Tag Archives: cheese

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

It’s been a minute since Johnny La Pasta shared a pasta recipe with you. And so, today I am sharing one of my all-time favorite recipes that I learned in the motherland (Italy): Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

In 2014, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling all around the Italian peninsula with a whole party of new and now very dear friends. We visited the historical and iconographic sites, we took in the naturally dramatic and beautiful landscapes, we immersed ourselves in the warm and vibrant culture, and we DRANK A LOT OF WINE and we ATE A LOT OF PASTA.  It was bliss.

Eating pasta in Italy is true living. Beyond the soul joy of devouring bowls of authentic pasta dishes, for a cook like me, these indulgences were also inspirations for my own kitchen back home. Whilst in Rome, we had a lot of Pasta alla Carbonara as this is Rome’s signature dish. My Italian family did not immigrate to America from Rome, they came from Calabria in the south, and so no authentic recipe for carbonara came over with them. Pasta alla Carbonara was not a dish I normally had growing up, so having the opportunity to taste authentic incarnations of it in Rome was new and exciting for me.

Of course, I had had Pasta alla Carbonara dishes here in the states; but they were always incredibly cream based, white and gooey, made with a rue like an Alfredo sauce. I could never really detect the use of egg and therefore could not appreciate it in these dishes, which is unfortunate as egg is supposed to be a main feature of any carbonara.

So I was pleasantly surprised by the Roman’s carbonara dishes: silky, smooth, salty, decadent, very simple, yet absurdly divine. The use of egg is pronounced in these dishes as the yolks provide a beautiful yellow gold color for the sauce and create a silken consistency, making the dish creamy and luxurious but in a different way than probably most American eaters are used to. I was hooked on the stuff, and I had to know how to make it at home.

I spoke with several natively Italian cooks about carbonara at length because I am me and obsessed with food. I explained to them what most Americans thought carbonara was: a cream sauce made from flour, butter, and milk or cream cooked down with cheese melted into it and then an egg beaten in for good measure, often served with peas and mushrooms. The Italians were absolutely, deeply, and profoundly horrified to hear this. They told me that, “If that is how Americans are making carbonara, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

They then proceeded to BLESS me with the proper, authentic technique for Pasta alla Carbonara in the hopes that I could bring it back home to the USA and bring the American people closer to God by showing them how to make and eat carbonara right!

The secret to this carbonara is that it is super simple: eggs, parmesan and pecorino cheese, pancetta or bacon, black pepper, and pasta. That is all. No fancy rue sauce, no added cream, no mushrooms, no peas.

Basically, the eggs and cheeses are beaten together in the bottom of a pasta bowl to make a thick cream. Once the pasta is done cooking, it is removed from the water, and the bowl with the egg-cream is placed on the pot with the hot pasta water still in it. The heat from the water underneath the bowl starts to cook the egg-cream mixture. The pasta is added, with more cheese, and the heat from the pasta 1. finishes cooking the egg-cream sauce so that it is safe to eat and 2. melts the cheese and eggs into a thick, silky sauce the coats the noodles completely. Bacon or pancetta is added and the dish is served. That is all and it’s truly one of the greatest pasta dishes ever. I typically make this dish with Spaghetti as the long noodles are perfect to be coated and twirled in this rich sauce.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara has since become a staple dish in my kitchen. I turn to it again and again for its ease and affordability, its authenticity and its decadence, and for its ability to transport me right back to the streets of Rome with each and every bite. I hope you enjoy Spaghetti alla Carbonara! Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • ¾ lb-1 lb spaghetti
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 full egg
  • ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 slices bacon or wheels pancetta
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

Directions:

Cook bacon your favorite way. You can chop the bacon up into bits, cook until browned and crispy in a pan, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Or, you could cook bacon my way! Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet, lay the bacon pieces across the rack, and bake in the oven at 400F till crispy, about 20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and cut into pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook till al dente, about 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the eggs, black pepper, and ¾ of the pecorino and parmesan cheeses in a large glass bowl. Whip until completely combined; it should be very thick.

Without draining the pasta water, remove the spaghetti to a separate bowl. Turn off the heat. Place the bowl with the egg-cream mixture atop the pot of hot water. Whip the mixture quickly for 30 seconds. Add the pasta to the bowl and remaining cheese to the bowl. Work quickly and toss for 1 ½ minutes until the sauce completely coats the noodles.

Serve equal amounts into bowls and top with the bacon/pancetta. Garnish with additional cheese and if you’d like, a small chopping of parsley. Serve and enjoy!

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

One of my absolute favorite foods to make is artisanal pizzas; I love rolling the pizza dough into rustic, oblong shapes that are perfectly imperfect and then topping them with gourmet flavor combinations of quality ingredients. I don’t know exactly what it is that makes me enjoy cooking these types of pizzas so much, but I love the process of cooking them and am really proud of the original recipes I’ve developed!

A couple of my other artisan pizzas!

Most recently, I published my recipes for my Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza and my Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza. Today, I giveth onto you the recipe for one of my favorites; my Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza – I know, it’s a mouth full literally and figuratively!

Can you say, “BELLISIMA!”???

Fig Pizza 14

 

This pizza is born of summer and is reminiscent of Tuscany in the warmer months. Imagine this; the sweetness of fresh figs, caramelized onions, and balsamic, contrasted with the saltiness of prosciutto and the tang of creamy goat cheese, and finished with the fresh and peppery bite of arugula. I am telling you, this is one incredible gourmet pizza!

Pour yourself a glass of wine and turn on the old world Italiano music, because with this pizza, you are about to feel like you’re enjoying a beautiful summer meal in the Tuscan countryside! Buon Appettito!

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

Cook’s Note: Vegetarians can certainly omit the prosciutto here to make this a veg friendly option! 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin, oblong shape and place on an oiled baking sheet. (Pro-tip: sprinkle course cornmeal on the baking sheet to help prevent the pizza dough from sticking).

Drizzle the surface of the dough with the olive oil and balsamic. Use the back of a spoon to smear evenly over the dough. Arrange the caramelized onions in an even layer over the sauce. Sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella, goat cheese, and half of the basil. Arrange the fig slices all over the pizza. Arrange the prosciutto pieces over the figs throughout the pizza, evenly spacing the slices.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is golden brown, the cheese is melted and bubbly and the prosciutto is crisped. Sprinkle with remaining basil, then the arugula in an even layer.

Cut into rustic squares, sprinkle with parmesan, serve, and enjoy!

Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza

We all love pizza. We all love BBQ. Thus, it makes sense to combine these two marvelous genres of foods, right?? Right! Almost every American-style pizza place (alla BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and California Pizza Kitchen) has some sort of BBQ Chicken Pizza these days, and it fantastic; you really can’t go wrong with ordering one. I and many of my friends love BBQ chicken pizza so much that we have taken to making these BBQ flavored pies in our own homes because it really is so simple to make something so good and so beloved.

My dear friend and former blogging partner from my Confessions of Two College Foodies days, Nicole, first taught me how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza. Her and her family made a version very similar to that of California Pizza Kitchen and it was phenomenal; it quickly became a staple in my own household; for that recipe click here. Since then, however, I have sought to make a recipe that is unique to me so that I am not thieving!

Classic BBQ Pizza

Here is a throwback to the classic version, sans bleu cheese and peppers.

When developing this new recipe, I thought about some of the ingredients and flavors I like to add to more traditional BBQ dishes. When it comes to BBQ burgers, my favorite cheese is bleu cheese; the pungent tang of the bleu plays perfectly off of the sweet richness of BBQ sauce. I also enjoy adding the freshness of red and yellow bell peppers to BBQ dishes as they seem to really brighten up a thick BBQ feast. So, I have added those few ingredients to my friend’s original BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe to make this unique Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza.

BBQ Chicken Pizza 16

The new Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza! Could you resist???

This pizza is insanely easy to make, rather inexpensive, and completely delectable. This recipe is perfect for the summer months for those times when you need the texture and ease of a pizza but still want that summery, smokey BBQ flavor. I hope you enjoy!

Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound store bought pizza dough, plain or wheat (I like Trader Joe’s dough)
  • 3/4 cup store bought BBQ sauce
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • ½ yellow bell pepper sliced into strips
  • ¼ cup parsley or cilantro, chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to according the directions on your store bough pizza dough.

Roll out the dough into a thin, oblong shape and place on an oiled baking sheet. (Pro-tip: sprinkle course cornmeal on the baking sheet to help prevent the pizza dough from sticking)

Pour half the BBQ sauce on the surface of the dough and spread with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush in an even layer right up to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella and bleu cheese crumbles evenly over the pizza.

In a medium bowl, toss the cooked chicken in the remaining BBQ sauce and distribute evenly across the surface of the pizza. Arrange the sliced red onion and bell peppers all over the pizza.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked golden and the cheese is melted and bubbling. In the last few minutes of cooking, sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Cut into rustic squares and serve!

Chicken Bellagio

Years ago when I was a teenager, the cool thing to do for us youngsters was to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner before catching a movie. A favorite dish of my friends and I was their Chicken Bellagio; pesto spaghetti, breaded chicken, prosciutto, and a lemon arugula salad – simple yet completely delectable! It is so simple, in fact, that one night while scarfing down the dish before running off to an 8 o’clock film, I had a culinary epiphany: I could totally make this at home for probably less money and for more people. And so, two days later I called on my Italian ancestors to guide me and I created a Copycat Chicken Bellagio Recipe that is to this day a friend and family favorite!

When I was the co-author of my first foodie blog, Confessions of Two College Foodies, this copycat recipe was by far our most popular and most well-read; we even made it on a local access cooking show (which I will not link to here because the 20 year old incarnation of me is much more tragic than the 25 year old one). Anyway, people love this recipe because it is so tasteful and quite elegant despite utilizing simple ingredients.

Chicken Bellagio 14

Chicken Bellagio is a meal that gives you everything you need on one plate: carbs, protein, and greens. Rich and fresh pesto spaghetti is topped with a piece of tender and crunchy breaded chicken, which is then topped with slice of salty and delicate Prosciutto, which is then finished with a tangy and peppery arugula salad. All of these flavor profiles – the herbal freshness from the pesto and the arugula, the saltiness from the prosciutto, and the tanginess from lemon – make this such a magnificently balanced dish.

It is a little bit of work to time everything and get it all assembled, but once you’ve got the meal plated, it is really delightful and presents so beautifully. Furthermore, you can make this very elegant meal for friends and family for about $25-$35 for 4-6 people, which would easily run you over $100 when going out to eat; make this a winner in not only flavor, but in price.

This is going to be your new go-to when craving a restaurant quality meal, right in your own home!

Chicken Bellagio

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or cutlets
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus another 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1-1/2 cups store bought or homemade pesto (click here for a reliable homemade pesto recipe)
  • 4 slices Prosciutto
  • 3 cups arugula
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

For the Chicken –

Pound the chicken breast tenders or cutlets until very thin. Season both sides with about a ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper each.

Create a breading station using 3 bowls. In the 1st bowl, mix the flour, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper each. In the 2nd bowl, beat the eggs with the cream or half & half till completely mixed. In the 3rd bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. One by one, dip the chicken cutlets on both sides in the flour making sure to shake off excess, then the egg mixture making sure to let excess drain off, then in the breadcrumb mixture being sure to coat completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the breaded chicken cutlets. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until the breading is golden brown.

For the Pasta –

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Place pasta in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and the pesto. Toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce and make sure all noodles are perfectly coated in the pesto.

For the Arugula Salad –

Add the arugula to a salad bowl. Zest 1 lemon directly onto the lettuce. Mix the juice of the 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the arugula and toss.

To assemble –

Place 1 serving (about 1/8th to ¼ of the total) of spaghetti into a wide pasta bowl or onto a plate. Place 1 piece of chicken atop the post. Lay 1 piece of the Prosciutto over the chicken. Top the chicken and Prosciutto with a ¼ cup or so of the arugula salad. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

Kitchen Republic Review

To the naked foodie’s eye, the Bella Terra Shopping Mall in Huntington Beach, CA is a sea of casual dining chain restaurants that offer decent to good standard meals but not much in the way of originality. If you sail through this island of entertainment a little more carefully, however, you will happen across a new gem of a restaurant that satisfies the craving for a unique dining and tasting experience amongst the flavors of the chain establishments: Kitchen Republic. Located across from the ever popular Cheesecake Factory and next to the polarizing Buffalo Wild Wings, the fairly new Kitchen Republic offers a space that is hip, cool, authentic, and welcoming with drinks and dishes from a tapas style menu to match.

Kitchen Republic 1

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Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

flower

YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

food jennifer lawrence

Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

Shepherd’s Pie

Saint Patrick’s Day is tomorrow! Besides good beer (Guinness anyone????), comforting Irish food is one of the best parts of this previously-religious and now fully-universal cultural holiday! Fish n’ Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and most importantly: Shepherd’s Pie!

irish tonight.gif

Years ago, I used to author the now extinct blog “Confessions of Two College Foodies” with my dear friend Nicole. At that time, we developed a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that was out of this world, Celtic-god worthy divine. It has now become a St. Patrick’s Day staple among my friends and I.

While Confessions of Two College Foodies no longer exists, I used to guest write for the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and we posted the Shepherd’s Pie Recipe on their blog…which is still live! Meaning: you can get the recipe by clicking here!  And because I’m really nice, I took the recipe and reposted below so you can also get it here!

You have today and tomorrow to get the ingredients and make this for your St. Patty’s Day dinner! And it will probably last you well into the weekend. Enjoy it my friends!

Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • For the Potatoes and Cheese layers:
  • 8 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ cups grated aged white cheddar
  • 1 ½ cups grated smoked cheddar
  • For the Meat and Vegetable layer:
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 5-6 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • ¾ of a bottle Guinness beer (the ¼ cup remaining, is left for you 🙂
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 lb bag frozen peas

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

For the Potatoes: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter the potatoes and add to the pot. Cook until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Using an electric hand mixer or potato masher, begin creaming the potatoes. Add the milk and butter and combine together. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl until well mixed. As you are blending, add 1 cup of the cheese. Keep blending until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Salt and Pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Meat: Heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Season with ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Stirring often, cook until the carrots are tender, and the onions translucent about 5 minutes. Add the beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small chunks, cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Pour in the Guinness and allow to evaporate into out, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the frozen peas and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season with additional pepper. Remove from the heat.

To assemble: Spray a 9×13 inch-baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, or you bake in individual gratins. Spread the meat and vegetable layer in an even layer at the bottom. Spread the potatoes in an even, flat layer over the top of the meat. Cover the potatoes with the remaining cheese mixture. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.