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Crazy Good :: Truffle Oil, Pancetta & Three Cheese Pasta


Truffle Oil, Pancetta & 3 Cheese Pasta

I can’t remember the first time I tried anything made with truffles, but now and then I find myself lusting after these lovely things – strange? maybe. but let me tell you why..

Truffles have an intoxicating scent and flavor that is indescribable, and make any dish the most delicious thing you will ever experience in your lifetime. I’m not even a huge mushroom fan, but truffles somehow induce euphoria every time I taste or smell them. Unfortunately truffles are pricey, and usually reserved for a special occasion or night out but I felt the urge to splurge and make this dish on an ordinary night, just because.

The nutty, savory and buttery flavor of the truffle oil goes perfect with the trio of parmesan, sharp cheddar and mascarpone cheese making a luscious creamy sauce for the pasta. The pancetta gives the pasta a nice smoky flavor with less fat than regular bacon, and the garlic and onion give it another layer of awesome flavor. Topped off with some golden brown buttery crumbs then baked to perfection, and you’ve got a truly divine, grown up pasta dish that will blow your Mama’s Mac and Cheese away.

Oh, and be prepared to swoon upon first bite.

Ingredients

1 stick of butter
6 slices of pancetta, chopped
1 c. of onion, chopped fine
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. whole milk
2 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 8-8.8 oz container mascarpone cheese
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
Dash of sweet paprika
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. japanese panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
4 tbsp white truffle oil
1 lb. tube pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, or your choice)

Cheese Sauce

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute pancetta over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Sauteed Pancetta

Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for another minute.

Sauteed Onions, Garlic and Red Pepper

Stir in 3 tbsp of butter and let melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute to make a roux (thickener for the cheese sauce). Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups of milk and simmer until sauce thickens (stirring often) for 5 minutes, and then remove pan from heat.

Three Cheese Sauce

Whisk in cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses until smooth, and add a little more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and a dash of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat.

Crumb Topping

In a medium skillet, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir through so that the butter coats all the crumbs, and they turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toasted Breadcrumbs

Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh or dried parsley, set aside.

Pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 13×9 casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente for 5-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.

White Truffle Oil

Place pasta into the casserole dish and coat with the truffle oil.

Add Pancetta to the Pasta

Toss in the pancetta…(mmmm!)

Three Cheese sauce

Pour in the cheese sauce…(dreamy!)

Baked to Perfection

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Heaven on a Plate

Let cool for a few minutes, and dig in! (you’ll never be the same)

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Pasta Favorites, 2010.

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Cooking with a Purpose: Tavern Direct + NCMEC


I recently was fortunate enough to meet Lou Bivona, Managing Partner of Tavern Direct and Founding Member of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children/NY and sample some of his gourmet products to cook with. Tavern Direct has a fantastic line of flavorful, gourmet marinades, dipping and finishing sauces, 14-16 year barrel-aged balsamic vinegars infused with real fruit and herb oils all made with premium, all-natural ingredients bottled under the Tavern on the Green name. The best of all about this wonderful cooking line is that a portion of all their proceeds goes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a charity committed to help millions of children through the sales of their products.

Tavern on the Green Oils & Marinades

Their product lineup includes Oils, Herbs ‘n More featuring Garlic with Rosemary Oil, Chili Pepper with Garlic Oil and Pepper with Lemon Oil. Their Marinade, Dipping and Finishing Sauce line includes Central Park Signature, Wasabi Wonder, Smokin’ Chipolte and Asian Lemon. The Marinade trio features Chandelier Chardonnay and Fire Grilled Garlic, Old Vine Cabernet and Fire Grilled Garlic and Toscana Garlic Parmesan. The Balsamic Vinegar line is premium and gorgeously flavored with options such as Citrus on the Green (infused with Orange, tangerine and lime), Blackberry and Ginger, Autumn Fig with Vanilla, and Summer Strawberry. Last but not least, they have a robust 1870 Steak Sauce as well as a sesame Golden Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, perfect for marinating steak, chicken and fish for stir-fries and grilling.

Tavern on the Green Garlic & Rosemary Oil
With so many gorgeous sauces and marinades to choose from, I had a hard time choosing which one to cook with first. I chose the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in their Oil, Herbs n’ More collection to make a fantastic, delicious meal of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic. With all the wonderful oils and vinegars and marinades in this line, I’ll be cooking up a storm and planning food and wine pairings and special recipes, and aim to share all my creations and cooking experiences with you throughout the year. Stay tuned for more!

For more great recipes and info about Tavern Direct, visit www.taverndirect.com.

To make a donation to NCMEC , visit their secure website.

**This was not a paid endorsement for Tavern Direct, NCMEC or Tavern on the Green.


Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Rosemary

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 30 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hr
Cooking skill: Intermediate

Ingredients

4 large boneless pork chops (about 1 ½ inches thick)
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
4 Garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and adjust the oven rack to middle position.

Marinade pork chops in the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in a plastic freezer bag or baking dish and place in the refrigerator for up 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once chops are done marinating, cut 2 slits about 2 inches apart into each chop, using a sharp knife. Insert sliced garlic cloves into slits and sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 tsp of salt. Place them in a roasting pan or baking sheet and let stand room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle chops with freshly ground pepper and rosemary and transfer baking sheet or roasting pan to oven. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the center of the chops registers 120-125 degrees (approximately 30-45 mins).

Heat 1 tablespoon of the Garlic with Rosemary oil in a 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 ½-3 minutes, lifting once halfway to redistribute the fat underneath each chop. (reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn). Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer chops to a plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops until browned and meat thermometer in center of chops registers 140-145 degrees, about 1 ½ minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes until ready to serve. Sprinkle with some extra Rosemary if desired to garnish.

Pair the Pan-seared chops with Roasted Zucchini with Garlic & Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice (recipes follow) and a light, crisp Chardonnay to top off the meal. Delicious!

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 30-45 mins
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Wash zucchini and cut in half length wise, chopping off ends, and cut in half again. Arrange zucchini in a glass baking pan and drizzle the Garlic with Rosemary oil over the zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and top the zucchini with the shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried rosemary. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 mins until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hour
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

1 cup long-grain brown rice
1-2 tablespoons Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup green onion, sliced thin (for garnish, optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions.

About 15 minutes before the rice is done, heat 1-2 tbsp of Garlic with Rosemary oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to yellow, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and pecans; sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender and pecans are browned slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spoon brown rice into a bowl; spoon the onions, garlic and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped green onion if desired.

Garlic Rosemary Pan-Seared Pork Chops, Parmesan Zucchini + Pecan Brown Basmati RIce

Throwdown! A Quest for the Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs


Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Such an unassuming yet classic Italian dish. And who doesn’t love it? Everyone seems to have their own recipe – not only for the sauce, but for the type of pasta they prefer and of course the meatball is the key ingredient that makes or breaks the dish – at least in my opinion. I was never too fussy about sauce in the past, but as I’ve grown in my culinary tastes and techniques (and the influence of my Italian boyfriend), I’ve come to like a simple tomato sauce made with nothing but tomato and basil and garlic and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. As far as pasta goes, I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to meatballs – it either needs to be classic spaghetti or a rotini pasta, something with an edge or ridges that hold the sauce.

Now here comes the tricky part: the perfect meatball. I have had some of the most delicious meatballs in my life and some that more resembled old sponges than the delightfully bouncy and rich texture I think a humble meatball deserves. Not to mention the flavor – a bland meatball is about as pleasing as a piece of cardboard. It’s all about the ingredients that go inside that make it or break it.

So the other night I decided to go on a quest for the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe and after carefully researching my options, dug up a recipe by Bobby Flay, another by Molly Wizenberg, and another from my Williams and Sonoma cookbook “Comfort Food” (which I am cooking my way through this Winter so expect quite a few comforting recipes on my blog in the next few months!)

recipe throwdown

I analyzed each recipe with a fine tooth comb; and they were all similar but different enough to be unique and have a flavor of their own. Two used pork and veal and beef for the meatballs, one used just ground beef and pork. One called for a cup of finely ground Parmesan cheese, two fresh grated cheese. Molly cooked her meatballs in the sauce, Bobby fried his in a pan and then finished cooking them in the sauce, and Williams-Sonoma baked their meatballs in the oven first and finished them in the sauce. The sauces were varyingly different versions of a Marinara, one used red wine and a bay leaf, one used only tomatoes, butter, onions and salt and the other used a small cubano chile for some extra kick.

ingredients

After comparing all my options, I created my own version (based on what I thought would work for me in terms of flavor and what I had on hand!) I have posted links to the original recipes at the end of my post if you’d like to check them out for yourself, but mine takes the ingredients from three brilliant chefs/authors/culinary legends and makes the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe. Mission complete!

San Marzano Tomato and Basil Sauce

1 can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes and Basil
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tsp dried oregano (Spices and Tease gourmet brand is the best!)
1 tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
½ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. milk
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp)
¼ c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ tsp. Gourmet Garlic and Parsley Salt
½ tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

1 16 oz. container of Fresh Direct San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce with 1 tbsp Italian tomato paste stirred in (For those of you with no access to Fresh Direct sauces, simply make the homemade San Marzano sauce and cook the meatballs in that sauce when simmering)

1 lb. pasta (of your choice)

MEATBALLS

sauteed garlic

Measure 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté minced garlic in a pan for about 1 minute until soft and lightly golden (not to high of a heat or the garlic will burn). Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool.

panko breadcrumbs

In the meantime, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand 10 minutes until moistened.

Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce

At the same time, put the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce in a Dutch oven over low heat to start warming for the meatballs later on.

Parmesan, Parsley and Garlic

Chop fresh parsley, measure garlic and parmesan cheese.

Egg, Parsley, Cheese

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic and parsley, cheese, salt and pepper until combined.

Meat Mixture and Breadcrumbs

Add the beef and pork to the egg mixture and gently mix until ingredients are combined, slowly mix in the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture using a claw-like gesture with your hands. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour (at least 15-20 minutes).

Meatball prep

After the meat mixture has chilled, roll the meatballs into golfball size balls (should make about 20 meatballs) and arrange on a pan.

Sauteed Meatballs

Heat ½ c. olive oil in a large metal pan over high heat and add the meatballs, frying until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

meatballs simmering in sauce

Add the meatballs (and any scraped up browned bits from the meatball pan) to the Dutch oven into the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

SAUCE

Garlic

To make the additional tomato and basil marinara sauce, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic over very low heat in a medium sauce pan until slightly golden.

Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes

Pour the Tuttorosso Tomato and Basil Crushed tomatoes into the sauce pan, adding the other ingredients (salt and pepper, oregano, basil) and top off sauce with another tbsp of olive oil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.

San Marzano Tomato and Basil sauce

When the sauce is done simmering, add to the Dutch oven, mixing with the additional sauce and meatballs and let simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (and a dash of olive oil) until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Drain pasta and serve in serving bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley if desired and serve with a bold red wine and some crusty garlic bread (recipe below). Now THIS, indeed, is the most perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs I’ve ever had – Mangia!

Serves 4-6.

GARLIC BREAD

Garlic Bread

Cut up some Italian bread and add butter and a sprinkle of some garlic and parsley salt. Bake in the oven on 350-400 until toasty and golden brown. Crunchy, garlicky – so good!

ORIGINAL RECIPES

Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook)

Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2010)

Williams-Sonoma Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty cookbook)

Italian Frittata Recipe


Frittata

Potato and Pepper Frittata with Cheese and Bacon

Yes Christmas is over but the cooking is not! As a tradition, I always make breakfast for the family and this year decided to make a delicious recipe for a Potato and Pepper Frittata from my new Williams-Sonoma cookbook Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty. Frittata is similar to a French quiche without the crust or a breakfast casserole but cooked in an ovenproof pan on the stove and then finished by broiling in the oven and served directly from the pan. This recipe calls for eggs, roasted red peppers and onions with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped Rosemary which is a delicious Italian style Frittata. You can also modify it by adding cooked bacon, ham, shredded cheddar, asparagus and shallots or crumbled feta or goat cheese. I changed it up a bit by adding some shredded cheddar cheese and chives to the eggs and served it with a side of bacon and some Almond Butter Christmas Stollen (a German holiday bread). The possibilities are endless because Frittatas are so versatile and easy to make..it’s a simple and hearty breakfast or brunch you can make anytime of the year and deeeelish!!

Ingredients:

Yukon Gold Potatoes, 2 med or large

Olive Oil, 2 tbsp

Yellow Onion, 1/2 c. chopped

Orange or Red bell pepper

Large eggs, 8

Fresh Rosemary, 1 tsp minced

Kosher Salt, 1/4 tsp

Fresh Ground Pepper

Parmesan Cheese, 3 tbsp

Preparation:

Thinly slice the unpeeled potatoes. In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the potatoes and turn to coat with the oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and the potatoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the pepper on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides about 12 minutes (you can also do this on a gas stove directly over the flame burner if you prefer). Transfer to a work surface and let cool until easy to handle. Leave the broiler on. Peel off the blackened skin, discard the stem, seeds and ribs; and chop the pepper.

Stir the roasted red pepper into the potato mixture into the frying pan. In a bowl, whisk  together the eggs, rosemary and salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the potato mixture and cook over medium heat until the edges are set. Using a heatproof spatula, lift the cooked edges of the frittata and tilt the frying pan to allow the liquid egg on top to flow underneath. Continue cooking, occasionally lifting the frittata and tilt again, until the top is almost set about 4 minutes more.

Sprinkle the top of the frittata with the Parmesan, place under broiler for about 1 minute or until the top is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Makes 4-6 servings

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