Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bare Bones II: Goulash

     When it's cold and dreary, a hot plate of Goulash makes all the difference. Serve it with a crisp green salad, with coffee and cookies afterward, and you've got an easy meal, too. 

      I grew up on this version...we often made it with home-canned tomatoes. Commercially-canned tomatoes are good, too. This dish is excellent for hiding small amounts of leftover veggies. 


1 quart canned tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes)
1 pound hamburger or sausage
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (or one small can mushroom pieces)
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons Italian spices (or garlic, basil, oregano to taste)
2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese OR grated parmesan

Start a saucepan of water to cook the macaroni. While it's heating, slowly brown the meat and vegetables until they're done; add the tomatoes and spices, and turn heat down to a simmer.
    Cook macaroni until done - about 8 min. Drain and add to meat mixture; sprinkle with cheese and serve hot. Makes about 8 servings...fast!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bare Bones II: Spaghetti Carbonara

One of pasta's best attributes is its speed -- in 15 minutes, you can have a plate of steaming spaghetti or linguine out and ready for your hungry family. (Or appetite!) I keep a package of bacon handy as much as possible, so I can make Carbonara at a moment's notice. Once the meat and veggies are sauteed, the rest literally cook in with the pasta.
    It's great for using up leftover bits and pieces from a salad, too.


1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1/3 - 1/2 pound bacon
2-3 cups chopped or sliced vegetables
 (Candidates include onion, zucchini or other squash, fresh tomatoes, green beans, carrots, bits of cabbage, mushrooms, red or green peppers, etc.)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (or a healthy shake or two of dried powdered garlic)
2 eggs
parsley for garnish
Parmesan cheese 

Start cooking the pasta in a separate pan. Meanwhile, add the bacon, chopped fine, to the vegetables and garlic; saute slowly while the spaghetti cooks. Add eggs to either the bacon mixture (if you like separate pieces of egg), or the spaghetti, once it's cooked and drained (if you like each piece of pasta coated with egg). Mix in the bacon mixture, garnish with parsley and cheese, and serve!  (Makes 4-6 servings)

'Chef John's' version is here. He says its sauce "is simply a thin egg and cheese custard, spiked with pork and black pepper. Try to find pancetta or guanciale (pork cheek cured like pancetta) for a really authentic taste!"

However you want to describe it -- it's delicious.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bare Bones II: alla Puttanesca

   Want something tangy, tomato-y and tasty...all in short order? Try Spaghetti all Puttanesca. (Translation: Sauce of the Whore.)  I'd read that this pasta dish got its name for its ease of preparation -- that prostitutes, tired after their night's work, could mix and cook it quickly on a small fire.

Wikipedia has a different story:
    In a 2005 article from Il Golfo—a daily newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida—Annarita Cuomo asserted that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.[5] According to Cuomo...near closing one evening—Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and so told them he didn't have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi," or "Make any kind of garbage," they insisted.a[›] Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers—the basic ingredients for the sugo, “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo. Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Anchovies are a must; so are plenty of garlic, onion, and chopped peppers. You can improvise with the rest. Try this version from nigella.com. And think of all the smirking you can do while serving it.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 anchovy fillets (chopped)
  • 1 small red chili (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons capers (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 tin black olives (pitted, quartered)
  •   1 can (approx. 15 oz)  tomatoes (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flatleaf parsley (fresh, chopped) 

     Cook a pound package of spaghetti in boiling water. While it's cooking, slowly saute the rest of the ingredients (except parsley) in three or four tablespoons of olive oil. (Omit the salt, if you like -- this dish is plenty salty as-is.)  Add parsley to the sauce just before serving. Pile the spaghetti on a platter, and spoon the sauce over top. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan or Romano cheese. (Serves 4.) 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bare Bones II begins -- Pasta Fazool

Winter's still hanging on...and your wallet feels surprisingly empty. (Darn Christmas presents, anyway.) What to do, when your expenses aren't meeting your income?
     ...Or you're saving for a new car
     ...Or graduation...
     ...Or an upcoming trip?

It's time to go back to the bare bones -- of fine cooking, that is. We've done Bare Bones series before; this one will focus on that workhorse, Pasta.

It's invaluable for a good, hearty meal that will keep you going. "Carb-loading" is famous for runners and other athletes, because its effects can fuel your body for hours. Now that gluten-free pasta is available, even allergy-prone families can enjoy a warm, steaming plate of spaghetti. Served with a green salad and veggies, it's a tasty mainstay.

First up:  PASTA FAZOOL.  This easy-to-make soup warms on a cold, bleak night. Try the leftovers warmed up for a quick lunch, too. This version is based on an old Italian grandma's recipe: the best kind.


'Meatballs' area first! Mix ingredients together, form into marble-sized meatballs and put in a 350-degree oven to bake while you assemble the rest of the soup.

Using a large soup kettle, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil for a few minutes. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients, stirring as you go. The meatballs should be lightly browned and bubbling; add them to the soup. Simmer for a few hours. (Or put in a slow cooker on low for 7-10 hours.) This soup really does need time for the flavors to blend, so don't skimp.

Serves 4-6 hungry people, with a slice of garlic bread. Add a platter of sliced raw veggies, if you want to be extra-healthy.