Friday, May 16, 2014

Inspired by Misticanza: Pasta with Ricotta and Wilted Garlicky Greens

I had never heard of "misticanza" until a few months ago while reading an article about springtime in Italy. Basically, "misticanza" is Italian for mixed wild herbs, generally tossed together in a salad. The word came across my mind again this week, creeping up on dinnertime, and all I could think was that I wanted to eat some greens. Like right now.

So, dinner was decided then. Rigatoni tossed with creamy ricotta, garlic sliced and fried just until golden brown, and whatever greens I could get my hands on (we only had arugula in the refrigerator so I used that) quickly wilted in that same pan with the remnants of the garlic oil, generously sprinkled with sea salt and freshly grated parmesan. To round out the dinner plate, I added a bruschetta, of sorts, that my husband and I love, with garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, and a squeeze of lemon. Tasty. Simple. Wholesome.  

(And, until I actually go to Italy, hastily cobbled together yet delicious concoctions such as these are more than enough. For now.)

Rigatoni with Ricotta and Wilted Garlicky Greens

Serves 4

You will need:

Half a 12 oz. box of dried rigatoni (or any short pasta),
4 tablespoons ricotta
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 semi-packed cups greens (I used arugula)
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
sea salt - to taste
freshly grated parmesan - to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and toss with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Set aside in a large serving bowl.
Heat remaining oil in a small frying pan on medium. Add the garlic slices, and fry just until golden brown (took about a minute on my stove). Then add the greens and let them wilt, this should take another minute. Add this, the ricotta, and pepper to the pasta and give it a good stir until the ricotta is well incorporated and it all comes together. Serve with sea salt and parmesan. Enjoy!

Note: if you have any of this leftover, it is better to eat it cold or at room temperature rather than heated. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chipotle Carnitas Mac n' Cheese

With a new baby around, going to the grocery store has become quick business. Get the list, go in and come out before any potential for a mama or baby meltdown. So, of course, I now delay grocery shopping for as long as possible. Last night, with an "open" dinner plan, I wondered what I could do with some leftover carnitas and a pantry full of dried pasta. Turns out, lots.

By the way, if pasta is not your thing, venture back to the obvious yet delicious. Fold it into an omelet. Stick it into a quesadilla or grilled cheese sandwich. Use as the meat in your favorite chili. Make Dumplings, or Pork Buns. Or curry it up and heap liberally over rice. So. Many. Options.

But back to that pasta.

Despite my butchery of international cuisines here, this is delicious and really works. A little smoky chipotle flavor adds depth and heat - leave it out if it's not for you. Oh, and did I mention that it can be made ahead? I put it together during nap time, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, then put it in the oven right before we ate, freeing up my hands and time for the pre-dinner meltdown that ensued. But, at the end of the day, baby was calm again, and we had a tasty cheesy pasta dish with just the right balance of textures adorning our dinner plates. Life is good.

Chipotle Carnitas Mac n' Cheese
Makes 6 to 8 servings

You will need:

1 box dried pasta shells or macaroni (I used a13.25 oz box of Whole Grain Shells)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped up chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups cooked shredded pork

Cook pasta according to package directions, set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Slowly pour in milk, whisking well to prevent clumping. Once the sauce has slightly thickened, remove from heat. Add cheese, chipotle peppers, cumin, and oregano. Stir until cheese has completely melted and spices are incorporated. Combine the sauce with the cooked pasta, and pork and pour into a 9x13 baking dish. (You can now cover it and put it in the refrigerator until ready to bake, or up to 12 hours.) Add topping if you choose to (see below), then bake uncovered at 375 F for 30 - 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Just before baking, melt butter in a small microwave-safe dish or 20 seconds, then stir in breadcrumbs and spices. It should be crumbly. Sprinkle over pasta before baking.