Tag Archives: Italian

Orzotto with Mushroom and Spinach

21 Jun

Orzotto… to be honest I do not know if this is an official Italian term or not. But I decided to use the term to refer to this orzo pasta made to resemble a risotto. Makes sense now, no??

I have been playing for a few weeks not with dried mushrooms to give added flavor to my dishes. This is one of my better experiments lately… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The beauty of this dish is that it cooks almost by itself; no need to be over the stove stirring rice to get a creamy consistency. The creaminess so characteristic of risottos comes from the cheeses blended into the orzo pasta. I used my trusted Sargento 6-cheese Italian cheese blend, Sargento Parmesan and a newfound favorite, crème fraiche.

Sargento Collage

This is one of the recipes I’ve developed to fuel myself up before training for the half marathons I’ve been doing the last few months. It’s easy, it’s filling and it’s nice enough to make even for a romantic dinner.

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

ORZOTTO WITH MUSHROOM AND SPINACH

½ cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 cup water
1 ounce of dried mushrooms – porcini or your favorite kind will do fine here…
1 tsp Knorr vegetable stock or ½ vegetable bouillon cube
½ onion, chopped
2 tbs of olive oil
5-6 white button mushrooms, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
3 tbs crème fraiche
3/4 cup Sargento shredded 6-cheese Italian cheese blend
¼ cup Sargento shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off the heat and rehydrate the ounce of dried mushrooms in this water. Cover and let the mushrooms soak for about 30 mins.
  2. After that time has elapsed, strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth you have now created. Cut the mushrooms up in little pieces and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, bring back to boil the cup of water that now has become mushroom broth. Make sure you have 1 cup of broth before you start boiling again, if not, just complete the amount with some water. Add the vegetable stock gel or bouillon cube to this broth while it’s coming up to temperature.
  4. While the broth comes to a boil, in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and allow them to cook and brown on all sides. For this, you need to leave them alone for a few minutes at a time for the mushrooms to get some color. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and cook them with the browned fresh mushrooms. Strip the leaves from the fresh thyme sprig and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. When the broth is boiling, add the orzo pasta and mix in well to avoid the pasta sticking together. I partially cover the pot to maintain the level of boiling but be able to reduce the heat of the stove to medium.
  6. While the pasta is almost done, add the baby spinach to the pasta saucepot. Cover the pot and turn off the heat from the stove. Allow the heat from the pot and the stove finish cooking the pasta and spinach. After about 5-6 minutes, the pasta should be done and the water should be almost completely absorbed by the pasta. If you find there’s still too much liquid left, you can certainly strain it. But it does not need to be super strained because this broth will help us create the creamy sauce…
  7. Uncover the pot and stir in the cooked mushrooms, the crème fraiche, the shredded cheese blend and the Parmesan. Mix well to combine everything very well. I allow the pasta to stand cover for about 3-4 minutes while I prepare a salad or any other side dish. I find this helps the sauce to get creamy and all the flavors to fully combine.

The result is a creamy rice-like pasta… easy to make and even easier to eat. It is full of flavor because the pasta absorbed the mushroom broth we created.

Hope you are inspired to make this orzotto at home as well…

This post was inspired by products from Sargento Cheese. They did provide me with their cheese for use and review but the recipe, comments and opinions are all my own.

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Mushroom Bolognese

18 Jun

A few months ago I was issued a challenge… as a Facebook group, the Serious Eats Water Cooler, we love to challenge ourselves and someone suggested Sunday Sauce. Sunday Sauce is what my Italian-American friends call the rich, tomato sauce made by a nonna slaving over a stove during a whole day for her whole family to enjoy around her dinner table on Sunday evening.

I am not a nonna, I am not Italian and I am not slaving over a stove to cook anything for a Facebook group challenge… but I am fascinated with mushrooms and I have been trying to find a recipe to use dehydrated mushrooms since that lasagna I made for my nephew’s birthday. I bought dried porcini mushrooms to add to the recipe and I completely forgot.

It occurred to me I could make a version of the traditional meat sauce, bolognese, but using mushrooms instead. A vegetarian Bolognese!!!! I am sure there must be at least 1 vegetarian in Bologna that would approve of this recipe!!!

In a completely unrelated Facebook group story… I learned that Sclafani Tomatoes are some of the best, if not THE BEST, canned tomatoes available. I am not too fond of eating anything canned, but these tomatoes were supposed to be brought in from Italy, in cans lined so the metals are not absorbed by the tomatoes. And there they were!!!! At my sister’s farmer’s market…    Sclafani tomatoes on sale!!!! I thought it was a notice from The Universe that I was meant to make this mushroom Bolognese, or else!! And I do not like to go against the flow of The Universe…

 

Sclafani Tomatoes @ The Boys

Mushroom Bolognese Collage

I wish I had better pictures, but I just could not keep this recipe for myself any longer…

 

Mushroom Bolognese 2

 

MUSHROOM BOLOGNESE

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped finely
2 celery ribs, chopped finely
½ large onion, diced
Salt and Pepper
2 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
¾ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 lb white button mushrooms, chopped
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 Knorr vegetable stock gel
1 can of Scalfani whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
2 tsps dried oregano
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  1. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of very warm water and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or a coffee filter. In a pinch, I have also used a paper towel to separate the liquid from the solids left behind.
  2. Reserve the liquid. Measure the reserved porcini mushroom stock and add some water to complete 1½ cups of liquid all together. Set aside, we’ll use it in the recipe later on. Chop the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil, onion, carrot and celery and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes and lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute.
  4. While the large pot is cooking the vegetables… In a separate pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and the white mushrooms. Let them cook without touching them to allow them to brown a bit. After they’ve acquired some color to them, add the reconstituted porcini mushrooms. Deglaze the pan using the white wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the cooked mushrooms to the large pot. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved porcini mushroom liquid. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour and a half, until the sauce has reduced down and a lot of the liquid has cooked off – cook until you like the thickness of the sauce. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.
  6. Take out the stems of thyme before serving. Serve with your favorite pasta…

 

??????????

This recipe makes A LOT of sauce… more than I would normally make just for myself. There were 4 of us adults and we were eating pasta for a few days!!!!! So feel free to halve this recipe if you want to or just use as much sauce as you’d need for one meal and refrigerate or freeze the rest for later on.

The flavor is intense!!!! Very rich and very satisfying. One of the best tomato sauces I’ve ever made… by far. I am guessing it’s all the umami from the mushrooms… this is a recipe to keep!!!!

Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Manicotti

17 Jan

My un-married friends (which is not the same as being single) and I like to get together and celebrate ourselves, our friendship and the Xmas season. We were also celebrating the new remodeled kitchen at one of my friend’s… She invited us all for a night of music, great company and Madelyn’s cooking.

cooking

That’s the funny thing… my friend loves to cook, and she does it very well, but when she invites, Madelyn does the cooking. I do not mind at all because it gives me a chance to showcase a few recipes I’ve had in the works. Tired of the same Xmas food fare people eat at most parties during the season, I planned a healthy pasta menu with low-fat cheeses and tons of flavors. Annie Mariel would bring the salad… something composed, that’s her type of cooking.

This pasta dish is super simple and you don’t even need to cook the pasta beforehand. Due to time and availability this time around, I made this recipe using regular semolina pasta, but I have certainly made it using brown rice pasta and whole wheat pasta. In none of those cases I have pre-boiled the pasta. There is no need to do that as long as you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in. The liquid will come from the tomato sauce and the liquid in the filling. This is a mix and bake recipe perfect for entertaining or a pasta night with the family.

 

manicotti - cheese, spinach and mushrooms

 

CHEESE, SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED MANICOTTI

1 box of whole wheat manicotti
1 box of Pomi chopped tomatoes
16 oz tub of part skim ricotta cheese
16 oz tub of cottage cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 cup of shredded Italian Cheeses, divided
1 cup frozen spinach, mostly thawed and finely cut
1 packet of button mushrooms, finely chopped
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
1 tbs basil, chopped – I use the freeze dried kind or Italian Seasonings
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Let’s put together the filling…
  3. In a medium skillet over medium-hi heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the onion, garlic clove and mushrooms. Mix together and cook without stirring too much so the mushroom get to brown and caramelize. Move them once in a while, but leave them alone for periods of time and allow them to get brown.
  4. When the mushrooms are brown and fragrant, and to me they smell like steak, believe it or not, add a splash of soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar to season. Add the thyme leaves and sauté a few times. Discard the pieces of garlic you may find and set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the cottage cheese, ½ cup shredded cheeses and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Also add the toasted pine nuts and the spinach, squeezing any extra liquid from it, but it does not have to be super dry. We want some moisture still because it will help cook the pasta. Also, add the cooked mushrooms. Mix everything together. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and set aside.
  6. In another bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with salt, pepper and the basil or Italian seasonings mix. Mix everything together to combine all ingredients well.
  7. Transfer ½ the sauce to the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. I used a disposable baking dish because I do not bring my vegetarian-only dishes to anyone’s home where I am not 300% they’re vegetarian just like me.
  8. Using a small spoon, fill each dried manicotti sleeve with the cheese/spinach/mushroom filling we just did. Place each manicotti sleeve one next the other in the baking dish. Some will go one way, the rest across, but they should all fit. This is the most time consuming part of the process. Keep on going until all manicotti sleeves are filled with cheese. If you have any leftover filling, like I did, don’t worry. I have a Round 2 recipe for you to use it in a new different application.

cooking 3

9.  Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the filled manicotti. Top with the remaining shredded Italian cheeses and grated Parmesan.

10.  Place in oven for about 30 minutes to allow the pasta to cook in the tomato sauce. You’ll notice when the sauce is bubbling and the pasta has softened. If the top is not golden brown, turn the broiler on and allow the cheeses to get crispy on top. When it’s golden delicious, I turn the oven off and leave the pasta in there for another 15 minutes to let it finish cooking with the oven’s residual heat. This will ensure the pasta is cooked, yet still al dente.

 

Serve with your favorite side dishes… and for us Puerto Ricans that means sweet plantains are on the menu too. We also served it with Annie Mariel’s awesome composed salad. It may not have been the traditional typical Xmas menu, but it was my last cooked meal of 2012 and I LOVED it!!!! I hope you love it too.

My Plate

 

Roasted Vegetarian Sausages and Grapes

19 Nov

Have you ever cooked with grapes?? I have never done if before seeing this recipe…

This recipe is adapted from Johanne Kileen, owner of Al Forno in Providence Rhode Island. I saw this on Ina Garten’s TV show Barefoot Contessa. I have never been to Al Forno, or to Rhode Island for that matter, but I have always been a fan of Johanne’s recipes. She’s also the inspiration for the Baked Pasta and 4 cheeses recipe here.

I had never cooked grapes before, but given my appreciation for Johanne’s cooking I was willing to try this blindly. I adapted this recipe to make it vegetarian and also to make it for just one person. But it is very easily made for 2 or more by simply multiplying the ingredients to the amount of people eating.

 

ROASTED VEGETARIAN SAUSAGES AND GRAPES

1 vegetarian sausage – I use Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Vegan Sausages
1 tbs butter
2 cups of seedless grapes – I have used green and/or red grapes for this recipe
2 tbs pineapple juice
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Slit the sausages down the middle on the long side, creating 2 long halves of sausages. Take some of the butter and slather the sausages halves with it. This will add some moisture to the vegetarian sausages, which tend to be on the dry side.
  3. In a small roasting pan, add the grapes, remaining butter, sausages halves and pineapple juice. Nestle the sausages in between the grapes. Place in oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes, checking it once in a while and flipping the sausages if they get too browned on one side.
  4. After 20-25 minutes have elapsed, add the balsamic vinegar. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy.
  5. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with mashed potatoes.

The original recipe calls for crusty bread too as an alternative to serve alongside this dish. I have always eaten it with mashed potatoes and it is sublime!!!

Vegetarian Vegas – Otto

11 May

Yes… we were in Las Vegas and we were on a mission to eat lunch at the big name chef restaurants.

When we were hanging at one of our favorite hotels, The Venetian and went to The Shops at the Pallazo to listen to the gondoliers sing and push on their gondolas that travel all across the shoppes, we got hungry.  Las Vegas is like going to Walt Disney for adults… you walk sooooo much!!!  Which is a good thing; because you eat and drink so much you need a way to burn off the calories.

Right in the Piazza San Marco replica… next to the street performer’s platform is OTTO, the Pizzeria and Enoteca from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.  I’ve been meaning to eat at OTTO in NYC for years and always something happens…  Once we actually got there, but they were closed in between lunch and dinner service.  So here in Vegas, I would actually have the chance to taste Mario Batali’s recipes.

This is what we ordered:

The Acetaia Vinegar Maker’s Salad… this was sort of a chef’s salad but I asked to leave out the bacon and grated eggs.  The arugula, cucumbers, onions and other veggies were really crispy and nice against the lemony vinaigrette.

 

The Fried Artichoke hearts with the whipped Burrata cheese…  This was the second time having burrata cheese, which apparently is one of the “hot” cheeses around.  Fresh Mozzarela di Buffala is passé, move over and make room for burrata.  It’s delicious and creamy and a great contrast to the fried artichoke and salad on top.  I would have had another one…

 

Penne a la Norma featuring a tomato sauce with eggplants… I’ll be honest; I was underwhelmed by the presentation and the amount of food on the plate.  I get it was a pasta plate, primi for the Italians and it was lunch, but almost $20 for the simple pasta we got was a bit pricy.  It was delicious, but it did not blow our minds away.

 

We did not have dessert here either because we unknowingly “splurged” by ordering  a bottle of sparkling water… had I known the water was going to be $10 a bottle, I would have traded for dessert certainly.

 The final veredict… Otto was good, but not great.  I am not going out of my way to recommend it to people. But, if someone invites me there again, I would love to maybe explore other things in the menu, like the Meatless Mondays menu.  We were there some other day of the week, so these alternatives were not available… just like we couldn’t order our pasta whole wheat because it is not the day of the week they serve whole wheat pasta.  Weird, no??

 

I am sure there are better Italian options in Vegas, what has been your experience??

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