• 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

  • Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

    In my house growing up, any dish that had shrimp in it was always the first to go. My grandpa used to make gumbo and we would fight over the shrimp until the pot was just sauce and some andouille sausage left, and I have pretty distinct memories of the eight of us demolishing a Costco party-size shrimp cocktail platter in under 10 minutes. We LOVE shrimp. But the other day was one of those rare occasions where no one was home, so I actually got to share a meal with my parents, and do you know what I made? Well I mean, besides the fact that you can see from the title, you can bet that I made shrimp. I jump back and forth on what my favorite way to eat shrimp is, although, there really is no wrong way. But when it’s chilly outside and you’re in the mood for something hearty and cozy, look no further than this recipe. Adapted from this one found in the New York Times, this dish has essentially everything you need- cheesy goodness, a rich, creamy tomato sauce that you can sop up with a toasty piece of bread, and SO much shrimp. Need I say more??

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    As an exciting, random sidebar, here’s a fun story! Approximately 2.5 years ago while studying abroad in Florence, I was traveling to Dublin to see my roommate, and it was my first time flying by myself. I’m naturally a nervous traveler/ flyer, so I really needed things to go smoothly, which of course, they DIDN’T.  My flight was delayed 8 HOURS, and upon seeing me approach mental breakdown, two women from Ireland welcomed me to eat lunch with them and to wait out the delay with them. Flash forward to now, we have remained in contact this whole time, and they’re COMING TO NEW YORK!! For their first time ever!! And I get to see them!! What do you make for dinner when very important Irish guests are coming? Really who knows.

    BUT back to the point of this post, this meal right here is just waiting to be made by you, so let’s get to it!!

    Makes: 4-6 servings
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: ~1 hour

     

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    Grits Ingredients

    ¾ cup grits
    ¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
    3 tbs salted butter
    Salt

    Steps

    1. Bring 3½ cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, and add in the grits and salt. Turn the heat down to low and cover, cooking for 15-20 minutes until the water has been completely absorbed and the grits are tender.

    2. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and cheese until fully combined. Cover and keep warm until serving.

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    Shrimp Ingredients

    4 tbs butter
    2 tbs olive oil (I like a mix of butter and olive oil for this)
    2 onions, diced
    2 green bell peppers, diced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 28oz. can of diced tomatoes (and the juice)
    2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
    3 tbs flour
    1½ lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
    ½ to 1 cup chicken stock (or seafood stock if you’ve got it)
    2 tbs tomato paste
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
    Tabasco, several dashes (to taste)
    Salt, to taste
    Parsley, for garnish

    Steps

    1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic, peppers, and onion. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the Old Bay and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Cook for another 5 minutes.

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    2. Sprinkle in the flour and mix to combine. Add in the shrimp and stir constantly as they cook; it should be about 3 minutes, shrimp cook so fast!

    3. Add the first ½ cup of stock and let it simmer, then add in the tomato paste and make sure it gets properly mixed in. Stir in the cream, Worcestershire (I will literally never spell this right on the first try), and tabasco, plus more stock as needed to make the sauce thick enough to coat the shrimp but thin enough that it’s spoonable.

    4. Heat through entirely (without bringing to a boil), and adjust your seasonings as necessary.

    Serve with a generous helping of grits, a sprinkling of parsley, and a toasty piece of bread!

    Enjoy!!! xoxoxoxD

     

  • Death by Baked Gnocchi (and Garlic Bread)

    I don’t know if this is just a thing in my family, but for as long as I can remember, Friday night has been pizza night. It makes sense, the last day of the work week deserves a comfort food treat, but here’s the thing: sometimes you just gotta switch it up. Tradition is great, but a little change never hurt anyone, ESPECIALLY when that change involves a slow-simmered tomato sauce, pillowy gnocchis (okay I know gnocchi is already plural but shhhhh), and bubbly melty cheese.

    This week has felt like seven in one, anyone else feel like that? I’ve truly never been more excited for a long weekend, and plan on doing nothing except maybe baking something with the blood oranges that I just had to have last week. Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards some kind of meringue pie maybe? Anywho, this beautiful dish was my reward to myself for making it through the week in one piece, and WOW was it worth it. It starts with the classic and decadent Marcella Hazan butter and onion tomato sauce. If you’ve never made this sauce, I almost envy you for being able to try it for the first time, because you will NEVER look back. It’s simple, a little sweet, and soo smooth. It’s also pretty foolproof, with a grand total of 3 ingredients, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is open the can of crushed tomatoes.

    I chose to use store bought gnocchi for this meal, for the reliability and to save time, but if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make your own! Then it’s really all about assembly, and since each component is cooked on its own, the sole purpose of the baking is to make the cheese all bubbly and golden. Once that’s all done, serve it up with some garlic bread and prepare to lie on the floor in a food coma for approximately 4 hours.

    Let’s get cooking!!

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    A beautiful mess of cheesy goodness!!

    Makes: 6-8 servings
    Prep Time: 45 minutes
    Bake Time: 15 minutes
    Total: about 1 hour 15 minutes

    Gnocchi Ingredients:

    2 packages potato gnocchi
    1 can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano but don’t stress if you can’t find them)
    1 large yellow onion
    4 tbs salted butter
    2 balls of fresh mozzerella

    Steps:

    1. Add crushed tomatoes to a medium saucepan. Peel the onion and cut in half (that’s literally it), and drop the halves in with the tomatoes. Cut the butter into single tablespoons and mix everything together briefly. Simmer this mixture on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the softened onions before proceeding. Congratulations, you will never buy a jar of pasta sauce again!

    2. While your sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. When you have about 5-10 minutes left on the sauce, season the water generously with salt and cook your gnocchi. They’re cooked when they float to the top of the water and remain there. Using a large slotted spoon or spider strainer, scoop the gnocchi out of the water and add them straight into the pot with the tomato sauce. At this point, preheat your oven to 350ºF.

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    The waiting for the cooking is the worst part don’t you think?

    3. Cut one ball of mozzarella into cubes and stir into the gnocchi and sauce so that it begins to melt, and transfer the whole delicious mixture into an 8x8in square baking dish. Cut several slices from the second ball of mozzarella and place on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and broil for the last few to make the cheese on top golden and perfect. Be careful not to look away with the broiler on, it goes from nothing to burnt REALLY fast.

    4. Serve immediately with one (or 6) pieces of garlic bread (recipe follows below) and a glass of red wine because you deserve it.

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    Garlic Bread Ingredients:

    1 loaf of ciabatta or italian bread
    1 stick salted butter, softened
    4 gloves garlic, minced
    3 tsp dried basil

    Steps:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, garlic, and basil.

    2. Slice the loaf of bread in half and generously spread the garlic mixture on both halves. Put the halves back together and wrap in tinfoil. Bake for 15 minutes, then unwrap and separate the halves, and bake for another 5 minutes. Slice the halves and serve warm!!

    Enjoy!! xoxoxo