Friday, June 27, 2008

Not-Sagna Pasta Toss

I really like pasta. I mean REALLY. I could eat pasta every day. If I had to pick four foods that I could not live without, they would be cheese, pasta, bread and potatoes. Healthy huh? Ryan loves red meat sauce, and that pretty much only goes with pasta so it works well in this household.

Rachel Ray came through for me once again. Her Not-Sagna Pasta Toss from the Express Lane Meals book is fantastic. As with many of her recipes, there are lots of ingredients and doing the prep work first is the key to making it all work right and actually be a 30 minute meal. This is one thing I have learned about RR recipes. You must chop/prepare all the ingredients before you start to cook. It's also a really good idea to read through the whole recipe at least once. There are always a couple of twists and turns that you might miss if you aren't ready for them.

I like this one because it fixes up easy like spaghetti but it has a different flavor, a different twist, so I feel like I am cooking something different. Not that there is anything wrong with spaghetti, its still the household favorite. And it has all the ingredients of Lasagna but its not, so I can say that I cook Spaghetti, Lasagna (by Stouffer's of course) and Not-Sagna Pasta Toss!

I am just copying the recipe from the Food Network as I don't really change anything on this recipe. It's "yumm-o" (in the words of RR herself) just like it is.

Not-sagna Pasta Toss
Easier than lasagna, because it's not, this pasta, meat sauce and ricotta toss-up is just as hearty and comforting as the layered Italian fave, but it's ready in a fraction of the time and with much less effort.

1 pound curly short cut pasta (recommended: campanelle by Barilla, fusilli or cavatappi Coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 pound ground sirloin (I use Ground Turkey)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, eyeball it in your palm

Black pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice, eyeball it in your palm

1 teaspoon, several drops, Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine, a couple of glugs

1/2 cup beef stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese

1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves
(i use a couple of shakes of dried basil)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls, plus some to pass at table

Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente. Heads up: you will need a ladle of the starchy cooking water to help form sauce before draining.

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add the meat and break it up into small bits as it caramelizes. Once meat has good color to it, 4 to 5 minutes, add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and season with salt, pepper, allspice and Worcestershire sauce. Cook another 5 minutes, deglaze the meat and onions with red wine, cook off a minute, then combine about 1/2 cup of stock into the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes.

Place ricotta cheese in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add a ladleful of boiling, starchy pasta water to the ricotta and stir to combine. Add a couple of handfuls of grated Parmesan to the ricotta and mix it in.

Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with cheeses. Add half the thick meat sauce to the pasta bowl and combine. Tear or shred the basil and add to the meat and pasta, toss again. Taste to adjust salt and pepper.

Serve bowlfuls of Not-sagna with extra sauce on top and more grated Parmesan to pass at the table.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Life and Times of Admiral - June 08

Admiral is no longer a "growing boy". Quite the opposite... he is a shrinking boy. As he approaches his second birthday, he is on the road to a slimmer self. In March, he was not doing so well with his weight loss routine. He was still weighing 115lbs. I am happy to report that at the last weigh in, he landed a slim, trim 95lbs! Yay for Admiral. He is on a combination of his regular, large breed food and weight management food, with treats replaced by green beans and carrots. Luckily he will eat anything. I'm so proud of him.

Of course, last Monday he was not on my good side. Car still smells funny. :(

Here are some recent pictures of the stinker-butt.

Admiral has taken a new liking to his tennis ball. And I was playing with the new camera!

With our friend's dog, Lucy. She stayed with us for a week.

After a long round of fetch in the Houston heat. That tongue gets longer and longer.


Monday, June 9, 2008

A terrible case of the "Monday's".

It's official. I never want to have kids. Okay, thats a lie. I have been around a ton of really cute, sweet, fun kids over the past few weeks. My niece Helmi, my cousins' kids (Anne, Katie, Rowan and Niall), a friend's little boy. They all really had me thinking maybe I was ready to make the dive to mommy-hood.

Then, Monday morning hit. I went to pick Admiral up from the kennel. Ryan and I were at a friends wedding all weekend so Admiral went on vacation too. No more than 2 miles from the house, Admiral has a major major major accident in the back seat of my car (the very worst kind you can imagine). I won't go into details, but it was bad and it took all I had not to throw up those last 2 miles. I tried cleaning it as best I could (gross) and ultimately took it to a professional detail place to hope they could work some magic. I am afraid it will always smell.

As you read this, I am sure you are all making a mental note to never ever ever ride in the backseat of my car, ever again. I will probably never volunteer to drive anywhere with more than one passenger ever again. And Admiral might be banished from my car forever.

That's my Monday. Really, it can't get worse can it???

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