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Cacciatore, Hold the Chicken!

16 Aug

Since becoming a vegetarian I learned how to make all kinds of recipes without meat, and this has become a favorite. Summer time in New Jersey means lots of fresh local vegetables including eggplant, peppers and the famous Jersey tomatoes all of which I used in this recipe. Now I know most of you think of New Jersey as crowded and dirty, with bad drivers but in fact, there is a lot of farmland and beautiful rolling hills. We have lots of local farmers markets where we can get everything from local produce to homemade pies. (We are called the Garden State for a reason.)

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This is the perfect summer time pasta dish that is light, has lots of taste and loaded with healthy veggies!

eggplant-cacciatore

Just a few notes-I peeled the eggplant, I don’t like the skin but it’s up to you. You can use your favorite mushrooms, I used baby Portobello, just about any kind will do. Finally, instead of the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes I used fresh Jersey tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 thick slabs

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz dried penne pasta

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until eggplant are slightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

 

While eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Drain when done and return pot, toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

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While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and  place over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sauté’ for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add eggplant, simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve over pasta with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of delicious wine!

Thank you to Connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe and the photo of the final dish, mine didn’t look quite as good.

 

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Summer Veggie Lasagna

20 Jul

Lasagna is comfort food which usually means winter, it is cheesy, hot and gooey. Well, this is my vegetable lasagna made from lots of summer veggies, because sometimes you need that ooey, gooey, comfort food in the summer. And I know most vegetable lasagna is made with a white sauce but I make mine just like the traditional with a red sauce and it is delicious!

Homemade sauce with fresh from the garden herbs!

Homemade sauce with fresh from the garden herbs!

Sauce:

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 Tbs freshly chopped parsley

1 Tbs freshly chopped basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan over medium heat add olive oil and chopped onions, cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, stir until combined. Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer and cook for another 30 minutes. While the sauce cooks you can get the vegetables ready and cook the lasagna noodles.

Noodles:

10 lasagna noodles (I cook one extra just in case…)

Olive oil

Bring large pot of water to a boil, add about 1 Tbs olive oil and add noodles, cook according to package directions, you will want them to be al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Cooking up the veggies.

Cooking up the veggies.

Vegetables:

1 large zucchini, cut into small cubes

1 large yellow squash, cut into small cubes

1 8 oz container baby bella mushrooms, cut into small cubes

1/2 bag baby spinach

1 Tbs olive oil

*You can also add some red or green peppers if you like that flavor.

Heat olive oil in large saute pan, add zucchini, yellow squash and cook for about 4 minutes then add mushrooms. Cook vegetables till soft and tender. The vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid, drain this so that the lasagna isn’t too watery. When the vegetables are cooked and drained add them to the sauce.

To assemble the lasagna you will need:

1 16 oz block of mozzarella, sliced thinly

1 8 oz container ricotta cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9″ x 13″ pan cover the bottom of the pan in thin layer of sauce, place 3 noodles length wise in the pan and cover with the vegetable sauce, add a layer of baby spinach, spoon ricotta cheese over the spinach and then the mozzarella cheese, repeat. You will have 3 layers of noodles with the top being the mozzarella cheese.

Cover with tin foil and place in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread…you’re all set. Enjoy!

Finished product...I left it in the oven just a tad too long.

Finished product…I left it in the oven just a tad too long.

 

Summer Fresh Veggie Pasta

27 Jun

I love pasta. I love artichokes and asparagus. If you love all of those things then you will love this dish! It is great summertime dish that is quick and easy. The freshness of the lemon and crisp summer vegetables are just delicious in the light cream sauce.

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8 ounces of your favorite pasta-cooked according to package directions

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, cut in half

1 Bundle asparagus, sliced into small pieces

1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, depends on your taste for garlic

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk, I used 2% but you can use whatever you prefer

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved parmesan cheese

Put olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add asparagus and lemon juice, cook for about 5 minutes and then add artichoke hearts. Cook together for about another 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add butter to pan and melt, add garlic to melted butter. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Add flour and stir, the mixture will thicken. Slowly add milk and keep stirring until the mixture becomes smooth. Add drained pasta and stir to coat. Stir in vegetables and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese, lemon slice and enjoy!

One Last Soup before Spring…

20 Mar

So, I sit here writing this on the first day of Spring and it is snowing out. When will it end? Hopefully soon but until it does, let’s eat soup. This recipe is a copy cat recipe of Olive Garden’s famous Pasta e Fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans”, it is traditionally a meatless Italian dish however this recipe adds ground beef but I stuck with tradition and left the meat out, which makes this a great meal for meatless Mondays. This is easy, healthy and makes a great meal, definitely give a whirl!

Pasta e Fagioli with shaved parmesan cheese-buon appetito!

Pasta e Fagioli with shaved parmesan cheese-buon appetito!

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef* (I omitted)

2 tbsp olive oil (if not using meat)

1 small onion

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

28oz can crushed tomatoes

15oz can tomato sauce

15oz can beef broth (vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian)**you may want more depending on how you like it

15oz can kidney beans (with liquid)

15oz can great northern beans (with liquid)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp pepper

8oz ditalini pasta

*with the salt, pepper and dried herbs-increase or decrease depending on taste

Heat olive oil large dutch oven or pot, add carrots, celery, onion and sauté for about 10 minutes then add minced garlic. Saute for a few more minutes until garlic becomes fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients, except the pasta and simmer for 1 hour.

You may want to add more broth at this point depending on how you like it.

About 15 minutes before the hour is up, boil water for pasta and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Now, a tip from a friend is: to not add the pasta to the soup…add it as you eat it so that it doesn’t blow up in the soup and absorb all the liquid. This was great advice. I kept mine in storage container and added as we ate it. Serve with shaved parmesan cheese and warm, crusty bread; delicious!

*If you would like to do the meat version the first thing you do is cook the ground beef until browned, drain the grease. Set browned ground beef aside and cook veggies as above in same pot, when veggies are ready, add ground beef back into pot and follow the recipe from there. Enjoy!

 

 

No Bologna Bolognese!

1 Jan

Tis the season for dinner parties! Friends and family gathering to eat a great meal, drink some wine and maybe play a game or two. What to serve can be a difficult decision because you want to make something that everyone will love that isn’t too complicated and for me, a bolognese is the perfect choice. The bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, Italy, dates back to at least the 5th century and according to Wikipedia a true bolognese contains the following ingredients: beef, pancetta, carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, red wine and milk.  Of course through the years it has changed to include different additions of meat but the basic ingredients remain the same.  The recipe that I am about to share with you includes sausage which I think adds lots of flavor. The  greatest compliment that I received about this meal was from my friend Paul. Paul is not a foodie and when I served this to him and his wife not only did he eat all of it but had seconds-success…he said it was delicious and his wife Shelly asked for the recipe!

Bolognese

Beautiful Bolognese

BOLOGNESE SAUCE
5 Tblsp Butter
7 Tblsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion-finely chopped
2 Stalks Celery-finely chopped
1 Large Carrot-finely chopped
2 Large Cloves Garlic-minced
1 1/2 lbs Chopped Meat
 1 1/2 lbs Sausage-casing removed
1/2 lb Pancetta-chopped
1 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
3/4 Cup Tomato Paste
Parmesan Cheese
 
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan add onion, celery, carrot and garlic-cook until soft but not browned.  Add the meats ( I use the package of sausage that has both sweet and hot), increase the heat a bit and cook until all the meat is browned.  Drain most of the fat and stir in milk, wine and tomato paste-reduce heat.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer until thickened, about 1 hour.  Serve with a nice fettucine noodle and parmesan cheese. Buon Appetito!
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