Falafel with Skillet Flatbreads

Falafel nestled in warm flatbreads, fresh from the pan, then smothered with tzatziki sauce. Simply put, the best meal on Earth. I do not lie.

Falafel are deep fried delights made of chickpeas. With a crunchy crust and soft insides, there are no words to quite describe the flavor. They have a uniqueness all their own. And are easily the best way I know to prepare chickpeas…. 

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Ravioli Gnudi with Walnut Sauce

Ravioli Gnudi with Sage Walnut Sauce

Ravioli Gnudi are ravioli without the wrapper. Just the filling is used. Gnudi is Italian for nude. These are also called malfatti which is Italian for ‘badly made’ and may be a reference to filling that falls out of the ravioli wrapper when cooked.

The Gnudi are made by combining spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg and a little bit of flour to hold them together. The mixture is refrigerated and them formed into ‘dumplings’ and refrigerated again for a short time. They are a breeze to cook, as easy as cooking fresh pasta. But they are fragile and need to be handled carefully. I was pretty certain they would fall apart when I cooked them. Or disintegrate. The secret is to cook them at a very slow simmer, not a hard boil, and drain them as soon as they rise to the top.

The hardest part of making them is forming them. Their very soft and fussy. And refuse to keep their shape. Don’t even bother trying to make them all uniform. It’s a nearly impossible task. And a messy one. Noone will notice once you douse them with sauce. Just call them rustic.

Being the curious creature I am I also pan fried some in a mix of olive oil and butter. I made this batch a little bigger in size. They browned up nicely and were denser in texture. But I prefer the boiling method for taste and ease. All this did was make an even bigger mess in my kitchen.

Ravioli Gnudi with Sage Walnut Sauce

I’ve seen these compared to gnochhi but if anything their the complete opposite. Gnocchi are dense and heavy. At least the ones I’ve had. These are light and fluffy like clouds. Little pillows that melt in your mouth. And with the flavors of the creamy sage and walnut sauce completely delicious.

The sauce can be made three different ways: with sage and without walnuts, with walnuts and without sage or with both walnuts and sage. A brown butter and sage sauce would be equally good. Or even a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan. Or butter and Parmesan. And of course with a traditional tomato sauce if that’s what you prefer.

Ravioli Gnudi with Sage Walnut Sauce

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Gnudi (Serves 6)
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiss)
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup Parmesan, grated
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus 1 cup for coating
Sage Walnut sauce or Tomato sauce,  for serving
1. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and yolks. Stir in nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour. Refrigerate for a 1/2 to 1 hour.
2. Form mixture into small, flattened balls using a heaping teaspoon of mixture. If mixture is too loose mix in additional flour a tablespoon at a time until it is easier to work with. Mixture should still be pretty soft. Dredge the formed gnudi in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Refrigerate for a 1/2 hour.
3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a slow simmer. Slide formed gnudi into the boiling water.
Be careful not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they float to the top and have cooked for about 4 minutes.
4. Arrange gnudi on a platter and lightly drizzle with sage walnut sauce or tomato sauce.
Sage Walnut Sauce
(adapted from 365 Easy Italian Recipes)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 heaping tablespoons Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 fresh Sage leaves, chopped, optional
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional
fresh Black Pepper
1. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat and saute onion until tender. Add garlic and sage, if using. When garlic is fragrant add milk and cream. Bring to a simmer and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add Parmesan and season with Black Pepper. Turn off heat. Mix in walnuts if desired.

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Ravioli Gnudi with Sage Walnut Sauce

Don’t forget to enter my Second Anniversary Cupcake Lover’s Giveaway!

I’m sending this to the lovely Pam of Sidewalk Shoes the host of Presto Pasta Nights this week, an event founded by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.

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Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp and Peas

Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp and Peas

This is a lightened up recipe for Alfredo sauce tossed with Spaghetti, shrimp and Peas. Most alfredo sauces call for using all cream; here I’ve swapped out some of the cream for whole milk. A little bit of cream goes a long way. This still retains that rich and creamy texture and flavor that I love alfredo for but without the heaviness.

Traditional Alfredo sauces don’t use cream or milk; they are made of butter and Parmesan. Outrageous amounts. Two sticks per pound of pasta and 2 or 3 cups of Parmesan! This makes even the full cream recipe appear tame in calories!

This comes together quickly and is perfect when your short on time but want a hot, delicious home cooked meal. You can even replace the shrimp with leftover cooked chicken or steak and the peas for broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or whatever vegetable you have on hand. Cooking the vegetables right in the water with the pasta saves time and spares a pot from being dirtied. You can also use cooked frozen shrimp: just be extra careful not to over cook them.

Nothing says comfort more than a plate full of pasta tossed in a creamy sauce! Throw some succulent shrimp and sweet peas into the mix and you have a satisfying and complete one-dish meal.

Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp & Peas
(by Reeni)

12 ounces Fettuccine or Spaghetti
1 cup frozen Peas
1 and ½ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for serving
1 pound medium-sized Shrimp, deveined with tails off
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
lemon wedges for serving, optional

1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta and peas in plenty of boiling salted water according to package directions to al dente.

2. Meanwhile make the sauce. Heat milk and heavy cream over low-medium heat in a deep saute pan. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Slowly simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Sprinkle in cheese and whisk to incorporate. Add shrimp and simmer until shrimp curl up, stirring often. Remove from heat.

3. Add the drained pasta and peas to the shrimp sauce and toss. Season with black pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese and lemon wedges.

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Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp and Peas

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Baked Ravioli and Meat Sauce

Baked Ravioli w/ Meat Sauce

This is a comforting recipe for Baked Ravioli and Meat sauce with all the beloved flavors of lasagna but but being a lot quicker and easier to make. Using frozen or fresh cheese ravioli is the time saver.

Even though the meat sauce needs a bit of time to prepare it’s necessary for making this potentially dull dish delectable. And for giving it a home-made touch.

The first time I ate this was at my Grandma’s and I think it came about quite by mistake. We were waiting for my Grandpa to get home so we could eat together. To keep the ravioli warm she put them in a casserole dish in the oven. But not before sprinkling cheese over top, bless her heart.

I thought it was totally weird at the time because I never saw anyone bake their ravioli before. But it was a delicious discovery.

And a precious memory I shall never forget.

Baked Ravioli w/ Meat Sauce
Baked Ravioli w/Meat Sauce
(by Reeni)
1 pound of Ground Beef (80-85% lean)
1 Green Pepper, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch long strips
1 large Yellow Onion, diced
4-5 large cloves Garlic, minced
2 -3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 can tomato paste, 6 oz.
2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning (If you don’t have the mix use 1/2 teaspoon each of Basil, Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Sea or Kosher salt
Fresh cracked Pepper
2 bay leaves
1 – 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
26 ounces Cheese Ravioli, frozen, or fresh, use a good brand
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1. Brown the beef and the pepper, onion and garlic in olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan.
2. When browned add the tomato paste, Italian seasonings, sugar, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Let cook for a few minutes until the tomato paste is heated through.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes and a half of the tomato paste can full of water. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Taste and re-season halfway through with salt, pepper and herbs if needed and again before serving.

4.While the sauce is simmering cook the ravioli just until they begin to rise to the top and float. You do not need to cook them all the way through. Drain and toss with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove bay leaves from sauce. Toss a liberal amount of sauce with ravioli. Reserve any excess sauce for serving.
6. Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole pan. Sprinkle top with mozzarella. Bake about 25 minutes or until bubbly.
7. Best served with fresh shredded Parmesan, garlic bread, extra sauce and a green salad.
Baked Ravioli w/ Meat Sauce

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Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Garlic Sauce and Ricotta

Spaghetti Squash

Last winter was the first time I can remember ever eating Spaghetti squash. Mom and Dad both said they didn’t like it which is probably why I don’t have any memories of eating it. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that it tastes just like spaghetti. But I disagree. It’s a healthy and delicious alternative and it mimics spaghetti strands. But that’s as far as the similarities go. What it lacks is taste. What it has is texture. When cooked to ‘al dente’ it is firmer than spaghetti and kind of ‘pops’ between your teeth. What this also means is if you want your family to eat it you have to really jazz it up with flavors they like in order to give it universal appeal.

This is a really simple and quick sauce that is just bursting with the flavors of sunshine. Sauteed garlic and lemon peel are combined with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, a bit of butter, and fresh, peppery basil to make a bright and zesty sauce. A generous amount of Ricotta is spooned over the top – the icing on the cake and the key to really putting this over the top. I promise your family will eat their veggies and love them! Now that I’ve discovered spaghetti squash I can’t imagine not eating it on a steady basis when it’s in season. It makes the perfect side dish for just about any kind of meat, although I could eat it all on its own and be satisfied. As for Mom and Dad? They like it now!

Spaghetti Squash

This is truly one of nature’s wonders. A squash that starts it’s life looking like any other squash on the block but with a secret. I wonder which came first? Spaghetti squash, the vegetable, or spaghetti noodles, the grain?

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash w/ Lemon Garlic Sauce & Ricotta
(by Reeni)

1 Spaghetti Squash, about 4 pounds
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Lemon Peel
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Fresh Basil, chopped
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
Parmesan, fresh grated for serving

Preheat oven to 375.

Slice the squash in half lengthwise. Place cut side down in a baking dish. Fill with water about 1/2 way up the side of the squash. Roast for about 45 minutes to an hour or until squash is tender. Check by poking it with a fork. Set aside and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

While the squash is cooling make the sauce. Saute the garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat until tender and fragrant. Add the lemon peel and saute for a minute or two. Add olive oil, lemon juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Whisk and bring to a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add butter and bring back up to a simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk in basil. Taste and re-season if needed.

Use a spoon to scrape the seeds from the squash. Pull a fork through the squash lengthwise to shred the squash into strands. Leave the strands right in the squash as a serving vessel or remove to a large serving bowl.

Pour the lemon sauce evenly over the squash. Dollop the top with Ricotta. Serve with fresh Parmesan.

Printable Recipe

Spaghetti Squash

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Purple Potatoes and Noodles in Parmesan Garlic Sauce

Purple Potatoes & Noodles with a Parmesan Garlic Sauce

I saw these rich, vibrant potatoes on Girlichef’s blog a few weeks ago. When I spotted them in my own market I was elated. Seeing that the bin was almost empty I quickly snatched them up. I had never eaten or even seen such beauties before! Or maybe it was that I never noticed them before. Food blogging makes me sit up and take notice of unusual food.

I had a plan for them, a plan that didn’t pan out because as I was browsing through one of my Italian cookbooks I turned to a recipe involving potatoes and noodles. My first thought wasn’t about taste but on how dramatic the dish would look with the purple potato against the creamy whiteness of the pasta and sauce. Pleasing to the eye and a showcase for the pretty potato which deserved to be the star of the show.

Purple Potatoes & Noodles with a Parmesan Garlic Sauce

This was just as impressive tasting as it is pretty. My Dad asked me “Why does this make me want to keep eating?” Which meant that he had more than enough but was having trouble putting the fork down. It’s that kind of dish. The potato gems nestle snugly in between the wide strands of fettuccine covered in generous amounts of cheesy garlic sauce infused with fresh basil. Another reason why I love this is the ingredients are basic pantry items that come together to make an extremely satisfying, yet very simple dish.

Purple Potatoes & Noodles with a Parmesan Garlic Sauce

Potatoes and Noodles with Parmesan Garlic Sauce
(semi-adapted from 1001 Classic Italian Recipes by Christina Gabrielli)

1 pound small New Potatoes or small Purple Potatoes
Salt and fresh ground Pepper
12 ounces Tagliatelle, Fettucine or Linquini
Fresh Romano or Parmesan for grating over top

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup all-purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Parmesan, fresh grated
6 or 7 Basil leaves, fresh, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

Boil the potatoes in their skins 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain, cool, and slice into 1 /4 inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. In the mean time make the sauce.

In a tablespoon of Olive oil saute the garlic in a medium saute pan about 3 minutes on low heat. Add the butter, melt and add the flour. Whisk and cook the flour mixture about three minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer while whisking, when thickened add Parmesan and basil. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If sauce becomes too thick whisk in a bit of the pasta water.

Mix the pasta and sliced potatoes together. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately.

Printable Recipe

Purple Potatoes & Noodles with a Parmesan Garlic Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs

On Top of Spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!


I always use a lot of Parmesan cheese on my spaghetti and meatballs, a habit I picked up when I was just a little girl. When I ate at my Grandparents I would use up all the Parmesan in their tiny glass shaker. Grandpa didn’t mind. He would always get me more. Sometimes it would take a long time. I used to wonder if he went all the way to Italy to get it for me. But what I didn’t know then I know now. He was freshly grating it and that takes time. Even if we were in the middle of eating he would get up and take the time and the trouble to get it for me. Grandpa serenaded me with the “On top of spaghetti song” all the time. It still plays in my head occasionally and as corny as it is I don’t mind, cause my Grandpa was the best.

Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is another one of those all-time favorite classics. I can’t think of anything more joyful then sitting down to a plate piled high with twirly spaghetti and tender meatballs! When your in the moment nothing else matters but getting those elusive spaghetti strings to stay wrapped around your fork with just the perfect size bite of herb and garlic infused meatball. Only to pop said forkful into your mouth and forget about everything else while you savor the pure bliss that has found its way to your tongue. Pure and delicious comfort food.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs
(by Reeni)

Meatballs:
1 cup crustless white bread/Italian bread, preferably stale, diced
Whole Milk
1 and 1/2 pounds beef/pork/veal mixture or an 80-85% Ground Beef
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Vegetable or Canola Oil, if frying

Place the diced bread crumbs in a small bowl and add enough milk to soak them thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl add all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil including the bread crumbs and milk. Use a fork or your hands to combine thoroughly without over mixing.

Use your hands to form 2-inch (golfball) sized meatballs. Place on a baking sheet or large baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. If you prefer to fry them heat about 1/4 inch Canola oil in a large, deep, skillet over medium heat. Brown them on all sides in two or three batches being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels.

While the meatballs are baking/frying get your sauce started.

Sauce:
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
2 28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes (like Tuttarosa)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dried Italian Seasonings (We use a mix that has basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram and rosemary in it)
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt (to start and more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (to start and more to taste)
1 teaspoon Sugar

In an extra-large stock pot sauté the onion and green pepper in Olive Oil until soft;
add garlic and sauté for two or three more minutes.

Add tomato paste. Stir it into the onion mixture and let it heat through. Add tomatoes, water, seasonings including bay leaves, salt, pepper and sugar.

Add the meatballs and simmer for at least 35-40 minutes(the longer, the better),
stirring occasionally and tasting to check the seasoning. Add salt/pepper and more
dried herbs if needed. You can also add a little more water if sauce seems too thick.
Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve over spaghetti cooked to al dente sprinkled with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Printable Recipe

Spaghetti & Meatballs

So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs
And DON’T EVER SNEEZE!
A-A-A-CHOO !!

Ravioli Stuffed Acorn Hearts with Mozzarella Sauce

Ravioli Stuffed Squash Hearts & Mozzarella Cream Sauce

The moment I laid eyes on this recipe from Tyler Florence I knew I would be making it in one form or another. Bite-sized cheese ravioli are stuffed into the middle of acorn squash and covered in a creamy, herby mozzarella sauce flavored with garlic, thyme and sage. Parmesan and mozzarella are melted in at the end. Tyler’s recipe uses cream, but I cut way back on calories and replaced it with whole milk instead. It’s rich enough without. Tyler uses tortellini, I use ravioli.

Ravioli Stuffed Squash Hearts & Mozzarella Cream Sauce

The acorn hearts are cooked first, filled, and then baked again.

Ravioli Stuffed Squash Hearts & Mozzarella Cream Sauce

Ravioli Stuffed Acorn Hearts with Mozzarella Cream Sauce
(adapted from Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot, page 78)

2 medium acorn squash (about 1 pound each)
extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
13 oz. bite-size cheese Ravioli
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan
1 and 1/3 cup Mozzarella, shredded, 1/3 cup set aside for topping

Preheat oven to 370 F.

Split the squash in half (cut lengthwise from top end to bottom end) cutting right through the stem so each half has a piece of stem attached. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Cut a small piece off the rounded bottom to give it a base to sit on. Place the squash halves cut sides up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile prepare the Ravioli mix. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook Ravioli in. In a separate saucepan heat the heavy cream and milk over medium heat with garlic, thyme, and sage. Reduce until thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Add the nutmeg, Parmesan, and Mozzarella, melt over low heat. Cook the Ravioli according to package directions. Drain and toss into cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper and then fill cooked squash hearts. There may be a few Ravioli left over. A snack while your waiting!

Turn the oven up to 400 F.Sprinkle the tops with the 1/3 cup Mozzarella set aside. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Printable Recipe

Ravioli Stuffed Squash Hearts & Mozzarella Cream Sauce
This is my entry for Tyler Florence Fridays.