Back in the summer of 2008, my husband and I travel to St. Louis for the wedding of two of our very good friends. While there we dined at Niche, a lovely spot in the historic Benton Park neighborhood. It’s also the home of chef Gerard Craft, one of Food and Wine’s best new chefs from that same year.
The entire meal was wonderful, but in all honesty the only thing I specifically remember eating was the braised pork pappardelle, which is a staple on the menu. Melt in your mouth pork tossed with lighter than air pasta, all coated in a rich, smoky and sweet sauce. It’s the ultimate comfort food. I loved it so much that I actually traveled to St. Louis a few years later just so I could dine at Niche a second time.
The things we’ll do for food.
So you can only imagine my surprise when, on a random whim, I Googled the recipe and actually found it. Straight from Gerard Craft himself. And while I could never do this recipe the justice that he does, it’s a great substitute when driving five hours to St. Louis just won’t do. It’s so wonderful.
Braised Pork Pappardelle
From Gerard Craft of Niche Restaurant in St. Louis as published in Food and Wine
What you need:
One 2-pound piece of boneless pork shoulder
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1-inch dice
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch dice
1 celery rib, cut into 1-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound pappardelle
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
How you do it:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Season the pork with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt. In a medium oven-safe dutch oven, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned on all sides, 15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate.
Add the apple, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it deepens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken stock, vinegar and honey and bring to a simmer. Add the pork, cover and transfer the casserole to the oven. Braise the pork for about 3 hours, turning once halfway through, until very tender.
Transfer the pork to a plate. Strain the sauce into a large bowl, gently pressing on the solids. Pour the sauce back into the pot. Using 2 forks, shred the pork; discard any large pieces of fat. Transfer the shredded pork to the sauce and stir in the mascarpone. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain the pasta and transfer to the casserole with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and the parsley over moderate heat until well coated, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasta to warm bowls.
I eat a lot of pasta. Probably more than I’d like to admit. But in my defense, on nights where I don’t get home until 8:30 (which happens more often than not), it’s an understandable go-to — the easiest and quickest option after a 12-hour work day when I’m starving and have little patience for anything else. Let’s just say I’m thankful for whole wheat pasta — it makes me feel a smidge less guilty about all my late night pasta binges.
Unfortunately, I also tend to get bored pretty quickly, which means I’m always looking for ways to mix up my pasta recipes. So when I saw this recipe on Leek Soup (who, by the way, has a beautiful blog — you should check it out), I immediately bookmarked it. The Moroccan flavor combinations really appealed to me, especially the lamb and olives. Better yet, it’s incredibly easy to make and packs some serious, serious flavor. An absolute treat after a long night at work…or any other night.
Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? It’s obviously a favorite of nearly every kid alive, but us adults have the luxury of stepping away from the blue box and really getting down to business with the real deal.
Despite the fact that it’s summer and nearly 100 degrees here in Chicago, I couldn’t resist the urge to stand over the stove and make a batch of creamy mac and cheese. Pungent gruyere, salty Parmesan and bitter mustard greens all come together with pasta to create something completely indulgent and comforting. If you’ve never put greens in your mac before, you have to try it. It helps set off the richness a bit, which makes me feel a little less guilty about the whole thing. But honestly, I’d feel much more guilty eating the stuff from the blue box.
1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked to package directions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2 large shallots)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups skim milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
How you do it:
In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the mustard greens for approximately 1 minute. Drain and immediately rinse with very cold water. Squeeze all the remaining water out of the greens with a towel, chop greens into half inch ribbons, and set aside.
In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent; approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over shallots and whisk for approximately 2 minutes or until the flour has turned a nutty brown color.
Whisking constantly, slowly add 2 cups of milk. Once combined, add the remaining cup of milk, plus the cup and half of half. Raise the heat to medium-high, add cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and whisk constantly until the sauce comes to a boil; about 8 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low and stir sauce occasionally until thick; approximately 15 minutes more.
Add chopped mustard greens, gruyere and Parmesan; stirring until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Taste and adjust for seasonings if necessary. Add cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve topped with freshly cracked pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
I really love tomatoes. Love. So much so that in the summer, I’ll often eat them like apples with just a sprinkling of salt. But that’s in the summer. In March, the tomatoes aren’t nearly as delicious.
Luckily, there are tons of other tomato-y products that are pretty tasty year-round, like sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato juice. I happened to have all of these things in my pantry, so I decided to create a sauce by combining them with a few ripe tomatoes, some basil, garlic and truffle salt. Yes. Truffle salt. If you don’t have any in your kitchen, you should. It’s an easy way to make any dish –especially pasta — that much more special.
I’m actually really impressed by how fresh the sauce tasted, and it doesn’t get much easier than putting everything in the blender. You could easily just toss the sauce with pasta and call it a day, but I much prefer my pasta baked and cheesy. Mmm…cheese…
Baked Tortelloni with Quad Tomato Truffle Sauce (serves 2)
What you need:
9 oz package of fresh tortelloni
2 tomatoes from the vine, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 oil-packed sundried tomatoes
6 tablespoons tomato juice
3 large basil leaves, plus more for serving
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon truffle salt
Freshly cracked pepper
How you do it:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook tortelloni in salted boiling water for a minute or two less than the package instructions. Drain, put in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, put tomatoes, tomato paste, sundried tomatoes, tomato juice, basil, garlic, truffle salt and pepper (to taste) in a blender and whirl until well combined.
Add sauce to the cooked tortelloni and gently toss to combine. Add mixture to a small baking dish, top with Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes and broil for a minute or two or until the top becomes slightly brown.
Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese, basil and freshly cracked pepper.
**This post was written, cooked and partially photographed (voluntarily!) by my husband, Dave. I love it when he joins me in the kitchen, but I love it even more when he takes over. This is one of his favorite things to make, and one of our favorite things to eat. I was thrilled when he asked if he could be a guest blogger on Fresh and Foodie — of course I couldn’t say no! Bon appetit!**
I don’t cook often, but when I do, there are two things I do really well: grilled meats and this lasagna. I received a simple version of this recipe from my mom when I was in college. It was always a favorite of mine that she would cook for me growing up, and it always reminded me of home. Due to my poor knife skills, there were no fresh cut veggies in the lasagna to start. As I became more confident (and daring) in my cooking, I would throw in a chopped pepper or an onion to mix it up a little.
It wasn’t until I met Bobbi that I learned I could mix it up to my liking. I’ve since added the fresh veggies and the fresh mozzarella balls to the original recipe. I have also experimented by adding a link or two of spicy italian sausage. The cottage cheese is a nice touch without making the dish too rich, however the next time I make it I plan on experimenting with ricotta instead. This recipe is easily customizable and is one of my favorites to make for guests. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Hearty, Chunky Lasagna (serves 8-10)
What you need:
1 pound ground turkey
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
8 ounces of button mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
A handful of chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
8 ounces of cottage cheese
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, drained and quartered
8 ounces of grated parmesan
1 24-ounce jar of pasta sauce
9 lasagna noodles, cooked to package instructions
Salt & pepper to taste
How you do it:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large stockpot, cook turkey until cooked thorough.
Add chopped pepper, onion, mushrooms, garlic, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes until the veggies start to soften.
Add pasta sauce, stir to combine, cover and let simmer. Just before assembling the lasagna, stir in the handful of chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, stir cottage cheese and eggs together until blended. Set aside.
Spray a 9×13 glass dish with non-stick spray. Layer the bottom of the dish with three noodles. Next add one-third of the cottage cheese and egg mixture, one-third of the sauce mixture, one-third of the mozzarella balls and one-third of the parmesan cheese. Repeat for 2 additional layers.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. For additional browning of the cheese on top, turn broiler on high for and cook the lasagna (keep an eye on it) for 2 minutes or so.
Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Garnish with parsley, additional parmesan cheese and garlic bread.
Pesto. It’s always a winner. But when my plan to make traditional pesto was foiled by a bad batch of basil, I needed to improvise. That’s how I came up with this sundried tomato version — a sweeter take on the original. Delicious with pasta (or spread on crostini), this recipe gets a lot of action at my house.
Sweet and Savory Pesto Pasta with Feta Cheese (serves 4)
What you need:
Note: Pesto isn’t really a measuring-type recipe since it’s literally impossible to mess up. Hence no exact measurements.
Approximately 9 ounces of your favorite pasta
15 to 20 oil-packed sundried tomato halves, drained
A handful (about one small clamshell if you’re buying it at the store) of basil leaves removed from their stems, plus a few additional leaves chiffonade for garnish
A handful of raw pine nuts, almonds or walnuts, whichever you like
A generous spoonful (or two!) of Parmesan cheese (I was out of fresh! So embarrassing. Please forgive me.)
A healthy glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese
How you do it:
Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan.
While pasta cooks, put remaining ingredients (excluding feta cheese) in a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Transfer tomato mixture to a medium bowl.
Slowly combine reserved pasta water with tomato mixture, stirring with a whisk until you achieve the consistency you want. Add to pasta and toss well to coat. Top with feta and remaining basil.
To make the spreadable crostini version, simply forgo adding the pasta water. Spread on toasts and top with some fresh Parmesan. Delicioso.
I’m not vegetarian. Not even close. But I like mixing it up a bit for health reasons (and because of the impact the meat industry has on the environment, but that’s a whole other blog entry). And while I enjoy a steak (medium rare, please) just as much as the next guy, I really believe that if your vegetarian dish is good enough, you won’t miss the meat. Kind of like this one.
My friend and co-worker Suzanne, a vegetarian for the past 20 years, shared this recipe with me. It’s easy, but more importantly, delicious. A complete vegetarian meal in one pot, and believe me — you won’t feel like you’re missing anything.
1 1/2 cups-ish artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 “bunch” (several handfuls) arugula
1/2 package block cream cheese (regular or reduced fat, your choice)
The juice of half a lemon
How to do it:
Fill large pot with water and bring to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, then add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain well and reserve 1/2 cup or so of pasta water (you may not need it all).
Meanwhile, put artichoke hearts, Parmesan, and arugula into a bowl and toss gently. Set aside.
Return hot, drained pasta to the pot and stir in cream cheese, lemon juice and reserved pasta water until you achieve a creamy consistency. Add arugula mixture, salt and pepper and — toss gently to combine. Top with more Parmesan before serving. Still missing meat? Crumbled Italian sausage would be delicious in this dish.