Shrimp Frau Diavolo

Doesn’t that look delicious?  I admit, it hasn’t been painstakingly food-styled into a perfectly organized and lovingly garnished dish, but sometimes I think you just need to sit down to a warm and gloriously tangled mess of pasta, shrimp, trinity.  This came about as the result of a minor kitchen oversight – we bought a pound of shrimp last weekend planning to make surf and turf on the grill and then promptly forgot about them.  So when lunch rolled around on Tuesday afternoon and I saw them hanging out in the fridge it was a cook ’em or lose ’em moment.

I don’t usually have tons of spare time on weekdays for lunch, so I was looking for something I could make pretty quickly.  It only took me about 30 minutes to whip this up, and a good part of that was bringing my pasta water up to the boil.  This is one of those recipes where you can usually find everything you need in your fridge or pantry – or at least some semblance of everything you need.  I didn’t have diced tomatoes – or any tomatoes – so I used a can of whole tomatoes and diced them myself.  I added a green bell pepper I needed to use, and I pretty much just pulled out the bottle of white moscato from the fridge for the “dry white wine” because I wasn’t really prepared to open a more appropriate bottle at 1:30 in the afternoon.

So the moral of this story is this:  use what you have, make up what you don’t, and enjoy the results.  Cheers!


Shrimp Frau Diavolo

via Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons

1 medium onion, sliced

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.

Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.


Pasta with Mushrooms

I know, I know.  I waxed poetic about my new year’s resolution, and then I left you hanging for like a week and a half. Well I’m just going to pass the blame along to my husband who, for the third time this year no less, has brought home a cold and insisted on sharing it with me.  So I have been moping around, using sick days, and cooking nothing more complicated than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Now that I am on the mend (really I’m fine, I’m just trying to milk this pitiful invalid thing for all it’s worth) however, I’ve had to catch up with all of that stuff I’ve been avoiding – like two weeks worth of laundry, and cleaning my bathroom, and catching up all those Nanny reruns I’ve been recording off of Nick at Nite (does anyone but me still watch that?? I’ll be honest, I can’t stop.)  And I really did want to share something wonderful with – something so good you would need to rush into the kitchen and make it immediately – but after all of that exhausting housework, I really just wanted to sit down with something simple and easy.  I raided my fridge of all the odds and ends that have been piling up: half a red onion, mushrooms left over from last weekend’s dinner party appetizer, and the tail end of a block of Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar.  I sauteed the onion and the mushrooms in just a very little olive oil and tossed that with half a box of spaghetti, hastily cooked to al dente, and I had dinner.  I added a little butter and grated the cheddar onto the pasta and let it all sort of melt together and it was a perfect weeknight supper.  I was a little worried that the cheese would try to run the whole show with such a strong flavor, but once it melted in, it just sort of coated the noodles in a suggestion of cheesiness and I just barely knew it was there – in a good way.

It was actually really good.  It certainly wasn’t mind blowing cuisine, but it was tasty, satisfying, homey food, and what more can a girl who’s just gotten back into the kitchen after a week on her deathbed ask for? OK, maybe not my deathbed, but if I see another cough drop I’m going on strike.


This might just be the best lasagna ever.  It’s a little strange for me to be writing that, since until recently, I didn’t really like lasagna.  By that I mean that I refused to eat it because I didn’t think it looked good.  The only lasagna I would willingly eat was my Aunt Ruth’s, and I was only willing to try hers because she’s never made anything wasn’t delicious. So, while this was not my first attempt at the classic comfort food dish, it is the first time that I got excited about the results.
Although it takes a little time (it took me about an hour to get it in the oven, and then an hour or more to bake, but I wasn’t very organized about it, and you might be able to cut that down a little with some planning), it really isn’t that difficult to make.  You saute the vegetable in a little oil (carrots? in lasagna?  I was a little surprised to see them in the recipe, but I didn’t even know they were there when I was eating it), add the meat and cook through, then add the spices and let simmer for a few minutes.  I could have just eaten the sauce right out of the pan, it was so good.  I really like that it had both ground beef and sausage in it, and I chose the hot italian sausage, so that gave it a little kick.  You will have to spend some time breaking it up though, unless, like me, you don’t mind some rather large-ish sausage lumps in there.
While my sauce was cooking, I boiled the noodles, and got my pan ready.  Then you make the cheese filling with ricotta, parmesan, and a couple of eggs.  This was probably my favorite part of the lasagna; it was so light, and just cheesy enough without being too gooey, if that makes any sense.  Once you’ve got everything mixed in, then you get to assemble this monster.  Be prepared, because it will feed a small army, as my grateful co-workers found out later in the week.  It’s pretty straightforward – you just put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, then layer on the noodles, ricotta mixture, sauce, and shredded mozzarella until you run out.  Then top with a little more mozzarella and parmesan, and you’re good to go.  
Let it bake covered for 40 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for another 40 minutes (I only baked uncovered about 30 minutes or so, since I was impatient, and it was plenty hot, and the cheese was bubbly, but I have an atomic oven, so results may vary).  All in all, this was a very successful project, and I can’t wait to make this again.  The sauce was so flavorful, and the ricotta mixture baked up so well, that this may have just made the list of my favorite foods.
Three Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper


  • 15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/4 pounds)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.

Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.


baked penne with cheese, cauliflower, and crème fraîche

That’s really just a fancy way of saying macaroni and cheese, but don’t be fooled.  It was absolutely wonderful.  I would probably never have made this if not for the fact that I went to the farmers market last week and bought crème fraîche that has been moldering away in my fridge ever since.  Yesterday, when I realized that I should probably use it up pretty soon, I went on over to epicurious to find something to do with it.  This recipe was perfect for me because, believe it or not, I’ve never knowingly eaten cauliflower.  Since I started this blog, in part, to help me branch out and try new things, I figured I should probably jump right in.   I don’t know why I’ve never had cauliflower – maybe because it’s white, but I always just think of it as this bland vegetable that’s not as good as broccoli.

I was definitely wrong, because it was the cauliflower that moved this dish beyond simple mac and cheese, and into something that I can’t wait to eat as leftovers.  There were also tomatoes, a little onion (the recipe called for green onion, but I had half a sweet Vidalia left over from hamburgers this weekend, so I used that instead) and LOTS of cheese.  The recipe calls for “about 9 oz” of Comté, or a mix of Gruyère and fontina, but you try finding Comté or fontina in my Publix.  I had 6 oz of Gruyère, so I used that and added some sharp cheddar into the topping.

You start out by cooking the cauliflower – not too long, 5 or 6 minutes.  You want it to be cooked, but still a little crispy.  If it’s still a little crisp, it stands out really nicely next to all the soft pasta and the sauce.  Add some tomatoes and onions…the tomatoes add just a little freshness to all that dairy.  And oh my goodness, the dairy.  Heavy whipping cream, nearly 4 cups of cheese, and crème fraîche – but don’t worry, you won’t go into a dairy coma, I promise.  The sauce seems impossible as you’re making it – it’s so thick and gooey, but just cook it over low heat and keep whisking it around, and it’ll be fine.   Once everything is cooked you just layer it all in a baking dish and stick it in the oven for 25 minutes or so, and when you pull it out…cheesy, saucy goodness.  The crème fraîche makes it a little tangy, and the cauliflower adds just a little veggie crunch to the whole thing.  Also, this was my first experience with ‘home-made’ breadcrumbs, and I was amazed at how easy it was!  I had a sour dough french bread round that I was using for sandwiches, and I just threw some in my food processor, and voila!  Breadcrumbs! I know I shouldn’t be so impressed with that – I mean, breadcrumbs?  Shred a few slices and you’re good, right?  But really, these turned out all toasty and crunchy…perfect.

Yes, I know it looks like your grandma’s mac and cheese, but it’s not.  It still feels like your favorite comfort food, but with more depth of flavor, and it does have a vegetable in it after all, so it gets credit for being kind of healthy (I’m going to pretend like all that heavy cream and cheese doesn’t completely cancel out the nutritional value).

So, I tried something new, and it turned out amazingly.  Despite the simplicity of the finished product, I’m really proud of this dish.  Not just because it turned out like it was supposed to, but because I used the cauliflower instead of substituting broccoli just because I’m more familiar with it.  It seems like such a small thing, but I’m so excited for the next time I can hardly stand it.

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Crème Fraîche

  • (1) 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, cored, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups coarsely grated Comté cheese (or half Gruyère and half Fontina; about 9 ounces), divided ( I used all Gruyère, and some sharp cheddar for the topping part)
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano ( I used romano)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche*
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 10 ounces penne (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from crustless French bread ground in processor)

Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using large sieve, transfer cauliflower to bowl. Add tomatoes to pot; cook 1 minute. Remove from water; peel and dice tomatoes. Reserve pot of water.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and green onions. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups Comté cheese; whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then crème fraîche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Return reserved pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return pasta to same pot. Stir in cauliflower mixture and sauce.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon in half of pasta mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat; mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle crumbs over pasta.

Bake pasta uncovered until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.