Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September's Cooking Class--Pasta Sauces

Last night was so much fun! I'm glad that so many of you were able to come--I think I counted about 25. Thanks for eating so I didn't have to pack my fridge full of leftovers when you left. I also have to thank Cori Reynolds, for coming early to help me chop and assemble, and for watching the stove and oven in the background while I talked. Another thanks to Amy Scharman who took photos so I could include them with the recipes on the blog. And at the end of the night, Amy and Cori were washing all my dishes while I chatted and said goodbye to everyone. What good friends!

All of the recipes featured in the class are found on this site. Please leave comments if you try a recipe and tell us how it worked for you. If you have questions, just ask me in the comment section and I'll reply. If anyone has an idea or a request for a future class--leave a comment and let me know!

Cashew Alfredo

I was so excited to discover this recipe! My friend posted it on her blog several months ago (her picture looks so good!) and I couldn't wait to try it. We love it! You have to taste it to believe it. It’s rich and creamy and good for you, too. It’s full of the good fat—not the saturated stuff found in cream and butter, and it’s so easy to blend together. I haven’t served this to anyone who hasn’t liked it—even the skeptics!
1 cup raw cashew pieces
2 1/2 cups warm water (can use pasta cooking water)
olive oil
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 t. lemon juice, if desired
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
18 ounces pasta
chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

In a blender or food processor pulse the cashews until they form a paste then add a bit of the water and continue to process until you've got a smooth texture (or as close as you can get to smooth). I’ve found it works best to start with 1 c. of the water and blend until smooth, then add the rest.

In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil and saute the minced garlic over medium heat until it's beginning to brown slightly. Add the cashew/water mixture, stirring and scraping as it heats, until it begins to boil and thicken. Once thickened, removed from heat and stir in the salt, pepper and Parmesan, stirring until melted. If sauce is too thick, add a little more water.

Boil the pasta, then drain and add to the cashew mixture and stir to coat the noodles. Serve with chopped fresh parsley if desired.
*This sauce is a great base for your creativity. Add chicken, shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, broccoli, chopped tomatoes, spinach, red peppers—anything you like. It’s great as a topping for chicken or seafood, and it also makes a yummy pizza sauce.

Spinach Pesto

This recipe came from my sister's blog. She posted it as a way to use lettuce or spinach that is starting to wilt. Don't throw it away--just toss it it in the food processor or blender with the rest of these ingredients. In the batch of pesto I made for the cooking class, I used 2 c. of the spring greens mix and 1 c. spinach.

3 cups of raw spinach, packed tight
1/2 cup raw walnuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 t. honey (balances any bitterness from the spinach)
juice from 1/2 lemon (optional)
fresh ground salt & pepper, to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine nuts, cheese, garlic & honey. Pulse until they make a paste. Add spinach, pulse a few times. Then slowly add olive oil until it’s a creamy consistency - but small chunks of spinach are fine. Lastly, add salt & pepper and lemon juice to taste. If desired, add a little fresh parsley or basil (or use dried) for more flavor.

  • This pesto freezes well.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta. I usually cook the pasta, then toss the pesto in at the last minute.
  • This makes a great base for pizza, too. Just spread it thickly on the crust, then top with red onion, mushrooms, chicken, artichokes, tomatoes, etc. and sprinkle a little of your favorite cheese on top. Bake till warm and bubbly.
  • Try pesto as a sandwich spread, too, on hot or cold sandwiches.

Pesto Pizza

We love pesto sauce on pizza! For last night's cooking class we sliced a baguette loaf into 1/2 inch slices and spread with pesto. We topped our little appetizers with red onion, sauteed mushrooms, chopped tomato, and mozzeralla and baked them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Pasta Rosa

There are many recipes for Italian Pink Sauce (Pasta Rosa). Most have you add cream to a marinara type sauce. My favorite way to make this is just to combine your favorite red sauce (like the crockpot Marinara) and your favorite white sauce or Alfredo (like the Cashew or White Bean versions) in a ratio of about 2 parts red sauce to 1 part white sauce. My kids love this!

*I also like to make lasagna this way—either mix the two sauces, or alternate layers of white and red sauce as you assemble the layers.

Creamy White Bean Alfredo

This recipe isn't going to fool you into thinking it's a real Alfredo. It tastes like beans, but if you're prepared for that, you'll like it. It's a nice change from the typical Italian. And if you're trying to add more low-fat, high fiber foods to your diet, serve this sauce with whole grain pasta and some vegetables and you've got a complete nutritious meal.

1/4 cup Smart Balance or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups milk (can use soy milk)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley (optional)

•In a sauté pan over low heat, melt the margarine or oil. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

•Transfer the margarine mixture to a blender or food processor, add the white beans and 1 cup of milk. Blend until completely smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add the remaining milk until you reach the desired consistency.

•Pour the sauce back into the pan over low heat, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh herbs, such as parsley, if desired. Cook until the sauce is warm.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Easy Marinara

Prep Time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 8 hours

· 2 onions, chopped

· 8 cloves garlic, minced (I use a couple of big spoonfuls from a jar of minced garlic)

· 1 large (6 lb. 6 oz.) can crushed tomatoes (see * below)

· 6 oz. can tomato paste

· 2 c. shredded carrots, optional

· 1 T. dried basil

· 1 t. oregano

· 1-2 t. salt

· 2 t. beef bouillon granules

· Crushed red pepper, if desired

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours. Serve sauce over pasta. 18-20 servings.

* I used a huge can from Sam’s Club. It costs less than 2.50 which is a great deal. I also like that the tomatoes are unpeeled and crushed—it adds extra fiber!