Monday, July 28, 2008

I have a love-hate relationship with Sundays. On one hand, it's part of my weekend -- I sleep in, drink coffee until noon and take naps. However, as the hours of Sundays tick away (all to quickly), I begin to loathe this day as I realize that many of the things on my to do list will remain unfinished until next weekend. So, in an effort to make Sunday evenings something to look forward to (and to overcome my desire to take a second nap), I decided to start a new tradition: Pasta Sunday. Pasta Sunday is all about creating a marvelous meal and eating it -- a lot of it. No care is taken to ensure that this meal has a lot of nutrients or is low in fat. It's like the Fat Tuesday for the lent-like week ahead where I consume at least 64 ounces of water day and as many fruits and vegetables as my GI system can take.

Last week we had the most amazing meal: Cinnamon Pasta Carbonara (heavy cream anyone?) with fresh homemade chive foccacia and spinach salad. For dessert, homemade chocolate chip cookies. It was quite a feast and I promised myself that it would continue every week.

So, this Sunday featured my spinach salad (recipe below), pasta shells with roasted red peppers and Italian sausage and basil Pecorino Romano foccacia bread.

The pasta recipe is a slight adaptation on an Everyday Food recipe Orecchiette with Sausage and Roasted Peppers. This pasta dish is beautiful in its simplicity! In my version, I add a clove or two of garlic, some fresh parsley and used small shells instead of orecchiette (which is my favorite pasta, but my grocer doesn't carry an affordable brand).

I've been wanting to make my own foccacia for a while now. I tried it a couple of times and never turned out the way that I wanted until I I found this recipe. It's a basic recipe that can be topped with just about anything you want. I used the quick rise yeast to cut the rise in half. An hour and a half is much better than three hours! For the topping, I used some leftover basil (isn't a chiffonade the prettiest?) and a generous pile of Pecorino Romano cheese.

The spinach salad is an old stand-by that I've been making for years. It's so easy to throw together. A mix of red onion, baby carrot, baby spinach and crumbled feta cheese is tossed with some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lots of fresh ground pepper, a pinch of ground garlic and a sprinkling of Italian herb mix. It's super delicious and so easy to make. And, it tastes so good the next day. I love leftover salad!

Any suggestions for this Sunday?


Lauren said...

Okay, okay, love her or hate her this recipe is amazing. A friend made it for us a few weeks ago, and it may be good for Pasta Sunday...,,FOOD_9936_18806,00.html

Lauren said...

16 cremini caps, cleaned with a damp towel and finely chopped in food processor
1 small yellow-skinned onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or the equivalent of freshly grated
2 cups part skim ricotta
8 curly edge lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente (12 to 14 minutes)
1 cup fat free chicken broth
8 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Serving suggestions:
Steamed asparagus (2 small or 1 large bundle asparagus)
Broiled tomatoes (4 vine-ripe tomatoes)

In a medium skillet over moderate heat, saute mushrooms, chopped onions, and garlic in oil until mushrooms give off their juices and darken and onions are tender, about 7 or 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; the salt will help draw water out of the vegetables as they cook.
Add dry chopped spinach to the pan and heat through for 1 minute. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Add ricotta and stir into mixture to heat cheese through, 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat but leave in the warm skillet.
Heat broth in a small pan over moderate heat. Melt Gorgonzola into broth and bring liquid to a bubble. Stir in cream and thicken sauce 2 minutes.
Place cooked lasagna noodles on a large work surface or cutting board. Spread lasagna noodles with a layer of spinach-mushroom filling. Roll up pasta and arrange the 8 bundles in a shallow casserole dish. Pour warm sauce over roll-ups and top with mozzarella. Place casserole under broiler to melt cheese. Serve with steamed asparagus and broiled tomatoes.

Steamed Asparagus Tips:
2 small or 1 large bundle asparagus

While you boil your lasagna noodles, place fresh asparagus tips in a small colander over the boiling water in the pasta pot. Place a lid on the colander and steam asparagus while you are cooking your pasta for 4 minutes or until tips are just tender.

Roasted Tomatoes:
4 vine-ripe tomatoes

Split 4 vine ripe tomatoes across the center and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Broil tomatoes.
Serve along side your completed casserole. Top with any fresh herb you have on hand: basil, thyme, or rosemary.