Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

p1080713

Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

p1080723

While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

p1080715

In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

p1080720

After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

p1080726

Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

My friends and family know how much I love to prepare pasta. I learned while in Italy that you can use nearly anything to flavor pasta so I frequently raid the fridge or pantry to come up with something new to me. My latest pasta adventure featured cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 pound pasta (any shape you like)
Olive oil
1 cube chicken boullion
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Break up cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain – but keep the cauliflower water and cook your pasta to al dente in it.

img_3669-2

In a large, flat pan over medium heat sauté garlic, chicken bouillon cube, and red pepper flakes in a splash of olive oil. Do not burn the garlic. Break the chicken cube up with your utensil.

img_3672

Toss drained cauliflower into pan with garlic and pepper mixture. You may need to add another small splash of olive oil.

img_3674

When the pasta is ready and the cauliflower is cooked, but still firm to the bite (5-6 minutes), toss the pasta in with the cauliflower. Add some of the pasta water to moisten. While pasta is finishing up, mix some olive oil into 1-2 cups of breadcrumbs and sauté until light golden in color.

img_3676

In a large serving bowl right before you are ready to serve, mix the toasted breadcrumbs in with the pasta/cauliflower combination. Top with parmesan cheese and season to taste.

img_3684

The cauliflower really works with the pasta. It is a little too white in color. I think next time I will try this with orange, green, or purple cauliflower to add some interest.

That’s all there is to it! Quick dinner, kind of healthy, and delicious!

If you have a favorite way to serve cauliflower, please let me know. This is the season it tastes best and I am always looking for new ways to serve it up.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

The great thing about homemade soup is that it is such a forgiving meal. You can forage through your pantry, swag measurements, and make each pot your own creation. The downside is that I can never quite replicate the same pot twice!

That said, this pot of gnocchi and Italian sausage soup was delicious.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used hot)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
1/2-1 bag spinach
4-6 cups chicken stock (See recipe for homemade.)
1 package gnocchi
1/2-1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Brown sausage in the bottom of a stock pot and drain off grease. You could use turkey sausage or links. If you do, remove casings before browning.

hot sausage, onion, pepper

Add diced onion, chopped bell pepper, and crushed garlic. Sauté 3 minutes longer. I had a homegrown tomato in the windowsill and chopped it up and added to the pot. It was not an essential ingredient, but like I said before, it’s soup so be creative!

Tip: If using a milder sausage, add 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper for some heat. If using your own chicken stock, add 1-2 chicken bullion cubes to intensify the flavor.

Add chicken stock and bring to gentle boil. Add gnocchi and cook 5 minutes or until gnocchi are cooked through. Add spinach and heavy cream. Stir until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

creamy italian sausage, gnocchi, spinach soup

Italian sausage is a great soup ingredient since it comes with its own built-in seasoning. I’ve also used kale instead of spinach. Of course kale needs to cook a bit longer so I add it during the sauté step. You could leave out the heavy cream or substitute with coconut milk and a tablespoon of red thai curry for a completely different outcome.

bowl of creamy hot sausage and gnocci soup

Serve with a warm slice of home baked French bread. Here’s my recipe!

Let me know how you like it.

Buon appetito!

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

I briefly touched upon this cheery cheesecake recipe in an earlier post highlighting my favorite Thanksgiving desserts, but thought if was worthy of its own mention since I recently made one for a friend. This no-bake version is my aunt’s recipe and it is always devoured. Friends cannot believe how easy it is to make considering how delicious it is. It is perfect for dinner parties since you quite literally whip it up the night before.

No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients
24 graham cracker squares
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 T sugar

8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint heavy cream (also called whipping cream)
1 can cherry pie filling, chilled

Directions

graham cracker crust
Graham cracker crust (Combine 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 T sugar and press into pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.)

whipped cheesecake filling

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth.
Add sugar and vanilla and beat some more.
Slowly pour in heavy heavy cream and beat until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

no bake cheesecake

Pour/scrape into cooled pie crust.

Chill 24 hours.

Brad Nierenberg's Cheesecake

Top with canned cherries.

This is a regular request for birthdays and special occasions. I know you are thinking that it can’t possibly be that good if it is so simple to make…but it is!

Buon appetito!
Brad

Half Moon Cookies Will Make You Howl in Delight

Half Moon Cookies Will Make You Howl in Delight

I love sharing my family recipes. I would hate to see so many delicious treats end with me someday rather than delighting new generations for years to come. I recently sent my gram’s recipe for Half Moon Cookies to Jeanie and Lulu’s Kitchen, a food blog that features recipes passed down to Leigh from both of her grandmothers.

p1080743

I hope you’ll visit Leigh’s blog and peruse through her family treasures. And if you are looking for a new cookie recipe that is cakey, moist, chocolaty, and scrumptious, be sure and bake up a batch of Half Moon Cookies (also called Black and White Cookies.) They are perfect in October as a Halloween treat!

Let me know how you like them!

Here is another wonderful cookie recipe if chocolate is not your thing but you love cinnamon rolls!

5 Things To Do While Wine Tasting

5 Things To Do While Wine Tasting

I consider myself a bit of a wino. Not that I drink a bottle a day, but I possess a decent share of knowledge and have been to many wine tastings, including a few in Italy and Germany. I’ve made a few friends who work in tasting rooms and am often appalled by the stories they share. It is for those folks that I jump up onto my soapbox today!

Hey millennials: Get your nose out of your smartphone and into your glass. The folks who work in the tasting room are trying to share their knowledge with you about their wines. Give them your attention so they can get through it and move on to assist other customers. When you are focused on your phone and not the wine discussion you are wasting other people’s time. It’s rude!

Try everything. When you are out on a wine tasting, don’t skip around the recommended tasting menu. That menu was set up by people who know a lot more about wines than you do. Just follow along and take each ensuing swirl and sip in order. Who knows, you may just find something new that you love.

Cleanse your palate between tastes. Go ahead and take a swig of water, a piece of bread, or whatever they offer. Each new wine will taste much better if you no longer have the remaining taste of the last wine still in your mouth.

Wine tasting is not the same as beer funnels. It’s true that touring wineries for the day with a group of friends is meant to be entertaining, but try and show a little decorum. It your goal for the day is to get hammered, stick to your local pub. If you are tasting wines, use the experience to broaden your knowledge about wines. There are other people in the winery hoping to enjoy their wine tasting experience as well. If you know your group will be raucous, find a winery with a lively reputation. Hazlitt Winery in Hector, NY is a perfect example.

Tip the person who leads your wine tasting. It always amazes me that people “forget” to tip after a wine tasting. We tip bartenders and all they do is pour us a couple of drinks. These folks give us an education with every sample. The money you pay for the tasting does not include a tip, so don’t be a cheapskate. A dollar or two in tips at each winery will land you in the poor house.

Care to add any wine tasting tips of your own? I encourage you to leave a comment and join in the discussion!

 

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Have you ever been pressed for time to throw together a dish to pass and panicked? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t think of anything to bring! I was worrying about a get together I was attending a couple of weeks ago, and this cake popped into my brain. I used my favorite fruit dip as a frosting rather than a dip. The outcome was delicious!

brad-nierenberg-strawberry-cake

Esmé, over at The Recipe Hunter, was gracious enough to include my cake recipe on her food blog. I hope you’ll visit her blog and give it a try!