savories

Tomato Salad with Burrata

Surprise!! A bonus recipe this week! I know what you’re thinking, two posts in one week? What’s the occasion? Well, the occasion is I got burrata at the grocery store, and I just HAD to do something about it. And that something was marinate cherry tomatoes in garlic olive oil, toss them with some salt, pepper, and basil, and break those two burrata balls right over the top and I have to say, it was HEAVENLY. That still counts as salad right?? It does in my book at least. By the way, if you don’t know what burrata is, first of all, WELCOME, and second of all, it’s a type of cheese that has an outside casing of mozzarella, with a soft, creamy inside that is perfect for breaking open and letting the filling ooze out all fancy like. Is that weird? Who knows, but you’ll be on board as soon as you try it I promise.

Since this is my second post of the week, I’m going to keep it short and sweet because we all know you’re here for the recipe, no shame in that! This is ridiculously easy to make, and just as easy to customize depending on what else you have on hand, but since summer is ending and good cherry tomatoes will soon be scarce, I’m trying to use them as much as I can. However, some other good additions would be sliced peaches, strawberries, a drizzle of pesto or honey, or even some chili oil if you like things extra spicy!

Before we get started, we can’t forget the five things to be happy about today, so let’s do that first!

ONE. It’s FRIDAY!! You have a whole two days of freedom ahead of you, do yourself a favor and sleep late and have some waffles for breakfast, would you?
TWO. Bottomless diner coffee that always seems to taste better than when you make it at home.
THREE. String lights lining a porch railing, lighting up a warm night so you can sit and talk outside for hours.
FOUR. Coming home to a package you’ve been waiting for sitting on the doorstep.
FIVE. Writing letters and sending them just because, not for any reason other than to make someone’s day brighter.

Okay! Let’s get cooking! (Or really just cutting and prepping, as almost no cooking is involved, YAY for heatless recipes!!)

Ooooooooooomg am I right?


Prep Time:
 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6 people

 

Ingredients

36 oz. cherry tomatoes (roughly 2 packages), halved
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
5 basil leaves, chiffonnade
2 burrata balls, halved or quartered

Steps

ONE. In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and sliced garlic and heat on very low until the garlic is fragrant and infuses into the oil but doesn’t brown. Set aside to cool while you halve the tomatoes and discard the garlic. (If you already have a garlic-infused oil or you would prefer a plain olive oil, you can skip this step!)

TWO. Toss the cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, and olive oil in a large bowl. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

THREE. To serve, pour the tomatoes and the juices they released onto a large, flat serving dish. Break open or cut the burrata balls in half or in quarters (depending on how much you want to share!), and place on top so that some of the filling begins to spill into the tomatoes. Serve a piece of burrata with a healthy scoop of tomatoes to each.

YUM!! xoxoxoxoxD

savories

BLT Pasta with Garlic Croutons

Hello friends!! For today’s recipe, yes, you read that right, it’s BLT PASTA!! One of life’s simple pleasures is a good sandwich, and in my opinion, nothing matches the near perfection of a good BLT in the summer. The crisp bacon, juicy tomato, fresh lettuce, it’s a classically delicious combination that one would not think could possibly be improved. HOWEVER, that was before you considered this recipe. Adapted from The New York Times (recipe here), this pasta has all the best parts of a traditional BLT sandwich, as well as the addition of peppery arugula and salty pecorino romano cheese. An added bonus? The sauce practically cooks itself! After frying the bacon, halved cherry tomatoes are cooked in the resulting bacon fat and reduced to a bubbling, rich but not heavy sauce, made even silkier with the freshly grated cheese and pasta water. All you have to do is stir it all together!

Enjoying these beautifully colored gems while I can!!

My own version of this meal includes one extra accent in the form of crispy garlic croutons because I just really love mixing bread and pasta. Is that weird? My all time favorite pasta dish is literally just pasta tossed with garlic breadcrumbs, sometimes with some sautéed kale and a fried egg, but also sometimes not, and it’s just SO delicious. So anyway, I figured, since this dish is adapted from a classic sandwich anyway, why not bring the bread back? And boy am I glad I did, because even just a small handful on top of your pasta swirl provides the most perfect and satisfying crunch and we quickly learned, as my mother remarked while eating this, “I could eat this pasta all night”.

I’ve been seeing fancy noodle swirls all over my instagram and quickly realized how challenging it is to get them all to cooperate with me. How’d I do?

Before we get started, I’m bringing you 5 more things to be happy about this week, are you ready? Let’s go!

ONE. The newly released Netflix movie To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – which is heartwarming, sweet, and impossible to watch just once.

TWO. Eating a cup full of cold, cubed watermelon and feeling instantly refreshed.

THREE. The immediate relaxation you feel when stepping into an air-conditioned space from the heat outside.

FOUR. Playing the same song over and over while driving by yourself, with no one to tell you not to.

FIVE. Dinners where everyone gathers around the table long after the food is finished, simply enjoying each other’s company.

Are we feeling happy? Hungry? Let’s get cooking!!

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6-8 dinner portions (plus leftovers for tomorrow – or midnight!!)

Ingredients

2 boxes pasta of your choice (I used bucatini but any tube like pasta works!)
12oz. bacon, diced
2 lbs. cherry tomatoes, halved
10 oz. arugula, washed and dried
1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
½ loaf ciabatta bread, torn into bite size chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt + pepper
Red pepper flakes

Steps

ONE. Bring pasta water to boil in a large pot. Cook your pasta according to the package instructions for al dente, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.

TWO. In a shallow pan (I used a cast iron skillet), heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add crushed red pepper flakes to your liking, depending on your spice preference. I used about ½ tsp for these croutons. Add in the torn pieces of ciabatta and stir so that every piece is coated with olive oil. Toast until the bread becomes golden brown and crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

THREE. While the water is coming to a boil, crisp your bacon in a large skillet or pot on medium-high heat, then remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, taking care to keep as much of the bacon fat left in the pan as possible. Add the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan with the bacon fat, and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes become soft and begin to burst. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the browned bacon bits into the sauce as well. Season with salt and pepper, and after about 5 minutes of cooking, add half of the cooked bacon back to this sauce and mix to combine.

Look at these cuties doing their thing!!

FOUR. With the heat on medium-high, add the cooked pasta straight from the water into the skillet with the tomato sauce. Add in your arugula plus ½ cup pasta water and cook for a minute until the arugula begins to wilt slightly. Stir in the cheese and an additional ½ cup pasta water, mixing everything together until the sauce becomes smooth and almost shiny, and coats the pasta. Feel free to add more pasta water as needed, until you reach the desired consistency.

I almost dropped my phone into the pasta for this shot, you’re WELCOME

FIVE. To serve, pile a generous helping of pasta onto a plate or into a shallow bowl, add a handful of garlic croutons, a sprinkling of crisped bacon pieces, and a heaping snow shower of grated cheese. Best enjoyed with a glass of chilled white wine.

YUM!! xoxoxoxoD

savories

Eggs In Purgatory

You know when you love breakfast foods, but you’re also really lazy? Um, hello, that’s me. In college, I got so used to scheduling all my classes at 11am or later, just so I could stay up until 2am but also get a reasonable amount of sleep (healthy, I know), but NOW, even after a full year of adulthood in the workforce, I am so unprepared for how tired I feel during the week. As a result, Saturdays are my sacred sleeping late days, and I take them very seriously thank you very much. With this being the case, I am not often awake early enough for breakfast, which is actually a real bummer given how many breakfast recipes I want to try. I’ve always wanted to be a morning person and have been trying to push myself not to sleep so late on the weekends, but it’s slow going for sure.

I was super proud of this presentation, I’m not gonna lie…

That being said, I think I may have just found the key. It all started when I got a copy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine for my birthday (thanks Anne!!). This particular copy was the “Special Collector’s Edition” of All-Time Best Breakfast & Brunch Recipes. A dream come true, right?? It had every recipe you could possibly imagine, complete with detailed notes on the testing of each one so that you could be sure you were getting the best results. However, the recipe that really caught my eye was the one for “Eggs In Purgatory”. Similar to Shakshuka, Eggs In Purgatory is essentially baked eggs in a tomato sauce, this time with Italian flavors. As a fake Italian, this was really what drew me in (for clarification, I’m not Italian at all but I just really wish I was).

The key to this recipe is cooking the eggs two different ways to ensure they are properly cooked without compromising the overall dish. This means that you first make the sauce on the stovetop, crack in the eggs, cook for a bit, and THEN bake, and the end result will be the breakfast dish of your dreams. An added bonus? Every step of this meal is cooked in one pan (not counting the toasting of the bread), so you can spend more quality time with your guests (or yourself, if you make this whole thing for you I will not judge, it’s called self care!!). *Disclaimer* The recipe technically serves 4 figuring that each person will eat 2 eggs, baked in a 12 inch skillet. However, I only have a 10.5 inch skillet, so I used 6 eggs. It still fed 4 of us, but I’ll let you decide how hungry you are. Let’s breakfast!

Serves: 4-5 people
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Eggs In Purgatory Ingredients
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, by Cecilia Jenkins

1 loaf Italian bread, cut into thick slices
7 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup grated onion (about half a medium onion)
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more chopped for garnish
1- 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
6-8 large eggs (depending on your pan size and crowd)
Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper

Eggs In Purgatory Steps

1. Start by moving one of your oven racks to the middle slot. Arrange the sliced bread on a large baking sheet and brush each piece with olive oil. Flip to the other side and repeat so that both sides of the bread are oiled. In total, this should be about 4 of the 7 tablespoons of olive oil, but you can eyeball this as well. Broil the bread until the tops turn golden brown and crisp, turning each piece over to ensure even browning on both sides. Don’t wander too far while this is happening, things can go from lightly golden to very burnt in the blink of an eye with your broiler!! Set the bread aside and preheat your oven to 400ºF.

2. In an oven-safe skillet (I used a cast iron one, but it’s up to you!), heat your remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to brown it too much (browned garlic is very bitter). Stir in the grated onion, tomato paste, salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano so that everything is well combined. Continue to cook this mixture until the tomato paste has turned rust-colored, or a deep, reddish-brown, as this will unlock the caramelized sweetness of the tomatoes. (It should take about 5 minutes.)

3. Toss in the basil leaves and stir, cooking for 30 seconds, or until they begin to wilt. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until it has slightly thickened. Remember to stir occasionally!

4. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool for 2 minutes before adding the eggs next. Crack one of your eggs into a small bowl. Using a rubber spatula, clear a large hole in the sauce, deep enough that you can see the bottom and wide enough to fit the whole egg without spilling over. Pour the egg in, making sure to keep the whites contained so that they don’t spread entirely over the surface of the tomato sauce. I found myself sort-of pushing some of the sauce up to create a little barrier if the eggs were large enough that some of the white was spilling over, and it worked out okay! Remember also that practice makes perfect, and even if some whites spill over, it’s going to taste SO. GOOD.

 

5. Repeat with the rest of your eggs, evenly spacing out the pockets around the perimeter of the skillet, with the final egg right in the middle. Season all the eggs with salt and pepper, then cover the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, until the whites are just setting but still a little watery. Remove the lid and carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes for runny eggs, or 6 for soft yolks, rotating the skillet once during cooking.

6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parmesan and chopped basil, then serve with the toasty bread and just TRY to keep yourself from scooping up every last bit of sauce with that bread.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoD

savories

Orecchiette with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Welcome to my first dinner post in so so long! I’m terribly sorry for the delay, it just seems like every good recipe I’ve had recently has been a dessert, but that ends NOW! Last week, I played Mom for my three younger sisters while my parents were away and honestly, I don’t know how anyone does it. Props to you working Moms and Dads! There just didn’t seem to be enough time (or coffee) in the day for me to get things done. I’m not even joking, there was a point in the week where I woke up with a weird pain in my right side and my first thought was “wow, I don’t have time for appendicitis, who will make dinner?”. ????? HM okay Deirdre calm down. But also it turned out to be nothing I think and I’m just going to roll with it!

ANYWAY back to food, when I’m in charge at home, I tend to use my siblings as taste testers for things that I wouldn’t normally try to make during the week, and thank goodness for them. This time it was an adaptation of one of my favorite Smitten Kitchen recipes, Baked Tomato Sauce. Best in the summer when tomatoes are at the height of ripeness, Deb’s recipe brings out the incredibly rich sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and perfectly compliments it with the slight crunch of the toasted breadcrumbs and the lightness of some fresh basil. It’s the epitome of summer in one dish and mark my words, it’s just about perfect as is. But, since I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to see what else I could do with it and so was born this Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce.

Part of the draw of this recipe is its simplicity, after accidentally spending 2 hours making a Funfetti Cake instead of dinner (post on that coming soon!), I was thrilled at how I could get everything in the pan and into the oven in under 15 minutes. So, the challenge was tweaking the recipe in a way that wouldn’t tack on another 20 minutes of prep time, and didn’t distract from the main flavor players here. In the end, I was incredibly pleased with how this came out and so were my taste testers, and I just know you’ll feel the same way too. Let’s get cooking!

 

Ingredients
adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Tomato Sauce

Olive Oil
3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
4 tbs grated pecorino romano cheese
½ tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper
1½ lbs. dried orecchiette or large shell pasta
Handful of fresh basil, chiffonade
8oz. Bocconcini or Ciliegine (mozzarella balls!)

Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Drizzle olive oil in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, enough to almost cover the bottom entirely. Toss in the halved cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and mix with your hands so that everything is evenly mixed and lightly coated in olive oil. Note: the red pepper flakes measurement is variable, adjust however you’d like based on your tolerance to spicy foods!

Look at the COLOR!!

2. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, cheeses, and oregano. Sprinkle this mixture evenly and generously over the tomatoes in the baking dish.

3. Top with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons more olive oil- it doesn’t have to be exact, you just want the breadcrumbs to get a golden brown crispness!

4. Bake the tomatoes for 25-30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are burst and bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

5. While the sauce is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Drain.

PEAK crispy roasty bubbliness right here.

6. When the sauce is finished, if there is room in your baking dish, toss the cooked pasta, basil, and bocconcini straight in with the sauce and mix until everything is incorporated evenly and the mozzarella is just starting to melt. If this isn’t possible, transfer your pasta back into the large pot that you cooked it in, add the sauce, mozzarella, and basil, and mix to combine that way. Serve with a sprinkling of basil and a glass of good wine.

YUM! xoxoxoxoxoxoD

savories

Baked Meatballs with Cheesy Parmesan Polenta

Ah yes, Sunday dinners. I think we can all agree that Sunday nights are the saddest part of the week, knowing what’s to come. To counteract that, Sunday dinners in my house have become the solution- a fancy meal and a glass of wine to lull you into a sense of coziness so that you briefly forget that the work week lies ahead. This week? Fricken meatballs and cheesy polenta because why the heck not. And, because there are better things you can be doing with your Sunday besides individually searing each meatball, these are baked all at once and then finished in a mouthwatering and deceivingly easy tomato sauce that people will think you spent your whole day standing over the pot. Adapted from this recipe by Ina Garten, it’s served with a heaping portion of cheesy polenta in lieu of spaghetti, and as a diehard pasta enthusiast, I can promise you won’t even miss it.

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This weekend I somehow fell down a cooking/ baking hole where every project I’ve been putting off recently all accidentally happened at once. In a span of two days, I made a batch of raspberry macarons (following another batch of toasted marshmallow ones from Tuesday), the FLAKIEST biscuits I have ever made, a lemon meringue pie (coming soon), and this dinner. I think I stood for 8 hours straight on Sunday but wow it was worth it. But honestly, enough about that, let’s get down to what really matters, cooking and eating THIS.

Makes: 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: about 1.5 hours

Meatball and Sauce Ingredients

2 cans (32 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
2 lbs ground beef (or 1lb ground beef, ½ lb ground veal, ½ lb ground pork)
1¾ cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup ground pecorino romano cheese
½ cup ground parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup dry red wine
¾ cup water
Olive Oil, for brushing
Salt and Pepper, to season

Meatball and Sauce Steps

1. In a large, deep pot, add the crushed tomatoes, butter (sliced into tablespoons), and the halved onions. And honestly, that’s it for the sauce. Turn the heat to medium low, and stir occasionally, cooking for 45 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

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2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF and line your baking trays with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, beaten eggs, red wine, and water. With your hands (or a spoon/ spatula) mix everything together until all ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout.

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3. Scoop roughly 1½ tablespoon amounts and roll them into neat balls with your hands, and line them up on your trays. Brush each meatball with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

be5a24b4-2e79-479c-8241-86e5d937f183.jpg

4. At this point, remove the onions from the tomato sauce, and add the roasted meatballs and allow them to cook in the sauce for 10 minutes more. Serve a heaping portion on top of a luscious bowl of polenta (recipe below). YUM!

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Ingredients

8 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese (this sounds high maintenance but the fresh grated kind makes a difference I promise, it melts way easier and more smooth)
1 cup creme fraiche
½ stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Steps

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the garlic. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the cornmeal to eliminate lumps.

2. Add the salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the polenta is thick. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the pot!!

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3. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan, creme fraiche, and butter. Serve with meatballs and prepare for a food coma like you’ve never seen before.

xoxoxoxoxD

 

savories

Fettuccine Alfredo with Homemade Pasta

Oh man, it’s been a week. I know it’s only Wednesday, but I am TIRED. For some reason despite being so tired, I made it my top priority to try out the brand new pasta maker I got a few weeks ago and I am so glad I did. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but pasta is actually really easy to make from scratch. It contains only 2 ingredients, flour and egg, and while, yes, it makes a mess and gets flour everywhere, you can literally just use your hands and a rolling pin (although it’s definitely easier with a pasta machine). The recipe that I started with came from my trusty Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, although some parts I had to improvise to get the results that I got.

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Now, because your time will be occupied making the pasta for this meal, I figure you might as well make things easier for yourself on the other side, and make a quick sauce that can slow cook while you mess around with the dough. In this case, it’s Alfredo. Taught to me by my mother, this sauce was probably my number one requested meal as a child, and some things never change. Containing butter, cream, and cheese, this is definitely not a healthy dinner, but when you need some comfort, this is the perfect dish. Let’s hope the rest of this week breezes by, but until then, I’ll be over here eating fresh pasta out of the saucepan. Without further ado, let’s get cooking!

*Disclaimer: I am not Italian (although I wish I was), this was my first venture into pasta making so I am simply writing about what works for me, I hope my methods don’t horrify any seasoned Italian chefs. If you’ve been doing this forever, let me know what your strategies are, I’d love to hear them!!

Serves: 3-4 dinner portions
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour (I know it doesn’t add up I’m just working in some wiggle room)

Pasta Ingredients

2-2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Pasta Steps
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1. On a large, clean surface (I used a marble board, but you can use the countertop or a silicone mat as well), measure out your flour into a small pile, making a large well in the center. Crack eggs into the well and whisk them gently with a fork until the yolks are broken and slightly mixed.

From humble beginnings

2. Begin to knead with your hands until a dough starts to form, adding flour as necessary until you can press your thumb into the dough and nothing sticks. I ended up adding a lot more flour than the original recipe stated, but it changes based on the size of your eggs and whatnot, so everyone is different.

3. At this point, clear your surface and knead your pasta dough until it becomes smooth and stretchy, at least a full 8 minutes. Once this is done, cut the ball of dough into 4 equal sections to make it easier to work with.

4. Put your pasta roller on the widest setting. Flatten your first ball of dough and run it through the machine once. Fold in thirds the long way, and then run back through the machine, narrow side first.

5. Move pasta roller up from setting 1 to setting 3. Repeat step four on this thinner setting. Move the pasta roller up to setting 5 and repeat one last time. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the other sections of dough, until you have 4 long, thin sheets.

All the pasta

6. At this point, if you have a fettuccine cutter for your machine, add it. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut strips free-handed, but I just don’t have the coordination for that. Run each sheet of dough through the cutter, flouring and separating the strands once they’re cut so that they don’t stick together. Lay flat on a kitchen towel, making sure that the strands aren’t too tangled. Repeat with the other sheets. While the pasta is drying for a minute, let’s start the sauce!

Alfredo Ingredients

3 tbs salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Dash of nutmeg (I really mean a DASH, a little goes a long way)
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Alfredo Steps

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add in heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat for a minute or two on medium until the cream has been warmed through.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and allow the sauce to cook for around 5 minutes until it thickens and the cheese melts.

Pasta Pasta Pasta

3. At this point, cook your pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. The cook time ranges for fresh pasta, but mine reached al dente at around 7 minutes.

4. When the pasta is finished, transfer it to the saucepan and mix until all the pasta is generously coated in sauce.

5. Serve with a generous dusting of more parmesan cheese.

Have a great week! xoxoxoD

savories

Penne alla Vodka

Whose idea was it to add vodka to tomato sauce? I guess if you’re thinking rationally, they were already adding wine to tomato sauces, so vodka probably isn’t a far throw? But wow I’m so glad someone did though, because there’s something about it that’s just so good. And while up until now I let my favorite restaurants do the work for me, this week’s snow day seemed like the perfect day to test some out myself. I basically followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and added little touches here and there, who needs restaurants when you can do things yourself, am I right??

Once again these weeks seem to be years long, while simultaneously flying by, is that a thing? I feel like I could fit three weeks into one Monday through Friday, but at the same time we’re almost to April already? Time is so odd. Although I will say I am overjoyed at the idea of no more snow for now. Bring on the spring air (and the spring produce, hello rhubarb!!!), I think we all could use a break from the cold. Until then however, serve yourself up a bowl of this classic pasta, with a bit of a spicy kick to clear away the last winter stuffy nose and to give some pep to your step. 

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The view from my Florence apartment; I can’t believe I ever came home!!

I’ve been in a very Italian mood lately, having studied abroad in Florence two years ago, I never really felt like I fully came back, and as silly as it is to say, there’s some part of me that’s definitely still there, and I’ll get hit with a random wave of homesickness for a place that I only lived for four months, but had such an impact on my life. I’m now slowly but surely practicing my Italian and somehow find myself in possession of both a Bialetti Moka Express espresso pot (which I now love more than anything), and a brand new pasta maker that I’m sure you’ll all be seeing a lot of in the near future. Basically what I’m saying is I’m preparing for the day that I can pick up and move back to Italy and never look back, okay? Now that we’re all on the same page here, let’s get to some cooking!

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Makes: 6-8 dinner portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you’re feeling brave)
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (32oz.) crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano tomatoes)
2 16oz. boxes Penne Rigate pasta
½ cup heavy cream
Fresh basil (to garnish), *I didn’t have any on hand so I threw in ½ tsp of dried basil, but found that it didn’t really add much to the dish so I’m not including it here*
Kosher salt + black pepper

Steps

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan or skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted and the oil has a slight shimmer to it. Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes and sautè until the shallots are soft and the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 5 minutes.

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2. Add the vodka (keep your head away because I foolishly leaned over and got hit in the face with some vodka steam and I will NEVER make that mistake again!), and allow it to reduce by half before proceeding, another 5 minutes or so.

3. Pour in the chicken stock and tomatoes and give the whole thing a good stir. Now, the recipe I was following doesn’t cook this mixture for much longer, but I like a thicker sauce so I let mine bubble at this stage for about 20 minutes, to allow for some liquid to evaporate and leave a heartier tomato sauce. If you prefer a thinner sauce or you’re in a rush, bring your mixture to a boil at this point and then reduce to bubbling while your pasta cooks instead.

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4. At this point, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook your pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to save some pasta water at the end before draining, as it can help your sauce some together and stick to the pasta if you need it.

5. Stir in the heavy cream and cook just until the sauce is entirely heated through. Season with salt and pepper to your liking here, and toss in the pasta, mixing to ensure everything is incorporated.

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6. Serve a generous portion of pasta with a sprinkling of chiffonade basil and a dusting of parmesan cheese. As with most of my dinner recipes, this is best served with a glass of wine and some good Italian bread. Buon Appetito!

xoxoxoxoD