Basil & Walnut Pesto

6 10 2010

pestoAfter a longgg summer of waiting, I finally grew enough basil (from seed – [cheer!]) to make a batch of homemade pesto. So, of course, I did! I used walnuts not just for their flavor (I do really like the flavor), but also because I always seem to have tons of walnuts on hand and pine nuts can be so darn expensive!


Ingredients:

pesto 1•4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
•1 cup compacted fresh basil
•6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
•3 Tbs shredded romano cheese
•3 Tbs raw walnuts
•pinch of kosher salt
•1 tsp fresh ground pepper


Directions:
pesto 2
1. Place all ingredients in food processor.
2. Pulse to start chopping and incorporating the ingredients.
3. Blend until you have a fine, pesto consistency. May take a minute or two once it gets going.
4. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

Use this however you want! Great as a spread, on pizza, with pasta, mix with mayo for sandwiches or cream cheese for bagels, mix into your eggs… the options are literally endless!


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Easy, Cheesy, Cream Sauce

27 07 2010

gnocchi and cheeseThis recipe is my standard go-to for when I crave something creamy and rich. I just whip up this sauce and add it to pasta with some fresh veggies, or make a quick and easy mac n’ cheese. The great thing about this sauce is that (in terms of cream sauce), it’s relatively not bad for you. It is thick and rich and tasty, but predominantly low-fat milk with a little butter, oil and cheese.

Sundried tomato gnocchi in cream sauce pictured above.


Ingredients:

•2 Tbs butter
•1 Tbs olive oil
•3 cloves of garlic, minced
•2 Tbs flour
•1/2 cup parmesan cheese
•2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
•4 large leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
•salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

cheese sauce1. In a large saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Combine flour and heat for 3 minutes (stirring constantly), until it forms a golden brown paste.
4. Stir in parmesan until it begins to melt.
5. Begin slowly adding milk, whisking constantly from now on. Begin with just a splash, then up to 1/2 a cup at a time. After each addition, keep whisking and wait to add more until sauce is heated again and slightly thickened.
6. After all milk is added, reduce heat to medium-low and add basil and salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need much salt at all).


Recommended Serving Instructions:

While the sauce is still warm and over the burner, add your favorite cooked pasta (or sundried tomato gnocchi – pictured above). Mix until evenly coated and heated. Immediately serve and sprinkle with some fresh basil and/or cracked black pepper. If you add macaroni, ziti, penne (or any other similar tube pasta) you can then place in a baking dish and make a delicious, white, baked mac n’ cheese. Sprinkle the top with more parmesan and/or bread crumbs, cover with foil, and bake at 400º F for about 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake until the top is browned to your liking.


Tips:

•Try mixing this up by replacing the parmesan cheese with some other kind of cheese (chevre, brie, gorgonzola, etc.). Just be conscious of the fact that you may need to alter the amount of cheese you add depending on the kind. If you add a stronger cheese (gorgonzola), you may need less, or if you use a more mild cheese (chevre), you may need more.
•A little goes a long way! You’ll find you just need to lightly coat your pasta with this sauce, so you’ll likely have leftovers. That’s fine – it keeps relatively well. Just refrigerate or freeze in plastic containers, or even jar it.






Tomato Sauce

24 07 2010

tomato sauceHere is an old family recipe for tomato sauce. I sure hope my family doesn’t mind me posting this, but it’s so delicious and straight-forward, I just want to share it with everyone! The key here is to use the best ingredients you can find, and to cook it slowly. It will pay off with large amounts of tasty sauce that you can use for all sorts of dishes!


Ingredients:

•2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes
•2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
•1 small can tomato paste
•2 Tbs parsley
•1 Tbs oregano
•1/2 tsp anise
•salt and pepper to taste
•2 Tbs olive oil
•4 garlic cloves, minced


Directions:

tomato sauce 11. In a large blender or food processor, blend all canned tomato products, parsley, oregano and anise. Don’t over-blend, you will want to keep some body (this shouldn’t be super chunky, but you don’t want a runny, thin sauce either).
2. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add and sauté the garlic until it starts to brown.
3. Add the blended sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring often. Be sure not to let the sauce boil.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

This sauce is great by itself on any pasta dish. I also particularly like making this sauce for delicious, real homemade lasagna or baked ziti. It brings a nice, fresh, bold flavor to these dishes that you just can’t get with jarred sauces.


Tips:

•The sauce gets better the longer you let it simmer and the longer it sits. If you aren’t sure you can get a good hour of simmer time (or more), you will likely want to make the sauce ahead of time.
•This sauce freezes really well. Whenever I make it, I often double the recipe (note – this already makes a hefty portion!) and freeze several large containers worth.
•This was originally meant to be a meat sauce (used to simmer meatballs, bracciole, sausage, pork ribs, etc.). As a vegetarian, I have found that the sauce really does work on its own. However, particularly because of the anise, it lends itself nicely to masking (or complementing) fake meats. I once made a great lasagna with fake meatballs and Italian sausage that was quite “meaty.”
•If at all possible, use jarred tomatoes instead of canned. The combination of the acidity in the tomatoes and the chemicals in the can is apparently a very bad one. I have a hard time finding it, so still use canned most of the time, but try to find jarred, jar some yourself, or try to find organic canned tomatoes that were just recently canned.