A Blackout Pasta Dish

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Monica’s Mercato, around the corner from our apartment in Boston, has hands-down the best Italian subs in Boston, but we were also mesmerized by the display of fresh and dried pastas. The eery ebony squid ink spaghetti called out to us. While we had never experimented with this type of pasta before, we had sampled it in Italy and various North End eateries, and loved its salty, briny sea flavor.

To accompany the spaghetti, we bolted across the street to the North End Fish Market and grabbed a few jumbo sea scallops to sear and pair with crumbled bacon and a garlicky lemon sauce. The combination of the slightly orange-hued bacon and the black spools of pasta got us thinking it’s about time to start planning for the upcoming ghoulish holiday.

Black Squid Ink Pasta with Seared Scallops and Bacon

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Timpano for Dummies

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EP-IC– extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.

THAT’S what I wanted to make this last weekend; an epic dinner. But it had been a grueling week and I was pretty sore after re-launching my workout program, so I was in search of a

SHORT-CUT — a method or means of doing something more directly and quickly, though not as thoroughly.

I’ve made epic meals in the past, usually for a holiday, and it’s always a two day event consisting of creating everything from scratch and working  morning ‘til night just to prepare all of the elements that go into the dish. But that wasn’t going to happen this weekend because I was

SPENT — used up; consumed, depleted of energy, force, or strength; exhausted.

To make matters worse I chose to make the Godzilla of epic meals, the legendary
Italian food-orgy-in-a-bowl; the TIMPANO! And I had already invited the gang over a week ago, who after learning what I was planning to make for dinner proceeded to refer to me as a

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Torn Between Two Loves

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We met at this little Italian place downtown. When we were first introduced I wasn’t sure that we would hit it off, but to my surprise, after that first meal together I couldn’t get her out of my mind…

I had grown up with her older cousin and I enjoyed their similarities. Both were pleasurable, warm and inviting. Both were Italian-born and I had learned over the years that each could at times go from being bland and uninspired to rich, robust and addictive. That was always dependent upon where we would meet…

I was torn. Was it right to go from one to the other, day after day, year after year without paying a price for my indecision? But how could I choose? I loved them both so much. If only there was some way that I could combine the delicious comfort of my hot little Neapolitan delight with the classic, saucy, international flare of my first love.

But if I could, what would people think when they discovered that I’ve forced my two great loves to unite in front of me so that I might enjoy their desires at the same time? Would it be moral? Would it be proper? Could it ever really work?….

Aaah, the hell with it! Let’s do this thang!

Katt’s Two Love Spaghetti Pizza

(What did you think I was talking about?)

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Mock Bolognese So Good, Your Friends Won’t…Err…Make Fun of You

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In a family with two working parents and a rambunctious two-year-old, I only have a few priorities when it comes to weeknight cooking. I need something relatively simple, something relatively nutritious and something relatively delicious. All three are probably a step down from how things were in the past, but I’m OK with that.

How simple? I’d really like it if my knife prep was the most time-consuming aspect of the meal. We’ve been doing a better job with nutrition by cutting out a bit of meat from our diet and focusing on more vegetables. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that my pasta sauce taste better than Prego. So when I thought about how I could bring some of the slow-cooked goodness of bolognese to a Tuesday night, I decided to swap out the meat for mushrooms and see how I can amp up the flavor a bit.

The keys were to get a good caramelization using vegetables that didn’t take too long to break down (mushrooms, shallots, garlic), liberal use of tomato paste and a good dash of Worcestershire sauce for some sweetness and anchovy flavor. The result was a richly flavorful sauce that nicely coated the noodles but didn’t weigh it down.

Your diners might not accuse you of spending all day in the kitchen, but if I can get something this good and still have time to watch some Pajanimals with my kid, I’ll take it.

Mock Bolognese (Mushroom Ragù)

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The Bargain Ham Incident

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So it’s the second day after Christmas and I’m in my local grocery store when what do I see? All of the leftover hams that weight ten pounds or more are marked down to 99 cents a pound! Am I interested? Heck to the yeah! I grab two and make a mad dash for the checkout counter and before you know it I’m stuffing my bundles of pig joy into the freezer next to my emergency vodka. Sweet!

Fast forward to yesterday, when I’m wondering what to do for dinner and I suddenly remember my major swine score. So I thaw out contestant number one and pop it in the oven next to some scallop potatoes that I threw together. About 40 minutes later–voila! I sit down to enjoy my dirt-cheap ham dinner feast. It was so good I couldn’t wait to fire up a ham-steak-and-egg breakfast this morning. Then a few hours later I treated myself to a lunch consisting of a cold ham sandwich with mustard and Swiss cheese. Now I’m getting ready to make my dinner when what do I see staring back at me from inside my fridge? That goddamn ham! About eight and a half pounds worth. What was I thinking? Deal schmeal! This feels more like a sentence—and there’s no time off for good behavior. I’m now deep into day two of all things ham and it’s déjà vu all over again.

But wait a minute–maybe I’m approaching this wrong. Maybe if I didn’t think of it as ham I wouldn’t have a problem choking down another plate of it. What if it wasn’t ham, but it was its upscale Italian cousin pancetta? Now we’re talkin’! If I think of it as pancetta, then I could make this:

Katt’s NOT Pancetta and Angel Hair Pasta Dish

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Cooking with Fabio: Drunken Red Spaghetti

Has anyone else missed Fabio Viviani? I know I’d take his crazy Italian ramblings over this year’s boring Top Chef-testants any day. Well, not to worry—I just stumbled upon his new web series, in which Fabio and his disturbingly hot mom cook up drunken red spaghetti—pasta doused in red wine and smothered in pecornio, walnuts and caramelized pancetta. I love this dish because he doesn’t add just a little bit of booze. Uh-uh. He adds enough wine to turn those noodles purple! Now that’s Italian.

Also – check out his nickle-and-dime pasta serving size trick at 2:40!

No Such Thing as Too Much Pumpkin…or Goat Cheese

Even though Thanksgiving feels like it was ages ago by this point, I”m still in the process of using up all the leftovers. Evidently I”m not alone; my ES sistas have been working through the same issue by creating their delicious Pumpkin Stuffed Shells and Turkey Parmesan recipes.

Anyway, I ended up with a lot of leftover canned pumpkin, which was great for me because I happen to loooove pumpkin in both sweet and savory dishes. Still riding my fried sage leaves craze, I dreamed up this savory and secretly quite healthy pasta dish, which combines spiced, roasted cauliflower, chicken breast chunks, and gobetti pasta as a base. That combo is then smothered in a creamy goat cheese pumpkin sauce, then topped with paprika, roasted pumpkin seeds, fried sage leaves, and yet more goat cheese. This pasta was a good way to use up leftover pumpkin, but stands on its own; you don”t need leftovers as an excuse to whip this up for dinner!

Roasted Cauliflower-Pumpkin Pasta with Goat Cheese, Pepitas, and Sage

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