Main Courses · Pasta

Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes & Cream

Inspiration for this came from LCBO, whose recipe included Speck and Taleggio cheese.  Ingredients I have no hope of finding here in PV, so I  switched those ingredients for ones more easily found in my grocery.    If you are unable to find Taleggio, Manchego or Smoked Provolone, you can sub in Fontina or even regular Provolone.

The flavour of the bacon really shines in this dish, so buy your favourite brand to make this.

 

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Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes & Cream

1 Tablespoons olive oil

6 thick-cut slices bacon, cut into 1/2 ‘ pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

1 large clove garlic, minced

4 springs fresh thyme

1/4 cup red wine

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup manchego cheese, grated

1/2 cup smoked provolone, grated

2 packs store bought Gnocchi (500 gms each)

In large skillet, over medium heat, cook bacon until nearly crispy.   Be careful not to burn it, you don’t want bacon crunches in this dish.   Remove from pan , set aside and drain all but 2 Tablespoons bacon fat from the pan.

Add onions to bacon fat and cook over medium – high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.  About 10 minutes.  Do not let them brown.  Add tomato paste, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring for another minute, until tomato paste darkens a bit and garlic becomes fragrant.  Add thyme sprigs, white wine and chopped tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often over high heat for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil over high heat.

Reduce heat under tomato mixture to very low and add cream and cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted then let simmer slowly while you cook the gnocchi.  Stir in bacon

Break apart the gnocchi and carefully add to the large pot of boiling water.  Cook Gnocchi only until it rises to the surface of the water.  Skim out the cooked gnocchi as it rises to the top of the water with a slotted spoon and add to the tomato cream mixture.

Once all gnocchi has been transferred to the tomato cream mixture, stir the mixture to coat gnocchi.

Pour into serving dish and serve hot.

 

 

 

 

How To... · Pasta

Pizza Dough

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Making pizza on an evening when you are not in a rush is good for the soul.   For us, it is a team activity which means time well spent together.  I prep the dough, we both do the toppings and Kevin cooks it on the grill which avoids heating up the house.

By using instant yeast, rising time is cut in half so we can start the dough around 4 and be eating by 6:30.

So, this Saturday night, when dinner can get to the table ‘eventually’, mix your dough, then maybe mix a cocktail to unwind…  kick back and listen to some great music with your significant other and wait for the dough to rise.

While you are waiting, chop up some fresh herbs and stir them into to can of tomato sauce for a fresher tasting pizza sauce.

And, remember to have fun with your toppings.   What about that leftover brisket, souvlaki or  bbq chicken already in your fridge?  Maybe charred veggies?  Or stick with traditional pepperoni.  Whatever makes you happy.

Cooking time will depend on where you are cooking it – our charcoal grill cooks it in about 6 minutes, but it takes nearly 15 in our oven.  So you will have some experimenting to do, but don’t stress over it, its all part of the fun.

The one piece of specialty equipment you will need for this is a pizza screen or use an upside down pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Using one of these takes all the stress of getting that dressed pizza off of the peel and onto the grill.  Just be sure that if you are grilling this, the pan you choose fits your bbq.

 

Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

6 – 8 oz water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the bowl

In bowl of stand mixer, whisk sugar, salt, yeast and flour together.  Add the olive oil and 6 oz of water.  Using the dough hook, on low speed, mix until dough comes together and forms a rough dough.  If dough looks dry or is not coming together, add more water by teaspoons until it looks right.  Knead with mixer until smooth.  About 5 minutes.  (this can be done by hand if you prefer).

Turn dough onto floured board and knead 3 – 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, place in warm, draft free area and let rise until doubled in size- 30 – 40 minutes.

Punch dough down and place on lightly floured board.  Divide in half for 2 large pizzas or into 3 for 3 medium ones.  Form pieces into balls, place on cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put back in warm place to rise for another 30 minutes. ( here is where we take that 3rd ball of pizza and toss it into the freezer for later use.  Also, if you are making the dough ahead, you can pop it into the fridge now for up to 2 days. Of course, you will thaw and or let dough warm up and rise before proceeding)

Preheat your oven or grill to 500F.

Working with one ball at a time, roll or press out dough on a lightly floured surface to a roughly circular shape, about 10″ across for a mediium pizza.  Place on your pizza screen or upside down pan.  Add sauce and toppings as desired.  Pop the pan into your oven or the grill and bake 8 – 14 minutes, until cheese has melted and crust is golden.

Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy.

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Beef · Main Courses · Pasta · Pork

Bolognese Sauce

BologneseA family favourite in our house, and so easy to put together.  It does take time, so its a good ‘Sunday afternoon when there is nothing much to do’ project.  The good news is that the flavours are even better the next day, so make on Sunday to enjoy later in the week.  After a long day at the office, dinner will be a snap!  Just boil your favourite pasta and you have a quick and easy mid-week dinner.  This serves 8 generously, and freezes very well.

 

Bolognese Sauce

 

3 Tablespoons oil

2 yellow onions, diced

5 celery ribs, diced

3 medium carrots, shredded

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 lb bacon finely chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

1 lb lean ground pork

1 can tomato paste (6 oz)

14 oz can tomato puree

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup water

1 cup milk (whole milk is best, but skim will work too, if that’s what you have)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Get your big pot out… not that one, the bigger one – 6 – 8 quarts.   There is lots of stirring and simmering involved here and you will want the extra room a larger pot gives you.

Heat oil in pot over medium heat.   Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is translucent and vegetables are slightly soft.  Do not let them brown.  About 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium- high, add bacon, beef and pork and cook, stirring to break up  any chunks until meat is no longer pink.  About 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in tomato paste  until well combined with meat and vegetables.  About 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, wine, water, milk, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered until liquids reduce and sauce is thickened.  About 2 hours.  Remember to stir occasionally while sauce simmers.

Spoon over cooked pasta and serve immediately or cool sauce uncovered, at room temperature.  Once sauce has cooled, cover and refrigerate.  Will keep  3 days in the fridge or frozen up to 3 months.

 

 

Pasta

Cacio & Pepe

img_16311Cacio y Pepe  is the official name.  In our house, we just call it Cheese and Pepper Spaghetti.  That prevents  a lot of blank stares when I tell people its what we are having for dinner.

The parmesan needed in this recipe is the kind you will grate off of a hard triangle of cheese.  Not the stuff in the green container labeled Kraft.  That is fine for sprinkling on pizza, but you will not get the same kick from this recipe without the real cheese.

Same goes for the pecorino.  The bag of pre-shredded 4 cheese blend will not cut it here. to fully appreciate this recipe, you need the good ingredients.  This is actually one of the few times I do NOT recommend substitutions.

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Pepper and Cheese Spaghetti

6 oz spaghetti

3 Tablespoons butter, divided

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling, salted water until about 2 minutes before it is fully done.   Scoop out and set aside 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.

In same pot you just took the spaghetti out of, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add olive oil and pepper, swirling pan until pepper is toasted, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to low, add pasta, remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, and the parmesan cheese.   Using tongs, toss until cheese is fully melted and evenly coats spaghetti, and spaghetti is fully cooked – about 1 minute.

Add the Pecorino and a bit more of the reserved pasta water if mixture seems too dry.   Toss just to mix, then serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main course.

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Incase you don’t have a scale, this is what 6 oz of dried spaghetti looks like in your hand

TIME SAVER – put the pasta pan in to soak while you eat for easier clean up.