Category Archives: Pasta

Quick and Easy Meal: stovetop lasagna

Bowtie lasagna

Another Quick and Easy Meal for new mothers/beginning cooks/harried-people-with-no-time-but-desire-for-a-hot-meal…

This meal made my husband’s eyes light up (we were in dire need of a home cooked meal). It makes both my meat-lover husband and pasta-carb-loving me, satisfied; my husband is not the kind of man who takes seconds of pasta dishes, but I caught him going for seconds, immediately. And then eating the leftovers the next day. We made this TWICE in the same week, it’s that simple and filling.

It takes about 15 minutes to cook–and even if you don’t time everything perfectly, the prep (what prep? there’s pretty much zero prep) and cook time is definitely under 30 minutes. There is no chopping involved, and minimal sautéing (aka exposure to spluttering oil). Again, I was able to cook this meal in its entirety with my 5 month old in a sling. Yes, even the past-draining part, because what I did was scoop out the pasta into a big bowl, drained the pot, and then scooped the pasta back into the pot. You could also set the baby down for about a minute while doing this step. And if you’re using a big-enough skillet/frying pan for the meat, you can just scoop the pasta into the pan holding the meat. This isn’t baking, so you can fudge quite a bit.

I think you could dress this up as you please–add some chopped black olives or a dash of red chili peppers or parmesan or whatever else you like in your pasta or lasagna. Make it your own!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 box (16 oz) bowtie farfalle pasta (or rigatoni)
  • 1 jar (3 cups) spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

MATERIALS:

  • 1 skillet/frying pan
  • 1 dutch oven/chef’s pan
  • optional: colander
  • wooden spoon for stirring

DIRECTIONS:
Salt and boil water in a dutch oven (enough to cook a box of pasta). When water comes to a boil, add pasta (farfalle takes about 11 minutes to cook).

Heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add ground beef. Add a dash of salt (about 1-2 tsp) in the beef. Cook until meat is browned. Set aside unti noodles are cooked through.

When noodles are cooked, drain water (either with a lid on the pot and tipping the pot to drain–or drain in a colander and then put the pasta back into the pot–or scoop it out with something like a Chinese spider utensil, drain the pot, and then scoop the pasta back into the pot).

Start adding things to the pot of cooked pasta:
Add the ground beef.
Add garlic powder, basil, and oregano.
Add spaghetti sauce.
Add sour cream.
Add cheese.

On low heat, mix up all the items, until the cheese is melted.

DONE. This makes a healthy amount of pasta–so you’ll have enough for leftovers and meals the next day (always a good thing for new mothers).

Springtime’s bounty

baby potatoes from the garden!

Ohhhh! After a long winter (and this year, despite my love for this year’s prolonged cold weather, even I must confess it was a looong winter), Spring fruits and vegetables are a welcome sight! I can’t wait until tomatoes come into season–but for now, I’m very happy with what’s coming out of the ground these days.

My garden, much more sparse than last year (because of my hunt for the gopher), is still bringing me great culinary delights.

I mean, check out the potatoes in the garden–in my overzealous search for gopher tunnels, I decided to uproot a potato plant. Surprise, surprise! Baby potatoes! Of course I snatched all the baby potatoes right away.

potato plant with potatoes

I had no idea that the potatoes were anywhere near ready for harvesting. These potato plants are just the best find ever, first having sprouted from potatoes I’d thrown into the compost pile and now blessing me with unexpectedly early baby potatoes.

The potatoes, by the way, were so delicious. I’ve never had potatoes fresh out of the ground before and I am going to plant some more. If there was ever an excuse to gorge oneself on carbs, this is it–a fresh potato straight out of the soil is a piece of heaven, I think.

In the springtime, we eat a good number of baby veg, little miniature delights, straight from the soil. Not just potatoes. It’s our impatience, and my curiosity–what *is* lurking beneath the soil? I have to know. So I’ll pull out a baby carrot, or in this case, a baby cherry belle radish.

Cherry Belle radish

I paused to take a photo, but then hurried back into the house where I rinsed the red globe, and took it out to show my husband who was washing cars on a sunny Saturday afternoon. “Mrmmm! Bring it over!” He ate it right up. He loves radishes, and he’s the reason I planted a few this year.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Yummy!”

And what my garden does not produce, I seek out at the store. This morning, finding myself in a remarkably calm and optimistic mood (maybe it was finding the radish in the garden), I chanced the crowds at Berkeley Bowl, a market I normally avoid on weekends. It’s CRAZY on weekends there. If you can find a parking spot, you still brave the crowds inside. I mean, there’s a reason for those crowds (the diverse and high quality produce, nevermind the meat and seafood counter and wide variety of baked goods) but it’s still maddening to shop there.

fresh cherry belle radishes from the garden

Still, I decided to head on over. I had a hankering for some fresh produce. I hadn’t been to the Bowl in months, and I was getting sick of the apples and oranges and other usual suspects at Andronico’s and Whole Foods. The Bowl didn’t let me down.

It was there, while browsing the aisles, having parked my shopping cart at the end that I realized how happy and content I was feeling. (you’re crazy if you want to actually stick with your cart the entire shopping time there–you’re better off parking the cart occasionally and then roving the aisles, especially in the produce section). How long had it been since I’d gone grocery shopping by myself, as an act of luxury?

It had been MONTHS. I found myself beginning to imagine the foods and dishes I would make out of the ingredients before me, I found myself delighted at finding Haydn mangoes (not just Tommy Atkins), at the amazingly red and plump flats of strawberries!

And…I discovered ramps. Ramps! The Bowl had ramps! I’ve been reading a lot about ramps these days, and was dying to try them. But they’re not too easy to find in the Bay Area–they’re wild leeks local to the Appalachians.

ramps!

I quickly grabbed them. I found my hand sullied with dirt, they were so fresh. The Appalachia (or what other far away place these ramps came from) was on my hands, and though I would normally wipe the dirt quickly away, I let it linger as I shopped.

When I got home, I used the ingredients to make a spring pasta–not a primavera, but my own “hacked together” (as they say in high tech) version: ramps, morel mushrooms, peas, and asparagus.

ingredients for Spring pasta

Aren’t they beautiful? I also saw fiddlehead ferns at the Bowl–I regretted not grabbing some of those to make a perfect Spring vegetable bouquet.

Just chopping them up and sauteeing them together made me feel more alive, healthier. It has been a long winter, and I’ve missed my vegetables.

Spring pasta with ramps, asparagus. morels, and peas

The lune

Butternut squash lune pasta!

I purchased a pasta roller last week, an attachment to my kitchenaid mixer that I’ve been eyeing for quite some time. I’ve also been hesitating for quite some time, because it’s an expensive accessory for a food (pasta) that I don’t eat very often, and pasta is a food that I generally try to avoid (I’m watching my weight though admittedly, I generally watch my weight in a very passive manner–as I just recently watched myself gain two pounds…okay, enough of that weight digression).

Despite the odds, I purchased a pasta roller in a moment of self indulgence. And I used it.

Instead of tackling something entirely new for Muffin Top, I decided to use a recipe in our archives–that of Mario Batali’s Pumpkin Lune with Butter and Sage, using The French Laundry’s recipe for pasta dough (minus one egg, because I only had six eggs on hand). Given that this was my first time making pasta dough from scratch, I thought I would use Connie’s directions as a spiritual guide.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli) in process

As Connie suggested, I started making the pasta dough in a large mixing bowl (what a great suggestion) and aside from keeping my marble clear from broken yolk, it actually helped keep the flour well intact. I was surprised at how simple pasta is to make, and silently vowed to make pasta more often.

But it’s a bit of work–especially that kneading part! The French Laundry recipe says to knead the pasta dough for a minimum of 15 minutes (and then to knead it an additional 10 minutes). So I was kneading for nearly 30 minutes, in fear of “pasta collapse,” according to directions:

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Whatever pasta collapse is, it sounded terrifying. So I kneaded. Vigorously. For half an hour. By the end, I wasn’t exactly sweating, but I was definitely feeling warm. A good way to burn off calories for the imminent pasta fest. While the pasta dough rested, I focused on the filling. The pasta dough is supposed to rest for between 30 minutes to one hour, so you’ll want to work accordingly.

I’d roasted a small butternut squash the night before. Yes, I used butternut squash because that’s what I prefer…and you’ll definitely want to do the roasting beforehand if you want the timeline to work well. The squash took about an hour to roast–Mario Batali’s recipe states half that time, but my squash, like Connie’s, was not anywhere near soft at that point. Plus, you’ll need cooling time for the filling.

If you’ve roasted your squash/pumpkin the night before (or before making the pasta) the filling is a quick step: it’s simply combining ingredients and mixing/mashing them together.

Rolling out the pasta was a fun matter–kind of like craft class for me, really! Though I rolled the pasta out to the appropriate thinness for ravioli, according to my pasta roller’s directions (notch “5”), I think I will roll them out thinner in the future. It was still very satisfactory, and the thicker pasta gave the lune a rustic mien.

Filling and making the ravioli reminded me of my childhood. No, I’m not Italian, but I am Korean, and the round pasta, with filling, and the process of sealing the edges in reminded me of making mandu or mandoo with my mother. Though Batali’s recipe says to just seal the edges, I was a bit dubious…so I used little dabs of water on the edges before sealing and pinching the lune shut. (Be sure to not leave ANY air inside the pasta–otherwise they will pop open while being boiled!) The water seal was a great reassurance to me–and none of my lune popped–the result was good enough for me.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli)

In the end, I had a very good little stack of lune. I was disappointed by the fact that all of the pasta rolling work had resulted in only fourteen ravioli (though they were sizable). I had hoped to have enough to freeze for another meal, or enough to give to a friend. But nope. So you’ll want to double the French Laundry pasta dough recipe to match it to the Batali (or likewise, halve the Batali filling recipe).

The hardest part was done–I followed the recipe for the butter and sage–yes, the lune splatters as it enters the hot butter as Connie says (so watch out). And I did leave the amaretti cookie out because I didn’t have an amaretti cookie.

Oh, and like Connie, I didn’t throw away the pasta scraps–I saved them to eat a rustic pasta meal a couple nights later.

Enjoy–thank you Connie and Batali and Keller, for the inspiration, and for initiating me to pasta making!

Recipes follow after the jump…

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Perilla Pesto

Kkaennip Pesto (aka Korean Perilla pesto)

I have a ton of Korean perilla in my vegetable garden. A downright surplus.

Korean perilla is one of the plants that the gopher did not touch, and with each passing week, the patch of perilla plants has loomed taller, leafed green, and cast its peculiar minty scent. Delighted with their initial growth, I’d refused to thin them early in their germination…and then, when they grew taller, I found it wasteful (there’s even a particular Korean word for this–“ahk goh wah”) to thin them further. And so, in the last few months, they have grown, a clump of crowded forest in the gopher-ravaged garden.

And thus, the surplus of Korean perilla leaves (or “ggaenip or kkaenip”).

Perilla Leaves

What to do with all of the leaves? If you’re Korean or Korean American, you’ll recognize these leaves–they’re used to wrap rice, and pickled/marinated as a side dish (ban chan), a common ingredient in Korean cooking. But it’s not like I have a family of fifteen to feed–and I just could not keep up with the plants’ production.

No matter how much I picked more leaves would sprout from the dense Perilla Forest. I used them to wrap around rice and bulgogi in a “ssam,” and I investigated ways to marinate and pickle them. My favorite method of cooking perilla leaves was tempura frying, by far.

Tempura frying them is a delicious idea, one that results in crispy, almost translucent leaves that remind me of stained glass windows, the green between the veins of the leaves were so clear and beautiful. Oh, and the crunch! Oh, and the taste. They taste marvelous, just the right balance between the minty/licorice flavor of the leaves and the savory tempura coating.

tempura perilla leaves

But tempura frying then and marinating/pickling them can only get you so far. For one, frying is not something to do in volume.

So, what to do? What to do with these beautiful, heart shaped leaves? Their edges are serrated and look as if they were cut out of craft paper with one of those special craft scissors with the peculiar serration.

Korean perilla is similar to Japanese shiso, but from what I’ve read, are not the same thing, despite their similar appearance. My experience is that Korean perilla is much more pungent, while Japanese shiso is milder–enough so that I agree that they are not good substitutes for each other in cooking.

Observe. Aren’t they beautiful?

Korean perilla leaves

The other week, I gave a bunch of perilla leaves to a friend–and was again, at a lack for recipes. I wanted to at least provide her with suggestions on how to eat them!

But then I came across the idea of Korean Perilla pesto on Evil Jungle Prince’s flickr photostream while browsing Korean perilla pictures on flickr. Of COURSE. It made total sense–just the other day, I was explaining to a friend that they were a blend of mint and basil, and one could possibly do some fusion style cooking by substituting the perilla for basil in recipes. Duh. Pesto!

And so I forged on, using my basil pesto recipe…using olive oil, salt, roasted pine nuts, and garlic. To remarkable, tasty results. The garlic and pine nuts almost overpowered the flavor of the perilla so that it was very similar to basil pesto. But the undercurrent of perilla’s licorice/mint flavor was still there, enough to make it clear that this was something different, something new…something fusion.

I’m delighted by this fusion factor–and am now eyeing other traditional Korean ingredients to see what can be done with them. It’s a whole new world out there.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Quick meal for 1: Pasta with leeks, peas and chives

rotelle with leeks, peas and chives

Today I awakened to a garden void of pea plants–the gopher had struck again! Overnight, he had taken the last of my five pea plants underground, adding to his delicious gourmet assortment of garden “finds”: dill, carrots, french tarragon, and now English shelling pea plants (yes, when this sucker takes a plant he takes the WHOLE plant).

This has left me thinking what he might be creating with the above ingredients–he has quite a lovely Spring stash.

Still, I’m glad I had the foresight to pluck the 4 pea pods from my pea plants last week; at least, I got to taste them (unlike my tarragon which he pulled underground before I could even pluck a leaf from it). He is getting me to realize that I really should not wait to savor the fruits of my garden–I should savor them NOW.

And so–what did I do with the peas from those very four pea pods? I made a quick lunch for myself! The meal now has more weight in my mind, for those are the only 12 peas from my garden (literally) I’ll have tasted. But they were oh so sweet.

shelling peas and chives

In the vein of my previous lunch for one, pasta with tomatoes, pine nuts and basil, I thought I would create the same for myself last week. Again, I was alone in the house but wanting a little something special for myself–and boy those pea pods were tempting me (and I wanted to get to them before the gopher did).

Recipe follows after the jump…

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lunch for one: pasta with tomatoes, pine nuts and basil

angel hair pasta with tomatoes, pine nuts and basil

I made myself lunch today. I thought about making a sandwich or grabbing some leftovers out of the fridge or a hunk of cheese and bread (or ahem, just eating chips and sour cream or some other crap), as I often do when I am home by myself, during lunchtime.

But–I just didn’t feel like making myself another sandwich or eating tidbits. And so I found myself wanting, meandering around the kitchen, wanting something a little more special, but feeling way too lazy to venture out for a meal (even more intimidating is eating alone in a restaurant for lunch).

Instead, I made myself a hot meal from scratch. I don’t know what made me do that–maybe it was the beautiful blue sky that made me feel a bit limitless…or the pile of overripe tomatoes in the kitchen that made me feel a bit pragmatic and want to use them…or perhaps I was just sick of leftovers and tidbits for lunch.

In any case, I eyed the ingredients on hand and decided, “I have enough ingredients to pull this off.”

I had fresh basil in my garden, tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts (a bit of excess from my pesto ingredient list), olive oil, and a box of angel hair pasta.

That’s all I really needed. That’s all you really need to make this dish and sit yourself down to a highly civilized and delicious lunch. That’s all you really need to treat yourself.

Why don’t I make meals for one more often? It’s a hassle, I know–but totally worth it!

The dish was ready within 15 minutes (including chopping and prepping). And the result? Simple, delicious, and fully reminiscent of the summer season–and a great treat for yourself. (btw, you can make this dish for quite a few more people, if you so desire).

Recipe follows after the jump…

making lunch

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got basil? make pesto.

campanelle with basil pesto

I dislike pesto in general–too often, it drips with olive oil and tastes overwhelmingly like garlic. Now, I love garlic, but not when I’m supposed to be eating a pesto that should taste more like basil and pine nuts. These two sensations turn me off to pesto. Plus, storebought pesto often contains basil that is just…flavorless. Ick.

But homemade pesto? The kind that allows basil to take center stage, the kind that is edged with the savory undertone of roasted pine nuts? I LOVE it. The only caveat–this is such a simple food that you want to use high quality ingredients. That means, the freshest basil you can find, and the best olive oil you can find.

It’s not often that I indulge in making homemade pesto–delicate fresh basil is not a staple in my fridge…but this year, I’m lucky enough to have a good crop of basil in my vegetable garden! I’ve watched my basil plants grow, with homemade pesto securely in mind. And this week, they grew to a requisite height, with the requisite amount of bunches.

Now there is nothing that spells summer so much as fresh, homemade pesto tossed with pasta (preferably a very ridged or ruffled shape like campanelle that can hold the pesto in its nooks and crannies). To top it all off, there’s minimal cooking involved (you only boil the pasta), helping the cook to avoid slaving over a hot stove or oven for hours on a hot summer day.

So why not indulge?

basil, olive oil, garlic, and toasted pine nuts

Recipe follows after the jump…

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