Cheesy pasta with broccoli and cheese, served with bruschetta

We eat a lot of pasta in this house…We moved to England, but we eat like we live in Italy. This was a dish I threw together on a weeknight because I was tired and wanted to do something that was nourishing but quick. I also had some rolls I wanted to use up – keeping bread is nearly impossible here in this damp country, it always goes moldy before I can do anything.

I like eating broccoli – it’s one of my favorite vegetable. At the market, I can buy a whole head of broccoli, but I feel it’s a bit of a waste because I eat the crowns, but a good 2/3 of the broccoli is that tough, thick woody stem. I know you can eat the stem if you peel it, slice it thinly, etc. When I’m doing Asian food, I’ll use the stems, but I don’t think it works with Italian cooking.

So I found some tender broccolini – its stems are super tender and cook really well, so I like using it, though I don’t buy it all the time because it’s more expensive than regular broccoli.

This recipe is easy to make and quick – and you don’t have to follow the recipe too closely – do what you’d like. This is a one-pot dish, which is nice because you don’t have too many pots and pans to clean up.

Ingredients (for the pasta dish):
-250 g of short pasta – penne, fusilli, rontini, I’m partial to a rotelle, though I’ve yet to find it up in here in England
– 1/2 ball of mozzarella, diced
-1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan
-1/4 cup of shredded Grana Padano
– 2 cups of water
– 1 cup of cream
– 3 links of small, low-fat chicken sausage
– 4 stalks of broccolini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
– 1/2 small white onion, minced
-1 tbl of olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the bruschetta) – now, mind you, this is a bit of a Sandra Lee-esque recipe because I’m using jarred sauce that I wanted to use up:
– 2 rolls, cut in half, width-wise, and then each half, halved again
– 1 tin of anchovy, mashed up
– 1/4 ball of mozzarella, chopped into tiny bits
– 1 clove of garlic, chopped
-1/4 cup of tomato sauce

So to make this dish, you’ll have to figure out what you want to do first, the bruschetta or the pasta…You have to keep an eye on the bruschetta or it’ll burn, so it’s up to you….This is what I did.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, with a tight-fitting lid. add the onion and cook, adding some salt to draw moisture and to let the onion brown a bit. Add the garlic and keep stirring and keep cooking for another minute or so. Add the sausage, removed from the casing and broken up. Stir constantly and mix and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the pasta and stir and cook and stir for a bit, toasting the pasta a touch. Add the water, raise the heat to high, getting the water to boil, then stir. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

After about 10 minutes, remove the lid – you should have some liquid – not a lot, but some, and keep stirring. Your pasta should be tender by now. Add the cream and stir and cooking, letting the sauce thicken. Add the cheese and mix, stirring, making sure the cheese melts and creates a thick sauce (this won’t be like mac and cheese, though), add the broccolini and mix and cover the dish and cook for another 8 minutes or so, until the broccolini is tender and cooked – but still bright green. Season to taste.

Whilst I’m doing all this, I’m taking care to make the bruschetta as well. Preheat the broiler and put the rack near the bottom. Brush each piece of bread with some olive oil. Put a bit of garlic on each piece of bread. Then spoon a bit of mushed anchovy on each pieace. Then add about a spoonful of sauce. Carefully place a slice of mozzarella on each piece. Finally, drizzle some olive oil over the bruschetta – I use the oil from the anchovy. Put in the broiler and let it cook until the cheese blisters, browns, and melts – Keep an eye on the bread, though, because it can burn just like that (I just snapped my fingers)

Serve the bruschetta with your pasta (like I did in the pic). Oh, and enjoy.

Pasta with chicken in a cream sauce

I like tagliatelle with a creamy sauce and wanted to make some one night. I didn’t have any, but I did have some lasagna sheets in my pantry and decided to improvise with that. I bought the lasagna a while ago – I probably was going to make lasagna at one point, but that didn’t happen, so I still had the sheets in my cupboard.

So to improvise tagliatelle, I took the dried lasagna sheets and snap them into credit card-sized pieces. The rest of the sauce was just a common cream sauce that I like to make with cream, chicken, and peas.

Ingredients:
-6 – 8 sheets of lasagna sheets, broken into credit card-sized pieces. Don’t feel the need to actually measure your shards against a credit card – just guesstimate.
-1 chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
-3 slices of bacon – I live in England, so we just have back bacon, but streaky, American bacon would work too – try to avoid those maple bacon – chopped into a small dice
-1/4 cup of water
-1 cup of soured cream
– 3 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
-1 cup of frozen peas, thawed

First you’re gonna wanna make the pasta. After breaking up your lasagna sheets, throw the shards into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook according to the package – but shave off about two minutes (I like my pasta to be toothy and al dente)

While the pasta is cooking – and be careful because the pasta cooking won’t last very long – start on your sauce. First you’ll want to put your raw bacon bits onto a large, cold pan, and slowly heat over a low flame, allowing for the bacon to render its fat. This cooking will take a bit, because it’s best to work off a slow, low heat.

Once your bacon has begun to crisp and the fat has rendered, add the chopped chicken and stir and cook, allowing for the chicken to brown, letting the chicken leave a fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the water, and stir, scraping the browned bits on the bottom, and stir and raise the heat until the water is boiling and stir and cooking, letting the liquid reduce by about half – you’re looking to get a soupy, syrupy liquid. Add the cream and mix right away and constantly to make sure that the cream doesn’t separate. A neat trick I do sometimes if I’m not in a hurry is get some of the hot liquid from the pan and put it in a mug and then add the cream and stir and add the mixture into the pan. If the cream separates, it’s fine to eat, but it don’t look pretty.

Add the pasta and stir, letting the creamy sauce cover the noodles and stir and cook, letting the creamy sauce get thick. Add the peas and stir, letting the peas thaw.

Serve. Oh, and enjoy.