Saturday, April 14, 2007

Quick pasta sauce

Making a good pasta sauce can be an all-day affair, with many steps and incredibly drawn out rituals. I have to say that kind of process doesn't really appeal to me that much. I want to get something on the table pretty quick, something that's also tasty and reasonably healthy. The trick is to get that all-day flavour in a short period of time. This recipe was inspired by some quite extensive poking around in various books and websites, to the point where I'm no longer certain what the main source is. Anyways, try this one out. I can usually get it on the table in about 60-75 minutes from start to finish.

The secret to getting the all-day flavour is using sausage meat instead of ground beef. The spices already in the meat will really give the sauce a great flavour. By the same token, it's best to use an italian sausage that you really like, as it's going to have a disproportionate effect on the final outcome. Get the best you can lay your hands on, preferably from a good butcher.

Pasta wise, anything works well: spagetti, penne, rigatoni, whatever. However, I really prefer using fresh pasta as it can really add something to the flavour.
Quick pasta sauce.

Makes 8 main course servings, with leftovers.

1 lb of italian sausage (usually 4 sausages), removed from the casings
2 onions, chopped
4-6 cloves minced garlic
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 zucchinis, chopped
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes (1 whole, 1 crushed)
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp italian spice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, brown the sausages on both sides in some olive oil, about 3 minutes per side until just cooked all the way through. Don't break them up, brown them whole. Reserve. If there's any excess fat or oil in the pot, you can pour it off. Leave enough to saute the veggies.

2. Start sauteing the onions in the pot, add the garlic after a minute or two. After another minute or two, add the rest of the veggies to the pot and sauted the whole bunch for another 5 or 8 minutes until the carrots start to soften a bit. During the process, add about 1/2 the italian spice and red pepper flakes.

3. While the veggies are cooking, chop up the browned sausages into small pieces.

4. Add the meat and tomatoes into the pot as well as the rest of the spices. Let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Serve on some nice pasta with salad or chopped veggies and crusty bread.

This recipe is always well received, and it makes enough for at least two meals. As with most pasta sauces, it freezes very well. There are also lots of opportunities for customization and improvization. For example, I often make it with red or green pepper instead of zucchini.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pasta with fresh lemon

I tried this one a few days ago and it was pretty well received. It's based on a reciped from On Top of Spagetti by Johanne Killeen and George German, Morrow 2006. I kicked up the lemon flavour quite a bit from what the recipe said, maybe about 50% more juice and lemon. I find the use of butter a bit excessive in the recipes in this book and while I used only a bit less than recommended in this case, I can easily see myself going with 50/50 butter/olive oil next time.

Pasta wise, this recipe really needs the best fresh pasta you can lay your hands on -- the sauce is delicate & flavourful but really needs the best pasta to show it off. I would recommend fusili or penne as the best shapes for the sauce to cling to.
Pasta with Fresh Lemon
8 side dishes or 4 main course.

1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp of lemon rind
juice of 1 1/2 to 2 lemons
1 lb fresh pasta
1 - 1 1/2 grated parmigiano-reggiano
pinch of salt

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Drain & reserve 1 cup of the pasta water

2. Melt the butter, salt & lemon zest in a saute pan over low heat

3. Add the lemon juice to the butter & zest combination & combine well.

4. Add the pasta to the saute pan and toss to coat the pasta. Add the cheese at this point. If it seems a bit dry, add a bit of the pasta water.

We had it as a main course, served with a nice salad which really complimented the lemoniness. Bread would be good too, a baguette or maybe an Italian bread.