Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce - Willow Bird Baking

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce


Recipe by: Adapted from Chef Kevin Kidd
Yield: 4 servings

Start with super fresh ingredients to create this simple, fresh pasta dish! I love how quick and easy this recipe is.

Ingredients:
28 ounces fresh OR 19 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettucine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup white wine
2 ounces unsalted Plugrá European-Style Butter, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
8 spears asparagus, sliced into 2-inch chunks
8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmigiana Reggiano as needed

Directions:
Prepare an ice water bath in a medium bowl. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes before plunging them into the ice water to stop cooking. Drain the asparagus and set it aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat and add fresh or dried pasta. Cook 3 minutes (fresh pasta) or according to package directions (dried pasta). Going to Italy made me realize I’d been overcooking my pasta my whole life: al dente means your pasta should have a definite toothiness to it when bitten. Be careful not to overcook! Drain the finished pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water for the sauce later.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shallots and cook for a minute before adding garlic and sautéing for close to a minute or until lightly caramelized but not burnt. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. Whisk in Plugrá butter until it’s melted and blended into the sauce. Add the green onions and asparagus and stir to heat them briefly before reducing the heat to low and adding chunks of ricotta cheese. Salt this to taste — for me, this meant a LOT of salt, because it has to salt all the pasta as well. So don’t be shy.

Add the pasta into the pan (and a little of the pasta water if you need it) and toss it in the sauce over low heat. Add most of the parsley and all of the basil and toss. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the top. Now comes the adjusting: taste your pasta and add salt, more olive oil, a healthy grating of Parmigiana Reggiano, freshly ground pepper, a spritz of lemon juice, etc., as needed to balance the flavors. You should end up with a bright, flavorful, fresh tasting pasta.

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Quick Dinner: Garlicky Peanut Noodles with Crunchy Vegetables

I was a mess of elbows and ankles today as I ran around school, the grocery store, the bank, and my apartment desperately trying to tug loose ends together.

In the store, I deftly ran over my own foot with a grocery cart just minutes before dropping not one but two 12-packs of diet Sunkist.

People stared. I acted nonchalant: Whatever, don’t act like you’ve never thrown some soda around. Totally under control over here.

I’m now doing laundry, packing Byrd’s things, packing my things, fixing up lesson plans, adjusting my budget, wrestling with Squirt’s stupid filter, and trying to find a moment to shave my legs. Oh, and writing a blog post, naturally.

All of this craziness came about because tomorrow I’m waking up at 3 in the flippin’ morning, collecting my mountain of luggage, and heading to San Francisco (with flowers in my hair! Except not really.) The 3rd annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival is this weekend, and I can’t wait to eat lots of good food and see some sweet people.

Well, I can totally wait for the airplane part, though. In fact, can we just delete that part altogether? I’m one of those hyperventilating-just-a-little, having-occasional-panic-attacks, making-weird-faces people you hope you don’t have to sit next to on the plane. It’s cool; as long as I take my pills I should be able to limit the panic to some periodic weeping in the window seat.

I kid, I kid. The pills actually knock me straight out. I may snore, but at least I won’t be convulsing?

Anyway, back to the current chaos. Even with all the hubbub tonight, I threw together a homemade dinner. I’ve been eating this quick, 15 minute pasta dish like it’s goin’ out of style since I saw it on Not Without Salt. It checks all of my most important boxes for a weekday meal: it’s low calorie, it’s almost effortless, it’s tasty, and it’s piled sky-high with fun toppings.

The peanut butter and soy sauce together form a hearty, savory sauce that’s saved from straight-up bitterness by a few glugs of white wine and some gorgeous carrot curls. I threw on some green onions, chopped peanuts, lime juice, and tons and tons of bean sprouts before mixing the whole dish together and digging in. I love that gorgeous salty soy sauce flavor in every bite.


crunch.

All right, my loves. On that crunchy, delicious note, I’m off to ‘Frisco (I know, don’t worry. I’ve already read all the blogs about how much locals hate it when tourists call it that) for a food adventure. Stay safe, and stay off airplanes, you crazies! If people were meant to fly, God would’ve given us jet engine biceps. Or helium-filled love handles. Or, like, wings or something.

P.S.: My apartment will be occupied and supervised while I’m gone. Probably by robots that throw themselves into bonfires so they can incinerate you in a fiery embrace. Nice try, thieves of the interwebz!

P.S. 2: AHHHHHHHH AIRPLANES.

Garlicky Peanut Noodles with Crunchy Vegetables


Recipe by: Adapted from Not Without Salt‘s recipe inspired by Nigel Slater
Yields: 4 servings

These noodles are bathed in a salty, garlicky peanut sauce before being topped with an array of crunchy toppings: carrot curls, bean sprouts, green onions, chopped peanuts, sesame seeds. A spritz of lime juice and a good toss finishes the dish in just 15 minutes. I love simple weekday meals.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons peanut butter (or tahini if you’d rather, but I haven’t tried it)*
1/3 cup soy sauce*
2 tablespoons rice wine (or dry white wine)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
4 servings’ worth of spaghetti (or other long noodle)
*You may need to adjust peanut butter and soy sauce to your taste preferences (more peanut butter for sweetness, more soy for saltiness)

Optional Toppings:
carrot curls (just take a vegetable peeler to a peeled carrot to get these)
bean sprouts (boil these for a few minutes and then rinse in cold water for safety)
chopped green onions
chopped peanuts
sesame seeds
squeeze of lime

Directions:
Boil salted water over medium-high heat and cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, return to pan, and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the garlic and shallots and process until fine. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl with a spatula and then add the peanut butter, soy sauce, wine, vinegar, and sesame oil and process until combined. Add this sauce to pasta in pan and toss to coat.

Serve pasta on plate topped with shredded carrots, green onions, chopped peanuts, sesame seeds, bean sprouts, and a slice of lime.

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A Heartfelt Birthday Do-Over, Homemade Ravioli, and a Giveaway!

This weekend, I drove a total of 320 miles or 6 hours total for one magical road trip. It was inspired by a sweet gesture from Mike, and turned into a beautiful event for both of us. Let me tell you all about it.

I.  The Inspiration: A Childhood Dream Come True



Mike’s gift to me that inspired my road trip: a visit to the NC State Fair.

This weekend, Mike gave me a sweet gift: a do-over. He gave me the opportunity to revise a childhood memory from fifth grade.

My parents are going to kill me when they read this, because I’ve never told them anything about it. In fifth grade, my teacher scheduled a field trip to the State Fair in Raleigh, about 3 hours away. I’d never been to a fair, so I was thrilled to hear about the trip — until I heard the cost: $90. To my fifth grade brain, that might as well have been a million dollars.

I thought of my daddy going off to work third shift every night at the newspaper. I thought of my mom working late into the night to get her nursing paperwork completed. I thought of how we had to be careful to make ends meet each month despite all of their hard work.

I decided not to tell them about the field trip. I knew they would sacrifice to let me go, and I knew I’d rather stay home than let that happen. I sat at school while the other kids climbed aboard the bus to Raleigh. I’m sorry Mom and Dad — I know I should’ve given you the opportunity to send me! But my fifth grade mind was made up.

Imagine my surprise and delight when, a few weeks ago, Mike asked if I wanted to drive up and go to the State Fair. All of my fifth grade excitement came rushing back. Yes, I wanted a do-over! A second chance! A funnel cake!

In that spirit, this past weekend, Mike took me to my first fair. We ate copious amounts of fried food, petted fat billy goats, and definitely made up for lost time. It was better than it ever could’ve been in fifth grade, because Mike was by my side.


II.  Returning the Favor with a Road Trip: Mike’s Birthday Do-Over

I knew I wanted to do something special for Mike in return for what he’d done for me. Thankfully, Project Food Blog’s challenge for Round 6 was to pack up a meal and take a road trip (thank you so much for voting me through to this point). My road trip was designed to surprise Mike with his very own special do-over!



Mike’s surprise do-over.

On Mike’s birthday this past year, I really goofed. I made him handmade pumpkin ravioli — which probably sounds wonderful, except for the fact that he doesn’t like pumpkin and it tasted awful. This isn’t one of those “Oh, this could use more salt” things, y’all. It was gross.

For my road trip challenge, I decided to drive to Raleigh and throw Mike a heartfelt birthday do-over. Everything would be decorated in hearts and kisses and, most importantly, I’d make him a fantastic meal this time — one to drive all thoughts of pumpkin ravioli straight out of his mind.


The menu and decor. Note to PFB voters: the picnic basket was just for charm; all food was transported in my PFB cooler per challenge guidelines! Oh, and psst – you can enter to win this chalkboard below!

I chose to make the following dishes for our party:

-handmade, heart-shaped cheese ravioli in a meaty red sauce

-heart-shaped palmiers with goat cheese and homemade pesto

-red velvet cupcakes with heart cutouts

-giant red velvet kisses with special messages

-hot chocolate with homemade heart-shaped marshmallows


Cooler packed and ready to go!

Besides being delicious, some of the dishes had special significance. The red velvet cupcakes were planned to remind Mike of cupcakes I made for him one Valentine’s Day years ago, before I baked on a regular basis. He loved them so much that it inspired me to continue baking.

The hot chocolate represented sitting by the fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with him one December a couple of years ago. We hadn’t expected to have access to a fireplace on our trip, and for some reason, it made us so happy. We sat by it and sipped hot chocolate, loving every minute.




Handmade ravioli — now you see it, now you don’t.

I prepped and cooked for 3 days before hopping in my car and driving up the interstate. The venue I’d chosen for our birthday party picnic was Historic Yates Mill Park, and it turned out to be breathtaking. We spread a quilt under the shade of some gorgeous trees and ate while looking out over the mirror-like pond. Heart streamers danced in the wind beyond our picnic blanket, and a few industrious ants tried to join us for our meal. We brought books to read, but ended up having too much fun playing, talking, lounging, and walking around the mill.


Heart-shaped Pesto and Goat Cheese Palmiers.


I <3 Dessert! A giant red velvet kiss, red velvet cupcakes with heart cut-outs, and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.

Mike was coaxed into putting on the gigantic birthday hat I bought him. We blew birthday horns, I sang happy birthday, and he blew out his candles — all just as it should have been on his real birthday. This time, there was no pumpkin disaster to overshadow the moment — just me, Mike, and our little feast.


Normal Mike, and Julie-Made-Me-Wear-This-Stupid-Hat Mike

When all the food was packed away into the car again, we spent hours dwindling about the grounds. All told, four hours slipped past us like silt along the creek bed beside the mill. We decided picnics need to be a regular event for us.



Around the Historic Yates Mill: heart streamers, beautiful trees, and the mill itself.

Between fried cheesecake, corndogs, historic mills, and heart-shaped meals, Mike and I have had an amazing weekend. Thank you to Project Food Blog for my awesome cooler, and for inspiring my birthday party do-over. Most of all, thank you, my amazing readers, for voting for me in the last 5 rounds. I’d so appreciate your votes again in round 6!

Would you like to win the aqua chalkboard showcased in this post? Posh Pilfer is giving it away to one lovely reader (deadline for entering: Thursday, 10/28 at 6pm EST; winner will be chosen via random.org). To enter, answer the following question in the comment section: What memory do you wish you could “do-over”? Think about what you could do right now to make your do-over happen — and go for it!

Want an extra entry? Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter, tweet this message, and leave an extra comment telling me that you’ve done so: I just entered to win a cute chalkboard from @julieruble of Willow Bird Baking: http://bit.ly/cz2iLB

Handmade Cheese Ravioli in Meaty Red Sauce


Recipe by: Adapted from Annie’s Eats (pasta and ravioli); Sauce adapted from Strawberry Hedgehog
Yield: enough pasta to serve about 2 people

Ravioli Pasta Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon water, plus more as needed (I ended up using several full tablespoons)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole ricotta
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
fresh basil, chopped, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, chopped, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
about 3 links of Italian sausage, crumbled and browned
2 16-oz. cans tomato sauce
4 6-oz. cans tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
chopped fresh basil to taste
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Make the pasta: In a food processor, combine the eggs, water, olive oil and flour. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well mixed and a dough begins to form. If the mixture is not coming together, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough is formed. Transfer the dough from the food processor to a work surface. Knead 1-2 minutes by hand. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Knead again for 1-2 minutes, or until dough starts to feel more supple and elastic. Let rest for another 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. If you have a pasta machine, see instructions here for how to prepare the sheets of dough. If not, roll one piece of the dough out on a lightly floured surface, pressing hard and rolling diligently until the dough is very thin. Use a large heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out ravioli pieces. Let these rest while you mix your filling.

Mix filling: Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Taste and season accordingly.

Assemble ravioli: Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of half of the heart shapes, leaving a clear edge around the perimeter. Dip a finger in water and lightly brush around the edges of a heart topped with the filling. Place one of the remaining pasta hearts on top and press the edges of the pasta shapes together to seal around the filling, being careful to press out any excess air. Repeat with the remaining dough shapes.

Make sauce: While browning Italian sausage, mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Add to sausage and cook until heated through. In the meantime, cook pasta: bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli until al dente, about 4-5 minutes. Drain well and add ravioli to the sauce, tossing to coat. Serve with a spring of basil and shaved Parmesan.


At one point, my “Check Airbags,” “Low Tire Pressure,” and gas light were all lit. Glad I was only 5 minutes from my destination at this point!

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Pasta Carbonara

I’ve been so antsy to share this recipe with you! It’s one of those I-put-a-bite-in-my-mouth-and-suddenly-my-eyes-widened-to-the-size-of-Pluto dishes. One of those I-stared-at-Mike-impatiently-waiting-for-him-to-take-a-bite-and-have-Pluto-sized-eyes dishes! One of those I-could-eat-a-Pluto-sized-bowl-of-this-stuff dishes!

I’ve been trying to redeem myself for Mike’s terrible birthday dinner disaster for awhile now. Sure, I’ve made some delectable things since then, but I knew my penance wouldn’t be truly complete until I made him some really good pasta.

I went hunting on my favorite places to hunt for recipes: Tastespotting and Foodgawker. I’m so visual when it comes to food — seeing a dish gives me a better idea of how it’ll taste than looking at ingredients lists — and I find the mini-descriptions on these sites force bloggers to succinctly convey how amazing a dish is. You’ll find some captions that say things like, “pretty good,” or emphasize the ease of a dish, and others that convey the kind of emotion I wanted to elicit from Mike with my pasta dish: “WOW, this is good!”

This recipe was one of the WOW ones I came across. The photo of the dish was submitted by Kate of Framed, who called it “extra special.” That — combined with her charge to throw out all your other carbonara recipes — gave me confidence. I’m not going to lie, something about her blog’s exuberant header photo probably also made be feel exuberant about linguine! Regardless of the reasons, I decided that this was the recipe I’d been searching for!

As if you needed any more encouragement to make this pasta, the original recipe is straight from Pioneer Woman’s site (a Pastor Ryan recipe, for those of you who follow her posts). P-Dub has never steered me wrong, and on top of that, she’s coming to Charlotte this Friday for a book signing! What a perfect time to make a meal from her blog.

I guess the only thing left to tell you about is the most important part: the taste. The last time I ate pasta carbonara was in Little Italy in San Diego, so the creamy, rich, buttery sauce and the salty punch of the pancetta was a wonderful memory. I have to say, though, this rendition was even better than the one I remember. Bunches of torn parsley add a fresh note to the otherwise deep and indulgent pasta.

One flavor I noticed that stood out was the wine, so pick a good one — but don’t ask me how to do that! I picked my wine because it was white and had a penguin on the bottle. I got lucky, though, because it tasted perfect in the sauce. It was a Pinot Grigio, in case you want to replicate my random choice.

We paired our pasta with some cheesy garlic bread, and it was such a great combination. Actually, I considered making some big homemade garlic croutons to top the pasta itself, which would have been delectable if you want to give it a go. Make this as soon as you can manage to throw some linguine into your shopping cart. Bon Appétit!

Pasta Carbonara


Recipe by: Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman’s blog by Framed
Yields: about 4 servings, if you’re us — perhaps 6 servings for normal folk.

Ingredients:
1 pound linguine pasta
4 eggs
1 pound bacon or pancetta (I used pancetta)
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
8-12 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or substitute another cup of stock)
1/2 stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tablespoons black pepper

Directions:
1. Cut bacon into pieces about one inch wide. Cook until browned and crisp and set aside, saving bacon grease in the skillet.

2. Cook linguine in salted water until al dente.

3. Add chopped onions to bacon grease and let them cook down over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

4. After the onions have cooked for a couple of minutes, throw in the garlic. Adding it after the onions have cooked a little will prevent the garlic from burning. After the onion and garlic have cooked for another couple of minutes, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Discard the grease.

5. Place the pan back on high heat until it starts to smoke a little. As soon as the pan begins to smoke, pour in the white wine (or chicken stock). Whisk until pan is thoroughly deglazed and all of the brown bits have come off of the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of chicken stock. Return onion and garlic to the pan. Let simmer over medium heat.

6. Crack four eggs into a large bowl. Add most of the Parmesan cheese, and roughly chop the parsley, adding it into the eggs as well. Leave a little Parmesan and parsley out for a garnish. Mix well with a fork.

5. Add the cooked hot pasta to the egg mixture and then add the onion mixture. Stir in ½ stick (1/4 cup) of butter and the cooked bacon. Mix it all together well. Pepper to taste. Garnish with parmesan and parsley. Throw out all previous carbonara recipes.


Enjoy!


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Pitiful Pumpkin Ravioli, or Mike’s Birthday Dinner Disaster

Every now and then I stumble on an ethereal recipe that melts on my tongue and makes me draw in deep, appreciative breaths between every bite. I post these recipes hastily and urge you all to run into your kitchens and get to mixing. I stamp little hearts next to their names on my Recipe Index. I bring them up in conversations with Mike long after the last morsel has been devoured. I even long to whip them up again — a significant sentiment, since I rarely make the same dish twice.

This is not one of those recipes.

Actually, this is one of those recipes where I, um, don’t post the recipe. Because I’m terrified someone will skip over all of these paragraphs where I reveal how awful it tasted and end up making it. I can only imagine the creative hate mail I’d receive after folks spent 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen prepping this disaster. It could get ugly.

Instead, I’ll just tell you the story. It all started at my desk at school, where I sat one day eating one of those low-calorie frozen meals. They’re typically flavorless concoctions of funky-textured “meat” and rubbery veggies, but at least they’re quick sustenance. This particular frozen meal was tasty, though: a slightly sweet pumpkin ravioli in a butter sage sauce with hunks of butternut squash and asparagus. I thought to myself (somewhat smugly), “I bet I could make this even better from scratch . . . .”

It turns out that I cannot make it better from scratch. It also turns out that I should not try risky, experimental recipes on Mike’s birthday. After hours of work (roasting the squash, making and kneading the pasta dough, rolling and filling the ravioli, cooking the asparagus, mixing the sauce and veggies and pasta, and photographing the whole thing), Mike and I took our first bites and made eye contact. In that one silent moment, our eyes said all there was to say. Mike’s eyes were panicking: “Oh crap, what can I say about this ravioli that isn’t insulting?!” and my eyes were remorseful: “Oh crap, I’ve ruined his birthday dinner, of all the dinners to ruin!”

What Mike actually said was, “It’s good,” while concentrating hard (a little too hard) on cutting the next bite. What I actually said was, “This stuff is disgusting. Maybe we should order pizza.” The sweet guy ended up eating every bite in his bowl (and, ahem, politely declining seconds) while I scarfed down the from-frozen garlic bread he had brought over. That’s right: the only edible part of the meal was the garlic bread I made MIKE buy on his way over for his own birthday dinner! Have I won the girlfriend of the year award yet?

In summary, do not make this pasta. The odd, bitter combination of pumpkin and parmesan in the filling was nauseating. The butter sage sauce was greasy and bland. The squash . . . well, okay, the squash was good. Go roast yourself a butternut squash and call it a day, y’all. I’m comforting myself with the fact that my homemade ravioli technique has improved (I rolled thinner, creating a better-textured pasta) and dessert was fantastic. Ah, dessert: a balm on dinner disaster wounds. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it.


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