Who needs a recipe! Sort-of braised garlic pasta

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By Corinne

This is one of my go-to pasta recipes. I’ve never posted it because I’ve never measured anything and I really do use whatever I happen to have handy in terms of herbs. In the summer I use a generous amount of fresh herbs and sometimes omit the dried ones entirely.

This recipe is a great chance to experiment with flavoured oils or vinegars as well as with herbs. If substituting a flavoured oil, I recommend only substituting 1-2 tbsp rather than the whole 1/4 cup. I also like using a full 1/4 cup of balsamic, but it really does depend on the balsamic you are using- start with the smaller amount and increase according to taste.

What is Braising? 

Braising is a combination cooking method where both dry and moist cooking techniques are used. Usually it involves browning meat in a pan with a bit of oil (dry cooking) and then cooking in a broth, or wine for a long time over a low temperature (moist cooking). You CAN actually braise garlic- you saute it first and then usually finish it by cooking in cream until garlic is tender. Garlic prepared this way is usually used for soups, creamy sauces or mashed potatoes. Technically, the garlic in this recipe isn’t braised, because there’s no ‘moist cooking’ component, but it borrows from the ‘low and slow’ technique used in braising. 

Time: about 20 minutes start to finish – everything should be done by the time your pasta water has boiled and your pasta has cooked (unless you have a crazy induction cooktop and your water boils in 2 minutes)

Serves: 2 people who like pasta 🙂

You will need:

  • 2 cups (uncooked) of your favourite smallish pasta that will hold onto the minimal ingredients for this recipe. I love conchiglie (small shells) or cappelletti (little hats)
  • ¼ cup of olive oil, or a mix of olive and canola, or a mix of a flavoured olive oil and regular
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped garlic
  • ½ tsp each dried oregano, basil, thyme – or any mix of herbs you like
  • About 1 ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
  •  2 -4 tbsp, depending on the flavour of the balsamic being used
  • Additional generous handful of fresh herbs to finish-flat leaf parsley, basil, whatever you have from the garden!

Over low heat, braise the garlic in the oil. DO NOT brown the garlic. You want this cooked over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Garlic should be soft, mild flavoured and fragrant.

Grate cheese and set aside.

While garlic is cooking, prepare pasta according to directions(remember to season your water!)

About 1 minute before the pasta is cooked, add the dried herbs to the garlic and oil.

**This part you need to work fast! The heat from the pasta is what melts the cheese.

Drain the pasta, add the garlic, oil and herbs, fresh herbs to the pasta and give a quick stir. Sprinkle the grated cheese in, stirring as you do so you don’t end up with a big ‘clump’.

When cheese has melted, add the vinegar.

Sprinkle with additional fresh herbs.

 

 

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Vegan (or not) Garden Pesto

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By Corinne

Basil is amazing. I am so in love with basil in the summer I can hardly help myself from adding it to everything. Basil in every salad, basil on sandwiches, basil gently rubbed between my fingers just to smell every time I go outside on my deck… Ah! Well, enough with this summer reverie. It’s February and the days (while getting longer) are still short and dark and cold and we’ve just had two weeks of -20C without a break. I’m craving summer in a bad way!

This pesto is infinitely versatile- in the summer I use much more basil than other greens, but in the winter good basil is hard to find and pricy! Tonight when I made it, I used about 15g of basil and 15g of parsley(a small handful of each)- the rest was spicy arugula, so I omitted the pepper.

While I’ve historically always used cheese, I decided to give nutritional yeast a try for this recipe. I probably could have thinned it out a BIT more, but it actually emulsified easier than the cheese version, was smoother, and as a bit of a shock to both myself and my taste tester, was the preferred version!

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Time: under 10 minutes

Makes: about 1/2- 3/4 of a cup 

You will need:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or other oil of your choice (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, outer skin removed
  • 1 ½ cup(lightly packed down) fresh herbs such as basil, parsley or greens such as spinach, kale or arugula
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt – to taste
  • pepper – to taste

In a food processor or using an immersion blender(I usually use my immersion blender as this is a relatively small batch and I have a large food processor), combine the herbs/greens and garlic and process for 15 seconds.

With the food processor still running, add the oil SLOWLY until the mixture is smooth – you want it to emulsify. The mixture should look almost matte, and not oily. If your pesto looks oily you rushed the emulsification process and added too much oil at once.  You are looking for the mixture to be loose, not chunky but not watery or runny at all.

Add the nutritional yeast or cheese and process for ten seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You can see in the picture that I did a better job of emulsifying the one version on the left than the one on the right today. I’m going to blame using a different container than I usually use!

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Toss with warm pasta, put on pizza, spread on a pork tenderloin or chicken… pesto is delightfully easy to use! This will stay good in the fridge for about a week. 

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Skillet Chili Pasta

By Corinne

For a long time I had mixed feelings about chili. I don’t care for kidney beans. Sometimes people put mushrooms in their chili, and mushrooms happen to be one of the few things that I REALLY don’t like. I’m a bit picky about my ground beef. But one of the glorious things about making things yourself is you can do it how you like it. I usually make chili with stew beef rather than ground beef, but though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I have been inspired to make more plant protein based meals. This chili is a riff on something between my regular chili, and the chili mac from Thug Kitchen 101. It is vegan as long as you stick to vegan ‘toppers’ to finish.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp safflower or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped (I often use red onion, but yellow onions work fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery (or two small)
  • 1 jalapeño finely minced (use half if you are cautious about the heat, it is always easier to add more than to try and adjust it if you’ve made it too hot for your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (500ml)  of a plain tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes (I usually use my ones I canned from my garden until I run out!)
  • *2 tbsp (30 ml)- 1/2 cup tomato paste the amount of tomato paste needed will depend on the tomato sauce you use and whether you used just canned tomatoes or an actual sauce
  • 1 can of beer
  • 2-3 cups (750ml) of vegetable broth (start with 2, add more water if needed for the pasta to cook)
  • 3 cups of small pasta (about 240g) (today I used a tri-colour rotini, but I also love small shells for this)
  • 1 can (540ml 19 fl oz) of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lime juice + zest from one lime
  • any or none of the following to finish – cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime wedges, additional jalapeño. This dish is vegan as long as you stick to vegan add ins.

In a large skillet, add  2 tbsp oil and chopped onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper,  and jalapeño pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies are fragrant and getting tender. Add garlic, coriander, cumin and paprika and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, veggie broth, and beer. Cover and bring to a simmer. Add pasta, cover and cook until pasta is a bit before al dente.  The amount of time here will depend on the size of your pasta, but about 7 minutes should probably do it. Add lime juice and zest, maple syrup and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve topped with any or none of the the suggested toppings. Do you have any toppings you love for chili that aren’t mentioned here?

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Pasta with Shrimp (or without!) in Tomato White Wine Sauce

By Corinne

If you live in Thunder Bay and haven’t tried Big Lake Pasta you should track some down at your earliest convenience. This pasta dish could probably be made with any pasta, but the Saffron Campanelle really did give it an extra something special.

Speaking of special, you may have noticed a real lack of fish and seafood posts from me on this blog. That’s because when I make them, it’s only as something special for my husband or company that I really love as I have a fairly severe allergy to them. Full disclosure, I was told that the shrimp were really good, but I didn’t (and can’t) actually taste them myself. I have the feeling that three of these large prawns would have been a fine serving, but since it’s a special treat, hubby got all six. Obviously this isn’t vegetarian if you use shrimp, but I ate it without and didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Serves: 4 (though you would need more shrimp for 4 people, there is enough pasta and sauce for 4)

Time: about 1 hour including simmering time for sauce

You will need:

  • 1 medium/large onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 1 dried chili pepper or about 1/2-1tsp of chili flakes
  • 2 cups of white wine (preferably dry, preferably Chardonnay)
  • 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped for garnish
  • wedges of fresh lemon
  • 350g fresh pasta, preferably Big Lake Saffron Campanelle

For the shrimps – I used tiger prawns and serving size will depend on the size of your shrimp!

I used this amount of butter/spice mixture for 6 large tiger prawns (probably 2 servings)

  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 large clove of garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp minced flat leaf parsley

In a large pot over medium heat, add about 2 tbsp olive or canola oil. Add the onion to this and stir around for about 10 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chili pepper and stir for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add 2 cups of white wine, slowly at first to scrape up any browned bits from the pan. Then add the can of tomatoes and paprika. Allow to simmer for about 45min to 1hr. Taste after simmering for a while, and add salt and pepper to taste.

While sauce is simmering, prep the butter mixture for the shrimp. Rinse and clean shrimp if necessary and slide onto bamboo skewers. Baste with butter sauce before putting on BBQ, and if you have enough, one more time when you flip them over.

The shrimp will take less than 10 minutes on the bbq, so when you are ready to put your pasta in the boiling water that would be the time to put them on.

Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs (parsley or basil) and squeeze a wedge of lemon over just before serving.

 

 

Left-over Chicken Fettuccine In A Light Cream Sauce

The other night I made some delicious Turkish Chicken and have been having a creative food-fest with the leftovers.  Yesterday I made some Chicken Salad and today, pasta!  Yummy, yummy pasta.  I have to start by telling you I don’t really like Alfredo sauce.  I find most of it sweet and rich and too thick.  I have never really had an Alfredo Sauce that made me stop and swoon the way I’ve seen some of my girl friends do.  Hence, I’ve never made it.  This sauce is sort of like Alfredo, but since it doesn’t use heavy cream it is not as sweet and rich and also not as fatty.  You’re very sad, I know.  I like light sauces, I almost always pick a tomato based sauce over a cream sauce, with the exception of some white wine creations which I love.

Don’t have any leftover chicken?  Slice and saute a chicken breast and set aside before starting.

You Will Need

  • 10oz of fettuccine
  • 2 tbsp pasta water
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups of sugar snap peas
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 leftover chicken thighs, chopped
  • 100g of smoked Gouda (or any other favourite)
  • 1 cup of half and half cream
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Prepare pasta as per package directions, reserve 2 tbsp of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.  Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat and add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook 2 or 3 minutes until softened, add peas and red pepper.  Cook until tender crisp, about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook 1 min more until fragrant.  Add cheese, cream, pasta water and chicken and bring to a simmer. This needs some salt and a generous amount of ground pepper.  Don’t be shy with the pepper, you won’t be sorry.  Add pasta and simmer until slightly thickened.  Serve immediately and garnish additional Parmesan.

 

Linguine with Fresh Grape Tomatoes and Basil

By:  Julie

Serves: 6

Time:  20 min

My favourite smell on earth, next to my freshly-bathed baby’s hair, is basil.  It’s floral and sweet and divine.  I really could eat a plate of linguine with some basil and olive oil and call it a day, but my family would look at me funny, so to appease them, I will add something tomatoey.  This dish is super fast, fresh and delicious.  I like to use pretty multi-coloured tomatoes but whatever you have is just fine.

You Will Need

  • 1.5 lb of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb of linguine
  • 3/4 cup of basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp chile flakes (optional)

Cook the linguine according to package directions, and reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in an extra large saucepan or pot over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes.  Add garlic, chile flakes, salt, pepper and basil and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the pasta water and the linguine and toss to combine.  Top with additional basil if desired.

 

 

 

Pesto Tortellini bites

By Corinne

This appetizer has a short ingredient list, but is big on flavours. They come together quickly and can be prepared the day before your party if desired.

Makes: about 25-27 skewers with 3 tortellini each if you use the whole package

Time: about 10 minutes to cook pasta, assembly depends on how many you decide to make. It took me about 10 minutes to put together about 20.

You will need:

  • 350g rainbow tortellini (or plain will also work)
  • 3 tbsp of pesto
  • seasoned sundried tomatoes in oil
  • bamboo skewers or toothpicks

Cook tortellini according to package directions- if using fresh tortellini, usually the boiling time is only 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook. Drain and stir in a generous 3 tbsp of pesto. Let cool completely. This part can be done the day before if desired.

Slide a tortellini, piece of sundried tomato, tortellini, piece of sundried tomato and tortellini onto wooden or bamboo skewers. Repeat. That’s it. You’re done.

These can be prepped the day before and stored in an airtight container overnight if needed. I usually serve these cold, though they are certainly good heated.