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Garlic Pasta

17 Nov
Bowtie pasta mixed with garlic and olive oil, garnished with freshly grated kefalotyri cheese.

Bowtie pasta mixed with garlic and olive oil, garnished with freshly grated kefalotyri cheese.

My apologies for the long absence in new postings. School has been very busy. But here’s a very simple and delicious recipe for garlic lovers!

  • 10 to 15 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 450 g pasta, cooked according to the package’s directions (before draining the pasta, save 1/4 cup of the pasta water)
  • (optional) 2 cups of kefalotyri cheese, coarsely grated

1. In a large pan, cook the garlic with olive oil for approximately 10 minutes on medium heat.

2. Once the garlic is cooked, add in the drained pasta and pasta water. Combine well.

3. Serve, and if desired, sprinkle each serving with a generous amount of kefalotyri cheese.

Minced garlic gently cooking in olive oil.

Minced garlic gently cooking in olive oil.

Bowtie pasta with garlic and olive oil.

Bowtie pasta with garlic and olive oil.


Light Carbonara

1 Jan
Carbonara with chicken bacon.

Carbonara with chicken bacon.

Here is a healthier version of the Italian classic. (This recipe was inspired by Weelicious.)

  • 4 to 5 strips of chicken bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 small tomatoes*, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • cilantro or italian parsley leaves (optional)
  • spaghetti, enough for two people (about 250g or 9 ounces)

1. Cook pasta as instructed. Drain pasta well when done.

2. While pasta is cooking, in a large sautee pan, add in oil, garlic and onions. Cook until onions are soft (about 3 minutes) on medium heat.

3. Add in chicken bacon.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until chicken bacon begins to brown.

Onions and chicken bacon sauteing in a pan.

Onions and chicken bacon sauteing in a pan.

4. In a bowl, add parmesan cheese and eggs. Beat.

5. Right before the pasta is finished cooking, gradually laddle in about 1/3 cup of the boiling pasta water to the egg and cheese mixture. Whisk mixture while adding in water.  (This technique is known as tempering and increases the temperature of the eggs without  scrambling it.)

6. By now the chicken bacon and onions should also be done. Turn off burner but do not remove pan from burner.

7. Add pasta, egg mixture and tomatoes to sautee pan. Mix well. There should be enough residue heat from the burner to warm the pasta and sauce.

Carbonara in a pan.

Carbonara in a pan.

8. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

9. Dish out and garnish with cilantro or parsley.

*Other vegetables that go well with carbonara include sliced cremini mushrooms, asparagus, string beans and/or zucchini.

Spinach Mushroom Pastries

23 Oct

Flaky tender pre-made pastries topped with homemade spinach and mushroom filling.

  • Tenderflake (pack of six)
  • ten cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thirds
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  •  4 handfuls baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsps unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsps flour
  • sea salt and pepper

1. Bake the Tenderflake pastries for half the recommended time.

2. Once ready, remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before adding the filling.

3. After the pastries have been filled, they will continue baking for the remaining time.

Six Tenderflake pastries, baked for half the recommended time.

4. For the spinach mushroom filling, add to a hot pan the butter, oil and garlic.

5. Once the garlic is brown, add in the mushrooms and turn down to medium heat.

6. Sprinkle in a little salt over the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms begin to soften (about 3 minutes).

Cremini mushrooms with chopped garlic sauteing in olive oil and unsalted butters.

7. Add in the flour evenly over the mushrooms and cook the flour for a few seconds (this removes the raw taste of the flour), then pour in the milk.

Sauted mushrooms with flour and milk.

8. Once the milk begins to bubble, gradually add in the spinach.

9. Cook until the spinach has wilted and the mushrooms are completely soft.

10. Add salt and pepper to taste.

11. Remove from heat and let cool.

12. Once cooled add in the parmesan. Combine well.

Cremini mushrooms and baby spinach simmering in milk.

Once the mushrooms and spinach mixture is cool, add in the parmesan.

13. Drain as much liquid from the filling before placing onto the pastries.

14. Scope a generous amount of filling onto each pastry.

15. Place into the oven and bake for the remaining time as instructed on the package.

16. When finished, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Tenderflake pastry topped with baby spinach and sliced cremini mushrooms.

*Alternatively, instead of using the spinach and mushroom filling as pastry toppings, toss the creamy mixture with some cooked  pasta and serve hot as a vegetarian friendly entree.

Creamy Chardonnay Sauce with Mushrooms, Bacon and Brie

8 May

Bowtie pasta in a creamy Chardonnay sauce with bacon, mushrooms and topped with slices of brie cheese.

  • 150g bowtie pasta, cook as directed
  • about 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 slices  bacon, trim fat, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup chardonnay 
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup skim milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 2 to 3 tbsps flour
  • 2 sprigs of green onion, diced (this is mostly for colour)
  • 8 thin slices of brie or camembert

Bacon and onion sauteing.

In a large pot, add in the bacon. Once some of the fat had been rendered, add in the onions. (Remember to trim the bacon before cooking it. You only want a little bit of fat.)  If the bacon sticks to the bottom of the pot, add a few tablespoons of the chardonnay. Cook until the onions are soft, then add in the mushrooms. Mix well and add in the salt, pepper and paprika. Combine well and then add in the remaining chardonnay. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mushrooms are soft (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Mushrooms, bacon and onions sauteing.

Mushrooms, bacon and onions after sauteing for about 5 minutes.

Creamy chardonnay sauce with bacon and mushrooms.

On a medium low heat, gradually add in the flour (start with 2 tbsps and add more if needed) and mix. The sauce should thicken momentarily.  If the sauce appears watery, add in a little bit more flour. Once the sauce is to an ideal consistency, add in the milk (start with 1/2 cup and add more if the sauce appears too thick) and green onions.  When the sauce begins to bubble, add in the pasta. Thoroughly combine so that each pasta is coated with the sauce.  Dish the pasta onto a serving dish and place a few slices of the brie onto the pasta. By the time you walk from the kitchen to the dinner table, the brie should be slightly melted.

Eat immediately. Serves two. Pair this dish with the same chardonnay used to make the sauce, if so desired.

This recipe was inspired by one I ate at Marbles which had cheese tortellini in a chardonnay cream sauce with mushrooms and garnished with grilled asparagus and slices of camembert. This was such a perfect combination that I had to try a home made version. I added the bacon on impulse but feel free to omit and make it vegetarian friendly. (Sorry there is no picture  of Marbles’ version because I forgot my camera.)

A Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Pasta

27 Mar

Whole wheat penne in a creamy spinach and mushroom sauce.

  • 100 grams whole wheat penne (can easily substitute with any type of short pasta), cook as instructed and also save some (1 cup should be sufficient) of the hot pasta water
  • 250g baby spinach, cut chiffonade style
  • 2 portobello mushrooms cut into bit-size pieces (any type of mushroom would work too)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 cups of skim milk
  • 2 tbsps flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg

Two Portobello mushrooms and baby spinach.

Heat a sauce pan on high. Once hot, add in olive oil and garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, add in the flour. Cook the flour for 20 to 30 seconds, then gradually add in 1 cup of milk while stirring continuously.

Garlic, flour, olive oil and milk simmering to make base of sauce.

When the sauce begins to thicken, add in the spinach. If the mixture appears dry, add in a little more milk. Mix well and turn down heat to medium.

Spinach in a creamy milk sauce.

Add in the portobello mushrooms. Mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add in the parmesan cheese.

Creamy spinach and mushroom sauce.

Once the mushrooms are soft, add in the pasta. Combine well.

Creamy spinach and mushroom sauce with penne.

In a large bowl, beat the egg. While beating, gradually add in a few spoonfuls of the hot pasta water to increase the temperature of the egg without scrambling it. Add enough water such that the egg is hot to the touch. This is known as tempering. It is important to continuously whisk the egg while the water is gradually being added, otherwise the egg may scramble.

Remove the pasta and sauce from the direct heat. Add in the warm beaten egg. Combine well. Add more grated parmesan if deserved. Serve immediately.

Marinara Sauce with Whole Wheat Penne

24 Jan

Whole wheat penne coated with marinara sauce and garnished with oregano leaves.

  • 10oz (or about 275 g) pasta*, cook as instructed
  • 4 cups crushed tomatoes* (or tomato sauce)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • fresh oregano, remove leaves from stem, discard stems
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsps unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

Heat a deep pot on high. Add in butter, oil, onions and garlic. Turn down heat to medium and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes).  Add in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano leaves and sugar. Combine well. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes so that all the flavours meld together. Add in the pasta and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well and cook for one or two more minutes such that the marinara sauce is coated to each pasta. Serve immediately.

*I like my pasta heavy on the sauce but feel free to adjust the the quantity of pasta and tomato sauce to your own preferences.

Meat and Spinach Lasagna

21 Mar
The following is a lasagna recipe made with layers of meat sauce and spinach, then topped with grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

Meat and spinach lasagna.

To make the meat sauce, you will need the following:
  • 1lb of extra lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can (794 mL) of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps of sugar
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp each of paprika and oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large pot on high.  Once the pot is hot, add in the olive oil, onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions are soft and appear translucent, then add in the ground beef.  Using a wooden spoon, break up the ground beef into as small pieces as possible.  Once the beef is cooked, add in the paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar.  Mix well and then add in the red wine, water and crushed tomatoes.  Stir the sauce and meat, then let simmer for an hour.  Do not stir while simmering because over time the meat will sink to the bottom and the top of the meat sauce will be mostly liquid.  You will need to use this liquid later.

Meat sauce made with extra lean ground beef and crushed tomatoes.

To make the spinach layer, you will need the following:
  • 454g of baby spinach, julienned
  • 454g of ricotta
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups of skim milk
  • 4 tbsps of flour
  • 4 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat a medium sauce pan on high.  Once the pan is hot, add in the olive oil and garlic.  Brown the garlic and then sprinkle the flour in evenly and thinly.  Cook the flour for about 30 seconds, and then add in 1 cup of milk.  When the milk begins to heat up, it will thicken because of the flour.  Stir well and break up any flour clumps that may have formed.  Add in the remaining milk and a handful of spinach.  Mix well and once the spinach wilts, add in another handful of spinach until all the spinach as been placed into the pan. There should be enough milk in the pan to cover the spinach; if not add in more milk.  Simmer for about 15 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat and add in the ricotta and mix well.  Have a taste to see if more salt is needed.
Spinach poached in a milk sauce.
Spinach poached in a milk sauce with ricotta added in.
Prepare the lasagna pasta as instructed on the packaging but reduce the cooking time by half.  The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.  I like to use Catelli Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Pasta.

Whole wheat lasagna pasta cooking in a pot of hot salted water.

Once the meat sauce, spinach and pasta is ready, it’s time to assemble the lasagna. Take a deep baking dish that will fit the lasagna sheets and four thick layers of meat sauce and spinach, butter it with unsalted butter.  Scoop out some of the liquid from the top of the meat sauce and place it on the bottom of your baking dish.  Doing this will prevent the bottom of your lasagna from drying out.

Buttered baking dish with tomato sauce as its bottom/first layer.

Cover the tomato sauce with a layer of the lasagna sheets.  If needed, use a pair of scissors to trim the pasta so that it fits perfectly into the baking dish.

The first layer of lasagna sheets.

Place half of the remaining meat sauce on top of the lasagna sheets. Spread evenly over the pasta.

Meat sauce on top of the first layer of pasta.

Place another layer of lasagna sheets and then spread half the spinach and ricotta mixture evenly over the pasta.

The first layer of spinach and ricotta.

Repeat the procedure.  That is, place another layer of lasagna sheets on top of the spinach and ricotta, then spread the remaining meat sauce evenly over the pasta. Add the final layer of pasta on top of the meat sauce. On top of this layer of lasagna sheets, spread the remaining spinach and ricotta evenly over the pasta. Grate about one cup each of cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly on top.  Make sure that there is cheese covering all the way to the edge of the lasagna.  The lasagna is now ready to be baked in the oven.

Grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese on top of the lasagna.

Place lasagna covered in a preheated 400°F oven for 45 minutes.  It’s important to cover the lasagna, otherwise it will dry out in the oven.

Cover the lasagna before placing in the oven.

After 45 minutes, remove the cover and bake at 450°F for another 5 minutes or until the top turns a golden brown.

Lasagna after its been in the oven for a total of 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.  Waiting until the lasagna has cooled down a bit makes cutting the lasagna a lot easier.