plant to snip a few leaves to hit the sauce with at the very end. All in all a tasty and satisfying recipe that leaves you feeling comfortably full, but not weighted down.

Ingredients:

2 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes (whole, diced, puree, etc)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or a pinch of dried)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

Preparation:

In large saucepan preheated to medium high heat, add sausage and crumble as cooking.  When sausage is browned, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain grease.  Remove all but 1 Tbs of oil from pan.  Add onion and saute until translucent, 2 Р3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute.

If using whole tomatoes, chop them (easiest is to just cut them with scissors right in the can), add tomatoes and juice to pan.  If using diced or puree, just add directly to pan.  Stir in sugar, rosemary, and salt.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce hs thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring often.  Return sausage to pan and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until heated through.

Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes; Total time: 45 minutes

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*Derived from KitchenDaily

Pasta Buying Guide – Italian Pasta

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you just seem to be off your cooking mojo?¬† Well, this is my week!¬† I tried a new recipe¬†the other night¬†and it just didn’t turn out like I had hoped. While it highlighted our wonderful summer vegetables; heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, lemon, and green beans the fettuccine was left tasting flat, as if it were an afterthought. I can picture a room full of chefs standing around the island in the test kitchen, enjoying the amazing bounty the summer garden has to offer. One chef realizes that, basically, they have a summer salad or side dish, but are supposed to be coming up with the main meal. They exchange glances, “What are we going to do?” It’s finally decided, just add pasta! Except, just adding pasta did not work in this scenario. So, I’m going to tweak it a little and see if I can come up with something that will meet my Serves4 expectations. This flop, however, motivated me to do a little research on pasta and cooking it. This is a breakdown of buying the right type of pasta. The next installment will be about cooking it. Salud!

When doing your weekly shopping at the local market, you will notice two basic pasta choices: dried (such as Barilla) or fresh (such as Buitoni). As these two type of pasta are made differently, they also handle sauces differently. Dried is made from high-protein durum wheat flour. This allows it to cook up springy and firm. Dried pasta is best suited for thick tomato and meat sauces and concentrated oil based sauces. Fresh pasta is generally made from a softer all-purpose flour and is more delicate than dried. Fresh pasta is well suited with dairy-based sauces.

Pasta has come a long way in the last several years. You will find that dried pasta is no longer gummy and bland. Cooking to al dente allows dried pasta to retain some chew, but is not gummy or hard at the center.

Fresh pasta is made from pasteurized egg and can be found packaged to avoid spoilage in the refrigerator section. It’s very easy to over cook fresh pasta, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Drain the pasta a few minutes before al dente and return it to the pot with sauce for a few minutes to continue cooking. Fresh pasta being slightly underdone allows it to absorb the flavor from the sauce and the pastas starchiness will help sauce thicken.

Whole wheat and and grain pastas have not come as far. Generally, wheat pasta cooks up gummy, grainy, or lacking the rich wheat flavor you’d expect. While pasta made from spelt has a pleasant earthy flavor, pastas made from corn, rice, and quinoa tends to have a shaggy, mushy texture and strange flavors. If you are brave enough to still try one of these pastas, cook as you would dried pasta.

I always thought cooking pasta was one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen. Just boil water, dump it in, and wait. Perfect pasta, though, takes a little more attention than that. Stay tuned, we’re going to go over finessing pasta next.

PS – This is the recipe that didn’t turn out.¬† Looks good.¬† Tastes kind of bland.

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*Derived from Cook’s Illustrated

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

Everyone likes a “sure thing”, right?¬† Well, this is my “sure thing.”¬† This is what I make when I have no idea what is going to be for dinner the next day.¬† Since it’s in the slow cooker, there does have to be a little thought, but not much.¬† It uses ingredients I always have on hand and comes together so quickly.¬† Put the chicken in the slow cooker, mix the sauce ingredients, dump that in over the chicken.¬† Set the slow cooker and . . .¬† wait for it . . . GO!¬† Go do what you need to do.¬† Go spend time with the family.¬† Go get a pumpkin spice latte¬† ūüôā¬†¬† Go to lunch with your friends.¬† Or, my personal favorite, Go buy a new pair of shoes.¬†

Ingredients:

12 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
6 Tbs cider vinegar
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
4 1/2 tsp cold water

Preparation:

Place chicken in a 4 qt slow cooker.  In a large bowl, combine sugar, soy sauce, cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper.  Pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low 4 Р5 hours, or until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken to a serving platter, keep warm. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Place liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into liquid and stir until sauce is thickened.  Serve with chicken over rice.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Gew√ľrztraminer
Gr√ľner Veltliner
Riesling

Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 4 hours

*Derived from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen