Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

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I’m learning things today. That’s one of the best things about writing this blog – because I want to actually have something to say in my post, I frequently dig deeper into the history or other technical details of recipes where I might not have otherwise. Take today’s recipe… I knew I wanted to make homemade pasta for dinner and change it up from the usual Homemade Pasta Carbonara. (We may or may not be a little bit addicted to the carbonara recipe – Selim looked at me like I had an extra head when I said I was thinking about making pasta with a different type of sauce.) Then I remembered the time I learned that all meatsauces weren’t created equally – I was at dinner with friends at a restaurant in our old home of Charlottesville, VA, when someone (my cousin Emily I think) ordered the bolognese. I’d never ordered anything similar off a menu because I always thought… 💭 Meat sauce? I can just buy a jar of that off a shelf 🤷 And then I tasted her dish – it was amazing, delicious, and nothing like meatsauce in a jar!

I wanted to recreate that experience tonight. But what recipe to follow? What technically is bolognese and how is it different from ragu? I feel like I see those words on menus used interchangeably. Well, I finally put some effort into learning the details. I now know that a ragu is an umbrella term for meat-based Italian sauces, under which bolognese falls. (Technically, a bolognese sauce is ragù alla bolognese.) A ragu is different from what I was thinking of as “meatsauce” in that the meat is truly the focus, not tomatoes or tomato sauce. It is thicker and less liquidy. And it turns out, while under this umbrella, bolognese sauce is incredibly specific – it has actually been registered in exact detail. The Italian Academy of Cuisine registered it in 1982. The recipe must include the following ingredients to be an official bolognese: beef, pancetta, onion, celery, carrot, tomato sauce, whole milk, dry wine (red or white), and salt & pepper. We aren’t going to stick to that particular formulation, so the sauce for tonight’s dinner is a ragu!

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Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
Ragu:
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Check out these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10oz ground pork sausage
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 small tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
Pasta:
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Instructions: 
  1. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add both types of meat, removing the sausage from casings if needed. Season liberally with pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook until browned and then remove to the side, retaining a coating of fat in the dutch oven.
  3. To this, add the diced onions and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until well softened.
  4. Now add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Stir frequently, cooking for 3 minutes.
  5. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor. [Yielding ~2 cups]
  6. Return the meat to the dutch oven. Stir in the wine and tomatoes. Increase heat slightly to a vigorous simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by half and thickened.
  7. Lastly, add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Check to ensure there’s a light simmer. Braise for at least two hours, checking and stirring occasionally.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack the eggs into that center well/crater.
  9. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You may need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  10. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  11. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  12. Using a sharp knife, slice into 1 inch wide noodles. Cover with parchment paper if still waiting on the sauce.
  13. Remove the lid from the dutch oven and increase heat to return liquid to a fast simmer. As the last bit of liquid is being soaked up, turn off the heat and stir in 2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  14. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente – it will only take a minute or two with the fresh pasta.
  15. Top pasta with sauce and additional Parmesan cheese!
Serves 4-6.

Cacio e Pepe

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Number 10 on our Culinary Bucket List states, “Figure out how the Italians’ make pasta cacio e pepe a million times better than we can. Also, master that twirling the pasta at the table trick.” If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know what I’m talking about. Literally ever Roman restaurant we set foot in served some type of cacio e pepe. It draws in tourists’ attention for its theatrical table-side preparation, but turns out it’s also delicious! Not lying, I think my cousin Scottie ate cacio e pepe for almost every meal when we were in Rome after the first time she tried it.

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All of us in St. Peter’s Square! From L to R: Selim, family friend Henry, Ally, Ally’s brother Jeffrey, and cousins Scottie, Jayme, & Luke

How is it that good though? ‘Cacio e pepe’ literally means pepper and cheese. It’s that simple – pasta + pepper + cheese. But somehow, when we came home and tried to recreate it, it never turned out the same. It was mind-boggling – how are we screwing up something that seems so simple?? The cheese would get all clumpy, and we wouldn’t really get a “sauce” per se.

Well, apparently we’re not the only ones. I found this article from Serious Eats that addressed our dilemma, from the point of view of someone who knows way more about cooking and testing recipes that we do. Thank goodness for smart people! Read it and learn like we did. We followed all of the tips and tricks in the article and were rewarded with a much better result. While it’s still not as good as what we had in Italy, and we still don’t know how to do the twirl the pasta at the table trick, it’s good enough to share!

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Cacio e Pepe

(Recipe adapted from this Serious Eats article & recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour (plus slightly more for dusting your counter, hands, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 40 turns fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp pasta water
Instructions: 
  1. Start by making the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #4 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface. Then cut into spaghetti noodles using that attachment. [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil with a dash of salt. Use less water than you typically would – just enough to cover the pasta.
  6. Add fresh pasta and cook until al dente. This only takes a few minutes with fresh pasta – it will take more like 6-7 minutes with store-bought pasta.
  7. In a second pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and the first 20 turns of black pepper over medium-low heat.
  8. Add 2-3 tbsp of starchy pasta water and the melted butter to the pan. Stir to combine with the olive oil.
  9. Using tongs, lift noodles out of their pot and place into the pan as well.
  10. Slowly add the cheese and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Stir vigorously while adding the cheese so it doesn’t get clumped up.
  11. Add more pasta water as needed to ensure all noodles get coated with the sauce.
  12. Top with 20 more turns of black pepper and salt if you think it needs.
Makes 2 large individual servings, or 4 non-fat-American-sized servings.

Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

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As you can tell, we enjoy braised chicken.  We make it more often than the handful of posts on our blog.  It’s simple, tasty, and always makes leftovers for lunches or a quick dinner later in the week.  I think kimchi scares a lot of people… fermented cabbage, anyone?  It’s alive and continues to ferment while sealed up, further breaking down the vegetables and adding flavor to the various spices contained within that swollen jar.  Ally had dog-eared this recipe a while ago, and we didn’t know what to expect.  We were both expecting a bit of sourness from the fermentation products of the kimchi, some smokiness from the bacon, acidity from the tomatoes, and of course a touch of sweetness from the white wine.  The ingredients, each lending their own simple tastes to the finished product, which has a unique complexity that will make you wish you made a double batch.  For more spice, try adding some of your favorite hot sauce (sriracha would go well), some cayenne, or a a few pinches of chipotle spices for a smoky heat.

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Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2016 issue)
Ingredients: 
  • 5 slices of bacon, sliced
  • 3 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz (by weight) grape tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups kimchi, with juices
  • 8oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place a large Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crispy.
  2. Remove the bacon to the side to a paper towel lined plate, retaining the bacon fat.
  3. Add the garlic and tomatoes into the dish. Lower heat slightly and cover. Stir occasionally.
  4. After ~5 minutes of cooking, the garlic should be browning and the tomatoes getting wrinkly. Using the back of your slotted spoon (or whatever utensil you’re cooking with…), press down on the tomatoes until they burst.
  5. Pour in the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the dish.
  6. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by half.
  7. Now return the bacon to the dish, along with the kimchi and chicken. Bring to a simmer. Then lower heat & cover.
  8. Braise over low-medium heat for an hour, uncovering once roughly halfway through to stir.
  9. After this time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Increase heat slightly, ensuring that the tomato-kimchi liquid comes to a fast simmer. Cook for ~20 more minutes. The liquid will reduce. Break apart the chicken as it begin to fall apart.
  10. Towards the end of the braising time, cook egg noodles. Boil in a pot of salted water until al dente.
  11. Once pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  12. Return the pasta to the cooking pot and top with butter, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss until pasta is covered with buttery liquid. Add a little bit more cooking liquid if you think it needs.
  13. To serve, top a serving of noodles with generous spoonfuls of chicken and tomato-kimchi sauce.
Makes 6-8 servings

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Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

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I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have an embarrassing love of most things that come in a box, especially with powdered cheese. Kraft mac & cheese? Clearly. Those Knorr rice or noodle sides in a bag? So good and only $1! Hamburger Helper? Be still my heart 🖤🖤🖤 Are any of these things actually good or good for me? No and no, but my taste buds are confused. Someone mentioned Hamburger Helper the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (Don’t judge me!)

I knew the chance of convincing Selim that Hamburger Helper was a decent meal choice was slim to none, so I went for a slightly less processed version. Maybe not exactly low calorie or low fat, but hey – I added vegetables and cut out the processed/powdered cheese. Wins all the way around. And it’s delicious! Take that dinner in a box! I guess I should also mentioned that this is based on Cheeseburger Macaroni – which to me is THE Hamburger Helper, but that might not be true for everyone.

I looked to Pinterest for a little guidance in getting started with this recipe. I checked out these lovely blogs, but didn’t follow one in particular – onetwo, & three.

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Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

(Inspired by a few different blogs – see above)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Instructions: 
  1. In a large pan with tall edges, heat the oil.
  2. Over medium heat, cook the onions and the carrots for just 2-3 minutes. Top the onions with a few turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef and worchestershire sauce to the pan. Break up the beef with your cooking spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has browned.
  4. If you have any excess grease, drain it off before adding the next ingredients.
  5. Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. Stir together.
  6. Bring liquid to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
  7. Remove lid. Stir in the cheese. Once it’s well-combined, serve!
Makes ~8 servings.

Sopa de Fideo (Almost)

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As is my usual plan, when I’m uninspired and looking for something to make, I turn to a) the internet and b) a random cuisine from around the world. Is it because I’m American and have always eaten “American” food, that I think it’s the least interesting cuisine out there? Or is it because legitimate “American” food doesn’t really exist – just a combination of bits and pieces of all of our immigrant roots? I think it’s probably some combination of the two. Whichever reason, I was thinking Mexican for my dinner creation. And I wanted something a little different. I feel like in this country, we just assume that Mexicans live solely on tacos, burritos, and the occasional chimichanga. There’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than that (obviously), but I’m the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about it.

Why did I call this post Sopa De Fideo (Almost)? Well, turns out the fideo connotates a specific type of noodle. Fideo looks like spaghetti noodles that have been broken into smaller pieces (and as such, most recipes you see for sopa de fideo tell you to purchase spaghetti and break it into smaller pieces.) Before I read more about it, I thought, “Hmmm… that orzo I have in the pantry would be a perfect substitute for broke spaghetti pieces…” Little did I know by substituting orzo, I essentially took away the namesake of the soup.

Oh well…

Historical, ethnic accuracy? FAIL

Delicious soup? WIN

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Sopa De Fideo

(Adapted from Cooking the Globe blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14oz crushed tomatoes
  • 3 + 1 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 16oz orzo
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional garnishes: cilantro, avocado, cheese, crema
Instructions: 
  1. In a large pot, warm 2 tsp of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and cook for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Top this with a few turns on fresh black pepper.
  2. Add the minced garlic, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Now, combine the garlic/onions, tomatoes, spices (cumin, cayenne, allspice), and 1 cup of stock in a blender or in a bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until smooth.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil in the original pot. Once warm, pour in the orzo. Toss to coat with oil. Toast the pasta, stirring frequently, so it becomes golden, but does not burn. Give this ~5 minutes.
  5. Now return the blended mixture and the remaining cups of stock to the pot. Stir to combine.
  6. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. The pasta will plump up and the soup thicken a bit.
  7. At the end, stir in the lime juice.
  8. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as you like.
  9. Serve with one or several of the the garnishes!
Makes ~ 10-12 servings

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sauce

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Happy middle of March! Who cares about mid-March you say?? I do! Mid-March means the NCAA basketball tournament. I love the Madness! The brackets, the buzzer-beaters, the underdogs, the team spirit, the heart and soul… I love it all!

This weekend has been a little bit of a roller-coaster for me though. I’ve enjoyed my time glued to the couch, flipping between games. But then my hometown VCU Rams fizzled out in the first round. My Virginia Cavaliers and South Carolina Gamecocks each had strong second halves to win their respective first round games. We went to Greenville, SC to hang out with my brothers and immerse ourselves in the tournament festivities downtown, which was really fun! But then… UVA lost in the second round in pretty much the most soul-crushing fashion imaginable. So that was definitely a down moment. And by down I mean, I may or may not have shed a tear or two.
I pretended it didn’t happen today and watched the games all afternoon. This pasta dish may not be your most traditional game-day food, but we enjoyed it none the less.

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Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz pasta
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6oz herbed goat cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub 1 tsp of olive oil over the peppers and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast peppers for 30 minutes. They will begin to blister.
  3. Allow the peppers to cool slightly. Remove the seeds and stems.
  4. Place the peppers and the milk into a food processor. Give it a few spins until you have a nice puree.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the other 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Mince the garlic and brown in the olive oil for ~3-4 minutes.
  7. Turn heat down to low and add the red pepper puree, goat cheese, and all of the remaining spices to the pan.
  8. Cook over low heat for ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are well-combined and heated through.
  9. As the sauce is coming together, prepare your pasta.
  10. Serve sauce overtop of pasta and enjoy!
Makes 2 large servings or 4 smaller side dish servings.

Tiger Noodles

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I have this Pinterest board called, “Ones I’ve Made and Would Make Again.” Because, as I’m sure you all know, just because you’ve saved it on a Pinterest board, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth making even once! [See the entire website PinterestFail.com] But to gain inclusion on this board of mine, I not only had to have made it, but loved it too! One of my absolute favorites on there was this recipe for Thai flavored coconut curry noodles. I say was because the link no longer works! It goes nowhere / I think the original blogger took down his/her blog or that post. I’ve scoured Pinterest, and I can find the original poster’s picture of these noodles, but not the blog itself. (And not to be a tattletale, but I found the original poster’s pictures on a few tumblr accounts without proper credit. Rude.) So, long story short, I tried to recreate the recipe from memory and the Pinterest picture.  I didn’t exactly succeed in mimicking it, at least how I remember it, but I ended up with a spicy noodle dish that we definitely enjoyed.

I decided to call them tiger noodles, because I think tigers are big, bold, and fiery – like these noodles. Plus tigers are an endangered species native to Thailand, and this dish is full of Thai flavors. And I like tigers. That’s the main reason.

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Tiger Noodles

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 10 oz chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 10 baby carrots, sliced
  • Wide rice noodles
  • 1 lime
  • Cilantro
Instructions: 
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the curry paste and stir to combine well with the oil. Cook for another 2-3  minutes.
  4. Add the broth to the pan and stir to combine well. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Now add the chicken to the pan and cook until the chicken has lost its translucence. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  6. Now add the coconut milk, broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.
  7. Bring to a fast simmer and cook like this until the liquid has begun to thicken, ~ 15 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat to low-medium. Add carrots, bell peppers, and the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and submerge the noodles in the hot water for 5-10 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
  10. Add the noodles, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and a healthy squeeze of lime into the pan and stir briefly. Serve immediately. Top your bowl with more cilantro and/or lime if you’d like.
Makes 4 servings. 

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