Back, oh so many years ago….I had a post that became popular. At least in my micro-blogger world, it became popular. For a very long time, this was the most visited page on Mel’s Diner. It took the lovely Nigella and a failed, mace-induced nightmare to do a busty coup d’etat to take top place (Is that actually a win?). Well, in the resurrection of Mel’s Diner, what should start to get hits again? Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi. To me, a slice of happiness. To the rest of he world? The post that won’t die (and I hope it never does).
Does that say Presto Pasta Night? Yes, Mike has finally made it back to Presto Pasta Night. I haven’t come back with something so remarkable and special that it warrants such a long absence. That being said, it was still pretty good, so here goes.
Mike’s Goulashy-Type Dish(In Southern New Hampshire, Goulash is called, for reasons unknown, “American Chop Suey”. It makes as much sense as calling it “Canada” or perhaps, “American Mary Poppins”. I refuse to address it.)
- 1 Pound of Hamburger
- 1 Chopped Onion
- 1 Chopped Green Pepper
- 1 can Whole Tomatoes, crushed
- ¾ Tbls. Paprika
- Grated Parmesan
- ½ pound Macaroni, cooked
Start to brown hamburger and add onions and peppers to cook together. When hamburger is cooked and onion and peppers are soft, crush tomatoes by hand and add with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, add paprika and cook down until thickened. Add cheese and cooked macaroni. Warm and adjust seasoning, including cheese.
It’s really simple, good for a weeknight and pretty tasty. It’s not winning Michelin stars or James Beard awards, but it is good.
This post is kind of a cheat, but not really. I first posted this recipe back in May of 2007, but it was flawed and because it’s so good when made right, I felt I needed to fix it. So, tonight I made it again and this time, I paid attention to what was different.
So here it is, my updated, revised, pretty stinking perfect Mac and Cheese.
(I would post the whole thing all over again, but why? So here’s the link to the updated recipe. I hope this counts for the Blessed Ruth.)
Tonight, I managed a two ‘fer. I made a dish for both Presto Pasta Night and Sara’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This is the one year anniversary of Presto Pasta Night (“Congratulations, Ruth!”) and this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge theme is All Things Nigella and I am all about Nigella. So, this needed to be good, really good.
And it was.
Thumbing through How To Eat, I found a recipe for Butternut Squash and Pasta Soup. Wow, what a good idea! Beauty and brains, just like my wife.
Her recipe calls for a soup pasta, like ditalini – which makes sense, I mean, it’s a soup. At the store while I was looking for ditalini, I came across a pasta I had never seen before. It’s a tiny, cheese-filled ravioli called, not surprisingly, ravioletti. I thought, “Hey, that’s gonna be great in this soup!”, so, I bought.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PASTA SOUP
1/2 Tbls. Olive Oil
1/2 Small Onion, minced
8 ounces of Butternut Squash, 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup of White Wine
2 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
2 ounces of Ravioletti
Put the oil in a biggish, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove and when hot add the onion. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly, until soft, then add the cubes of butternut and turn well in the pan for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, let it bubble up, then add the stock and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmering point, then leave to simmer away for about 10 minutes. Take out a ladleful, purée it, then put it back in the pan. Turn up the heat and add the ravioletti. Cook for about 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked, then taste for salt. Ladle this thick, sweet stew of a soup into your bowl.
The original recipe calls for grated Parmesan on the soup, but the cheese in the ravioletti is enough and it didn’t need the grated cheese.
I made my favorite Moosewood Veggie Stock for this and it was a good as always. The final product was very good, a little sweeter than I expected, though that was balanced pretty well by the cheese in the pasta. Maybe a touch of heavy cream wouldn’t be bad, either and hey, a little bit of fat is always good!
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta keep it real. What I mean by that, is you have to once in a while not go for the special thing, the different, the “Wow!”. And on Presto Pasta Night, that might just mean Spaghetti and Meatballs.
Who didn’t love spaghetti and meatballs as a kid? You show me a kid who didn’t love spaghetti & meatballs and I’ll show you an unhappy kid or one with amnesia. Or gluten intollerant.
My meatball recipe comes for the gentlemen at the Pacific Street Social Club in Brooklyn, NY. I saw these gents cooking on Sara Moulton’s BEST show (IMHO), her later night Cooking Live show. Watching these guys drinking wine, helping Sara make the Sunday gravy, meatballs and braciole – I knew I had found something special.
Pacific Street Social Club Meatballs
· 1 cup cubed stale bread (as from an Italian loaf)
· Milk for soaking the bread
· 1 pound lean ground beef, such as sirloin
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (I use 1/4 cup)
· 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (I use Parmesan)
· 2 large eggs
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the bread with enough milk to just cover and let the bread soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and chop fine.
In a bowl, combine the bread with the meat, garlic, parsley, Romano or Parmesan cheese, eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into 12 to 14 meatballs, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and chill until ready to cook.
The original recipe says to brown the meatballs in olive oil and then finish cooking in homemade red sauce (Sunday Gravy). Instead, I always cook in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, they never fall apart on me that way.
I made a simple red sauce with sauteed onions, a 28oz can of whole tomatoes (no citric acid, please!) and basil. I served the sauce and meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan. Presto – instant childhood.
Presto Past Night – what that means to me is cook it fast, cook it well and use what you have – no running to the store. So, this morning, as I thought about dinner, I looked at what I had and picked out a whole, frozen chicken breast and a can or artichokes. I knew I had some small shells, parmesan and half and half. So, off to work!
When I got home, I tossed the chicken into a 375 degree oven and got a pot of water boiling on the stove. I added two tablespoons of butter to a pan and a small, diced onion. After the onion was cooked, two tablespoons of flour went into the pan and cooked to a pale roux. 2 1/2 cups of half and half goes in and cook slowly until thickened. Meanwhile, the chicken comes out, taken off the bone and diced. I added three whole artichoke hearts quartered, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne, salt & pepper and a cup of grated parmesan cheese to the sauce. The pasta went in the pot and cooked until done. Finding the sauce too thick, I added a splash or two of pasta water and drained the pasta. Pasta in the bowl, chicken on top, followed by sauce.
Well, I have a new look and my first real post is a Presto Pasta Night. I decided I would make something a little different and for that, I went to Mario’s cookbook – Simple Italian Food. Flipping through the pasta section, I came across his gnocchi recipes. Presto!
In a Karmic conflagration, that weekend I watched Lydia’s Italy and Holy Basil, Batman, she was doing gnocchi. So, tonight, I did gnocchi – what else could I do?
Roasted Pepper Gnocchi
1 pound of russet potatoes
2 medium bell peppers, roasted
1 cup all purpose flour
1 extra-large (I used large) egg
1 teaspoon salt
In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes until they are soft, about 45 minutes. While still warm, peel and pass through a vegetable mill or ricer onto a clean pasta board. (I peeled the potatoes, cut them into large chunks and boiled them until soft. I drained them and put them through a ricer.) Place the chopped peppers in a towel and wring to extract as much liquid as possible.
Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle all over with the flour, using all the flour (Have no fear, I needed about ½ cup more than this.) Place the egg, salt and pepper in the center of the well, and using a fork, stir into the flour and potatoes, just like making pasta. Once the egg and roasted peppers are mixed in, bring the dough together, kneading gently until ball is formed, Knead gently another 4 minutes until the ball is dry to the touch. (This is where that extra flour came in)
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add about 2 Tbls. of salt.
Divide the dough into 4 balls. Flour the board and roll each ball into a 1-inch thick rope. Cut the rope into 1-inch long pieces and let the pieces dry slightly before shaping. Roll pieces down the tines of a fork to establish the classic shape. Drop gnocchi, 10-15 at a time, into boiling water and cook until they float to the surface.
I then tossed some with a tomato sauce and some in butter – they were both great!