Chicken Cacciatore

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 15 MINS

COOK TIME | 60-90 simmer time

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Cacciatore means “hunter style” in Italian, and this savory, slow cooked dish features chicken with loads of peppers, tomatoes, wine, garlic and fresh herbs. The bacon adds a smoky flavor and mixes beautifully with the vegetables to create this simply delicious simmered stew. I serve this over thick spaghetti but any pasta will do.
Double Duty Recipe: make a double batch of the cacciatore and spread on top of toasted Italian bread topped with mozzarella, broil for one minute and cut into bite-size pieces and serve warm as an appetizer with your weekend cocktails.

INGREDIENTS

* ½ pound bacon, chopped
* 1 lb button or cremini mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed and sliced
* 6 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
* 1 4 ounce can tomato paste
* ½ cup dry red wine or chicken broth
* ½ large red onion, cut length wise and then thinly sliced
* 1 each small red, yellow and orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
* 1-14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
* 3 tablespoons capers, drained
* 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
* 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
* 2 to 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* ⅓ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* A few sprigs fresh basil, chiffonnade for garnish
* 1 lb thick spaghetti, cooked for serving
* 1/2-3/4 cups Parmesan, grated, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400.

1. Fry the bacon in a large oven-proof pot with lid or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, about 8-10 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate and set aside, leaving the fat. Add the onions and stir until slightly browned.
4. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate.
5. Add the mushrooms to the fat in the Dutch oven and cook over medium-high, stirring a few times, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and lightly brown, about 10-12 minutes.
6. Add the chopped garlic and stir until fragrant.
7. Pour in the wine or broth into the mushroom mixture and let it come to a simmer. Scrape the browned bits up from the bottom of the pot.
9. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, capers, oregano, red-pepper flakes and stir to combine.
11. Add the chicken, season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few good cranks of fresh pepper and stir.
12. Put the pot in the oven on the middle rack. Cook on low until the chicken is very tender and the flavors are blended, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
13. Remove the chicken from the pot and on a large cutting board, using two forks, break the chicken up into large chunks. Add the chicken back into the pot and stir in the parsley, add more salt and pepper if necessary.
14. Serve over spaghetti and garnish with basil and Parmesan.

NOTES

Creamy Feta and Spinach Orzo

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 30 MINS

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Creamy feta cheese and spinach melt into the orzo to create a warm and light meal. The lemon zest gives the recipe just enough zing and compliments the feta beautifully.
This dish makes a perfectly balanced meal all on its own or serve along side with roast chicken or fish for a heartier meal.

INGREDIENTS

* 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil or half of each
* 3 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced set aside some of the green parts for garnish
* 2 large garlic cloves, minced
* 8 ounces baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable stock plus more if needed
* 1 cup orzo
* 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
* ¾-1 cup cup feta. Not crumbles. Plus more for serving
* 1 cup fresh dill, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter or heat the oil for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. Stir in half the scallions and garlic, and cook until wilted about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the spinach in a few batches and sprinkle with the salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir a couple times until the spinach is wilted but not mushy, about 4-5 minutes.
5. Add stock and bring to a simmer.
6. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and cover. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 12-15 minutes and until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir a few times to be sure the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan.
7. Stir in the feta cheese and dill. Cover and cook for another minute to let the flavors develop.
8. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and garnish with a handful of crumbled feta and scallions.

NOTES

I adapted this recipe from a New York Times recipe. I removed a couple of steps and unnecessary ingredients.

Spaghetti with Creamy Pecorino Cheese and Black Pepper Sauce

YIELDS | 4 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15 MINS

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This is a take on a popular Italian recipe called Cacio e Pepe, aka, cheese and black pepper. It is made with pasta, its cooking water; Pecorino Romano and loads of freshly ground black pepper. The pleasing piquant flavor from the pepper pairs perfectly with the savory cheese and wraps around each noodle like a warm and cozy blanket. I combined a few recipes to come up with this easier version.
Serve with a simple green salad and good white wine.

Duty Recipe Recipe: consider making a double batch of this creamy pepper sauce to stir into mashed potatoes or add a couple of dollops to warm rice for an easy side dish during the week.

INGREDIENTS

* 1 lb spaghetti or other long pasta
* 8 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated and about 2 cups, plus more for serving
* 1 ¼ teaspoons coarsely grated black pepper, plus more for serving
* 1/2 cup filtered water or more as needed
* 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, optional
* Kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a generous amount kosher salt. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions until el dente. Save 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta into a colander. Add the pasta back into the pot and cover to keep warm.

2. While the pasta cooks, add the cheese and pepper to a high speed blender or food processor and half the water and blend until a thick paste forms. Add more water as necessary until the paste becomes smooth and glossy but still thick like the consistency of hummus.

3. Add 3/4 cup of the paste 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and mix well pulling the pasta up from the pot as you go to incorporate. Add more pasta water and paste as necessary until you achieve the desired consistency.

4. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with toasted walnuts, optional, additional grated cheese and a few cranks of black pepper.

NOTES

Roast Tomatoes to Freeze for later

STORY

Got a bumper crop of tomatoes? Consider roasting them to freeze for later! I love the taste and versatility of roasted tomatoes and I like to preserve their wonderful flavor for later by freezing them to use in soups and sauces. It is best to use cherry tomatoes or smaller Roma tomatoes when roasting to freeze. I toss these frozen tomatoes into a hot pan with olive oil, garlic and stir until a bubbly sauce appears. Toss in your favorite cooked pasta, a little pasta water, some Pecorino and you have a fast and great tasting pasta sauce and meal.

Ingredients:
* 12-14 cherry tomatoes or 6-8 Roma tomatoes (depending on size) cut in half
* Olive oil for drizzling
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground pepper

Directions:
* Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
* Rinse, dry and half the tomatoes
* Line a large sheet pan with parchment
* Rinse, dry and cut the tomatoes in half and lay on sheet pan cut side up.
* Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and a few good cranks of freshly ground pepper.
* Roast for 40-60 minutes or until roasted to your preference.
* Let cool and then pop the sheet tray into the freezer for a couple of hours. When frozen, place the tomatoes into a resealable bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.

Linguine With Chickpeas, Broccoli and Ricotta

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 30 MINS

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This recipe is creamy, caramelized and full of flavor. The broccoli and chickpeas crisp under the broiler while the rest of the recipe comes together. Add butter, lemon zest and fresh ricotta to create a rich and creamy sauce that pairs well with the charred vegetables. Toss with rice, pasta or any favorite grain. I love this mixed with Farro too!

INGREDIENTS

* Kosher salt
* 1 lb linguine or spaghetti
* 1 bunch broccoli or broccolini, trimmed and cut into thin florets (about 1 1/2 pounds),
* 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas or other white beans, drained and rinsed
* 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
* ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* Black pepper
* 1 lemon
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 8 ounces ricotta, room temperature
* Flaky sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the Broiler and set the rack about 8 inches from it.

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta. 
2. While you wait for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, in a large bowl, toss the broccoli, chickpeas, garlic, red-pepper flakes and 1/3 cup oil until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Spread the vegetable mixture out evenly on a sheet pan and broil the broccoli and chickpeas, tossing halfway through cooking, until the chickpeas are toasty and the broccoli is tender and charred, 5-7 minutes., remove from the oven and sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, the ricotta, butter and lemon zest and toss until well combined. Add the roasted vegetables and chick peas and toss, adding more pasta water as needed.
5. Drizzle with more oil, if desired, sprinkle with flaky salt and serve.

NOTES

Pasta Caponata

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS plus wait time 30 MINS

COOK TIME | 30 MINS

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I love the flexibility of this dish. It can be used as an appetizer-spread over crusty bread, as a dip for crackers and crudités. To make a quick dinner, simply mix with your favorite pasta and a few dollops of burrata. It’s warm, earthy, tangy and satisfying.

INGREDIENTS

* 5 tablespoons olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
* 1 medium eggplant, 1-11/2 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 large garlic cloves, peeled, minced
* 1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
* 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* 2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
* 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil and more for garnish
* 1/4 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts, optional
* 1 lb Cavatappi or thick spaghetti
* 8 oz Burrata cheese, 1 large ball ripped into 4 pieces or 4-6 smaller balls.
* Kosher salt for leaching moisture from the eggplant and to salt the pasta water
* Freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat. If roasting nuts, add them to the hot pan now. Swirl and stir for 2-4 minutes or until the nuts are golden and toasted. This step can be done in advance and the nuts stored in a container in the refrigerator.
2. Add the oil to the hot pan and heat for a few seconds, add the eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes.
3. While the eggplant mixture cooks, fill a large pot with water and 2-3 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil, cook pasta according to the package directions, save 1 cup pasta water, drain and rinse the pasta and then put it back into the pot and cover to stay warm.
4. Add diced tomatoes and juice, red wine vinegar and drained capers to the pot with the eggplant mixture, stir well and cover. Simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes.
5. Add the Caponata and ½ cup of the pasta water to the pot with the pasta and toss, adding more pasta water as necessary to reach a silky consistency.
6. Transfer caponata and pasta to a serving bowl and mix in the chopped basil, saving some for garnish.
7. Season with fresh pepper. Additional salt is not usually necessary as there should be enough salt in the dish from the tomatoes and rinsed eggplant.
8. Sprinkle with toasted pine or walnuts, if using, and nestle in the Burrata cheese.
9. Drizzle with olive oil, additional fresh basil, and a few good cranks of black pepper and serve
 

NOTES

NOTES
Double Dusty Recipe: Double the recipe and serve it as an appetizer with drinks on a Friday or Saturday night and then over pasta with a crisp green salad for a weeknight meal.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. It tastes wonderful dolloped over fish and chicken too. Caponata can be made a few days ahead, cover and chill.