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.

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(My Mom’s) Beef Bourgouignon

 

 

The lack of a Sunday/Monday planning post this week is no accident: this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-our pants kind of week.  Chez nous, there is no real nightly dinner plan, as I had no real grocery list when my mom (YAY for moms who visit!) and I hit Trader Joe’s this weekend.  We had one thing, and one thing only, on our minds:  making this mind-blowingly delicious beef bourguignon.  (My mom nixed my idea for (another) veggie tart, declaring that the Husband “needs” more protein.  Didn’t you see our quinoa dinner, Mom!?)

Of course, this stew comes straight from my mom’s head; no need for recipes there.  I’ve laid out a rough guide below – but feel free to tweak for your eating pleasure.

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My Mom’s Beef Bourgouignon

  • olive oil
  • a couple of tablespoons of butter
  • 3 pounds beef (cut into stew-sized chunks)
  • S&P
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cartons mushrooms
  • pearl onions
  • flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups (or even a whole bottle) red wine
  • a bit of water, as needed
  • parsley, for serving
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over high heat.  Saute the beef until browned.  On a separate plate, sprinkle flour, salt and pepper; transfer beef on to the plate and add flour, S&P in layers.
  2. In the Dutch oven, saute the celery, carrots and onion over medium heat, until translucent.  Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, and then add mushrooms and tomato paste and cook through, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beef back to the pot and pour in white wine.  Reduce the wine by half and then add pearl onions, red wine, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to a boil before reducing the heat; cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  4. Adjust the seasonings as you see fit, top with fresh parsley, and serve with fresh crusty bread (and CHEESE, of course).

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The Verdict:

It was a sad day when my mom (and sister) left – but they did leave behind a trail of delicious food in our refrigerator! Word to the wise: this is even better after a few days, when the flavors have had a chance to come together (and the meat has had a chance to break down and become more tender.)

 

One Pot Pasta: Sausage & Sage Vegetable Rigatoni

Let’s just say we won’t have high electricity bills stemming from time spent in the kitchen this month.  I’ve had more important things to worry about…like, HOW in the world are we going to keep up with a bunch of 25 year olds this weekend?

And, almost as important, what do you wear while doing it? Full disclosure: I shop at Talbot’s and I LOVE it.  But I’m guessing they haven’t necessarily penetrated the 25 year old market segment.  (To the 25 year old’s detriment, to be quite frank.  Talbot’s is amazing.  And Talbot’s sale rack? Don’t even get me started.)

In the meantime, I did take a break from these important questions to whip this up last night.
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Sausage and Sage Vegetable Rigatoni

  • half box pasta
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds
  • 8-10 leaves fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • 1 big handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 carton mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
  • most of a bag of baby spinach
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, a bit of salt, pepper and crushed reds, and lower the temp; cook for about 8-10 minutes to get them nice and translucent.
  2. While the onions cook, boil water for the pasta and cook pasta according to the directions for al dente.  Reserve a little bit of the starchy water for making a sauce.
  3. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and sage to the onions.  Cook down 3-4 minutes before adding the garlic.  Add the apple cider vinegar and a bit off wine; cook of the alcohol.
  4. Add the sausage, crumble it in the pan, and cook all the way through.  You may want to drain off a little bit of fat – if you do, you might consider adding more wine for a little bit of a sauce.  Pasta water will also work well, if you want to add that.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the pasta and give the mixture a toss.  Add Parmesan and spinach and cover, letting the spinach wilt into the mixture a bit.
  5. Season to taste and serve, maybe top with a little more sage and Parmesan.

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The Verdict:

According to the Husband – someone who actually doesn’t like sausage – this was “awesome.”  Make it from any combination of pasta, meat and veggies in your fridge for a little frost living action.  And it made plenty for lunch…giving me more time to prep for our weekend in Cincinnati!

Cheesy Polenta & Mushroom Chickpea Medley

So.  It’s Friday and I still haven’t posted my menu plan for the week.  This is because March is #crazypants and there IS no menu plan.  I’ve been eating cereal for dinner.

March is regularly the month where work becomes a little more insane than usual, and cooking/exercising/sleeping/being a nice person (sometimes, I do try to be one!) goes by the wayside.  Planning, schmanning.

And then yesterday, we had a glorious snow day, and I scrounged around in the pantry and came out with this heaping bowl of comfort – inspired by Cooking Light.

IMG_3152Cheesy Polenta & Mushroom Chickpea Medley

  • olive oil
  • 2 cartons mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • leaves from about 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • about 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons or so balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 box instant polenta and…
    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • blue cheese
    • a little pat butter
    • salt, pepper
    • about a cup of parmesan
  • topping: parsley (note: this would probably be heavenly tossed with a little arugula, which I did not have on hand)
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms, onion and thyme; cook down about 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Add white wine and vinegar, cook down a few minutes.  Add broth and season with salt and pepper.  Add chickpeas, bring the whole thing to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
  2. For the polenta, bring your water to a roiling boil.  Add the polenta slowly – whisk swiftly so it doesn’t clump!  Remove from heat after it thickens and add your cheese.  I added the blue cheese cream from the steaks we had for Valentine’s Day as well as a hefty about of parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the polenta at the bottom of a bowl, top with the mushroom mixture, a little bit of parmesan and the parsley.

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The Verdict:

This is basically just comfort food in one bowl.  March: bring it on.

Mushroom Bourguignon with Pappardelle Pasta

It’s January, which for most normal people, means it’s time to make that perennial New Year’s resolution: lose x pounds so that your party dress/bathing suit/arms (insert appropriate body part) look good.

For me, that January date says: wedding/bathing suit/short sleeve season is months away! And it’s freezing out! It’s chunky sweater season!  Carb-party on, my friend!

This recipe is from one of my three Christmas present cookbooks – the Smitten Kitchen, with just a few very small tweaks.  Like more veggies.  And pappardelle pasta.  Note: If that’s on the menu, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s served with a ragu of rat poison.  I’m ordering it.

some wine for cooking, some wine for drinking.
some wine for cooking, some wine for drinking.

Mushroom Bourguignon with Pappardelle Pasta

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 pounds portobello or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • about 6-7 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
  • pappardelle pasta
  • optional: parmesan cheese, sour cream, parsley
hello gorgeous.
hello gorgeous.
  1. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan and keep to the side.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a good pinch of salt and black pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
  3. Set your pasta water going, so you can cook it while the stew simmers in the next step.
  4. Add the wine to the carrot/onion/thyme pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back in the mushrooms and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
  5. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew (this is to thicken it up and add a last dash of buttery flavor). Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Season to taste – it’ll likely need a bit more salt.
  6. Spoon the stew over a big bowl of pappardelle, give it a toss, and serve with parmesan, sour cream and/or parsley. Think about how you’re actually sometimes glad that it’s winter.
served.
served.

 

The Verdict:

“Is this like that beef dish? It tastes like it,” the Husband queried.

Yes, yes it is.  And that’s a recipe for success.  Thanks, Deb Perelman.

 

PS: For you non-veggies, this would probably be even better with some bacon or pancetta, sauteed right at the beginning with the mushrooms to impart some flavor.