French Onion Mac + Cheese

Probably exactly what you need, right after the new year starts, is a recipe that combines two of the most wonderful, cheese and carb-laden treats known to humankind into one unholy meal.

Well, I can say that at least around here, “losing x pounds” didn’t make it to the resolutions list this year.  #pregnancyperks

I won’t lie to you: this recipe takes a while (about 2.5 full hours, from start to finish).  BUT, it’s worth it.  And not just if you’re pregnant.  So let’s get to it.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

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for the bechamel

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or cream, if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed reds
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

for the onion mixture

  • butter/olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (to make this veggie, obviously, just use veggie stock instead.)
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (you might want to tie these up into a bundle)
  • 1 bag arugula
  • 1 box pasta (I used cavatappi, which winds its way so delightfully around each onion slice, each delightful bite of cheese)

for the topping

  • about 1/2 cup panko
  • about 1/2 cup parmesan
  • (a little parsley, if you have it, would be nice right at the very end)
  1. Start your onions, which take the longest.  Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add onions, cover, and cook down, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  2. While the onions are going, start your bechamel.  Over low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir constantly to combine for 2-3 minutes.   Increase heat to medium, and slowly add the milk or cream; stir until thickened (this takes about 5-6 minutes; add more flour if you need).  Lower the heat, & season with s+p and the crushed red peppers.  Fold in the gruyere and cheddar until the sauce is melty and delicious – set aside and try not to eat.
  3. To the onion mixture, add garlic and dash honey.  Cook another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize.  Add wine and beef broth and stir, scraping up the bottom bits.  Add the thyme and let the mixture cook down, until the liquid is almost gone.
  4. The previous step will take a while, so this is is a good time to start your pasta water boiling and to cook according to directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a baking pan.  In the onion pot, mix together the arugula, pasta, onions, and bechamel.  Make sure it’s thoroughly combined before you pour into the baking pan – snag the bundled thyme as you do so.
  6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko and parmessan, and then spread this over the top of the pasta/onion mixture.  Pop the whole thing into the oven for 35 minutes.

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The Verdict:

You can taste how long this takes to make (in a good way, I promise).  It’s got serious flavor, from first bite to finish.  It’s two of the best meals ever, on one plate – how could you not love it?  Just make sure to serve with a side salad – you’ll want something a little…lighter.

 

Lemon and Ricotta Pappardelle with Baby Kale

Another day, another big bowl of pasta.  (Beach season is almost over, right?)

This is the kind of dinner you make when mostly you’re just thinking about takeout.  In other words, it’s not really a recipe, but a scrounging of things that exist in your refrigerator (frost living!) that will save you $25 so you can apply that to your next run to Current Boutique (or whatever you save your pennies for). I’m not anything but future-oriented when it comes to consignment.

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Lemon and Ricotta Pappardelle with Baby Kale

  • 1 bag pre-washed baby kale
  • 1 bag pappardelle pasta
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about 1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk, I say!)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter
  1. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat.  Add shallot and lower heat, cook down slowly, until translucent (about 5-10 minutes).  Add a bit of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Add the minced garlic.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add your pasta.  Cook according to directions.  Drain, reserving about a cup of starchy water.
  3. Add the baby kale (or whatever greens you have) to the saute pan and cook down until wilted.  Add the pasta to the pan, a squeeze of lemon, the ricotta cheese, and a splash of the reserved water.  Mix through until a creamy sauce forms – add more water, as needed.
  4. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese; eat wearing sweatpants.

The Verdict:

If pappardelle is on the menu – anywhere, including in my own house – there’s a 110% chance I’m ordering it.  I just can’t say no.  This bowl of goodness is worth the Dadbod.

Villa Pasta

I did not want to graduate from college.  College = three years (because the first one was a bust) of nonstop hanging out with my friends, beers on a Tuesday night, and late night pizza with ranch dressing.  What could be better?

Answer: Graduating, and recreating my college experience in an apartment building two miles from my university.  Only this time, I had a little bit of money in my pocket and no homework.  Plus I started (not so secretly as we imagined) dating my future Husband.

Unfortunately, post-college college life was only relevant Friday through Sunday.  In order to stave off Monday mornings, future-and-now-current husband, his roommate, my roommate (still one of my BFFs and now married to Husband’s BFF, life is grand) and I used to get together for “family dinners” on Sunday evenings.  Because a few bottles of wine will definitely make Monday feel a lot better.

My roommate had “studied” abroad in Florence, where she learned from her hosts at the Villa how to make this ridiculous pasta.  At the time of family dinner, it was the best thing any one of us could ever imagine making.  It is still ridiculously good.  Only last night, I added a few “healthy” things.  Because now that I’m old, I top my pizza with extra veggies instead of ranch dressing.  I am not nearly as cool as I was once.

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Villa Pasta

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • about 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • s+p
  • one small handful crushed red pepper
  • handful basil, chopped
  • 1 carton mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bag pre-washed spinach
  • freshly ground pepper
  • approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used mozz, but I PROMISE it’s better with Swiss)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other tubular pasta
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil and butter.  Cook onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning.
  2. When lightly browned, add both forms of tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Give it a toss and then cook, covered, for 25 minutes over low/medium heat. Toward the end of the 25 minutes, get (salted) water boiling for your pasta.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach, recover, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms have cooked through.  Cook your pasta in the meantime.
  4. Add cream to the sauce and adjust seasoning.  Toss hot pasta with sauce and cheese.

The Verdict:

I forgot how long this pasta takes – nearly an hour, all said and done.  But jeez louise, it is still the best thing ever.  Seriously.  Try it.  Love it.  Tell me about it.

Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

Right before we left for Miami last weekend, I had a conundrum.  We had nothing in the fridge.  We were leaving in the morning, so running to the grocery store didn’t seem practical.  I didn’t want to go out to dinner or order takeout – we were about to spend three days in a place known for $16 actually $24 cocktails (side note: who thought it would be appropriate to charge MORE than the price of a whole pizza for a little bit of rum in a plastic cup!?).

So I thought about it and scrounged around and made this.  And felt really pleased with myself when we had leftovers sitting in our fridge when we got home Sunday night. Varina: 1, bathing suit: 0.

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Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

  • olive oil
  • one tablespoon of butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds, a little bit of oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar good tomato sauce (obviously, make your own if you have the ingredients on hand!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 box rigatoni
  • about half a bag of spinach
  • CHEESE, and lots of it.  I used a combination of grated mozzarella, parmesan, and gruyere.
  • fresh herbs – if you have them.  parsley & basil are lovely.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F & prepare a baking dish with a little bit of cooking spray.
  2. In a large, deep skillet heat a little bit of olive oil and butter together; melt the butter over medium heat.  Add onions, a bit of salt, pepper and some crushed reds and cook down, 4-7 minutes.  Add garlic and ground turkey and break it up in the pan, so all sides can brown.
  3. Get your pasta water boiling; cook pasta slightly less than al dente, so it returns some crunch once it’s out of the oven.
  4. Once the turkey has cooked though, add tomato paste, mix through, and then add tomato sauce.  Mix thoroughly.  Add cooked pasta and spinach; give the whole thing a good toss.  Add about half your cheese and mix again.  If you have herbs, you can add them to the mix, as well.
  5. Scoop the pasta and turkey mixture into your baking dish and top with cheese and a little bit more sauce.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

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The Verdict:

There is simply no way to mess this one up.  Add all the vegetables you have – mushrooms, shallots, peppers, whatever you please.  Make your own sauce.  Leave out the meat.  Use all the cheeses you have.  Get out your bathing suit and do a little happy dance, especially if you’re married to my husband, who doesn’t like the the crusty side parts as much as the middle, so you get all the best parts.

The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need.

I neglected to write a “planning” post this week – whoops!  I actually DID plan out our meals, too…though with only a couple of nights of cooking needed (we are headed to MIAMI! this weekend), I took a bit of the easy way out.  We did a lot of recycling and reusing chez nous, and we’re still dining on leftovers.  For example, this pasta salad, which I made to bring to a friend’s impromptu BBQ on Sunday evening (another reason to love spring: impromptu BBQs).

This “recipe” is an absolute go-to.  I remember making it for the first time with my mom probably ten years ago, and it’s become a staple at the yearly beachside bonfire we host with a bunch of family friends.  Of course, the first time she made this, my mom was just using up vegetables she had in her fridge – I don’t get my propensity to throw things together and call it dinner from nowhere, you see.  There are, however, two secrets to elevating this from grocery store pasta salad to the kind of pasta salad to end all other pasta salads.  See if you can spot them.

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The World’s (well, in my humble opinion, anyway) Best Pasta Salad

  • 1 box curly pasta – my favorite is Cavatappi
  • 1/2 jar sundried tomatoes, in oil – coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (orange adds a nice pop of color!)
  • 1 can corn, drained, or ideally, 2-3 stalks of fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 small container cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • handful of spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • a goodly amount of Parmesan cheese
  • fresh herbs: cilantro provides a gorgeous zing, but parsley and/or basil also good options
  • dressing:
    • a good squeeze of anchovy paste (*leave out if making a totally vegetarian version*)
    • salt, pepper, crushed reds
    • balsamic vinegar
    • olive oil
  1. Boil water for pasta; while you’re waiting, prepare/wash/chop all of your veggies, and place in a LARGE bowl, EXCEPT for your sundried tomatoes.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  While the pasta is still warm, toss with the veggies – and then add your sundried tomatoes and a bit of the oil it comes in.  Give it a thorough toss.
  3. Whisk together your dressing and add to your pasta.  Finish off your salad with Parmesan and a generous dose of herbs.  Serve warm or chilled – it won’t last long either way.

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The Verdict:

This one’s a go-to for good reason.  I made an extra large batch on Sunday, taking most of it to the BBQ and leaving a bit behind for me and the Husband.  By Monday evening, I had (very generously) left him two (full!) strands of Cavatappi.  I am such a great partner, sometimes.

PS: You can obviously add olives to add brininess, and whatever else your little heart desires.  I have and enforce a strict no-olive policy chez nous.