Risotto with Peas and Baby Spinach

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Risotto is a an Italian dish; a perfect comfort food.  Like macaroni and cheese.  In Italy it would be served as a first course.  When prepared properly it has a rich creamy consistency.  It makes a great side dish with shrimp or fish or chicken or you can add the protein to the risotto before serving. Tonight the risotto was the main course.  Risotto is fairly easy to make and it is a very versatile dish.  Almost anything in your refrigerator will work.  Tonight I used fresh spinach and broccoli and frozen peas.    I remember asking my Dad if he liked Chinese food.  His response was, “I don’t care much for rice.”  I don’t think this is a dish my Dad would appreciate.  As an entree or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

2/3 cup dry white wine

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup shallot diced

1 cup broccoli flowerettes and stems sliced

1 cup peas

2 cups baby spinach

1 T lemon zest

3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh grated asiago or Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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Grate the cheese.  Zest and juice the lemon.

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Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute the shallot and broccoli for a couple minutes.

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While you saute the vegetables put the chicken broth in a sauce pan and heat.  You will be adding hot broth to the rice.  The hot broth helps to release the starch from the rice so that the risotto cooks properly.

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Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat the rice with the oil and butter.

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Add the white wine and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until almost all of the wine has been absorbed.

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Add  the chicken broth two ladles at a time stirring frequently.  Wait for the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  This entire process will take about 30 minutes.

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About half way through the cooking process add the peas and the lemon zest.

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When you add the last of the broth also add the spinach.  Continue cooking and stirring until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender.

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Add the cheese and lemon juice stirring to combine.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat for a few minutes.

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Serve the risotto hot and sprinkle with more cheese.

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Enjoy!  Mangia!

NOTE:  Feel free to use any combination of vegetables.  Leeks, asparagus, fennel, squash, mushrooms.  You can also substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Add vegetables that take longer to cook earlier in the cooking process.

Dry reds are the wines of choice at our house so I purchase white wine in the small, single serving bottles.  Perfect for cooking.

 

Ravioli with Tomato and Garlic Gravy

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Today was ravioli day.  Making homemade pasta is fun and rewarding and homemade tastes so much better.  Years ago I was a guest in the home of a first generation Italian family in Toronto.  Not being Italian I was unfamiliar with the number of courses that constituted a typical Italian meal.  We all sat around a table in a small dining room where the table and the fabric upholstered seats were all covered in heavy plastic.  The first course consisted of antipasto, a beautiful salad and lots of crusty bread.  The leftovers were cleared from the table and the homemade pasta arrived.  Spaghetti with a meat sauce.  And more bread.  It was wonderful.  I cleaned my plate and felt very satisfied and pretty full.  The table was cleared and in came the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and more bread.  It was all I could do to eat a few more bites and listened to everyone say, “What’s the matter?  You don’t like the chicken?”  Who knew the pasta was an appetizer.  But I’m a quick study.  I learned to take much smaller portions.  And to never wear a skirt when the chairs are covered in plastic.

Today our ravioli was the entree.

The first step is making the pasta dough.

Ingredients:

2 cups of AP flour

2 large eggs

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I used a food processor.  Put the flour in and pulse it a few times. Whisk the eggs and slowly add them in with the processor running on low.

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The dough should come together in a ball.  If it looks like small pebbles add 1 tsp of water at a time.  If it is too wet and the dough is sticking to the sides add flour 1 T at a time.  Once the dough has come together in a ball remove it to a lightly floured work surface and knead it by hand until the dough is smooth, a couple minutes.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

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While the dough is resting prepare the filling.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 cup sweet onion in a fine dice

1 cup mushrooms diced

2 cups fresh spinach chopped

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes diced

1 1/2 cups grated Asiago and Paramesan cheese

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In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the garlic, onion and mushroom just until tender and fragrant.  Add the spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from the heat.

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Stir in the diced sun dried tomatoes and the cheeses and your filling is ready to go.

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Divide the dough into six pieces.  Flatten into a disk and run through the pasta machine rollers.  Continue folding and running through the rollers until the dough is thin and shiny.  If, at any time, the dough is too sticky dust it lightly with flour.

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Stretch the dough over the ravioli form.   Fill each indentation with about 1-2 tsp of filling.  Do not over fill.

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Put a second piece of dough over the filling and run a rolling pin over the top.  Invert and remove the ravioli.

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Cover the ravioli with a clean dish towel and prepare the sauce.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

7-8 cloves of garlic chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 pint diced tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

salt to taste

fresh basil

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In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant and tender.  Don’t brown the garlic.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes.

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Stir in crushed tomatoes and basil.  Reduce heat and simmer.

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Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the ravioli until tender.  Approximately 5 minutes.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli to a serving dish.  Ladle sauce over the pasta and serve with grated cheese.

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Enjoy!

NOTE:  You can fill your ravioli with a meat or a cheese filling.  You are only limited by your imagination.  I made 48 ravioli and froze half of them.  I put them in the freezer on a pizza tray and, once frozen, dropped them in a freezer bag for another day.  You don’t really need a ravioli form but I do think you need a pasta maker to roll the dough out properly.  I had extra dough and made linguini with it.

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Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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Some of my favorite recipes are from my Knit Wit girl friends. We have the most incredible pot lucks!  All of us love to cook and bake and feed people. This recipe showed up at one of our feasts and I make it often.  It’s a great side dish but last night it was my entree with a piece of crusty bread I made a couple nights ago.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked orzo (prepared per package instructions)

2 cups baby spinach chopped

5 oz jar sun dried tomatoes in oil

3 T red onion chopped

1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives

6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts undrained

14 oz can small artichoke hearts chopped

3 oz feta cheese

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NOTE:  I used sweet white onion because I didn’t have red. And I was out of feta cheese…which is really a good addition.   But the salad still tasted really good even without the cheese. 😊

Bring two cups of salted water to a boil, add the orzo and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

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Rough chop both artichokes and put them in a salad bowl.  Set the marinade aside.

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Rough chop the tomatoes (reserve the oil) and dice the onion.

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Add the tomatoes, onion, and sliced olives to the salad bowl.

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Add the orzo to the salad bowl. I like to do it when the orzo is still warm. I think the orzo observes the flavors of the marinade and oil better.

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Rough chop the spinach and add it to the salad bowl.

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Toss the salad along with the marinade from the jar of artichokes and some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes. Add 3 oz of cubed feta cheese (remember, I was out of feta) and salt and pepper to taste. I prefer this salad at room temperature but it’s also good chilled. Either way, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

This salad is great served with lamb chops, fish or even a good burger. This afternoon we had left over salad with tuna melts.

Lasagna Soup

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Nearly eight years ago I traded my cigarettes in for knitting needles and became part of a phenomenal group of women.  We refer to ourselves as the Knit Wits. We meet weekly for lunch and knitting and road trips and we share recipes for some of the best food ever.  Our pot lucks are ridiculous. Seriously ridiculous!

This recipe, for lasagna soup, was contributed by a very special Knit Wit who passed away two years ago at age 85. We all miss her so much but every time I make one of her recipes I know she’s smiling. She loved to cook and feed people and she was an expert at it. She’d be proud that all of us continue to make and enjoy her food. I know that this soup will easily become one of your favorites as well.

Ingredients:

1 lb Italian sausage (hot or sweet or 50/50)

2 cups onion rough chopped

1 cup carrots sliced

2 cups mushrooms sliced

1 red pepper rough chopped

2 T garlic minced

4 cups chicken broth

1 14-oz can stewed tomatoes

10 oz can tomato sauce

2 cups fresh spinach

1 cup uncooked pasta (penne, mufaloa or your favorite)

4 tsp fresh basil or 2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp oregano

2 cups fresh spinach

salt and pepper to taste

sliced provolone or fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

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In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle brown the sausage over medium heat. If you have sausages vs bulk sausage remove the casings.

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Add the onion and carrots.

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Sauté for about 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano.

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Sauté until garlic becomes fragrant. 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil.

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Drop in the pasta and simmer over low heat until the pasta is cooked.

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Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.

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Slice the provolone or fresh mozzarella (I prefer the mozzarella) and put some in the bottom of the soup bowl. Grate some fresh pram to top the soup.

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Ladle the hot soup over the cheese and top with the parm.

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This is a very hearty, filling soup. Enjoy with some crusty Italian bread or a slice of warm garlic bread. This dish will make you wish you were a Knit Wit!