Girl and the Goat, Girl in the City

I like to believe I have self-control, strong will power, determination, endurance, motivation….the ability to stick with something longer than a few weeks. I mean, I started this blog over a year ago and continue to stick to making new recipes and learning to be a better cook. I think in some aspects of my life I display some of those characteristics, but sticking to diets and eating healthy is an area where I fail on all counts. Not one of those words describes my behavior or my characteristics when it comes to sticking to a healthy, or shall I say healthier lifestyle.

Yes, you may have guessed it, but I failed at the South Beach Diet. I did really well for over a week, but the socialite in me beat down the “wanna be skinny bitch” in me and I caved. I just don’t have the self-control or will power to turn down a night on the town with my friends or having a few cocktails at a wedding. And once I cave, there is no going back. I mean, I live in Chicago where drinking and eating are more than just past times, they are a way of life here and keep you from jumping into lake Michigan in the winter. So, that was the end of the South Beach Diet attempt. Maybe I will try it again. I felt great and my energy was up without all the booze and the carbs, but I was also super bitchy because I don’t like being hungry. End of story.

You may think I have this lovely pig picture up due to my lack of self-control and not sticking to my diet, but that is no the case. The pig face is here because that is what I ate for dinner last night. It’s nights like last night that prove my point above. It is impossible to stick to a diet in this city because at every turn there is an opportunity to experience something very cool and you just can’t turn it down. Life is too short. My friend made reservations at Girl and the Goat months ago and it is nearly impossible to get in. We tried to change our reservations and the next available night was in September. The menu is always changing and it’s just overall a really cool experience. If you have been reading my blog (and I hope someone is) you will know I have slowly started to grow out of my picky eater habits. I will no longer allow anyone in my life to call me a picky eater because not many people can say they have tried pig face. It wasn’t gross either. Actually, it was good. I also tried the Escargot Ravioli and although the thought of it makes me squirm today, it tasted like a mushroom and it was really good.

Pig Face
Pig Face at Girl and the Goat

I have not had time to be in the kitchen lately, which is something I find to be sad, but I’ve been busy attempting to be healthy and staying away from my one true love, pasta. It’s been a tough few months and it is one of my harder breakups I’ve gone through, but I am hoping one day I can rekindle the romance. Once the gym and I get a better understanding of each other, hopefully I can find a good balance between the two. Until then, it’s my sisters type of pasta (the multi-color healthy kind that makes me think “ick”, but it’s edible). She is a “skinny bitch” so I am trying to adopt some of her lifestyles. This veggie pasta is currently one of them.

Speaking of my break up with pasta…The Holy Rosary Italian Festival is this weekend and I have a feeling I am going to have a rebound. Everyone goes back a few times after a breakup anyway, right? I think it’s allowed. I will be eating all kinds of pasta this weekend and I won’t feel bad about it. Well, I will, but if I just let Ryguy (I think that’s what I will call him here from now on) buy all the food and I take bites off his, it won’t really count. Stay tuned for some highlights of my true Big Fat Italian Life back in Indy – it’s where the Italian magic happens. Hopefully this year I will remember to actually take pictures of the food!

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Page Family Meat Pie

While I was home for Easter I got to spend that Saturday with my mom and my cousin Concetta cooking, laughing and just having a fun girls day. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was to my favorite smell in the world, my mom’s spaghetti sauce! I told her that I hope heaven smells like her sauce and she laughed at me. She might have been laughing at the fat girl who is inside of me, or maybe she was just flattered. I will choose to go with the latter. Her sauce not only smells delicious, but it reminds me of home. It reminds me of my childhood, of my Grandparents house for Sunday dinners and our Thursday night pasta dinners we had growing up. It reminds me of family and is always equated with good memories and most of all, love. I may just love to eat pasta, but honestly, there is more to it. There is a history that I enjoy “coming home to” every now and then.

While the sauce was cooking, I decided to make something of my own. I had come across a recipe in a family cookbook for a meat pie that was my Grandpa’s family recipe and thought it would be the perfect addition to my family recipe collection. It turned out great (I did a little altering though!) and I got the seal of approval from my Grandpa and his sister, my Aunt Marie, who happens to be the “Meat Pie Queen.” It was actually her recipe I used, so thank you for sharing Aunt Marie!

Page Family Meat Pie

Ingredients (makes 2 pies)

3 lbs ground beef

1 large onion, chopping finely

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp ground sage (taste before using all the sage)

5 potatoes

2 pie shells

1/2 cup milk

1/2 stick of butter

Peel potatoes and finely chop onion. Add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. In a large skillet, heat oil and add beef and onion. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Once the beef is cooked, set aside to cool. Then, once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove and put into a mixing bowl. Add the milk and butter and mash. Be sure to leave some chunks in the potatoes. Mix with the beef and add to the pie shell.

Once the mixture is in the pie shell, spread some melted butter to the top of the pie in order to make the pie shelly crispy and to get a golden brown color.

Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Slice and enjoy!

I had dinner plans that night to go to my Uncle Hank’s Italian restaurant in Indy, Amici’s, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the pie for dinner, but luckily my Uncle Phil stopped by for a visit and had dinner with my parents.

It’s been a pretty busy spring and I have been really bad about posting, and just as bad about cooking. It’s sad, but it really is hard to find the time to get to the grocery store and make the time to actually cook something! I was at a wedding last weekend though, and had some of the BEST food I’ve ever had. I ate so much my dress barely fit by the end of the night!

It was such a fun weekend! We had a great girl’s getaway and spent the weekend gambling, eating, laughing and dancing the night away to celebrate Leah and Rob’s wedding!

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

A few months ago my Aunt gave me a book called The Geometry of Pasta. It has all the different types of pasta and what sauces to pair them with. It was such a nice and thoughtful gift and I was excited to finally get to use it. Not only is it a great recipe book, but it is actually very interesting and provides insight into the recipe. As I sat watching Top Chef the other night, I was reminded of the book when a few of the contestants were in the bottom for making their own pasta. One of the owners from Rao (that is where the challenge was that night) said that you don’t really need to make homemade pasta for it to be a great dish. He said the sauce should make the dish and that if something is just as good pre-made, there is no need to re-invent the wheel when cooking family style.

I instantly grabbed my book and started looking through recipes, as I am always inspired to cook when I’m watching Top Chef. As I scanned the Gnocchi section, I realized I had never made this for my blog. When I started reading about Gnocchi, I found it interesting that the book claimed it was better to make it from scratch than buy it from the store, as packaged Gnocchi is harder and does not cook as well as homemade. I agree with the guy from Rao when it comes to pasta, as I would probably never attempt to make penne or rigatoni, but Gnocchi seemed fun. I hadn’t made pasta in a while and I have never made Gnocchi so I decided to go for it!

Gnocchi Con Gorgonzola

Gnocchi Ingredients:

2 large Idaho Potatoes (or Russet)

2 Eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

A few gratings of nutmeg

Boil the potatoes in salted water until fully cooked. Drain and let cool. Once cooled, peel off the skin and put through a ricer/foodmil.

When cool enough to handle, but still warm, add the egg, flour and nutmeg. Mix evenly (work as little as possible so that it does not become doughy). Take a small lump and roll on a well floured surface. Test it in the boiling water to make sure it doesn’t fall apart and cooks properly. Once you are sure it’s ready – roll out the dough in strips about as thick as your fingers (thumb or pinkie, it’s up to you). Cut it into pieces of equal width and height, about the size of the tip of your thumb. Make sure they have enough flour on them, but not too much.

Optional: Use a fork to put ridges on one side or use your thumb to make an indent. This allows the Gnocchi to gather more sauce during your meal.

*NOTE: I did not have a ricer/foodmil so I smashed the potatoes with a fork and then mixed them in the food processor.

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups of crumbled Gorgonzola (I just bought a package from the store)

Nutmeg

Pepper

Walnuts (Optional)

Optional: Roast walnuts and add to the sauce. Add in peas for additional flavor.

In a saucepan, mix the cream and the Gorgonzola on medium heat until well  blended. Continue to stir over low-heat. Add in some nutmeg and pepper to taste. While the sauce is cooking, add the Gnocchi to boiling salt water. Once they float to the top, cook for 2 minutes, add to the sauce with a little bit of the pasta water. Cook until well blended. Serve and enjoy!

And for your listening pleasure, my cousin Michael sent me this link today and thought I would share! I know it is out of season, but it is an Italian Christmas song we used to listen to as kids and it made my day! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQrdxtWgHbE&feature=related

Lucia

Cooking Fools – Making Pasta!

Months ago I purchased a Cooking Fools pasta making class with one of my friends through Groupon. I have made my own pasta before, but I have never actually taken a class on how to do it. I usually  just look at a recipe and go with it, so I was excited to maybe learn an actual technique. It was almost a year ago when I made Chicken Noodle Soup with homemade egg noodles (my favorite!). I want to say that I can’t believe this year flew by so quickly, but unfortunately 2010 was a long, drawn out, hectic year, and I am so glad it’s over and 2011 is here. I’m not saying 2010 was a bad year, but I don’t think I have ever experienced a year like 2010 in my life. There was a massive amount of changes and big events that 2010 left me feeling drained, exhausted and excited for some calm.

Anyway, back to the pasta  making class! I was running late due to work and got there just in time. Maegan had purchased a bottle of wine for us (which was much-needed that night) and we started making our pasta! The class consisted of making ravioli and pappardelle. There was also a demonstration on how to make Vodka Sauce and Basil Pesto. I had never used the pasta machine before and my first attempt at pressing the dough was not necessarily successful. My strip of dough turned out uneven, thin, and I ended up wasting a lot of it. For some reason I thought using the rolling-pin (like I had before) was easier.

Making Pasta

Pasta Dough
Yield: 10 oz, approximately 2 large servings
3 oz Semolina flour

3 oz all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

Mound flour on work surface. Build well in center of flour and crack eggs into well Use a fork to combine egg whites and yolks.Slowly, using a fork, begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, be sure to build up the sides   the well. When the majority of the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together and you can begin kneading using your hands.Dust you hands with flour before touching dough. Use a light touch to prevent dough from sticking to your hands. Fold dough repeatedly until flour is incorporated, then knead for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Ravioli & Pappardelle

I wish I could tell you how the pasta actually turned out, but they had everyone combine their dough and made a large batch of both meals. Anything mass-produced can be difficult, so I wasn’t that impressed with the end result, but it was a fun night and I enjoyed getting to spend time/catch-up/drink wine with Maegan!

A few things I DID learn…

  • The more you knead the dough the more the gluten comes out. You want your dough to have more gluten because it provides the necessary consistency for the pasta. When you are making dough for pastries or muffins, it’s the opposite. You don’t want too much gluten.
  • Making pasta with wine is extremely necessary.
  • Take out a small amount of the flour and put it off to the side. Add it in as necessary. The moisture and temperature in the room can affect the dough and you don’t want it to end up too dry.
  • Wish I remembered more, but we did finish the bottle of wine 🙂

Enjoying some Cooking Fools Food!

All in all I am glad I took the pasta class. It made me want to learn more about cooking and the technique. Yes, I can take a recipe and make it or find a dish I want to make and figure out the ingredients and make it on whim, but there is something about the science behind cooking that I find intriguing and I want to learn more. So hopefully there are more cooking lessons in my future!

A True Sunday Dinner

I have been heading home the past few weekends for events, weddings, and IU Homecoming, so I thought I would pay tribute to the biggest kitchen adventure of all, Sunday Dinner with the entire family. My Grandparents make dinner, without fail every Sunday for their kids, their 16 Grandchildren, and now 4 great-grandchildren, along with in-laws, great aunts and uncles who stop by and friends who like to drop in every now and again or even every Sunday. My Grandparents motto is “the more the merrier!”

The menu normally consists of pasta, meatballs, sausage, salad and multiple desserts. Lately my Aunt Annette has been baking bread for us to enjoy with some olive oil and cheese as appetizers and she even baked a homemade apple pie two weeks ago! This past Sunday we celebrated multiple birthdays and anniversaries! My Grandparents were married on October 2, my twin cousins turned 26 the same day and my adorable brother Jack turned 19. October 2nd is a pretty eventful day for our family apparently.

Sauce and Meatballs cooking

The homemade Meatballs and Sausage!

My Grandpa usually likes to add in a little surprise dish to the menu. Normally it’s breadsticks because my cousin David refuses to eat most things, but he will eat about 12 breadsticks for dinner…but a few weeks ago he made Italian meatloaf stuffed Cannelloni. At first I wasn’t sure what it was. As I was eating I knew it tasted good…but there was something about it that wasn’t familiar. Later I inquired and my Grandma informed that it was another one of his experiments and that it was meatloaf (well Italian meatloaf…)

The Meatloaf stuffed Cannelloni

My Aunt’s homemade bread

And her Apple pie!

Dinner is usually an eventful time. Everyone lines up at the stove, piles up their plates, and heads to their selected area for eating. Our family has grown so much over the years that we all don’t fit in one room. My Grandparents even had to add-on a porch the entire length of the house just to accommodate all of their grandkids (there are three tables on the porch to choose from)!

Sunday Buffet Line

My Grandpa finishing up dinner!

(Out of order…but you get the point)

The newest addition to the Page clan – baby Lucas!

It’s been so great being able to spend time at home the past few Sunday’s. I love being around my family and seeing all of my friends, but I am very excited to get everything back to normal and settle down here in Chicago again. I have also not been able to keep up with my own Kitchen Adventures, so I am excited to be able to start cooking again! With all the traveling I have been doing the past few months (or this last year, to be honest) I never even have food in my apartment!

I am making my first ever crock pot meal this week and I am looking forward to this effortless cooking (so they say!).

Lucia’s Quick Cheese Sauce

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of my friend Tim’s wedding in South Bend!  He is my first close friend to get married and it was so exciting to be able to celebrate with some old (and great!) friends! After the wedding on Sunday I decided to spend the morning walking around South Bend with my friend Ryan since it was a perfect Fall day and I had some time to kill before I headed back to Chicago to watch the Colts game (which I wish I had not experienced…).

Congratulations Tim and Allison!

What’s a wedding without someone getting “ICED?”


Ryan and “Touchdown Jesus”


A cool picture from Notre Dame (I love my iPhone apps!)

When I got home from the wedding weekend I was exhausted and had no food in my apartment except for the basic staples every little Italian  always has on hand; cheese, pasta, and chicken stock/bouillon. I sat on the couch for hours trying to find a recipe that I wanted to make and that included ingredients I had in my kitchen, which was few and far between considering I had not gone to the grocery store in about a month….I even called my sister to see if she had any good ideas and it turns out she was doing the exact same thing I was. Laying on the couch, watching the Colts game and reading cookbooks. I love when we are creepily alike (if you watch us dance we will more than likely be doing the same moves too).

I decided to wing it and make something up on my own. I did this when I was in Italy on more than one occasion and decided to get back to my creative cooking. A few time in Italy I mad a cheese sauce that was so good, it was to die for. My cousin Michael went home raving about, my friend Lauren begged me to make once we were back in America, and Laura and I enjoyed it frequently. When I got home from Italy and tried to recreate the sauce, I just couldn’t do it. I have no clue what kind of cheese I put in there, how I got it to melt together so perfectly, but I never made it again because it just never turned out the same.

This time, it didn’t turn out the same, but it was delicious! Check out the recipe and photos below!

Lucia’s Cheese Sauce


Ingredients:

3 cups Chicken Stock

3/4 cup skim milk

Fontina Cheese (no clue how much I used…eyeball it!)

1 cup Mozzarella Cheese

2 pieces Skinny Cow Cheese

1 tbsp Cream Cheese

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

Pepper to taste

1 tsp Parsley

1 tsp Basil

In a sauce pan, mix the chicken stock and cheese. Melt cheese and bring to a slow boil. Add in the milk, flour, pepper, basil and parsley. Heat on high until sauce thickens and all the cheese is melted. Once sauce comes to a slow boil, decrease the heat and cook on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

While the sauce is cooking, cook your pasta. Once sauce is finished, drain pasta and pour into the sauce. Sprinkle with Some Parmesan and enjoy!

Cheese Sauce

Lucia’s Cheesy Pasta!




Stuffed Shells

I have seen my mom make stuffed shells so many times I have lost count. Last Christmas, I even had the chance to help her make them, but we did it the night before and had a lot of time to spend on the preparation. My mom also had extra sauce in the freezer in case we didn’t have enough. Well…none of this was true for my first experience making stuffed shells and it turned out to be a true Kitchen Adventure! The experience of making these shells was one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I needed a challenge. I was feeling complacent and wanted to find something I was passionate about, enjoyed, and could share with others.

I didn’t realize how difficult it was to prepare stuffed shells for 10 people in about 2 and a half hours. I am so lucky I had my friend Gina. Yes, I have a sister Gina too! Italians do things in multiples…the names are always duplicated, people never replicated. I also have an Aunt Gina, two cousins named Concetta and an Aunt Concetta, more than a few Michael’s, Jacks, and Antonia’s, as well as many more duplicate names, so sorry if I ever confuse anyone. This is just another example of “My Big Fat Italian Life.”

Anyways, my friend Gina was my savior that day. If it wasn’t for her we would not have been able to eat dinner until midnight. As I made the sauce and the meat filling, she made the cheese filling and we both stuffed the shells once they were cooked. I knew right away, before I even put the shells in the oven that they were going to be dry. I didn’t make enough sauce and I didn’t have any extra sitting around my apartment. Lesson learned.

Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

32 oz Ricotta cheese

4 eggs

Parmesan ( a lot)

Parsley

Meat Mixture

Ingredients:

5 lbs ground beef

3 small onions

5 hardboiled eggs

2 bags of frozen, chopped spinach

Parmesan

Salt & Pepper

Hardboil your 5 eggs and set aside. Cook spinach according to package, drain completely (will need to squeeze out as much water as possible) and set aside. Dice the 3 small onions (I put them in the mixer to make them extremely thin, but this is not necessary). Brown your meat with the onions. Add salt & pepper to taste. Once cooked, combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Scramble the eggs and add parsley and Parmesan. Add ricotta and mix well. Make sure mixture is thick. Set aside.

Boil 3 lbs of jumbo shells in water. Drain and rinse. Usually, you should not rinse your pasta, but since you are baking the shells. you want to remove some of the starch. Rinse with cold water.

In baking dishes, cover the bottom of each dish with sauce. Stuff the shells in one pan with your meat mixture and the other with your cheese (you will probably need 4 baking dishes, or you can freeze what you don’t use). Once your dish is filled with stuffed shells, cover again with sauce (don’t be shy). You can top with more parmesan or shredded mozzarella.

Cover with aluminum foil and back for 30 minutes at 350°. After 30 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and back another 30 minutes. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy!

Sauce:

See quick sauce recipe and quadruple it

**Make sure you have enough sauce to cover approximately 3 baking pans on the bottom and have enough to cover the top of the shells with. You will need about 3 large cans of Hunt Sauce (cl).

 

I forgot to take a picture of the cheese filled shells, but here is the finished product. Way more dry than I would have liked, but they were still good. I made three trays and two and a half were gone at the end of the night. My neighbor and his girlfriend stopped by to help out, but we did some major damage even though there was a lack of sauce.

The next night I decided to make a cream sauce (I had leftover cream in the fridge) and added it to the shells. To say they were better once more sauce was added would be the biggest understatement of the year. I was glad I got to experience them correctly and I even shared a few with some friends at work who enjoyed them with the white sauce!

Unfortunately, this is the last meal I will ever make in my wonderful apartment I have shared with three of my best friends. I can’t believe it has been a year since I packed up my Dad’s car and moved to this wonderful city of Chicago. This past year literally went in a blink of an eye. I guess when your life is throwing you curve balls left and right, you are on a non stop roller coaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns – life just happens, and it is thrilling. Even though I am moving next week, hopefully I can still have my Sunday dinners with my friends!

Stay tuned for the first cooking adventure in my new apartment!

 

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Lucia!

Vodka and I have had a tumultuous relationship for years, but last night I think we finally started to understand each other…

As I sat at work reading my sisters wedding menu, I had the urge to cook, and  I couldn’t decide what the perfect dinner would be. I had to do something fairly simple because I was going to get home later and still had to go to the store. As I sat and thought about all the different sauces I have been wanting to make, I had a flash back of my first experience with Vodka Sauce. And at that moment, I knew I had to make it.

The first time I ever had vodka sauce was at my favorite restaurant in Italy, Aqua al Due. Laura and I decided to share (I swear…) the pasta sampler. One of the samples was the vodka sauce and it was so good that I am pretty sure I licked my plate. I couldn’t wait to get back and try it again, but to my surprise,  the menu rotates and they didn’t have it when I returned.  Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of trying it again. It was quite possibly the biggest heartbreak I’ve experienced to date, and I’ve had a few…

Anyway, I’ve never made a vodka sauce, so it was the perfect time to give it a go. I am not big on following recipes when I make sauce. I think it is way more fun to throw the basic ingredients in, add a few more, and see what happens, so here is Vodka Sauce a la Me.

Vodka Sauce

Vodka (I prefer Smirnoff – but maybe that is because of my budget…)

Heavy whipping cream

2 cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce (CL)

Olive oil

Pepper

Basil

3 Boneless chicken breasts

David Page’s Special Seasoning

Clean the chicken and season with David Page’s Special Seasoning. Slice into small pieces and saute in olive oil until cooked about half way (until outside is cooked). Add the sauce, whipping cream (a little less than 1 sauce can) and the vodka (I measure about 1/4 cup, but then added more once it was cooking…). Add pepper and basil. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 20 minutes. I added more pepper and basil while it was cooking for more flavor.

The Sauce Cooking with the Chicken

Bring your water to a boil once your sauce comes to a boil and then add the pasta. Once the pasta is finished, your sauce should done. Pour sauce in a bowl, add the pasta, mix and serve!

When my roommates and I sat down to enjoy our dinner, little did we know the amazingness we were about to experience. I thought we would just each have a small serving and there would be leftovers for our other roommate to try when she got home…but that did not happen. It was gone. All of it. Nikki and Alyssa even discussed combining their extra sauce from their plate so that it did not go to waste. I don’t know if it was my Grandpa’s special seasoning, the vodka, or my cooking skills, but this sauce had a kick to it, and it was good. Alyssa even thought she would be able to eat it as a soup. I am pretty sure I spooned my left over sauce to finish it. There is about a cupful left over and it tempting me – even though I saved it to share with Jess…She better get home in time, or it might be gone by this weekend.

Before…

I will admit that I did not share all of the ingredients I used. It was so good, I figured that maybe one day, in my dream world, if I have my own restuarant I would be able to have this on the menu and if I share the entire recipe then everyone will know how to make it! But it shouldn’t tast much different with the ingredients included above, so I HIGHLY suggest you trying to make it!

After…

Multiply this picture times 3 because that is how many empty plates there were! This was, and still is, my all time favorite sauce. I don’t know how I am going to go without it again for so long. Hopefully I will get back in the kitchen this weekend because I have a feeling the next few weeks are going to be crazy! My sister has two bachelorette parties coming up and then I am moving into my new apartment! I can’t believe August is just around the corner….

Summer Time Pasta

One of my favorite pasta dishes is something I like to call my “Summer Time Pasta.” It is light, fresh, colorful, and most of all, delicious! Another great part of this dish is you really can add anything you want. I usually include cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and something green, depending on what I have in my refrigerator. This time I added peas, but I usually prefer zucchini.

Boil your pasta water (don’t forget to add the salt). Slice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. Add salt and pepper and then top with olive oil. Mix together and then add basil. I used the steam fresh bag of peas the other night, but if you are using zucchini, chop that first and lightly saute in olive oil until cooked, and then set aside.

Tomatoes and Mozzarella – Seasoned

I also used whole wheat rotini last night, but this works well with penne too. Once the pasta is cooked and drained (never rinse) mix in the tomatoes, mozzarella and zucchini (or other veggie) and lightly season with salt, pepper, and parmesan. If needed, add more olive oil. The best part about this dish is you really can add in anything you want and it turns out so incredibly satisfying!

Summer Time Pasta

Ingredients:

1 lb of Pasta

1 Steam Fresh bag of Peas (or fresh zucchini)

Tomatoes (preferably cherry)

Mozzarella

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

Cut up your tomatoes and mix with mozzarella, olive oil and salt & pepper and set aside. Boil your pasta water, add pasta and cook. While cooking make your zucchini, peas, or any other vegetables you wish to include. Once pasta is cooked, drain (DO NOT RINSE), mix with all ingredients, season with more salt & pepper if needed, add parmesan cheese and serve!

I celebrated my 24th birthday on Tuesday. I still don’t feel old though, which I am guessing is a good thing. For some reason, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I am technically an “adult.” Anyway, my friends and I celebrated by going to the Cubs game! We were lucky enough to come across 2nd row seats and it was a perfect night for baseball and beer!

Cubs vs. Pirates – Cubs win!

They also surprised with me with yummy cupcakes from Swirlz and Sweet Mandy B’s, a beautiful necklace I have been wanting, and beer! I am pretty sure all of those things create an amazing birthday! I felt so fortunate to be able to spend my birthday with some of my favorite people, especially since I was away from my family! Thank you girls for the best birthday! Oh…and did I mention Alyssa hit the spot with Barbie plates and a Barbie happy birthday sign? Yes, I do love Barbie’s!

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July weekend! I am sure there will be many cooking adventures to come after this long weekend, which hopefully will be filled with lots of good food and fun, so stay tuned!

For the Love of Italy…and it’s Food!

So I first fell in love with cooking while I was in Italy.  It wasn’t the best place to start off my passion for food because no matter what, nothing I do now can live up to the amazingness that was created and eaten in Italy.  When my friend Jordan came to visit from Rome, we decided to have a BIG Italian feast.  I decided to  make Pasta Carbonara.  To say it was good is an understatement.  Later, when I came to Rome to visit Jordan, he bought a ton of pancetta, fresh from the butcher.  Unfortunately, I messed up the Carbonara…I forgot to put the boiling water in the egg mixture and I am sure a few other things.  Cooking while drinking a ton of wine (Chianti to be exact) in Italy does not necessarily help make a master chef.  Good thing the pancetta was SO good and flavorful that the pasta was not completely destroyed.

That is the thing with Italy.  The food is so good on its own, it makes cooking fairly easy!  Now that I do not have unbelievably fresh pancetta, fresh seasoning, and other delicious ingredients, it takes a little more effort and attention in the kitchen.

Jordan, Laura & I on a day trip to Pisa (sad I can actually say years ago…)

Carbonara Sauce

*Serves 4 people

Salt & pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper (eyeball it!)

Olive Oil

1 lb pasta (I prefer thick spaghetti)

4 large eggs

Garlic (3 cloves)

1/3 lb pancetta

Parsley (preferably fresh, but flakes work!)

Romano Cheese

Mix eggs in a separate bowl.  Add a little bit of salt and pepper, milk, red pepper, and parsley.  Set aside.

Start boiling your pasta water and cook pasta until desired.  I recommend cooking it more al dente for carbonara.  Save a ladleful of boiling pasta water to add to your egg mixture.

Finely chop the pancetta.  In a large skillet or wok, lightly saute garlic until translucent.  Add the pancetta and cook over medium heat.  Cook a total of 4-5 minutes, or until brown.

Drain the pasta and add directly to the skillet with the pancetta.  Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and continuously mix the pasta until the egg mixture is fully mixed in.  Add salt, pepper and cheese to taste.  Offer extra cheese to guest and enjoy!

The Egg Mixture

The Pancetta (unfortunately from a package)

Jordan enjoying my “American” Carbonara!

Halfway through the Meal…

I had not made Pasta Carbonara in a few years, and will admit I was a little nervous!  It’s not a difficult pasta to make, but I feel as if it is easy to make it under flavored or “eggy.”  I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out perfectly flavored and very good, in spite of the pre-packaged pancetta, which had little flavor and was extremely thin.  I was feeling a little under the weather all weekend, even though I had a surprise visitor (!!), or else I would have made an adventure to the butcher on Halstead.  I guess that will have to wait for another day…maybe when the weather stops acting up and just stays warm!

My parents will be here on Saturday, but I am hoping to make pizza next Sunday!!  Until then…healthy eating 🙂  Have a great week!