Recipe and a Bonus: Double Duty Red Pasta

Have you ever wondered what pasta looks like if you cook it entirely in red wine?  I was curious and, since I worked at a winery, had access to some good red wine that was left over from a festival.  This was my opportunity to cook some corkscrew pasta in red wine, so I ran with it!

I decided to make a very basic recipe using chicken breasts and corkscrew pasta.  I diced the breasts into thick 1″ cubes and sauteed them in a small amount of butter and a touch of olive oil until they were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  This recipe was going to be my first go-round, so I wanted everything to be very simple and “clean”, so I wasn’t playing with lots of extra flavors… I really wanted the taste of the wine to shine.

In a stockpot, I poured a bottle of red wine and a box of corkscrew pasta together and let the pasta cook in the wine until it was done to al dente’.  Since the pasta had cooked in the wine, there was a nice amount of starch in the cooking liquid, so I ladled some in with the chicken to create a bit of a sauce and added a pat of butter to gloss the sauce.  The only addition to the sauce after this was some salt and pepper to taste… it was delicious!  I served it with some lightly steamed broccoli for color, but the dinner was grand. Deep purple in color from the wine, everything looked and tasted just as I’d hoped.  Score one for the cook!DoubleDutyRedPasta

The bonus came when I realized that cooking an entire box of pasta made too much for two people to eat in one sitting.  A day or two later, my cousins came by unexpectedly and I needed to throw a quick, late night dinner together for them.  Since they weren’t looking for a three course meal, I decided to make a quick pasta salad to tide them over for the night.  I had rolls that I could slice up and serve as garlic toasts on the side, so I set about creating a new Leftover Recipe from the red pasta.

Since I had saved the red pasta in a plastic bag, I just had to add a few ingredients that I had on hand: frozen fresh corn off the cob, frozen peas, finely diced onions, one can of Veg-all, and some italian salad dressing that I had in the fridge.  I ran the frozen veggies under hot water in a colander so they would thaw and then dried them off before adding them to the pasta.  The canned veggies included carrots and potatoes, so that added just enough extra colors to the salad to make it look great.  I also had one extra cooked chicken breast that I diced fairly fine and added it into the pasta salad as well.  It was a great leftover meal that would have been terrific for a picnic or as a complete meal with a burger or steak.

Never discount what you’ve got in your fridge… remember that the most expensive ingredient is one that you throw away, so try and find a use, no matter how obscure, for anything you bring home.  Food can be a challenge but it can also be a lot of fun!  Enjoy creating your own bonus meals…

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Recipe: Vegetarian Lasagna

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you into not trying it…. my older son just found out that his favorite lasagna recipe was actually good for him and he was not pleased.  He’s a true meat-and-potatoes kind of guy who only eats vegetables if they are expected of him… I don’t think he’s ever intentionally chosen to eat vegetables… but he loved this lasagna, which speaks volumes to it’s ability to turn heads and make believers out of meat-eaters.

Here’s how I made this delicious lasagna:VegetarianLasagna

“Meat” layer:

  • 1 package Boca crumbles
  • 1 cup Cabernet Franc
  • 2 ½ c marinara (plus ¼ cup + ½ cup marinara reserved – total needed 3 ¼ cups)

Cheese layer:

  • 1 package part-skim ricotta
  • 1 ½ c mozzarella
  • 1 egg, whipped slightly
  • Nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Lasagna noodles (not cooked)
  • Parmesan (to sprinkle on top)

I started by making the “meat layer”.  In a medium bowl, mix the Boca Crumbles (see photo for package), marinara (in this case I used much of a Meritage Marinara that I had made earlier in the week), and James River Cellars Cabernet Franc red wine.  You want to make this part of the recipe fairly “wet” since you’re not cooking the noodles.

In a separate bowl, mix your “cheese layer” ingredients together.   Fresh nutmeg is key in this and you don’t need much… just a few sprinkles will do the trick – it adds a back note that is really lovely.

Now you’re going to layer your lasagna in a 9×9 pan. Start with your ¼ c reserved marinara,then add noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, ½ cup reserved marinara, and finally top with Parmesan.  I find it extremely helpful to turn the direction of the noodles at each layer so the lasagna cuts nicely.  Lay the first layer vertically in the pan, the second layer would then be placed horizontally the third layer would again be vertical so the final layer lays horizontal in the pan. Note: Your noodles will be longer than your pan – just break the noodles and use any pieces that aren’t the same length in the center and keep the longer pieces along the edges.

The last step is to bake your lasagna for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees, until bubbly and cooked through.  Let set for 5 minutes before serving so the lasagna has time to let everything “pull back together” and cut beautifully.   I find that turning the noodles’ direction is key in being able to serve a nicely “square” piece of lasagna.

I hope you find this lasagna to be something that your entire family will enjoy… I also find that if I add a piece of garlic bread or Texas Toast, my guys are even happier.   

Buon Divertimento… Have Fun!

Recipe: Cabernet Franc Chili

Cab Franc ChiliThere’s something wonderful about having Chili on a cold winter’s day that just makes me feel warm inside.  The intoxicating smell of a simmering blend of onion, garlic, and green pepper gets me in the mood for a crackling fire, snow on the ground, and a big pot of chili.

Since I live in Virginia, “snow on the ground” typically isn’t going to happen very often, but once the temperature dips into the lower 40’s, I’m ready to start going through my winter repertoire and cooking up some wonderful hearty dinners.  This recipe is basic and allows for anyone to alter ingredients to suit their own particular tastes.  Here’s the general starting point:

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 2 small (or 1 large) onion, chopped
  • Crushed garlic, to taste
  • 1 cup Cabernet Franc
  • ½ small can tomato paste
  • 1 Large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (with or without spices)
  • 1 can light kidney beans
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can cannellini beans (white beans)
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Salt/pepper

Brown the ground turkey in olive oil, using a large stock pot.  Add green pepper, onions, and garlic, sauteeing until vegetables are softened.  Add wine and tomato paste and cook until liquid is absorbed.  Add canned tomatoes and beans (I don’t drain or rinse my beans).  If desired, mash one of the cans of beans prior to adding, to thicken the chili.  Cook to warm everything thoroughly.  Add spices to taste.  If chili is still too thin, add remaining half can of tomato paste.

This is my most basic recipe.  If you want to make it hot, feel free to add some cayenne pepper… if you want it to be sweeter, feel free to add some honey or sugar.  This is a flexible recipe, so feel free to make it your own by adding or subtracting items as you see fit.

That’s the beauty of cooking… enjoy the process and revel in your results.

Recipe: Red Macaroni and Cheese

I love a simple recipe.  I also love to take a simple recipe, like one for macaroni and cheese, and turn it on its ear by adding and altering ingredients to create something entirely different and entirely delicious.  This recipe started out as one of those creative journeys into my childhood favorites… but with an added spark of the here-and-now.

I’ve always loved macaroni and cheese.   It’s a secret indulgence, a hidden splurge, and a step beyond the “blue box” staple that most think of when “macaroni and cheese” is mentioned.  Lots of chefs do their own rendition of this meal and I, while not a chef, have a version that I have served to hungry throngs of volleyball players more times than I can count.  This recipe, howeRed Mac and Cheesever, is one that is heartier than most, with the addition of ground turkey.   While a variation of the original, it’s got the staying power of a great meal.  Feel free to play with the ingredients to suit your own family’s tastes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • ¼ cup Mesquite steak seasoning
  • 1 cup Red Wine (I like using Cabernet Franc or Rad Red)
  • Jumbo elbow pasta
  • 2T butter
  • 2T flour
  • Milk
  • Reserve Chardonnay
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Salt/pepper

Start by browning the ground turkey in a large sauce pan.  You won’t need to use a stock pot or anything very deep since you’ll be transferring the meat into a casserole dish to bake later.  Once browned, top liberally with mesquite steak seasoning and red wine, as you do in taco meat directions, and cook until the liquid is thoroughly absorbed.  I used the same amount of steak seasoning and wine as the taco seasoning packet directs (I always have to recheck that part) and the meat becomes something entirely new and really tasty.

While the meat is browning, cook your jumbo macaroni pasta to al dente and then drain.  Feel free to use another pasta shape if you prefer – I love the fat rounded shape of the jumbo elbow macaroni, so we keep that in the house for just such an occasion.

Once the meat and pasta are both cooked, blend them together in a large casserole dish.  You’ll want to make sure to mix them thoroughly so there aren’t big clumps of either meat or pasta.

Now make your cheese sauce.  Start by melting your butter and flour together and allow them time to bubble a bit to cook off the flour taste.  Alternately add both milk and white wine (equal amounts is fine) until the white sauce is smooth and thickened.  You’ll know you’re done adding liquid if the white sauce is just barely thick but has nice flavor.   I know that doesn’t sound like a very precise term, but I really do feel my way around this part of the cheese sauce.  The sauce needs time to cook and incorporate the milk and wine, so take your time at this point… it can take 7 minutes or more to add/cook the sauce until it “feels right”.  Once you’re happy with the white sauce, add liberal amount of cheese to morph this into your cheese sauce.  I sometimes add a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg before I season with salt and pepper… just a little will go a long way to make this dish your own.  Make sure to taste your cheese sauce… it’s the final touch of this casserole and needs to taste yummy before you add it to the dish.

Pour cheese sauce over meat/pasta, top with cheese, and bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until top is nicely browned and cheese is crunchy.  Serve hot.

This is a great dinner to make a day ahead and simply bake that evening.  Since everything has already been cooked, all you’re really doing is bringing all the ingredients together into a wonderful warm meal of comforting goodness… just the right touch after a long day and a chilly drive home.  Add some warm bread and I don’t know many people who could possibly resist…. I know my family wouldn’t!

Recipe: Italian Pot Roast

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for a chilly winter’s evening.  It’s great on a night where you don’t want to have to think about dinner and all you want to do is come home to dinner with the family.  This is a simple recipe to make for as many people you’ll be feeding… from two on up to as many as you can fit in your kitchen.  Feel free to play with the ingredients as well – it’s the idea of the recipe rather than the specifics.  Use The Force and create your own version of this delicious meal… then sit back and enjoy the compliments!Italian Pot Roast

Ingredients:

2 ½-pound London broil

1 t salt

½ t pepper

1 t extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, sliced or chopped

½ -pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1t dried basil

½ cup dry red wine (Suggested: James River Cellars’ Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or Meritage)

 

Directions:

  1. Cut beef into large chunks, then sprinkle with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper.  Heat oil in large stock pot over medium high heat and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Remove beef.  Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 6-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and wine along with remaining salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes.  Replace the beef in the stock pot and place in oven, at 250 degrees.  Cook for 4-5 hours.
  3. Remove beef once fork-tender and keep warm.  Cook all remaining ingredients on stove-top until thickened, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve beef and sauce with mashed potatoes and a crisp, green salad.

 

Note:  Can use Crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours OR on low for 6-8 hours