This time at the library, I found loads of books on sale and I was excited to see magazines like Vegetarian Cooking, Parents,Midwest Living etc om sale. I was browsing through one of them when my eyes fell on the Twirly Whirly Pizza in the Parent Magazine. I had also seen it in Madhuram`s page here.
Today was a lazy Saturday and I wanted to cook a light filling italian dinner for my family. I remembered the Pizza Rolls and the asparagus I had bought at the produce section yesterday. Another all time favourite of mine is zucchini which is a versatile vegetable. I made the following:
My all time favourite sauce/dip is the Pesto based sauce. I am a regular at Crazy Bowls and Wraps and I simply love their noodle bowl with broccoli, beans, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and portabella mushrooms drizzled generously with Basil pesto creamy sauce, sprinkled with Asiago Cheese. I have been wanting to recreate this sauce at home and today was my maiden venture on this.
Simply toss in all these ingredients and pulse in the mixer for a couple of seconds.
4 spoons of store bought pesto sauce.
1 spoon of cream cheese.
4 spoons of light sour cream.
Juice from half a lemon.
A dash of pepper.
Pulse this in the mixer for 2 seconds and there you have Creamy Basil Pesto Dip. Slightly dilute this with the salty pasta water to make a sauce.
My forays in to italian cooking are definitely inspired by Giada Laurentis of foodtv fame, but I have my own methods and madness of cooking up a storm here. I always like to start with a lot of veggies as I am always looking at ways to compensate the body`s requirement of fibre, iron etc, that might not form a part of our regular south indian cooking. I dont have a fixed recipe in the mind when I begin, but some how as I chop the vegetables, somewhere in the back of my mind, there are instructions and my hands fluidly follow them…
Today I knew that hubby dear would come home ravenous, and I need to give him a filling dinner with a lot of vegetables. I looked at the vegetables that I had to start my pasta…Yes I did have the Whole Wheat Penne, as I had already tried the angel hair pasta the last time and well, in my opinion penne is a lot more easier to pick wth a fork!!! I would have appreciated butternut squash or my all time favourite – zucchinni, but I had to make do with what I had…Onions, carrots, peppers and hey I had some fresh mushrooms. I still had some leftover Italian flat leaf parsley from two weeks back, which I had saved in a ziploc, rolled tightly in a soft fresh tissue towel. I also felt like using cilantro today, although I knew that was distinctly “Not Italian”!!!
The instructions would definitely “seem” a little winding and long, but its definitely a quick dish to make, once you get a hang of things.Don`t worry about the ingredients – You could make do, even if you have one or two of them missing.
1 pound of Whole Wheat Pasta. ( I used the one with the extra fibre
1 Onion sliced thin and long.
1 green pepper sliced.
1 carrot sliced thin and long.
12-13 Mushrooms sliced.
Small Bunch of Itlain Parsleychopped. (Optionally use dried parsley)
3 spoons of Part Skim Ricotta Cheese.
2 spoons of Part Skim Cream Cheese.
1 spoon of Light Sour Cream.
1 spoon of dried basil.
1 spoon of dried oregano.
A pinch of nutmeg.
Salt & Pepper.
1 spoon of butter.
Mozzarella Cheese to top.
Saute the vegetables and mushroom very lightly for 2 mins in a spoon of butter. This enhances the flavour of the vegetables and the mushroom. This step is optional and can be omitted.
Line a baking sheet with oil spray and add all the sliced veggies and mushrooms. Sprinkle salt and pepper sufficiently and some of the chopped parsley and dried basil.
Preheat the oven to 375F and pop it in to the oven to roast for ten minutes or until the veggies are roasted and soft. Pull out and keep aside.
In a wide mouthed container add enough water to allow the pasta to drown and cook for 12 mins or according to the instruction on the pasta container, along with 1 spoon of salt.
When its cooked almost 70% drain out the pasta and save one cup of the pasta water.
In a cup mix the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream and add some chopped cilantro and chopped parsley.
Into the baking dish containing the roasted veggies, add the hot pasta, dried basil, dried oregano and a pinch of nutmeg and the cheese mixture.
Mix well so the cheese will slowly melt in the heat of the pasta. If you find that its too dry, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and mix the vegetables, the pasta and the cheese sauce.
Add more salt or pepper if you deem it necessary.
Sprinkle part skim grated mozzarella cheese over the pasta and pop it again in the oven covered with a foil sheet for about 1o minutes at 350F.
Bake for another 5 minutes with the foil removed.
Serve simmering Hot pasta to your family and enjoy the fragrance of the cheese sauce, herbs and veggies.
My forays in to italian cooking were actually inspired by Giada Di Laurentis of food tv fame. I love the way she presents her dishes, simple, striaght and very delectable. Of course my various visits to Olive Garden also were an additional motivation to venture in to this style of cooking. I always loved the calm fresh beauty of the tuscan countryside from what little I had seen on travel blogs and glossy travel magazines.
Baked Spaghetti with roasted summer vegetables, is an italian dish that could easily be refixed a hundred different ways, all of them leading to decadent different end results, all of them being extremely tastly and satisfying. I think of it more as a comfort food during the cold winter months. Its easily a favourite among my friends and I am sure my sisters S, and D would love to have tasted it.
Spagetti Pasta – 1/2 a Box (Barilla/Great Value/Trader Joe`s or whatever)(You could also substitute any pasta like penne, rigatoni,bowtie)
Yellow Squash – 2 (Cut in to 1 inch long strips)
Onions – 1 (Cut in to 1 inch long strips)
Zuchinni – 2 ( Cut in to 1 inch cubes)
Peppers – 2 (Cored and cut in to 1 inch wide strips)
Dried Basil – 1/2 Tsp
Dried oregano – 1/2 Tsp
Dried Thyme – 1/2 Tsp (Optional)
Dried Parsley – 1/2 Tsp
Black Pepper – Crushed off a grinder – 1 Tsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1/3 cup
Garlic – 5-6 pods
Marinana Sauce – 2-3 cups or 1 Bottle of Store Bought sauce.
Mozarella Cheese – Grated 1/2 cup – (Store bought park skim mozarella can be used a low cal option).
Parmesan Cheese – 1/3 cup.
Lemon Zest – 1 tsp
All the dried herbs could be got at any store like Trader Joe`s or Walmart at the Spices section.
Fresh herbs are always a pleasure to cook with, so plan cooking italian,If you get fresh herbs , as they have a very short shelf life.
All the measurements of cheese and herbs and salt and pepper are completely indicative. If you want to go easy on the cheese, or increase the pepper for a kick, or reduce the oregano, feel free to do so.
Start by boiling the pasta in a big container filled with water and salt. Allow the pasta to cook for 8 mins or as per the directions provided on the cover.
Boil the pasta till its done “Al Dente”. This is a point when the pasta is about 60% cooked and is firm and has a bite to it. The pasta will finish cooking with the vegetables and the sauce in the oven. Drain in a colander.
In the meantime, take a cup and pour the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in to it. Add finely chopped garlic pieces to the oil, so the garlic can sort of marinate in the oil and and flavour it.
Add crushed pepper, freshly chopped parsley ( or dried) and lemon zest and allow to sit for ten mins.
Preheat the oven to 400 F
Grease a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, and onions, and drizzle the dried herbs like basil, oregano and parsley and then pour the olive oil garlic herb mix on the veggies. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 12-13 mins till they are tender.
In a large baking dish. grease the bottom and the sides and pour the semi cooked pasta, roasted veggies, marinara sauce, half of the mozarella cheese, salt and then top it with the remaining grated mozarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
Bake for 25 mins till the cheese gts golden on top.
Many of my friends who try out my italian want to know whats the best pasta sauce that should be used ? Should it be made from scratch? Or should it be store bought? Well, I feel that there is no comparison to making your own pasta sauce from scratch. I love making my own pesto and marinara sauces. But basil is a litte hard to come by in this season. I normally buy a box of fresh organic basil from Trader Joe`s for the best pesto sauce. In times of non-availability, the store bought one should do…
These days Walmart stocks a variety of pasta sauces – Emeril, Newman etc. But my favourite is the Mezzetta Naps Valley Bistro`s sauces in my vegetarian flavours – Mediterranenan Olive, Homemade Style Marinara & Roasted Arrabiata. The Pesto sauce from Trader Joe`s is also a personal favourite.