Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

14 10 2011

Fennel seed can add a zesty bite of anise to dishes (including Tuscan salami and boxed pizza!)

I first discovered fennel seed in a somewhat unusual way. When I was a kid in the late 70′s and early 80′s, my mom would sometimes make boxed Kraft pizza (we lived in a rural community so delivery wasn’t an option). Each kit contained a can of sauce, dough mix and a seasoning packet of dried herbs to sprinkle over the pizza. All you had to do was add the toppings of your choice which usually included ground beef, mushroom slices (canned, of course) and cheese. I always loved the seasoning packet – it added a zippy burst of Italian flavour to our less than authentic pizzas. Years later I finally realized what it was that gave our ‘pizzas’ the flavour I loved so much: fennel seed.

Fennel seeds are the dried fruit of the sweet fennel plant. They have an anise (black licorice) flavour and pair well with pork. In Italy’s Tuscan region, fennel salami (finocchiona) is very popular and fennel seeds are often crushed to rub onto meat before roasting or grilling. They impart a delicious burst of anise flavour when chewed. Fennel seeds can be found at most well stocked grocery stores or kitchen shops. Look for whole seeds as opposed to ground ones.

A tip: You can use either cream or evaporated milk in this recipe. While cream will give the sauce a silky richness, it’s very high in fat and calories – low-fat canned evaporated milk is a decent substitute.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 mild or sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • A 14 oz. (398 ml) can of tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup evaporated milk or cream
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500 g (1 lb.) dried penne or rigatoni
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Slice the skins of the sausages lengthwise down the middle and remove the meat from their casings. Discard the casings. Add the sausage meat to the pot and use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat. Add garlic and fennel seeds.
  3. Cook sausage mixture on medium-high until just browned, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add evaporated milk or cream and stir into sauce. Let sauce simmer for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar (optional – use if the tomatoes are very acidic), salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat while the penne cooks.
  6. In a separate large pot with a lid, heat water to cook the penne. Bring to a boil and cook penne until al dente, according to package instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Drain penne and toss with sauce until thoroughly coated. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed makes a simple and delicious autumn dinner

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.




Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

6 07 2011

Garlic scapes at the Bala Farmers' Market

It’s finally July – the month when the summer markets really start to hit their stride. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time traveling over the past few weeks, including spending a wonderful few days in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. One of my favourite things about driving through rural areas in the summertime is stopping at roadside markets and fruit stands. As luck would have it, the community of Bala was having a farmers’ market the day we were there so of course, I had to check it out.

In addition to strawberries, asparagus, peas, blueberries and rhubarb, I was excited to see garlic scapes at the market. Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets in last spring and early summer (unfortunately, you probably won’t see them at supermarkets). They are long and curly and have a sweet, garlicky flavour. Scapes are very versatile and can be used like garlic in dishes such as stir fries, egg dishes, pastas and salads. They can be cooked or eaten raw and you can use the flowering ends as garnish.

Fresh peas are another early summer favourite of mine. They add a sweet burst of flavour to dishes or can be eaten simply cooked with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. The key to fresh peas is to cook them quickly and simply (they are also delicious raw) so don’t overcook them! When shelling peas, discard any peas that have grown large and have split – I find they can have a slightly off, ‘metallic’ flavour. Unfortunately, peas aren’t terribly efficient: I shelled 45 pods to yield just under a cup and I found a few pods with only one pea in them! However, their delicate flavour it worth the effort if you’re looking for a taste of summer. You can always use frozen baby peas to save time. Avoid canned peas – they don’t have the right sweetness or texture!

Cosmo's Smoked Meats - they make a fantastic dry smoked back bacon

A Few Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe is all about the quality of ingredients so use the best you can find. The sauce lightly coats the noodles – it’s not drowning in sauce. You can reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining to add to the pasta if it looks a little dry. The entire dish comes together very quickly once you have your ingredients prepped.
  • I used a dry smoked back bacon from Cosmo’s Smoked Meats and it had a nice dry texture and smoky flavour. You can use any kind of double smoked slab bacon or smoked ham. Of course, regular strip bacon will work in a pinch but won’t have quite the same flavour or texture.
  • I also used fresh fettucine from the refrigerated case at the supermarket. For 500 grams/1.1 lbs. of fresh pasta you can substitute about 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta of any shape you prefer.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Makes about 4 to 5 servings

  • 1 lb. (500 grams) fresh long pasta such as fettucine or linguine (or use 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 oz. (142 grams) smoked slab bacon or smoked ham, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 23″ long, chopped – reserve the flowering ends as garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 40 to 45 pods)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup packed when grated)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta. While the water is heating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the bacon or smoked ham and brown until slightly crisp around the edges, about two to three minutes (if you’re cooking raw bacon, it will take a bit longer). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook according to package directions. Drain once cooked.
  4. Add the chopped garlic scapes and peas to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Pour in the chicken broth and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until melted and return the bacon to the pan.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Stir in the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a garlic scape if desired. Suggested accompaniment: Bread with Garlic Scape Butter.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Barolo-Braised Beef with Pappardelle

24 03 2011

Beef braised in barolo and served with pappardelle

As many of you know, I recently returned from a trip to Piedmont, Italy. The fantastic food and wine of the region has inspired me so I’ve been working on my own interpretation of recipes that reflect the foods of the region using ingredients that are accessible to North American cooks.

A popular dish in the Piedmont region is Brasato al Barolo, which is beef braised in Barolo wine. Unfortunately, Barolos can be quite expensive so you can easily substitute any inexpensive dry red wine, as long as it’s decent enough to drink.  I used a bottle of Cantina Terre del Barolo Barbera d’Alba 2008, which retails for $13.95 in Ontario. Luckily, the recipe only calls for two cups so you’ll have the rest of the bottle to enjoy with dinner!  I call for short ribs because they braise beautifully, resulting in a tender and flavourful dish.

To build flavour and add umami to the dish, I’ve used porcini powder.  Porcini are mushrooms that grow abundantly in Italy and are common in many Italian dishes. Unfortunately, fresh porcini are often difficult to find in North American stores because they are very perishable. However, many stores sell packages of dried porcini (I’ve seen them at gourmet stores, Italian specialty shops, some supermarkets and fruit and vegetable markets). It’s very easy to make porcini powder from dried mushrooms: just add a few to a mortar and use the pestle to grind them to a powder (if you don’t have a mortar-and-pestle, just crush them with a rolling pin or the flat side of a large knife). Extra powder can be kept in a sealed container and used in soups, stews or pasta sauces.

Porcini powder is easy to make with dried mushrooms and a mortar-and-pestle

A Note About Authenticity: Italians typically serve Brasato al Barolo with polenta instead of pasta (pasta is usually served as a separate first course).  However, egg noodles are delicious with the sauce, creating a rich and hearty main dish. Look for long, flat noodles made with eggs.  The beef will taste even better after a day or two so plan ahead and make extras!  Leftover shredded meat also makes a great filling for ravioli or agnolotti.

Pappardelle is delicious with wine-braised beef

Barolo-Braised Beef with Pappardelle

Makes about 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 large meaty bone-in beef short ribs, each weighing about 10 to 12 ounces (300 to 340 grams)
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) slab bacon, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups Barolo, Barbera D’Alba or other dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup espresso or very strong coffee (equals about two shots of espresso)
  • 2 teaspoons porcini powder (made from about 6 dried mushrooms, see above)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. (500 grams) pappardelle or other flat egg noodles
  • Parmesan cheese to finish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pat the short ribs dry with clean paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. In an enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quarts or larger) or oven proof pot with a lid, add the olive oil and heat on medium-high.
  3. Add the short ribs. Let the ribs brown, about three to four minutes per side. Turn the ribs so that all sides brown. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the bacon to the pot and sauté until it’s beginning to crisp. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the wine, beef broth and coffee.
  6. Add the herbs and the porcini powder, stirring to combine. Return the browned short ribs to the pot.
  7. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pot. Put the pot into a preheated oven (350F).  Cook for two hours.
  8. Check on the ribs after two hours. Stir to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  9. Check on them again after 30 minutes – the ribs should be getting very tender and almost falling off the bone. Spoon some liquid over them (you can add another 1/2 cup of stock if the sauce is getting low).  Return to the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes or until they are fork-tender and falling off the bone.
  10. Remove the pot from the oven. Use tongs to extract the ribs from the sauce. Place them in a bowl and set aside. Strain the sauce into a large sauce pan, using a large spoon to press all of the liquid through a strainer. Heat the sauce on medium-low heat.  Spoon off as much fat from the top of the sauce as possible (you can also cool the sauce overnight – the fat will harden and can easily be removed).
  11. Place the cooked ribs on a cutting board. Remove any bones, fat and connective tissues and discard. Use two fork to shred the meat. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces and return the meat to the pot of simmering sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and heat through while preparing the pasta.
  12. Cook the pappardelle or other egg noodles according to package directions (usually about 6 minutes). Drain well. Toss the pasta with the braised meat and sauce and top with shaved parmesan cheese before serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta

12 01 2011

A Tuscan-style ragu, simmered slowly with herbs and wine, pairs perfectly with fresh pasta

We’re deep in the heart of winter and snow is blanketing much of North America (including areas that don’t normally get a lot of snow). It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to put something comforting on the stove to simmer while you curl up with a blanket and a good book.  A slow simmered Tuscan-style ragu sauce fits the bill perfectly.

A few years ago I was visiting Tuscany and happened upon an outdoor cooking demonstration. A chef and his mother, Mamma Donatella, were demonstrating how to make classic Tuscan dishes.  One of the dishes was fresh handmade pasta with a ragu sauce and Donatella’s version was unlike any I’ve had before: rich with flavour and light on tomato sauce.  Since then, I’ve worked on developing my own take on this Italian classic.  The secret is to let the sauce cook down for a long time (at least 2-1/2 to 3 hours).  You can make your own noodles or buy fresh pasta at many Italian markets. Good quality dry pasta will work as well – try wide noodles such as papardelle or tagliatelle.

Click here for the recipe on Suite 101: Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!





Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

1 11 2010

Penne with sausage and fennel seed

I can’t believe it’s already November!  It seems like just yesterday I was excited about the first chives of spring peeking out of my herb pot.  Now most of the farmers’ markets are done for the year and there is the possibility of snow in many areas (in fact, it snowed in Eastern Canada yesterday!).  However, there is still a lot of seasonal cooking we can do and as we get cozy, our menus become more hearty and warming.

This easy pasta dish is rich and filling but you can use evaporated milk in place of cream to lighten the sauce a bit.  Lean sausages also work but make sure not to overcook them or they will become dry.  You can also use whole wheat penne instead of white if you’d prefer.  It’s perfect after a vigorous autumn hike or day of raking leaves.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 mild or sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • A 14 oz. (398 ml) can of tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup evaporated milk or cream
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional – if tomatoes are very acidic)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500 g (1 lb.) dried penne or rigatoni
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Slice the skins of the sausages lengthwise down the middle and remove the meat from their casings. Discard the casings. Add the sausage meat to the pot and use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat. Add garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
  3. Cook sausage mixture on medium-high until just browned, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add evaporated milk or cream and stir into sauce. Let sauce simmer for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar (optional – use if the tomatoes are very acidic), salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat while the penne cooks.
  6. In a separate large pot with a lid, heat water to cook the penne. Bring to a boil and cook penne until al dente, according to package instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Drain penne and toss with sauce until thoroughly coated. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

18 08 2010

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

It’s mid-August and we’re just coming into tomato season in Southern Ontario. It’s been a great year for tomatoes because we’ve had hot and dry weather for most of the spring and summer.  Some of the tastiest tomatoes that can be found at grocery stores and farmer’s markets are cherry tomatoes (bonus: they’re grown in greenhouses during the winter so high quality cherry tomatoes are usually available year-round).  They can be used in salads, pasta dishes sandwiches, roasted or just eaten on their own.

Roasting cherry tomatoes concentrates their flavour

This pasta dish is one of my most popular recipes on Suite 101.com.  It’s easy, delicious and only requires a few ingredients.  The sauce coats the noodles lightly but it’s very flavourful so a little goes a long way.  The spaghetti is delicious served with a green salad and a glass of wine.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Makes approximately 6 main dish servings

(VEGETARIAN)

To roast tomatoes:

  • 4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 40 tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Parchment paper

To finish sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil + more to finish, if desired
  • 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
  • 1 lb. / 500 g dried spaghetti
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, add cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and sugar and toss to coat all of the tomatoes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.
  3. Pour tomatoes onto the baking sheet and roast for 25 to 35 minutes or until they collapse and their skin begins to char.
  4. Remove tomatoes from the oven and let cool slightly. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pour the tomatoes and all their roasting juices into a large bowl. Set aside. (Tomatoes can be roasted in advance and refrigerated until ready to use).

To finish sauce:

  1. In a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices and oregano. Use a spoon to break up the cherry tomatoes and cook until heated through.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions (for al dente results, it’s usually cooked for 9 to 11 minutes). Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and drain spaghetti.
  3. Add pasta and 1 Tablespoon of the pasta waster to the tomato sauce. Stir to thoroughly coat the spaghetti. If it seems a bit dry, add the remaining tablespoon of pasta water and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a grating of fresh parmesan to serve.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

19 04 2010


Every food magazine and many websites I’ve looked at over the past few weeks have been excited about spring and all the great produce we can now cook with. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries and green peas are all featured in spring recipes and I’m as excited as anyone about cooking again with fresh local produce.  The only problem?  For most people living in Canada and the northern United States, these items won’t be available for a while.  

So why not make the most of what little we do have?  Wild leeks (a.k.a. ramps) are in season now and they are a flavourful and versatile spring treat.  They look like leafy green onions and taste like a mix between garlic and onion.  The entire plant is edible and can be used in everything from salad dressings to pasta sauces. Unfortunately, ramps aren’t available everywhere and they can be hard to find even in areas where they do grow. Farmer’s markets are the best place to find them – they likely won’t be carried by major grocery store chains.  I typically purchase them at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Wild leeks, which are also known as ramps.

 

This recipe is very rich so it’s best served in smaller portions.  However, the recipe can easily be doubled if you’re feeding a crowd.

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 oz. (85 grams) slab bacon or regular bacon, cut into small dice
  • 2 oz. (60 grams) wild leeks = about 10 to 12 
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil such as safflower or canola
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb. (250 grams) dried spaghetti
  1. Heat a skillet or large saucepan on medium-high heat and add bacon.  Cook until cubes are crisp and browned, about 7 minutes.
  2. While the bacon is crisping, prepare the pesto.  Trim the root tip but preserve as much of the white bulb as possible. Wash and dry the leeks carefully, making sure to get all of the dirt out of the leaves. 
  3. Chop the leeks into three or four pieces and place in a food processor or the chopping cup of a hand blender.  Add oil and a pinch of salt.  Pulse until the wild leeks are fully chopped and relatively smooth.  It should look like coarse pesto.
  4. Drain any excess fat from the crisped bacon.  On medium heat, add the wild leek pesto and stir fry for about 2 minutes to get rid of the sharp ‘raw’ flavour of the leeks.  Add cream and stir until the sauce is thoroughly combined.  Heat until the cream is just warmed through, about 1 minute.  Stir in parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  5. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions (see How to Cook Perfect Pasta for tips).  Drain and toss with creamy pesto sauce. Garnish with a wild leek leaf and serve with extra parmesan if desired.

OPTIONAL:  To make a vegetarian version, omit the bacon.  Add two teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the pesto before adding cream and cheese.

For another delicious recipe using wild leeks, see my recipe for Potato and Wild Leek Gratin on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto is a decadent and delicious spring dish.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37 other followers