Thursday, July 10, 2008

Whip It Up - Pasta!

Okay, for my first foray into the Whip It Up challenge, I stuck to the suggested theme of pasta. My friend Sarah had recently posted this Rachel Ray recipe on her blog and I was interested in trying it out. I made a few modifications of my own, which I have made note of below. Bryon and I both liked it, and it was super-easy, so I think it will definitely stay in our "rotation."

A few notes about this recipe (and RR recipes in general) from Sarah's blog:
  • Read through the entire recipe at least once before you start. There are always a couple of twists and turns that you might miss if you aren't ready for them.
  • You must chop/prep all the ingredients before you start cooking.

I used the entire 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper that it called for. We tend to have somewhat "milder" palates. This amount was just fine, but any more would have been too much for us. Those out there who like spicier Italian dishes will probably want to add more. In the future, I'll probalby use just a little bit less. I may also cut back just slightly on the amount of fresh basil in the future (I was probably a bit heavy-handed with it this time). I love fresh basil, but it almost gave the sauce a slightly licorice-like taste. The allspice gives the sauce a really nice flavor, though. It sort of warms you from the inside out.

You only use half of the meat/tomato sauce in the final toss. The leftover sauce is supposed to be for topping purposes. We found this wasn't necessary. In the future, I'll probably just make a half-recipe of the meat/tomato sauce, since the other half is currently sitting in the refrigerator, waiting for me to come up with a use for it.

Not-sagna Pasta Toss

Easier than lasagna, because it's not, this pasta, meat sauce and ricotta toss-up is just as hearty and comforting as the layered Italian fave, but it's ready in a fraction of the time and with much less effort.

1 pound curly, short cut pasta (i.e., campanelle, fusilli, cavatappi)
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 turns of the pan)
2 pound ground sirloin*
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (eyeball it in your palm)
Black pepper
½ teaspoon allspice (eyeball it in your palm)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce*
½ cup dry red wine (a couple of glugs)
½ cup beef stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
**3 teaspoons granulated sugar**
1 cup fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (a couple of handfuls), plus some to pass at the table

*I used whole wheat pasta, ground turkey, twice the amount of Worcestershire, and the entire 15 oz. container of ricotta.*
**RR's recipe does not call for sugar in the sauce. My grandmother taught me that almost any recipe involving cooked tomatoes needs some sugar to bring out the flavor, and I found that to be true of this recipe as well. **

Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente. Heads up: you will need a ladle of the starchy cooking water to help form sauce before draining.

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add the meat and break it up into small bits as it caramelizes. Once meat has good color to it, 4 to 5 minutes, add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and season with salt, pepper, allspice and Worcestershire sauce. Cook another 5 minutes, deglaze the meat and onions with red wine, cook off a minute, then combine about 1/2 cup of stock into the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes.

Place ricotta cheese in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add a ladleful of boiling, starchy pasta water to the ricotta and stir to combine. Add a couple of handfuls of grated Parmesan to the ricotta and mix it in.

Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with cheeses. Add half the thick meat sauce to the pasta bowl and combine. Tear or shred the basil and add to the meat and pasta, toss again. Taste to adjust salt and pepper.

Serve bowlfuls of Not-sagna with extra sauce on top and more grated Parmesan to pass at the table.

Source: Express Lane Meals by Rachel Ray, Food Network


Anonymous said...

I so agree that RR's recipes have tricks in them! But, I am also a champion skimmer of recipes, so it is my fault, too. :)

Sarah said...

Glad you liked it. I really warms over well for a leftover lunch so next time, just make extra pasta!