Pasta alla Vodka

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This is my new favorite pasta dish.  The sauce is so creamy and delicious that it’s hard to stop eating.  It only takes about half and hour to make, too, so it’s great for a weekday dinner.

Original recipe

 

Pasta alla Vodka
Adapted from SimplyRecipes

Yield: 4 servings

  • 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, about 4 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 

  1. Bring large pot of salted water (1 tablespoon salt for every 2 quarts of water) to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Crumble sausage and brown it in a large, thick-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat, add the onion, and sauté 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Decrease heat to medium, add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute longer.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes to pan and stir in vodka, heavy cream, and lemon zest.
  6. Increase heat and bring mixture to a simmer.  Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
  7. Once sauce is simmering, add pasta to boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.
  8. After the sauce simmers for about 5 minutes, add browned sausage.  Cook until pasta is done.
  9. When pasta is done, strain and stir it into the pan with the sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper.
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Pepperoni Pizza

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If you don’t know what pepperoni pizza is, try it out!  It’s the quintessential pizza American kids grow up eating.

 

Pepperoni Pizza

Yield: 12-13″ pizza

  • 1 portion Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 (15-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 oz pepperoni
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 Roma tomato

 

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomato.
  2. If you feel motivated, fry pepperoni briefly in a pan and pat off the grease with a paper towel.
  3. Prepare pizza dough (you can even do this the night before, and store the dough in a covered bowl overnight in the refrigerator), roll out into a crust, and place in pizza pan.
  4. In a bowl, stir together tomato paste and oregano.  You may need to add a little water to thin the paste to a spreadable consistency.
  5. Spread tomato paste over crust, leaving 1/4-1/2″ border around the edge.
  6. Scatter about half to two-thirds of the pepperoni over the crust.
  7. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly across the top.
  8. Scatter remaining pepperoni across the top.
  9. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  10. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Spaghetti Bolognese

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This recipe comes from my mentor, who is part Italian.  It’s really tasty, and you can easily double it for dinner parties.

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork OR beef OR chicken (whatever you have, really)
  • 1 cup half and half OR milk
  • 5 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes in tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup white wine OR 1/2 cup water+1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 lb spaghetti noodles

 

  1. Grate carrots.
  2. Finely chop celery until the pieces are about size of the carrot bits.
  3. Finely chop onion.
  4. Cook carrots, celery, and onion in a large pot with a little oil or butter, until vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add ground meat, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon.
  6. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up clumps, until meat is no longer pink.  It takes 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add half and half OR milk.  Continue to stir and break up any clumps of meat.
  8. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until liquid reduces to about ½ inch left in the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes.  Stir from time to time.
  9. Add white wine (or water+lemon juice) and salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. Bring mixture to a simmer again and cook until liquid reduces to about ½ inch left in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes.  Stir from time to time.
  11. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil.
  12. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick.  Stir from time to time.  If you dip a wooden spoon in it and pull it up, the sauce and meat bits should cling to the spoon and drip off it slowly.
  13. While sauce is simmering, heat a pot of water until it boils.  Cook spaghetti noodles to desired doneness, about 11 minutes.
  14. Serve noodles topped with sauce.

Burgers

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What better way to celebrate the summer than by grilling with friends?  This recipe for homemade patties comes from one of them, a guy who loves to host large gatherings.  The burger was so good that I wished I had a second stomach so I could keep eating.

 

Burgers

Yield: 8 burgers

  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • Burger toppings: cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, barbecue sauce, etc.

 

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, egg, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, form the mixture into 8 patties.
  3. Grill burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about 4 minutes.
  4. Flip over burgers and cook until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, about 4 minutes for medium, or until cooked to desired doneness.  If desired, top with a slice of cheese in the last minute of grilling and close the grill cover.
  5. Assemble burger with your favorite toppings.

Lamb Chops Sizzled with Garlic

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Garlic lovers, this one is for you!  If your lamb chops are thicker than the recommended 1/2 inch, use the cooking directions from here.

Original recipe

 

Lamb Chops Sizzled with Garlic
From Food & Wine

Yield: 8 lamb chops

  • Eight 1/2-inch-thick lamb loin chops (about 2 pounds), fatty tips trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra-virgin if you have it
  • 10 small garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh if you have it
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

 

  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and sprinkle lightly with thyme.
  2. In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
  3. Add the lamb chops and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until the chops are browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the chops and garlic and cook until the chops are browned, about 2 minutes longer for medium meat.
  5. Transfer the chops to plates, leaving the garlic in the skillet.
  6. Add the water, lemon juice, parsley, and crushed red pepper (if using) to the pan and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom, until sizzling, about 1 minute.
  7. Pour the garlic and pan sauce over the lamb chops and serve immediately.

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust

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The beauty of making pizza at home is that you can customize it to your heart’s content.  This pizza dough is quick and easy to make (probably the most complicated step is rolling it out), and the spices make it particularly fragrant and delicious.

Original recipe

 

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 12-13″ pizza crust

  • 1 (.25-oz) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110ºF if you want to be precise; I just stick my finger in it to check that it feels warm)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning  (I use McCormick’s Perfect Pinch blend, which doesn’t have salt)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.  Lightly grease a pizza pan, if it is not non-stick.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
  3. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in salt, Italian seasoning, and oil.
  5. Stir in flour and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  If the dough feels sticky or tacky, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should feel soft and smooth to the touch.
  6. Let dough rest in bowl for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round.
  8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 12-13″ circle.
  9. Transfer crust to pizza pan and spread with desired toppings.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  11. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Plum Sauce Meatballs

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These are meatballs with a Chinese twist: They’re flavored with oyster sauce, and each one is topped off with a dollop of sweet plum sauce.  The corn starch in the meat mixture helps to hold everything together and gives the meatballs a slightly bouncy texture.  You can find plum sauce in an Asian supermarket.  I personally like the brand Lee Kum Kee.  Also, don’t worry too much about the measurements.  I normally grab a metal spoon from the drawer and use it instead of a tablespoon.

 

Plum Sauce Meatballs

Yield: 20-24 meatballs

  • 1 lb ground chicken OR pork
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1/4 cup plum sauce

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Combine ground meat, sugar, corn starch, oyster sauce, rice wine, and pepper in a large bowl (preferably metal or plastic).
  3. Place the bowl in the sink.  Scoop up the meat mixture in one hand and throw it back down in the bowl hard.
  4. Repeat 10-20 times until you feel the texture change; the mixture will become more cohesive.  (My mom recommends going up to 100 times if you’re in the mood.)  You’ll want to do this step in the sink because until you get the hang out it, you might have bits of meat flying off.
  5. Shape the mixture into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter.  I like to grab a handful of meat in one hand, squeeze out a rounded portion between my thumb and forefinger, and use a spoon in my other hand to cut off the meatball and place it on the baking sheet.
  6. Drop about 1/2 teaspoon of plum sauce on top of each meatball.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes.  You can cut open a meatball to check for done-ness.