Category Archives: Main Dishes

Gnudi with Tomatoes and Marjoram

imageThis recipe dates back about five years and was buried in my file.  I made it once years ago and recall it being delicious and easy.  After successfully making it again the other night, I would say this recipe is definitely a keeper.

imageimageYou may be unfamiliar with gnudi, I consider it a sibling to the more renown gnocchi.  While gnocchi is made with cooked mashed potatoes, gnudi is made with ricotta cheese.  Distinctly lighter than gnocchi, gnudi is easy to make because it doesn’t require cooking potatoes, just a container of fresh ricotta cheese.

imageimageimageMaking gnudi also requires a gentle hand, you don’t want to over mix the dough.  When adding the flour to the ricotta mixture, be sure to stir until just combined.  Likewise, as you roll out the dough into ropes, be sure not to overwork the dough.  It will become a sticky mess.

imageMy final advice is resist the urge to overcook the gnudi.  Cooking gnudi is not like boiling pasta, it is simply a matter of poaching the dough in simmering water.  The gnudi should firm, little dumplings.

imageThis sauce is particularly delicious, made with fresh tomatoes and marjoram.  Enjoy!


Gnudi with Tomatoes and Marjoram

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 C finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1 egg
2 t melted butter, plus 4 T chilled butter
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 C flour, plus more for dusting
1 large shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
pinch dried chili flakes
4 T olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 C fresh marjoram leaves, roughly chopped

Bring pot of salted water to boil.  Make gnudi dough: mix together ricotta, parmesan, egg, melted butter and nutmeg.  Stir in flour until just combined.

Set large sauté pan over medium heat.  Melt chilled butter, add olive oil.  Sauté  shallot, garlic and chili flakes until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high and add tomatoes.  Simmer until tomatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Smash some tomatoes to add texture to sauce.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer.

Meanwhile, roll out gnudi.  On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 1 inch-thick ropes.  Dust with extra flour to prevent sticking.  Cut ropes into 1 inch chunks.  Turn water down to a simmer.  Poach gnudi in simmering water until they float to the top, about 4 minutes.  Remove gnudi with a slotted spoon into the pan with the sauce.  Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until the sauce is shiny and clings to the gnudi, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the marjoram and divide among 4 plates.  Serve with grated parmesan on top.



Sardine Pasta

imageI’ve been on a mission lately to work my way through some of the recipes I’ve clipped from newspapers and magazines and stashed away, sometimes for years.  I sorted through my collection the other day and couldn’t part with any of them.  Apparently, there was a reason why each recipe was clipped and saved.  Of course, they serve little purpose if I don’t actually make any of the recipes.  That’s why I decide to make one recipe a week – or at least that is my stated goal – and try out some of these cool recipes.

imageLast night, I made a sardine pasta recipe that I clipped from the Chicago Tribune.  Oddly enough, my nine year loves sardines and will happily eat them on crackers for a snack after school.  When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.

imageSardines have really gone out of fashion, similar to canned tuna.  Once a staple of all pantries, most people find sardines fishy, oily and all around unappealing.  When I was growing up in Maine, sardine plants packing plants were a part of the working waterfront.  No longer.  The sardines for sale at the grocery store are all packed abroad and imported into the U.S.

imageRegardless, I think people should give sardines another chance.  They are a healthy fish that are affordable and sustainably fished.  I think they are pretty tasty too.  Tough to find many fish with those qualities and I love the idea of having a can on hand to make a quick meal.

imageThis recipe is called Pasta chi sari a mari, or “pasta with sardines that are still in the sea” and was based on a recipe by the late actor Vincent Schiavelli.  Admittedly, I have no idea who this actor is but the recipe was simple and delicious.

The only real change I’ve made is to add course salt to the recipe. Surprisingly, the recipe was lacking in that department, since I thought the sardines would take care of the saltiness.  Dig in!


Pasta chi sari a mari

  • Servings: 4-6
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1/4 C golden raisins
1/2 C fresh breadcrumbs
1 can (120 grams) sardines in olive oil
3 T olive oil
1 whole clove garlic
1 t fennel seeds
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C chopped fennel fronds
2 T chopped parsley
1 pound pasta
course salt
freshly ground pepper

Cover the raisins in boiling water; set aside to soften.  Fill large pot with water, cover and put over high heat.  Heat skillet over medium heat, add breadcrumbs, sprinkle liberally with course salt and drizzle with oil from sardines to moisten.  Toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

When the water comes to a rapid boil, add about a teaspoon of salt and cook al dente according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, over medium heat put 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot that will hold the pasta.  Add the garlic clove, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic.

Put the sardines and remaining oil into the skillet and break the fish into bite sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta is done, drain, reserving a 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.  Add the pasta and reserved liquid to the skillet.  Drain the raisins and add them to the skillet, along with the parsley and fennel fronds.  Increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly until the water is evaporated.

Serve pasta with the toasted breadcrumbs on top.


Spiced Lamb Burgers


Every once in a while I try a new food that is so delicious that I think about for a while after it’s been consumed.  The other day I made grilled lamb burgers that just hit the spot.


I’ve made this recipe before, but served them on a traditional bun.  Not so this time, I served them in a pita bun and that made all of the difference.


What separates this burger apart is twofold:  the ground lamb is marinated in spices for at least an hour before cooking and then grilled inside the pita.


You heard that right.  Purchase (or make if you are feel industrious) pita bread that has a nice pocket opening.  Cut the edge of the pita (scissors work the best) to create an opening, and then stuff it with the ground lamb mixture.


Drizzle the pitas with olive oil and then grill them over medium until the pita is charred and the lamb is cooked.


I was a little doubtful as to whether this technique would work (I found this recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine) and envisioned burnt pita bread with raw lamb inside.  My husband and I cooked one burger to ensure success before grilling the whole lot.


The burger came out perfectly.  Moist lamb cooked inside, with a delicious char on the exterior.  These burgers were so good I am still thinking about them…

Spiced Lamb Burgers

  • Difficulty: easy
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2 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
3/4 C chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 T ground coriander
3/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
olive oil
8 medium pita bread pockets

Using a fork, mix the lamb, onion, parsley and seasoning.  Drizzle generously with olive oil.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.  Preheat grill to medium heat.  Cut each pita bread pocket along the seam and halfway around perimeter.  Spoon filling into pitas, spreading filling to edge and press close to seal.  Drizzle with olive.

Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes each side.


Pulled Pork

Over this past Labor Day weekend I made pulled pork. Pulled pork is the meal that keeps giving: leftovers here we come!


I always choose a large cut because I love leftovers, and the work is the same as a smaller cut. Pulled pork is best made with inexpensive cuts typically called “pork shoulder,” “butt roast” or “picnic roast”.


This time I picked up a 7 pound cut of pork shoulder and marinated it in a spice rub for about an hour before cooking. Keep in mind when you put a rub on a piece of meat you don’t actually rub it in so much as give it a pat down.



Since I don’t have a crock pot, I cook my roasts low and slow in the oven all day. The aroma is wonderful and every time I re-enter house I have to ask ironically who is busy cooking.


This meal is truly low effort with big results. The end result is pork with a slightly crispy exterior and the meat is literally falling off the bone.  Shredding the meat with two forks is a cinch.



I made a gravy from the pan drippings and added some of it to the pulled pork to make it extra moist.


I like to serve pulled pork on slider buns so that people can eat as many as they choose. I also love to serve the coleslaw right on top of the meat, inside the bun.


I made a vinegar based barbecue sauce which hit the spot, but was tad on the mustardy side (I followed Tyler Florence’s recipe). Next time I plan to cut back on the mustard and so use your favorite barbecue sauce recipe.


Stay tuned for recipes on how I use all these wonderful leftovers!

Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Recipe from Tyler Florence “Pulled Pork Barbecue”


3 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T brown sugar
1 T dry mustard
3 T course salt
1 5-7 lb pork roast

Mix together spices in a small bowl and pat onto pork roast.  Rest for 1 hour before cooking.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Put pork in roasting pan and cook for about 6 hours uncovered.  Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before pulling apart (until shredded) on a cutting board with two forks.  While the meat is resting, deglaze the pan with about 3/4 cup of water over media heat.  Using a spatula, stir up brown bits from bottom of the pan and reduce the liquid by half.  Pour through a mesh strainer.  Pour some of the gravy into the pulled pork to moisten.


Maple Glazed Pork Chops


It’s been a while since my last blog post but I am back at it again. Somehow summer vacation and little people got in my way — not of cooking — just taking pictures and sharing what I have made.  So what have I been making? Roast duck, lobster stock (on my trip to Maine), lamb burgers and an array of things for the grill to name of a few.

I hope that you haven’t given up on me entirely and continue to follow my trials and tribulations with food.


Last night I made a delicious maple glazed pork chop. The recipe is from Weber’s Big Book of Grilling.  Glazes are great when you don’t have time to marinade the meat.  Simply make the glaze as the grill heats up.



This recipe called for equal parts maple syrup, dijon mustard and steak sauce. The perfect pantry meal I might add if you are short on ingredients as I was last night.



I served these chops up with a delicious kale salad and leftover risotto (did you know that risotto freezes pretty well?). Stay posted and I will share that kale salad recipe and new ways to use leftover risotto.



I used thin butterfly pork chops because that was what I had on hand. Generally I recommend using a thick center cut pork chop for a glaze since thicker cuts take a longer time to cook on the grill. It’s harder to get a good glaze with the short cooking time of a thin cut.


That said, these pork chops were delicious.  If you like sweet and spicy you’ll enjoy this recipe and it couldn’t be easier.  I would happily apply this glaze to all manner of chicken and even shrimp.


Note that I used A1 brand steak sauce, because that is what I had on hand and my daughter loves it on anything (I’m not kidding). Use whatever steak sauce is your preference.

Maple Glazed Pork Chops

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 thick center cut pork chops
2 t pure maple syrup
2 t dijon mustard
1 t steak sauce

Heat grill to medium heat. While the grill is heating mix together the ingredients for the glaze. Brush the glaze on each of the pork chops – leaving some glaze to continue to brush on the chops as they cook. Cook over direct medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Turn the pork chops over about mid-way through cooking.

Fresh Ricotta Pasta


One of the things I’ve realized over time, is that a lot of the commercial ready-made products that we buy are a poor imitation of the real thing. What do I mean by real thing? Something that was made by hand, in small batches (artisanal if you will, although these days, I find that word to be a bit trite) and eaten within days of being made.


The grocery store where I regularly shop has a wonderful deli section, and I’ve always noticed that they sell fresh ricotta cheese by the pound. I’ve only ever used commercial ricotta and I’ve been wanting to try the real thing to see how it compares. My children typically don’t like ricotta. I think it has something to do with the grainy texture. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of the grainy texture either and was curious to see what fresh ricotta was like.


I decided to make a pasta recipe I’ve tried long ago. The recipe is from a great cookbook called Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. This cookbook, the second by these chefs, is aptly named and has a lot of simple and delicious recipes.

I started by putting a large pot of water to boil on the stove.  While waiting for the water to boil, I enlisted my children to help me cut a pint of cherry tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds. I figured if they helped me with cooking the pasta, they’d be more willing to try ricotta cheese again.


We found using your thumb to push the seeds and juice out was the easiest method, and also prevented them from spraying everywhere. I then finely chopped a clove of garlic and combined it with the tomatoes, seasoning the mixture with salt and pepper and then allowing it to marinate about 15 minutes or so.


I also put the ricotta into a separate bowl and seasoned it with some salt and pepper. I coarsely chopped about a 1/2 cup of fresh basil. I dumped a pound of orecchiette pasta into the boiling with water with a sprinkling of course salt and cooked until el dente.


If you’ve never had orecchiette pasta you are missing out. They look like these little suction cups (which is what my eight year old calls them) which allow the sauce or whatever you’re mixing in to nestle perfectly in the pasta. If you don’t have any orecchiette on hand, or can’t find it in the store, than any other small pasta such as bow ties, or campanelle will be a fine substitute.


While the pasta was cooking I heated the tomato mixture over low heat in a medium size pot. Once the pasta was done I drained it, added it to the tomato mixture, sprinkled in the fresh basil and then gently stirred in the ricotta cheese.  I topped it off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.



Delicious – fresh ricotta bares no resemblance to the commercial variety. It’s creamy in texture (no graininess to be found) and very light. It is consistent with my experience: the homemade version is always better. And the girls really loved this pasta too!


Fresh Ricotta Pasta

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
small bunch fresh basil
1 T olive oil
1 C ricotta cheese
1 pound orecchiette pasta
3 T grated parmesan cheese salt and pepper

Place a large pot of water to boil. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seeds and juice. Finely chop clove of garlic and combine with the tomatoes and olive oil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and let marinate for 15 minutes. Put ricotta in bowl and season with salt and pepper. When water boils, add orecchiette pasta to water and cook per package instructions to el dente. Gently heat tomato mixture over low heat in pot. Add cooked pasta and fresh basil stirring together. Stir in ricotta cheese and gently combine. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese


Last night it was just the girls and me and so I decided to make kid-friendly macaroni and cheese. This recipe doesn’t stray from the basics: a creamy rue, shredded cheese and a crunchy bread topping.


The ingredient that gives this recipe kick is bacon. I truly believe that if you are going to eat something fattening, or just plain unhealthy, it is only the worth the calories if it is really delicious.


I must admit I am not much of a fan of the bacon craze that has hit the nation. I think it’s basically a cop out way to make flavorful food without much effort. But I really liked this recipe.  It is from the cookbook, One Pot of the Day, by Kate McMillan.


Just make sure that you use the best cheddar cheese you can afford. I used something called “Londoner Cheese” which happened to be on sale. The sharpness of the cheese contrasted with the smoky flavor of the bacon.



IMG_1829Also, resist the temptation to cook more than the required 1/2 pound of pasta. It seems like a measly amount but the pasta expands in the oven and absorbs all of the cheese sauce. Too much pasta will make this recipe dry and starchy.



Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 T unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 C fresh bread crumbs
4 slices of thick sliced bacon, cut crosswise in 2 inch strips
1/4 C flour
3 C whole milk, heated
3/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and place on high heat. In a medium size sauce pan, over medium heat, fry the bacon in batches until cooked but not crisp. Remove the bacon and pour out left over grease.

In the same sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted add the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Add the hot milk slowly, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add 2/3 of the cheese and stir until melted.

Meanwhile, when the water begins to boil, add the macaroni and cook until el dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce, stirring to coat.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and toss with bread crumbs. Lightly butter a shallow 2 quart baking dish and add the macaroni and cheese mixture. Top with remaining shredded cheese and then bread crumb mixture. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and sauce is bubbling.