Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spaghetti Pomodoro

The first time I went to Italy, I was 18 years old. While not particularly well-traveled, I knew that the food in Italy wouldn't taste anything like the spaghetti or lasagna my parents made or the stuff they served at Olive Garden (the closest thing to "authentic" my readily available when I grew up). I didn't know how simple and delicious it would actually be. I also had no idea that pasta is generally a first course. 

On our first night in Italy, we were served a big plate of pasta and it was so delicious that when the waiters came around asking if anyone wanted any more, we all happily took some. Imagine how surprised (and stuffed!) we were when they took our plates away and brought us each a couple of pieces of roasted chicken and potatoes. We learned our lesson the next night, and while we definitely still over-indulged in every dish of pasta the waiters put in front of us, we knew to save room for the equally delicious second plate that was about to come our way.

I've been trying for a while to make a good spaghetti pomodoro, plain and simple, like what you can find in pretty much every restaurant and cafe across Italy. I tried several recipes with no luck. I think I was over-thinking it. So, one day, I decided to just throw things that made sense into a pot and see what came out. I think I hit it with this one. I'm not saying this is going to be better than your Italian grandmother's, but I'll be flattered if you think it is. 

I'm going to submit this to this week's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Ruth of the great blog Once Upon a Feast. I haven't participated in a while and am looking forward to getting back into it!


Spaghetti Pomodoro
Serves 4
Cook & Prep Time - 15-20 min

Olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock
salt & pepper
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
dash red pepper flakes
1 lb spaghetti noodles
1 TBSP butter

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Heat about 1 TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Add the garli and sautee for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the red wine vinegar and cook for about 2 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the tomato sauce and stock and stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper, to taste (you shouldn't need much). Add the basil and red pepper flakes and stir. Cook for about 5-10 minutes.

Add the hot pasta to the pot. Top the pasta with about 1 TBSP of butter and toss to combine. Top with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This year, I was clued in to a sandwich at the MN state fair called the Gizmo. It's basically a sloppy joe type sandwich with Italian sausage and ground beef, topped with melted cheese. Local chef and Travel Channel TV host Andrew Zimmern claims it's the best thing at the fair. While I really enjoyed it, I'm not completely sure I agree. I'm really more of a roasted corn and pronto pup type of girl. But, I liked it enough to try to re-create an even better version at home.

Surprisingly, I found several recipes online, which I tweaked to my tastes, and ended up with one very delicious sandwich.

Gizmo Sandwich

From the MN State Fair
Serves 4
Prep Time - 10 minutes
Cook Time - 15-20 min

1 TBSP or so Olive Oil
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage (I used turkey sausage)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic
2-ish cups marinara sauce
hoagie buns
Italian cheese (I used mozzarella)

Brown the ground beef and Italian sausage over medium heat in a big saute pan. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. When the meat is about 1/2 done, make a little well in the middle and add the onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the veggies are soft. This should be about 10 minutes or so.

Drain any excess fat and bring back to the pan and add the marinara sauce. I'd do about 2 cups, but feel free to add more or less depending on how saucy you want it.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. If yours has a high and a low setting, set it to low.

Split your hoagie buns in half, but not all the way through, so that the buns stand up on their sides. Fill with the meat/sauce filling and top with cheese.

Put under the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce

My tomatoes this year are doing pretty well. I planted a bunch of seeds from a variety pack, so I really had no idea what I'd be getting when I planted them. It's so much fun to see them grow and ripen. One of my plants is a little yellow cherry tomato plant. For my first harvest from that plant, I decided to make some sort of sauce. A while back, I saved a recipe from Savory Spicy Sweet for Chicken Pomodoro and used that for inspiration to come up with this chicken in a creamy tomato sauce. It's delicious and I'm sure it'll be a hit at your house.

Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 2-4
Prep Time - 15-20 min
Cook Time - 15 min

4 chicken cutlets, butterflied and pounded thin (I used 2, but there was enough sauce for 4)
flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
2 TBSP canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup + 1 cup chicken broth, divided
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 cups tomatoes, chopped (I used a combination of fresh and canned)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I'm sure any dairy liquid would work)
A few leaves of basil, chopped or torn

Heat oil in a big pan over medium heat. Dredge the cutlets in flour seasned with salt & pepper. Saute the cutlets a few minutes per side, until cooked through.

Remove from the pan and cover with foil.

Add onions and garlic to the pan and saute for a few minutes, or until the onions begin to get translucent. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth to de-glaze the pan and cook until the chicken broth has almost evaporated. Add the rest of the broth, lemon juice, and tomatoes. Add the cutlets back to the pan and cook for one minute per side.

Put the cutlets on plates and finish the sauce with the yogurt and basil. Stir till combined and cook just a minute or two. Top the chicken with the sauce to serve.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Murray's Steak Sandwiches (a la Target Field)

At Target Field, they have a really great sandwich - The Murray's Steak Sandwich. It's steak with melted provolone cheese and caramelized onions on ciabatta bread. Granted, the steak is always a little more done than I would like, but still, it's delicious.

So, the last time we were at a Twins game, I decided I had to try making the sandwiches at home. And they were amazing. I could've eaten them even without the steak and been perfectly happy.

Murray's Steak Sandwich
Serves 2

2 steaks (6 oz or so)
2 ciabatta rolls (big enough to fit the steak)
provolone cheese
caramelized onions (about 1 1/2 medium onions worth for 2 people)
salt & pepper

Start caramelizing the onions about 45 minutes to one hour before you actually want to eat. Do this by melting about 1 TBSP butter in a big pan with about 1 1/2 tsp olive oil. Let that melt over low heat while you slice your onions. Put them in the pan and sprinkle with just a little bit of sugar (like 1/4 tsp). Stir just a little and let cook for about 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes, sprinkle with just a little salt. Stir. Continue this process for about 45-60 minutes total, stirring about every 10 minutes until the onions get a nice brown color.

After you put salt on the onions, season the steaks with salt & pepper on each side. About 25 minutes before you want to be eating, start heating up a pan on medium high heat. Add about 1 TBSP butter and about 1 TBSP olive oil. Let it heat up for about 5 minutes. Add the steaks and cook 1 minute and then reduce the heat to medium and cook another 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare. Increase the cooking time by about a minute or two per side if you want it more medium.

Let rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler (mine has a high and a low setting - if yours does too, put it on low) about 5 minutes before the steaks are done. While the steak is cooking, put cut your ciabatta rolls in half and put cheese on each side of the rolls.

Once you take your steaks out to rest, put the rolls under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Mine took about 3 minutes.

Once the rolls come out of the oven, put caramelized onions on the bottom of each roll and put the steak on top of the onions. Top with the top half of the ciabatta and enjoy.