Rick’s Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce

Since so many of you liked my humble Chicken Noodle Casserole here’s another oldie but goodie comfort food recipe. If you have the time (and who doesn’t these days) make your best meat sauce. Or, as per this recipe, brown some ground beef and/or Italian sausage, put it in some good jarred sauce, add some cheese, and Roberto is your uncle.

Ingredients

1 lb. Ziti (or Penne)

1 lb. ground beef (or bulk Italian sausage, or a mixture of the two)

½ cup sturdy red wine

2 jars of good spaghetti sauce (I like Rao’s or Emeril’s)

1 teaspoon of oregano

2 8 oz. packages of whole milk mozzarella

2 cups sour cream (or ricotta cheese)

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Recipe

Boil  plentiful water for pasta while you brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Cook the pasta for about 8 minutes, drain and add a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.

When the ground beef has no pink in it, add the wine and let it boil down for a few minutes. Add the jars of sauce, add the oregano, and let it all cook down for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 f.

Grease a standard baking pan with olive oil or Pam. Put about a cup of the sauce in the baking dish and spread it evenly. Add half the pasta, the sour cream spread evenly, and one package of the cheese. Add the other half of the pasta, half of the remaining cheese, and the rest of the sauce. Finally, cover with the remaining cheese package and the Parmigiano.

Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the cheese on top begins to brown.

Serve with a salad (or frozen green beans, as we did) and a sturdy red wine.

(Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2020)

 

 

 

Spicy Stir-Fried Chicken with Mushrooms and Broccoli

We have an Asian dish at least once a week in our rotation. My wife loves mushrooms and broccoli, so this easy chicken stir-fry is always a hit.

Ingredients

1 Lb boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced (You could also use boneless, skinless thighs)

8 ounces white button mushrooms, stems removed. Cut any big ones in half

2 tablespoons  peanut oil

A good sized broccoli crown cut into florets

Sauce

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 cup chicken or beef broth (or water if you don’t have broth on hand)

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Garnish

Sesame seeds (you can toast them if you want to get fancy)

Two chopped scallions

Recipe

Put the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl, whisk to combine.

Add the sliced chicken to the bowl with the sauce and let it marinate for at least a half hour in the fridge. (Pro tip: put the chicken in the freezer for half an hour before to firm it up before slicing. It makes it easier to get nice slices.)

Put a wok or skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. When the oil shimmers add the broccoli. Stir-fry for about five minutes, adjusting the heat so it doesn’t burn. Put the broccoli on a plate.

Put another tablespoon of peanut oil in the wok, and when the oil shimmers add the mushrooms and stir-fry until they give up their liquid and are nicely browned, about three or four minutes. Put them on another plate.

Add the chicken and the sauce to the wok over high heat.  Stir-fry for about five or six minutes, then add the mushrooms and stir to coat them with sauce. Then add the broccoli and stir to cover with sauce for a minute or two. Pour it all into a warm serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve over rice.

(Photo by R.L. Floyd, 2020)

Rick’s Shrimp and Sweet Pea Risotto

RisottoRisotto is a nice change from pasta, and it is not hard to make if you are attentive during the half hour or so you need to watch and stir the rice. For special events we make a rich and decadent Risotto ala Milanese with our Osso Bucco.  This recipe is a bit of a lighter tweak on that, without the Parmesan cheese and extra butter. If you use  frozen shrimp and peas  this can be pulled out of the larder, and you can make it in under an hour on a weeknight. And it is very good! Continue reading

Rick’s Chicken and Shellfish Paella

Paella

My seminary classmate Carlos Diaz gave us a paella pan and the Time-Life Cooking of Spain cookbook for a wedding present. That was forty years ago and paella has been a mainstay of my kitchen for special events. I made one last night for a family birthday.

The original Time-Life recipe was a lovely Valencia style paella with some not very authentic ingredients such as lobster. Paella was originally a humble peasant dish of saffron infused rice with whatever fresh vegetables and fish or game that was available.

This elaborate Valencia style paella is the one most Americans know from restaurants. This is my take on it with four decades of my tweaks. It is pretty labor intensive, but a fun project in the kitchen, and the results are unfailingly crowd-pleasing. Serves six with generous portions. Continue reading