Spaghetti with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

One of my biggest pet peeves is having leftover ingredients from a recipe and not knowing what to do with them. I made roasted leek and garlic toasts with minced anchovy filets as part of Christmas dinner; they were delicious, but left me with a jar full of anchovies in the refrigerator. I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit and noticed that it called for a couple of my fishy friends. I was concerned that their taste would be too strong since a lot of people don’t like their very distinct flavor (they’re reminiscent of low tide), but the little guys really just round out the 8 cloves of garlic and robust tomato flavors in the dish.

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The roasted garlic and leek toasts from Christmas!

Even though it’s a hearty, comforting meal, its bright scent reminds me of summer and picking tomatoes in my aunt’s garden.

INGREDIENTS:

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, minced

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti (I’ve also used papardelle… anything that can hold up to the jammy sauce is fine) 

Finely grated Parmesan or Romano (for serving)

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DIRECTIONS:

Put on an apron– this recipe will splatter!

No really, put on an apron.

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies, butter, and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes in a 13×9” baking dish; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is jammy, 35–40 minutes. Using a fork, mash to break up garlic and tomatoes.

 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

 

Return pasta to pot and add tomato sauce and pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan and more red pepper flakes (and salt, if you have a salt problem like I do).
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The finished product. I wish you could smell this picture.

Nom nom nom, dig in!

Penne A La Vodka Pizza

Growing up, my family always ordered from the same pizza place. And for a while, we always ordered the same thing: one plain pizza, or one half plain-half black olive pizza. And then, on some glorious day that I do not remember, we threw caution to the wind and ordered penne a la vodka slices alongside the plain. Or maybe, one day we threw caution to the wind and excitedly tried a slice of penne a la vodka while sitting in the plastic booths in the pizza parlor. Like I said, I don’t remember. But the bottom line is, penne a la vodka pizza became a part of my childhood. I usually don’t order it now because honestly I don’t enjoy it as much as a good slice of plain, or plain with pepperoni and mushrooms, but it still has a place in my pie-sized heart.

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    IMG_0014                 ^This is my best friend Lauren. She was pissed that the pizza was taking so long because I was taking pictures. She eventually got her pizza.

The other day while I was working, I was ruminating about how much I love pizza. Truth be told I spend a lot of time thinking about ‘za; if it’s any indication, my phone case is pepperoni-patterned. On a piece of scrap paper, I feverishly wrote a list of all the types of pizza that I could feasibly make myself. Hopefully over the next few months, I’ll be able to share some of the better concepts with you (I already crossed “breakfast pizza” off of the list- I couldn’t get past the notion of eating scrambled eggs over pizza dough).

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Though I try to cook from scratch as often as possible, I wanted to make this recipe busy-person friendly, so I used store bought dough and vodka sauce. It took me about 2 hours to make, but it’ll probably take you about 30 minutes since you won’t be taking step by step photos or stopping to eat the bacon (jk, yes you will). I didn’t use precise measurements when making this, so feel free to be a daredevil and eyeball it.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 bag store bought pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s)

1 1/2 cups vodka sauce

1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded (I always use part skim unless it’s fresh mozzarella)

7-8 fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

About 1/4 lb. cooked penne (al dente)

3 strips cooked bacon, cut into small pieces (I prefer it crispy, so it stands out against the pasta and dough)

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, or to the suggested cooking heat on the dough package.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimless cookie sheet, and lightly dust with flour. Roll out dough into a 12 inch circle/square/oval/you did your best. Pour 1/4 cup of vodka sauce on the dough, leaving a one inch margin of blank crust. Set aside.

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Mix the remaining sauce with the pasta. Stir in the bacon bits. Salt to taste. Pour this mixture over the crust, leaving the one inch margin in tact. Lightly season the untouched crust with salt and garlic powder. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pasta, then follow with the parmesan. If some parmesan gets on the crust, no worries; parmesan crusts are delicious. I learned that from Domino’s.

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Place the whole basil leaves on top of the cheese in desired arrangement. Some people prefer to add the basil once the pizza is cooked, so go ahead and do that if you’d like.

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Bake the pizza according to the dough package instructions. Using the Trader Joe’s dough, I cooked mine for about 10-12 minutes even though the package said 6-8 minutes. Everyone’s oven is a little different, so take it out once the cheese is melted and the crust is golden and pops back if you touch it.

Once the pizza is out of the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes before digging in.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Mouthwatering Macaroni and Cheese

If you are lactose intolerant, stay away from this post at all costs.

I love macaroni and cheese. When made with quality dairy it’s tangy, buttery, and can be eaten in a wide variety of circumstances (i.e. at weddings, in bathrooms on paper plates during dreadful dinner parties, water parks, you name it). I make this particular recipe, which comes from marthastewart.com, once a year. Do I want to make it more frequently? Yes. Should I? No. Why? Because I value my arteries.

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This recipe uses three types of cheese: gruyere, fontina, and cheddar, and you can taste each one individually. This is part of what makes it so good; who wants a homogeneous bowl of cheesy pasta? (ME! I DO! But this way is even more delectable).

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Though it takes significantly longer to make this recipe than it does to crack open a box of Kraft mac and cheese, it’s definitely worth it. I refuse to say anything bad about Kraft macaroni since it has played such a large role in my life, for better or for worse. However, Martha knows what she’s doing… I’ll leave it at that.

Original Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/853632/three-cheese-macaroni

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INGREDIENTS:

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

5 cups whole milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (10 ounces)

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (4 ounces) << fontina always reminds me of the character Fantine from Les Miserables… 

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound shell pasta

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Liberally butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the milk has started to warm, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large (no really, the largest one you have) high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is bubbling (but not burning!). Add flour. Cook, stirring gently with a whisk, for 1 minute.

Gradually pour warm milk into butter mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 3 cups cheddar, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup fontina, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the nutmeg, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to box instructions. Drain, and transfer pasta to cheese sauce. Stir to coat.

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Divide mixture among mini pie plates or transfer to baking dish. Scatter remaining cup cheddar, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and 1/2 cup fontina over top, and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs.

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Bake until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving- don’t want to burn your mouth on that tangy cheese!

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s hard to find shockingly good recipes, but this is one of them. I have never been a huge fan of chicken pot pie, probably because up until now I’ve only eaten the frozen ones. It might seem strange to try a recipe for something that I don’t like, but I had a feeling this one would change my mind, and I was right! This recipe, though not complicated, is a bit time consuming, so I’ve been waiting for a day where I had a few spare hours to make it. Finally, a nippy fall day rolled along on which I didn’t have work, so I thawed those peas and grilled that chicken and geared up to make chicken pot pie.

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The wonderful blogger behind this recipe, Joy the Baker, warns against using pre-made pie crusts with this recipe. Normally I would have heeded her advice, but I was in no mood to patch together pate brisee, so I went for it: I used Pillsbury. Consequently, I had to cook my pie for about 10 minutes past the instructed baking time, and it didn’t appear to be as crispy as Joy’s. But, truth be told I’m kind of into semi-moist pie crusts (if you use Pillsbury and notice that your crust appears to be a bit translucent, it’s probably not undercooked, it’s just absorbed some of the creamy filling!). Additionally, I switched out her preferred fresh string beans for canned corn, which I had on hand. The corn also added a nice pop of color to the pie.

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One of the most convenient things about this recipe is that it calls for grilled chicken breasts, not leftovers from a rotisserie chicken, which many chicken pot pies use. However, because you’re using grilled chicken, make sure you season it well with salt and pepper so that it has as much flavor as a rotisserie chicken would.

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Original Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/double-crust-chicken-pot-pie/

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INGREDIENTS:

2 pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

3/4  cup whole milk>> I often use skim when recipes call for whole milk, but in this case, USE WHOLE MILK! It adds to the creamy luxuriousness of the sauce.

2 oz cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cubed chicken meat (2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled)

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted or salted is fine

1 small onion, diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup canned corn, drained

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

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DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  The mixture, which is a roux, will look almost too thick- but don’t worry, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.  Heat for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and slowly add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour globs remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, until cream cheese has melted and the mixture is thick but not stiff.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from heat and carefully pour or spoon into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, corn, and peas.  Cook for  about 5 minutes. Remove from heat even if the veggies still look crisp, and stir in cooked, cubed chicken.  Pour the mixture into the sauce, and stir to combine. Set aside and let cool for a hot sec.

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Unroll one pie crust and place in a 9 inch pie dish. Make sure there are no cracks, or the filling may seep through. If the crusts are fully thawed, they generally won’t crack.

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Spoon or carefully pour the filling into the bottom pie crust.

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Drape the second pie crust over the filling in the pie dish. With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under. Crimp the edges of the dough. Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and place in the fridge to chill while the oven preheats.

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Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Place pie in the oven bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 20-25 (increased time based on Pillsbury crusts) more minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Pizza

Ya gotta love pizza. Or maybe you don’t, who knows, but I love pizza and I’m going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT. There’s a bit of a debate regarding who actually invented pizza, but whoever it was: thank you. Pizza is fantastic in that it carries with it a lot of fond memories. Childhood ice skating parties (eating pizza signified the end of said torturous ice skating parties), “girls nights'” where my friends and I ordered Domino’s and always finished the pie, a dinner date with one of my dearest friends Thomas at John’s in the city where we similarly finished two large pizzas… the list goes on.

Normally, I order pizza if I’m just too tired to do anything else. But once in a while, it’s nice to make it myself. Kneading the dough is mildly therapeutic and I like putting on multiple toppings without being charged extra. Extra cheese? Hello. Mushrooms? Hey there. Olives? Heyheyhey.

This crust recipe is exceptionally simple, and comes out nice and crispy. A big thank you to The Silver Spoon for introducing it to me. I improvised the topping, so feel free to follow my instructions or make your own!

Buy The Silver Spoon here: http://www.phaidon.com/the-silver-spoon/the-silver-spoon-series/the-silver-spoon-9780714862569/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)

1/2 cup lukewarm water

Olive oil, for brushing

1 can Hunt’s diced tomatoes, strained

1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Parmesan cheese, grated

Olives, quartered

1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tbsp olive oil

Garlic powder, if desired

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Sift the flour, salt, and yeast into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour the lukewarm water into the well, and mix with dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.If the dough is too sticky, add a pinch of flour as needed.

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Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.

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Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a large bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Brush seran wrap with olive oil and wrap tightly on top. Put bowl in a warm area for at least an hour, and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size. If you’re making the dough in advance, remove from the bowl after the hour and punch down. Return to the bowl, and place in the refrigerator until needed.

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Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll out until it is about 16 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. I still haven’t perfected the art of making pizzas round, so don’t worry if yours is a funny shape. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Move the dough to the baking sheet. Reshape to fit the sheet if needed.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Sautee garlic until translucent, then add mushrooms. Cook until they are smaller and a deep brown.

Spread tomatoes across dough. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes and garlic powder (if desired) on the tomatoes. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and garlic from the pan and place on pizza. Add the olives, and then the parsley.

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Place the pizza in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tart

Autumn is my favorite season. I can’t wait for the leaves to fall and turn crisp, for everything in Trader Joe’s to be pumpkin flavored, and for it to be acceptable to make heartier, more buttery food. But, before I can dive into autumn, I must part ways with summer. Summer, though not my favorite season food-wise (or weather-wise if I’m being honest), is overflowing with fresh produce. If you live somewhere like California where there isn’t much of a season change, you maintain most of your produce quality year-round. But here in New York, there’s a relatively large disparity between what’s seasonal in the summer and autumn months. So, until Labor Day, I will be making recipes highlighting seasonal summer foods, as a sort of going away party for the season.

As a food blogger I really enjoy looking at other people’s food blogs and Instagrams to see what recipes they’re trying, and often, creating. A few months ago, I came across a food blogger (hautesucreblog.wordpress.com) whose food I’ve been itching to try. After a minute on her site, I found the perfect recipe for my going-out-of-season theme: a zucchini tart. Below is the original recipe, which actually uses feta instead of goat cheese.

Original Recipe: http://hautesucreblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/summer-zucchini-tart/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 large, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini, sliced very thinly using a mandolin (don’t try this with a knife!)

6 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Olive oil, for drizzling

Salt

Pepper

Herbs de Provence (I used Sunny Paris Seasoning from Penzy’s)

3 sprigs rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unfold the puff pastry on the baking sheet. Top with some goat cheese and a little bit of olive oil. Put a layer of zucchini on top, leaving a border of the pastry untouched as the crust. Hit with some salt, pepper, and herbs de provence, then repeat steps.

Lay rosemary sprigs across the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is puffy and golden brown.

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Enjoy!

Leslie