Tag Archives: Parmesan

Recipe: Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano

18 Jun

With three children away from home, and the fourth frequently out and about, my husband and I are adapting to eating dinner by ourselves. It is a necessary exercise; in one more year, we will be empty nesters. We have made some adjustments, but not all recipes for six translate easily into a meal for two, so I am beginning to rethink my approach to dinner. Luckily, this recipe is very adaptable and can easily be scaled down (or back up).

It’s also quick, which makes it perfect for a busy week night. But more importantly, it will satisfy proponents of the two different schools of thought on pasta cream sauces. When this dish is first put on the table, the cream sauce will be fairly thin (as in the photo). In our family, there are staunch supporters of a thinner cream sauce; they say a more liquid consistency allows for maximum “soppage” with a nice piece of crusty bread. Other family members prefer a thicker sauce, which coats the pasta very nicely. Luckily, it’s possible to have it both ways: thinner-sauce aficionados can dig right in; thicker-sauce advocates can nibble on salad or bread and let the sauce cool a bit. Regardless of their sauce philosophies, family members agree on one thing: this is good to the last bite, thick or thin.

Note: Feel free to substitute Parmesan cheese for the Pecorino Romano, and bacon for the pancetta (I used bacon this time, after discovering at the last moment that the pancetta I thought I had in the freezer was a figment of my imagination).

Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano
Serves 2-3

1/2 lb. pasta (I used gemelli)
2 oz. cubed pancetta (in the U.S., Trader Joe’s sells a 4-0z. package*)–or 4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, sliced
1 c. half and half, which is half light cream and half milk (or you can use all light cream or heavy cream–the heavier the cream, the thicker the sauce)
small pinch salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)

Preparation

1. Bring an ample amount of water to boil in a medium pot and cook the pasta just until it is al dente.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan and cook the pancetta/bacon until crisp; remove the pancetta/bacon, place on a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Leave about 1/2 tbsp. of oil/drippings in the saucepan; discard the rest. Add the sliced garlic to the pan and cook just until golden (you do not want the garlic to burn). Remove the garlic and discard. Turn heat to low and add the half and half (or cream). Grind black pepper over the surface of the sauce. Add a small pinch of salt (be conservative at this stage because you’ll be adding salty bacon and cheese to the dish; you can adjust the seasonings afterward). Keep the sauce warm without letting it boil.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it well, return it to the pot, and immediately toss with the cheese. Add the reserved pancetta/bacon, mix well, and then pour the cream sauce over. Stir well and adjust the seasonings (I usually add more pepper at this stage). The sauce will appear thin at first, but will thicken as it cools.
4. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

*I stock up on packages of cubed pancetta and freeze them. Then, I add the cubed pancetta directly to the hot oil. It cooks (and crisps up) beautifully, and is oh-so convenient.

Recipe: Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs

6 Mar

Puff pastry is a magical ingredient. If you have some in the freezer, you will be able to pull together a savory meal or a sweet dessert in barely more time than it takes to cook the pastry once it has thawed. If you are someone who makes puff pastry from scratch, my hat is off to you. I may get there one day, but for now I am happy to rely on the prepared kind. In this recipe, the onion and fennel almost melt together, adding a subtle layer of flavor to the sausage and mushroom. And crisp, flaky pastry makes everything better.

Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs
Yield: 12 puffs

1 pkg. puff pastry (about 17.5 oz. = 2 sheets), almost thawed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, and finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
sprinkle red chili flakes
salt & pepper
6 links sweet Italian turkey sausage (1.5 lb.), casings removed
6 tbsp. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
chopped parsley (optional)

Preparation

1. Let puff pastry thaw while you make the filling — but before the pastry comes to room temperature, unfold it and slice each sheet vertically into three sections along the fold lines (each sheet is folded like a letter), then cut each section in half. After cutting up both sheets, you will have 12 small rectangles of pastry. It is easier to cut the pastry, and to maintain the rectangular shapes, when the dough is still a tiny bit frozen. Set the pastry rectangles to one side in a single layer (if they are touching each other, they may stick together).

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add onions and fennel. Cook until onion is soft; add chili flakes (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to the onion/fennel mixture and cook until liquid is released and mixture is relatively dry. Add the sausage, and cook until all liquid has evaporated, breaking up sausage as much as possible. Check seasonings, then let mixture cool for a few minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Place one pastry rectangle into each muffin cup; the edges will drape over, which is fine–the end result will be somewhat free form. Distribute the filling among the muffin cups, sprinkle parsley (if using) and about 1/2 tbsp. Parmesan/Romano on top of each puff, and bring the pastry edges over the filling to loosely cover.

4. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Savory Baked Salmon

26 Jan

Nine times out of ten when deciding how to prepare fish, I opt for lightly marinaded or seasoned fish that is then broiled or grilled — a fresh and simple preparation.  It is a choice that makes me feel virtuous and happy (because, of course, a wise dinner decision opens up all sorts of possibilities for dessert).  But sometimes I find myself yearning for a slightly heartier fish dish that warms the soul in a different way. I don’t pretend this Savory Salmon is light, but it is good–the topping would work on almost any fish. And children like it. I serve it with oven-roasted asparagus and a cucumber-tomato salad.

Savory Baked Salmon
Serves 6

2.5 lb. salmon (or other fish) fillets
salt and pepper

Topping
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. paprika
sprinkle crushed red pepper (chilli flakes)–roughly 1/4. tsp. , or tiny pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley (or 1.5 tsp. parsley flakes)
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation

1. For Topping: Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice and stir until smooth; add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
2. For Salmon: Sprinkle each fillet with salt and pepper, then generously coat each fillet with topping. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily. If topping is not golden, broil briefly, keeping a careful eye on the fish.