Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

I really, really love crab cakes. My husband likes to laugh at me, because if we go to a restaurant with crab cakes on the menu? There is a 73% chance that that will be what I order. I just can’t help it! Crab is so delicious – and let’s be honest, the good stuff is mighty expensive at the grocery store. So, it’s not often that I buy crab to cook with… but I happened to have a small container of lump crab left over from a brunch gathering, and I knew I had to find a delicious way to use it up. It wasn’t enough for crab cakes, so I played my usual game of “what random items from my fridge can I use to make this into a meal?” I came up with artichoke hearts, heavy cream, and lemon, and this pasta dish was born!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce
serves 4 as a main course (it’s RICH, so we had smaller portions than we might typically eat when we’re having pasta)

1 lb spaghetti
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
1 can artichoke hearts packed in water, rough-chopped
4 oz dry white wine
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
zest of one large lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

1.) Set your pasta water to boil. In the meantime, heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the artichokes; saute them for a few minutes, without stirring too much. You want the artichokes to caramelize at the edges and get some nice, golden brown color.

2.) Once the artichokes have started to caramelize, add the crab, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and a good pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Stir everything to combine, and let it all cook together for a minute or so. (When the pasta water is ready, salt it well with a big handful of kosher salt, and then drop your spaghetti in!)

3.) Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let it cook down until the liquid is reduced by half, a minute or two.

4.) Add the heavy cream and parmesan to the pan, and stir well. Once the sauce comes to a low boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add another pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer away until the pasta is ready.

5.) When the pasta is just about ready, turn the heat on the sauce down to low, and add the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning; if it tastes a bit bland, add another pinch of salt and taste again. Also, you should notice the slightly nuttiness of the parmesan; if you don’t, throw in a little bit more!

6.) Add the hot pasta directly to the sauce, and toss to coat. Add a small ladle of the pasta water to the sauce, and toss again until everything is well combined.

7.) Portion the pasta in to bowls, top with some chopped parsley, and serve!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

This pasta was a great way to enjoy some crab, without spending a million dollars. It had plenty of crab flavor, and the crab didn’t get overwhelmed by any of the other ingredients. The artichoke hearts added a nice meatiness to the pasta – and really, who can argue with a combination of heavy cream, lemon, and parmesan cheese?? Not me, that’s for sure.

I know you’re not supposed to mix seafood and cheese, but trust me, THIS WORKS,
Tina

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Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

I am going to skip all my usual flowery introductions (I just like to talk, okay??) and get right down to business on this one. Here are the important things you need to know about this recipe:

1.) It’s unbelievably delicious.
2.) It looks REALLY impressive.
3.) It’s actually really easy to make (and not ALL that time-consuming).
4.) You will feel like a bad-ass when you’re done making it. Because you are.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu
serves 4-6 as a main course
gnocchi recipe (barely adapted) from here

For the gnocchi:
15oz whole milk ricotta*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 T butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
additional parmesan for garnish

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

For the ragu:
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 large (or 2 smaller) carrots, cut into very fine dice
1 medium sweet onion, very fine dice
1/2 a large red bell pepper, very fine dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground lamb
2 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 cup dry red wine
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
black pepper
3 T fresh parsley, minced

*If your ricotta is on the watery side, spoon it into a mesh strainer and set it over a bowl for an hour or two. This will give you a thicker, less wet base to begin with.

1.) To start, get the ragu going. Heat a pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the carrots, onion, and bell pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with a small pinch each of salt and pepper.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

2.) Move the vegetables to the side of the pot, and add the lamb. Season the lamb with a bit more salt and pepper, then break the lamb up with a spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat from the pot.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

3.) Add the celery salt, and the tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste coats all the meat and vegetables, and cook for a minute or two, so the paste caramelizes a bit. Add the red wine, diced tomatoes, and the bay leaf, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and bring the mixture back to a simmer; cover partway with the lid, and simmer for about an hour, until the ragu is no longer watery, and has cooked down to a thick, rich sauce.

4.) While the ragu simmers, you can make the gnocchi. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

5.) Add the flour to the ricotta mixture, and stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Lightly flour your countertop, and turn the gnocchi dough out on to the counter. Pat it into one cohesive ball, and then cut into three equal pieces.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

6.) Take each of the three pieces, and gently roll them into long ropes, about 1″ wide. Use a paring knife to cut the ropes into pieces about 1/2″ wide. Move the gnocchi to a parchment-lined baking sheet (be careful to lay them out in a single layer – they’ll be a bit tacky, and will definitely stick together).

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

7.) Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, and melt two tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the two crushed gloves of garlic to the pan, to the infuse the butter.

8.) Add the first batch of gnocchi to the pan, setting them cut-side down, and leaving enough room between them to turn them easily. You will likely need to pan-fry them in 3 or 4 batches. Allow the gnocchi to cook on the first side for 2-3 minutes, until they’re golden brown, then flip and cook the second side until brown. Remove the gnocchi to a paper towel-lined plate, and continue with the rest of the gnocchi, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

9.) When the gnocchi are all fried, garnish them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Pile some gnocchi into the bottom of a bowl, and then top with a generous ladleful of lamb ragu. Sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley over the top.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Do you think it would be a problem if I ate ricotta gnocchi every day for the rest of my life? Because that’s the plan, at this point. For every dinner, every day, I will fry up a handful of pillowy, cheesy gnocchi, and then douse them with freshly grated parmesan cheese, pile them into a bowl, and eat them in bed while watching crappy reality TV. Because I’m an adult, and I can.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Okay, seriously… this meal was GOOD. The ragu is rich and hearty, but the gnocchi are light and airy and crispy on the outside, so they make a perfect pair. You could easily pair either component with something else – the ragu would be great with spaghetti, or spooned over some roasted potatoes. The gnocchi would be fantastic with a simple marinara sauce, or some browned butter with sage. But, I think you should try them together first, because I they’re kind of made for each other!

Go forth and impress your friends and family,
Tina

(Side note: If you find that the gnocchi recipe makes too much, you can easily freeze them. Just lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop them in the freezer for a couple hours. Once they’re pretty solid, you can load them into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them until you’re ready for them! When you’re ready to make them, pan-fry them the same way – they’ll just need an extra minute or two.)

bolognese.

It is no secret that we love pasta around here. Baked pastas, pasta salads, funky pastas, traditional pastas. Pasta that will change your life. For all the pasta I’ve made in my day, though, I had never tried my hand at a real bolognese, and so I decided to try. It was wonderful.

bolognese.

bolognese.
via tasty kitchen.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white onion, finely minced
1 cup carrots, finely minced
1 cup celery, finely minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 pound ground beef
½ pounds ground veal
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 whole bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup milk or cream
1 cup dry red wine
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound small pasta
Grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot and add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add chili flakes and sauté for an additional minute. Add beef, veal, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the meat and break into small pieces. Once the meat is no longer pink, add thyme, bay leaves and tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer until all the milk has evaporated and only clear juices remain, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil, then place the heat at the lowest setting. Continue on this very low simmer for 2 – 2 ½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes until you get a rich, thick meaty sauce. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper accordingly.

Boil pasta according to directions and drain. Just before serving, toss the noodles in the pot with the sauce and serve with parmesan.

While this requires a couple good hours on the stove, it’s not a challenging sauce to make. It’s perfect for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when you plan to be around the house. Comfort food at its best!

In a perfect world, we could eat pasta for every meal,
jcristg

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Happy 2014! I apologize for the gaps in posting… like about half the country, Michigan got pounded with a few intense snowstorms over a span of 10 days, and then our temperatures plummeted for a while (on a Tuesday, our wind chill was -40° [yeah, you read that right]… 3 days later, on Friday, our high was 42°). Trying to accomplish everyday activities while fighting 2 feet of snow gets exhausting pretty quickly; and the crazy, intense cold lead to a lot of evenings where I refused to come out from under a pile of 7 blankets, for fear of frostbite. So, no posting. But, the weather has relaxed a little bit, the temperatures no longer begin with a negative sign, and I can once again feel my hands!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I realized a couple days ago that I had a giant bunch of kale wilting away in the fridge. It was definitely past its prime, and no longer good for salads. I’m not a huge fan of cooked greens, so I knew my options were limited… and suddenly, it occurred to me that kale would probably make a great pesto! I set about making a pesto with things I had on hand, and it turned out REALLY good. If you have yet to jump on the kale bandwagon, and you’d like to give it a try, this recipe would be an excellent jumping off point.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan
serves 4-6 as a main course, 8-10 as a side

1 lb linguine, cooked until al dente
2 cups of kale, packed (stripped of any stems)
good handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed*
3 cloves garlic
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil, approximately 1/2 cup
cherry tomatoes, halved

*You can use walnuts if you prefer. I actually intended to use walnuts, but then I realized I didn’t have any – and it was a happy accident, as I think the hazelnuts were really fantastic paired with the kale.

1.) Start by washing your kale, and drying it really well. Get your pasta water going (don’t forget to salt it very well before you add the pasta!), and cook the pasta as directed.

Kale and Hazelnut Pesto

2.) Add everything except the olive oil to a food processor, and pulse several times, until the mixture is well-chopped, but still a little chunky (make sure the hazelnuts and garlic cloves aren’t still in large pieces).

3.) Turn the processor on, and drizzle in about 1/3 cup of the olive oil. The amount of olive oil you’ll need will depend on the amount of moisture in your kale, how juicy the lemon was, etc. Keep drizzling olive oil (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed) until the pesto has reached a good sauce-like consistency – a little loose, but not soupy.

4.) Pour the pesto into a large serving bowl; when the pasta is done, add it directly to the bowl full of pesto. Toss the linguine with the pesto – add a couple tablespoons of the starchy pasta water if the pesto isn’t coating the pasta well.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

5.) Serve the pasta immediately, topped with shavings of fresh parmesan and the halved cherry tomatoes.

This pesto is SO DELICIOUS. It’s fresh, and light, but with a nice richness from the parmesan and hazelnuts. The lemon juice and zest keep the whole thing bright. It’s one of those rare dishes that feels hearty enough for a cold winter day, but would also make a really delicious cold pasta salad for a summer picnic. I’m debating how I’ll use the leftover pesto – I’m thinking I’ll either drizzle it over some roasted potatoes, or mix it with brown rice as a side dish!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I promise you, kale is seriously delicious!
Tina