cheese noodles & roast broccoli

This is usually how the conversation with myself goes as I'm driving home:

"Uggh...I don't know what to make for dinner.  I can't remember what's in the fridge....Was there a plan for tonight?  No, probably not.  Sooo, what can I make that's easy, fast and that Hannah will probably eat?....Noodles, yes, she'll probably eat noodles....With what?  Ummm, sauce?  And we need some sort of veggie.  She likes broccoli.  I think there's some in the fridge.  Ok, broccoli, noodles and sauce....Protein?  I'll figure that out when I get home."

So that's basically how I arrived at cheese noodles with roasted broccoli and sliced porchetta (deli meat ham).  This meal came together so quickly - a win in my book!  While the pasta was cooking I made the sauce and roasted the broccoli and everything was ready at roughly the same time.  Making your own cheese sauce is super easy, and then you know exactly whats in it (rather than using something like Cheese Whiz).  I looove roasted veggies - I think it's the texture variation that roasting gives; some tender parts, some crispy parts.  Anyhow, I'd take roasted broccoli over steamed broccoli almost any day, so that's why I decided to roast it this time.  I had some porchetta from the Italian Centre in the fridge and I figured that broccoli, ham and cheese was a good combo, so I sliced it up and added it on top.   

Cheese Sauce

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 cup grated cheese

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and spices and stir to combine.  Gradually pour in the milk, whisking until no lumps remain.  Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is smooth and thick.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Serve immediately.  Leftover cheese sauce freezes nicely in a Ziploc bag.  

Roasted Broccoli

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into large florettes
  • drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Toss broccoli with olive oil and lemon juice either in a large bowl, or directly on a baking sheet (like I do).  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges start to get brown and crispy.  

chicken mushroom spaghetti & a giveaway!

Did you see my last post about Catelli's new ancient grains pasta?  I was given a few boxes to take home with me, so I tried some out as soon as I could.  Yep, still delicious.  

I decided to make a chicken and mushroom spaghetti inspired by a dish my mom used to cook when I was a kid.  She used to use cream of mushroom soup with either chicken or pork chops and serve it with noodles or rice.  Straight up comfort food for me :)

Keep scrolling down past the recipe to find a Catelli pasta giveaway!

Chicken Mushroom Spaghetti

  • 1/2 box Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghetti
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 cups white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Put on a large pot of generously salted water.  While it's coming up to a boil, start preparing the chicken and mushrooms.  

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt & pepper.  Sear the chicken breasts for 5 minutes each side, so they get a good golden colour.  After the chicken is seared remove it from the pan.  Don't worry if they're not cooked all the way through yet - they go back in the pan later.  

Get the pasta cooking, then start on the mushrooms.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic and thyme.  Saute for a few minutes, then deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and continue cooking until the mushrooms are softened.  Add in the cream cheese and stir until it melts into the mushrooms.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Put the chicken breasts back in the pan, cover and turn the heat to low and continue cooking for 5 minutes.  

Drain the pasta - reserving a bit of the cooking water in case the sauce is too thick.  Toss the spaghetti with the mushroom sauce immediately, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.  

This recipe is Hannah approved

Win a year's supply of Catelli pasta!  

Here's what you need to do:  Post a comment on this post telling me what your favourite pasta dish is, then enter the contest through Rafflecopter.  The contest closes on April 11, 2015. 

Post update (April 12):  The contest is now closed.  Thank so much to all who participated, I loved reading through your favourite pasta dishes!  The winner was Sandra M.  - I hope you enjoy lots and lots of delicious pasta Sandra!

catelli ancient grains pasta & chef lynn crawford

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a cooking event hosted by Catelli & Chef Lynn Crawford.  The event was to introduce Catelli's new line: Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains.  The pasta contains 100% Canadian whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, teff, sorghum and millet.  Have you tried all of these grains before?  I hadn't!  

Chef Crawford told us that she was excited to pair up with Catelli because it's what she uses at home and in her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco.  I'd loooove to visit her restaurant sometime.  

Chef Crawford was great!  She was hilariously funny, easy going and totally approachable.  Hanging out with her for the evening was like stepping into an episode of 'Pitchin' In'.  She brought a few of the participants up the front to help her cook and plate.  She had my friend Megan (check out her blog here) make pesto in the amount of time it took to cook the pasta al dente and there was an impromptu 'Chopped Canada' plating challenge for a fellow blogger.  

Shaking the salad dressing to the tune of taylor swift (complete with dance moves)

Chef Crawford prepared pasta for us in several ways.  First we enjoyed a duo of rotini with marinara sauce and spaghetti with basil pesto.  Sooo good!  I finished every last bite, which shows that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring - Catelli's Ancient Grains pasta tastes great and delivers a ton of nutritional benefits.  In fact, I liked the taste and texture better than regular whole wheat pasta.  This Ancient Grains pasta will be my new go-to choice for delicious and healthy dinners (or lunches... or any other time I need some pasta!)

After Chef Crawford's cooking demo we moved into smaller groups to try our hands at preparing 'Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing' using Ancient Grains Spaghettini.  It had a ton of fresh, crunchy vegetables and the noodles held up really well to the zippy dressing.  I'll definitely be making this one again - in fact I'm already imagining enjoying this tasty salad by the bowlful for summer evening dinners on the patio.   

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

  • 1 pkg Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghettini
  • 2 cups snowpeas, blanced in hot water, then thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup red pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small long english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • wasabi to taste
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Rinse with cold water and drain well.  Toss with a few tbsp of canola oil and set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare all the vegetables.  Add the rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon zest & juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger and wasabi into a jar with a lid (or something similar).  Shake everything together until mixed well.  (According to Chef Crawford shaking is better than mixing, especially if you're dancing at the same time).  Toss the salad dressing with all of the prepared vegetables.  Put into a large serving bowl and top with avocado slices, cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.  

The event was held at Get Cooking.  Their kitchen is beautiful!  All of the staff were so friendly and helpful.  Get Cooking prepared several appetizers for us and everything was super tasty.  I loved the chickpea pancake with kale on top and the beet macaron with hummus filling.  This was the first time I had heard of Get Cooking, but I'd love to go back and take one of their cooking classes some time.  

I had a wonderful evening cooking, laughing and meeting fellow bloggers.  Big, big thank yous to the following: Catelli, Chef Lynn Crawford, Gail Bergman PR and Get Cooking.  

mushroom pappardelle

While shopping at the Italian Center Store this week I was inspired by the mushrooms I saw there.  I decided that the best way to enjoy a variety of mushrooms would be in a sauce with pasta.  This is a recipe that I've played around with over the years.  It always turns out a little different, but it's tasty.  I like the hint of flavour that the madeira wine adds.  You can use sour cream or cream to make the sauce creamy, but this time I was looking for the tangier flavour that sour cream brings.  Finishing off the pasta with a drizzle of truffle oil really intensified the mushroomy flavour and I love a generous sprinkle of fresh black pepper.  Overall, this is an easy weeknight dinner that tastes like it was a lot more work than it actually was. 

Mushroom Sauce & Pappardelle

  • 3-4 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup madeira (or cooking sherry)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • beurre manie (combine one tbsp soft butter with one tbsp flour)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • truffle oil
  • pappardelle pasta

First get the porcini mushrooms ready: add them to a small bowl and top with boiling water; allow them to soak for at least 10 minutes, then drain the liquid and roughly chop.  Get a pot of water on the stove to start boiling water for the pasta.  Slice all the remaining mushrooms (I used cremini, shitake and white mushrooms).

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat then saute the shallot until it starts to get translucent then add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until they begin to soften and get lightly browned.  Add in the madeira and stir everything around (loosening up any browned bits that are stuck to the pan).  Allow the alcohol from the madeira to cook off for a bit then add the beef stock.  Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce a bit while the pasta goes into the boiling water (cook the pasta according to package directions).

Add the sour cream to the mushroom sauce and turn the heat down to medium-low.  Add one heaping tablespoon of the beurre maine to the middle of the pan and stir in circles outward to thicken the sauce.  Add more beurre maine until you get the thickness you want.

Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the pappardelle and add the pasta into the mushroom sauce.  Toss to coat with the mushroom sauce.  Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

pesto fettuccine with prawns

Ahhh, fresh pesto, it's kind-of like a taste of summer.  Store-bought basil pesto just can't compete, and because it's so easy to make, I don't know why you wouldn't opt for homemade.  We had picked up a few large packages of basil at the St. Albert Farmer's Market, intending to make enough pesto to use some now and store some away in the freezer. 

I have an amazing husband who made fresh noodles for this dish (pasta is one of Trev's specialties), but I'm sure it would taste great with dried pasta or fresh pasta from the store.  The garlic shrimp went really well with the basil pesto and we both enjoyed the meal.  It reminded me a little of Italy...

Basil Pesto

  • about 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted pinenuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

Put the fresh basil, pinenuts and garlic into the food processor.  Process until the basil is finely minced, then add the olive oil in a stream while the processor is running.  If you're serving it right away, add the cheese and mix again.  If you're planning on freezing it, leave the cheese out and add it right before you use it (after it's defrosted).

To store the pesto, add a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto before refrigerating or freezing it.  It will help keep the fresh flavours.  

Pesto Fettuccine with Garlic Prawns

  • about 20 prawns, deveined and peeled
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • fresh or dried fettuccine

Make the pasta (if you're feeling ambitious).  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, Heat a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat and saute the prawns with olive oil and garlic until pink and cooked.  Drain the pasta (reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water) then put it back in the cooking pot.  Toss the fettuccine to coat it with pesto, adding in a tablespoon or two of pasta water if you need to thin it out.  Serve the fettuccine with the garlic prawns on top and enjoy.