The last few months have been a whirlwind. I’ve recently started a big project that I’m really excited to share with you. Earlier this year I signed a book deal with Stewart, Tabori & Chang, to turn Illustrated Bites into a book! I’ve been delaying announcing the news, because for a long time it seemed too good to be true. Last week I turned in my first chapter, so it finally feels real. Now that the ball is rolling, I felt ready to tell y’all about it. The book is organized by season with four, five course meals that exemplify seasonal cooking. Like the blog, it will have illustrated recipes and how-tos, but it will have added emphasis on how to grow the produce yourself. The working title is Illustrated Bites, From Garden to Table, to be released spring 2015.
2015 still seems like an unrealistic future date, but it will be here before I know it. In the meantime, working on the book has totally consumed me. I’ve been trying hard to stay balanced, eat healthy, and get some exercise. To be honest though, all I want to do is eat comfort food and drink wine. This mac & cheese recipe is comfort incarnate. It’s rich, flavorful, warm, and nostalgic. Also, it’s pretty easy to make. The last time I brought this to a pot-luck everyone went nuts for it. If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser this Thanksgiving, I promise this one is a winner.
- 1 lb. macaroni pasta such as cavatappi
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 1 cup milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated mild cheddar
- 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoon Butter
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Boil and salt a large pot of water. Cook your pasta, until it’s super al dente. Your pasta box will have a recommend cooking time for al dente, just subtract a minute or two from that. Drain the pasta, rinse it with cold water, and set it aside.
- In a sauce pot, combine the cream and the milk. Add the bay leaves and gently warm, but don’t boil. Set it aside.
- In another sauce pot, melt the butter. When it’s foamy add the flour, and stir continuously until the mixture begins to brown. Remove the bay leaves from the half and half, and stir in about 1/4 of it into the flour and butter. Continue to stir, when the mixture is smooth, add a little more of the liquid. Continue to slowly add the half and half, until it’s all incorporated.
- Mix the gorgonzola and the cheddar into the sauce. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
- Butter a 9x13in pan. Put in the pasta, and pour the sauce over the pasta. Toss in the parmesan cheese and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.
- Bake for 15-20 minute until it’s bubbling, and the breadcrumbs are brown. Serve hot!
I’ll continue to do new posts here, and give you updates on the book. You can also follow my progress on Instagram and Twitter. I hope y’all have a great Thanksgiving!
After looking back over my last several posts, I realized that you all probably think I never eat anything simple and healthy. I’ve mostly been writing about deep-fried, buttery, oh-so-delicious-but-oh-so-bad-for-you sweets, pies, and salty treats. Sure, some vegetables will show up once and awhile but they’re usually covered in cheese. It’s not that I never cook anything healthy, it’s just that it’s a lot more fun to make and write about indulgent dishes. Today, I’m going to switch it up a little and let vegetables take the lead.
I save most of my extravagant cooking adventures for the weekend. During the workweek I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7, so I usually make something quick and easy. Homemade marinara sauce is simple to make and takes only ten minutes to cook. If you want to be ambitious you could also make handmade pasta but I usually just boil whatever dried pasta I have around. The fresh sauce is thick, flavorful, and really satisfying. It really doesn’t compare to the thin, runny sauce from a jar.
Homemade Marinara Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 medium tomatoes diced, or about 2 cups
- 1/2 small onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic diced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Heat the oil over medium in a large sauce pan and cook the onions until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Stir and crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
- Add the Italian seasoning and garlic, return the cover and cook for 3-4 more minutes.
- Stir in the salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Easy, right? This whole process can be done while you’re boiling the pasta. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker meal. I’ll usually saute zucchini for a side dish and maybe pan sear some chicken if I want some protein. All and all, it’s quick and healthy. Happy cooking!
I learned to make egg pasta while studying in Italy a few years ago. Some Italian mamas came in to teach us Americans the tricks of the trade. The recipe and process is simple but it is physically demanding. The Italian ladies made it look effortless but believe me, its not. I’m not one to shy away from a culinary task that requires a little elbow grease (I don’t own a mixer) but after making this last night, I woke today with sore forearms (granted, I have t-rex arms that are pretty useless). Making this pasta is fun and rewarding, but be prepared to hurt a little for your dinner.
If you’re up to the task here’s what you need to make homemade egg pasta.
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbs olive oil
1. Mound your flour on a clean countertop and make a well in the center of the flour and add the salt and olive oil. Break an egg into the the well and beat with a fork incorporating a little flour. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Continue to combine the egg mixture and flour until most of the flour is mixed in.
2. Gather the mixture into a ball and begin to kneed the dough. Do this on a lightly floured surface. If the dough seems too dry, add a few drops of water. If it is too wet, add more flour. Kneed the dough for a good long while, approximately 10 minutes. If you haven’t guessed, this is the hard part. You stretch the dough and fold it over and smash it down over and over until the texture of the dough seems smoother and airier. This process activates the gluten and adds air to the the dough.
3. Divide the dough up into 5 pieces and roll each chunk out as flat as you can. Ideally, about the thickness of an old vinyl record. (This part is also strenuous.)
4. Slice the pasta into strips about 1/2 an inch wide.
To cook the pasta, boil a large pot of water and add salt and olive oil. Boil the pasta for about 5 minutes, tasting the pasta along the way to test for a slightly firm bite. Don’t over cook it! Drain and enjoy with the sauce of your choice. I served mine with some basil pesto topped with slices of pan-seared chicken and a side of sauteed asparagus.
This is a good recipe, but like I said it is difficult, unless of course you have really strong arms. The pasta I made last night turned out a little too thick. I didn’t manage to flatten it out enough and the noodles were really thick and chewy. My sweetie, Andrew really liked the fat noodles but it wasn’t quite what I was going for. Making noodles by hand takes practice or perhaps just building up strength but it is nonetheless an interesting endeavor. Good luck!