Cacio e Pepe

Have you ever had, or made Cacio e Pepe? If not, you are missing out. Not only is it super easy to make during the week, but it is divine. Creamy, and peppery, this Roman dish with cheese, pasta, and black pepper. Lots of cheese and pepper. I was thinking, in particular of my wife and kids as they are pasta lovers. Me? If I am eating some type of pasta, I like it in Asian cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I will take down lots of Italian food, but I don’t crave it as much as my wife and kids do.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe
Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Let’s get started on this super simple recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuncine), chose one and cook before al dente
  • 1/4 cup of salt, more to taste
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of finely grated parmesan cheese, or pecorino romano (preferred)
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 tbsp slightly course cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil to finish, optional

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add in the salt once boiling, then add in your pasta. Cook the pasta slightly before al dente, and then reserve a cup or so of the pasta water.

Next, have a skillet ready large enough to hold the pasta. Melt the butter, then add about a cup of the pasta water to the butter. Feel free to whisk this for a few seconds.

Cacio e Pepe Ingredients
Cacio e Pepe Ingredients

Add the cheese to the water and butter, and stir. Add a bit more water, maybe a quarter cup, and keep stirring. Add in the black pepper, and stir some more. Now add your pasta to the skillet.  Toss the pasta to evenly coat it with the cheese sauce.  If you see the pasta drying up a bit, add some more water. You want this pasta to be velvety, not lumpy.

Once you are satisfied, feel free to let it rain with more pepper and cheese and a good drizzle of olive oil.

This is one of those dishes my kids loved. It seemed like I blinked my eye and BOOM, gone. That’s always, always a great sign. Hope you enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan

Unfortunately our local farmers market season has ended and for us Wisconsinites that means only one thing. Winter is on its way. It’s actually snowing out while I type this and looking out of the windows yields a heavy, thick snowfall. It’s pretty for about 2 minutes, then well I guess I’m over it. But reflecting on the market days, I always try to buy an array of things from various farmers. Eggplant was one of those items this season. I’ll be up front and honest, I’m not not a fan of eggplant and never really have been, but I keep trying, much like I will keep trying beets (yes, not a fan). When I brought them home, I immediately thought of making baba ghanoush (that I am a fan of), but then I thought I would go with an eggplant parmesan and see how my kids would like it. They love lasagna so maybe if I tried to disguise it as a lasagna on a meatless Monday, how would they react?

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

It was not actually all meatless, as I used about a 1/4 pound of ground meat just to get the kids thinking it was possibly what they thought it was. It worked out just fine.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 whole, small eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 28 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 lb ground beef, cooked and fat drained

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Season your eggs and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.

Take each eggplant round and swipe it through eggs, then the breadcrumbs, then place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all eggplant. Drizzle the tops with olive oil.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the eggplant’s coating is a nice golden brown.

Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients
Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients

Next, add about 1 cup of marinara to the bottom of a casserole or lasagna dish. Layer in half of the eggplant, top with half of the mozzarella cheese, layer with the remaining eggplant, then more cheese, then top with the ground meat, and finish with more marinara and all of the remaining cheese.

Place into the oven, uncovered, and cook for about another 25 minutes or until the cheese and sauce is nice and bubbly. Remove and let it cool for about 10 minutes before slicing into it.

The result? Well, eggplant parmesan. Were my kids a fan? Not really! Was I? Not really, but it was nice knowing I wasn’t indulging in a mound of meat and potatoes. It was easy, clean, and well very good if you are into that type of stuff. Hope you enjoy!

Gnocchi Alfredo

My wife is a big fan of gnocchi. Who isn’t for that matter? I remember when she had some dental surgery done she had to eat some soft food, or heck jello for that matter (which she wasn’t having any part of), so I decided to make her a homemade batch of ricotta gnocchi. She fell in love with it from that day, and so did I. Soft, pillow like dough made from potatoes and a bit of flour, I mean what is not to love and love to make for that matter. So on a recent trip to a store, we saw this package of gnocchi. I typically would never buy something like it, but my wife and I both looked at it and said ‘should we try it?’. This is where the gnocchi alfredo came into play.

Gnocchi Alfredo Recipe
Gnocchi Alfredo Recipe

Before I was going to make the homemade alfredo sauce, I was really torn to make a sage and brown butter sauce (one my kids totally love), but to me that is a bit seasonal and I had no sage growing as it is winter in Wisconsin. That’s when I knew my kids would love a creamy and cheesy alfredo sauce. They devoured this pasta.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of gnocchi (make your own, or try store bought)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup of milk
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste

Now the gnocchi we tried was from Costco. It was from Maffei, and something we have never tried before. You can try any brand if you want and it is typically found nowadays in your frozen section, or refrigerated pasta section at your grocery store. Again, if you don’t want to go that route, make your own. It’s not difficult, and in all honesty the texture is better when done homemade.

Maffei Gnocchi
Maffei Gnocchi

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. This will take a handful of minutes, so make your alfredo sauce as this is happening. Grab a good spoonful of course salt and add it to your water as well.

Let’s make the sauce.

To another sauce pan, bring it to medium heat and add in your butter. Let that begin to melt, then toss in your garlic. Let that cook a minute or so and once the butter is melted and slightly bubbling, stir in the flour. Mix well so that it forms a nice paste. Cook this for another minute or two but be careful not to overcook the flour. You want a light blonde, if that, for this sauce. Remember, it’s alfredo sauce.

Add in the cream, and milk, and continue to whisk until the flour breaks up, and begins to thicken. Once that sauce begins to thicken, add in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and continue to whisk. Lower the heat, and stir occasionally while you add your gnocchi to your boiling, salted water.

This particular gnocchi took about 1 1/2 minutes to cook. Once these babies were floating, I removed with a slotted kitchen spider, let the drain, and added them directly to the alfredo sauce. Once all added, stir them gently into the sauce, and serve family style.

My family devoured this stuff. Creamy, cheesy, garlicky. It was right up everyone’s alley. The store bought gnocchi? Uh, not a big fan but something that was quick to make during a busy work night. The sauce. Make the sauce. Enjoy.

Lasagna Soup

My family is a big fan of lasagna, I mean who isn’t? I have made many attempts at putting a little twist on the classic, and this one is no exception. The temperature has dropped in Wisconsin, and we are settling in for the hibernation season, so I figured that I would come up with a soup, a lasagna soup at that. What I didn’t know is how much my family would love this recipe. I was a bit suspect on my kids eating it as they are not big soup eaters, but all I can say is that went up for seconds, two days in a row. Yep, it was that good.

Lasagna Soup Recipe
Lasagna Soup Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lb of ground chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 7 cups of chicken stock, more if you want it to be more ‘soupy’
  • 1 whole onion, thinly diced
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • 5 sheets of lasagna pasta, broken
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese, use to your liking
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to your liking

Start by getting a medium sized soup pot on the stove, and heat it to medium heat. Toss in the ground beef, and cook until browned, breaking it up along the way. Once cooked, strain and remove all of the fat. Return the ground beef back to the stove, and toss in the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add in the salt, pepper, chili flakes, and Italian seasoning. Give a good stir, then toss in the garlic, and tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes, then add in the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and marinara sauce. Give this another good stir, and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat to medium-low, then add in the broken pasta sheets.

Lasagna Soup Ingredients
Lasagna Soup Ingredients

Cook for about 20 minutes or until the pasta is nice and tender.

When you are ready to serve, ladle into your soup bowl, shower with parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and dig in.

This is everything you love about lasagna, but in soup format, and what’s not to love about that! Hope you enjoy, and stay warm!