Category Archives: Pasta

Mmm…Pork! Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

Count me among the many meat-eaters that love pork…the flavors, the succulence, the aroma as it cooks…I do love a good hunk of pork! And is it really all that bad for you? The recently shelved “other white meat” campaign would have had us believe it is no worse for you than chicken. While it’s true, there can be about the same amount of fat as chicken, there can also be a significant amount of calories from fat depending on the cut.

In my wiser years I have naturally become more conscious of my eating habits. I hardly ever eat bacon anymore and practice moderation when it comes to all things pork. Believe it or not, I only cook pork twice, maybe three times a month. Even so, the reason it shows up on my blog quite often is because it is indeed one of my favorite things!

While I do make a habit of choosing the leaner cuts, country style pork ribs generally isn’t one of them. I think I actually got a little giddy when I found these nicely lean boneless ribs at Aldi last week. I picked them up and excitedly anticipated giving them a try. With the long cooking of the braise they came out wonderfully tender, had only a little line of fat along one edge and the flavor was chock full of porky goodness!

I have discovered that grating the garlic on a microplane creates an intensely garlicky flavor, so much so that I only used about half the garlic I used to use. Speaking of flavor, the browning in this recipe gives it a nice head start and the tomatoes and the wine contribute to both flavor and tenderness. Lastly, covering the pan with foil creates an extra good seal to prevent moisture loss and helps retain all that good flavor.

I served this dish over spinach pappardelle; the wide noodles did a good job of collecting all that sumptuous sauce. You could also use egg noodles, ziti, or rigatoni.

Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

4 to 6 – Boneless country style pork ribs
1 – 28 Ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
½ Cup – Dry red wine
1 – Small Onion, diced
1 – Branch of celery, diced
1 – Medium carrot, grated
1 – Clove of garlic, very finely minced
1 – Sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp. each – dried oregano, dried thyme
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until almost smoking. Season the ribs well on both sides with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper and sear until well browned on all sides (about 10 minutes over all). Set ribs on a plate to return to the pan later.

Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and herbs to the same pan and cook stirring often until the onions become transparent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and stir to loosen any browned bits. When the wine has reached a rapid boil add the tomatoes and the juice from the can, gently crushing them as you add them to the pan.

Return the pork to the pan nestling the ribs into the sauce, bring to a light boil then cover the Dutch oven or pan with aluminum foil. Place the lid on the pan pressing to seal it well then flatten the foil around the sides. Bake 1-1/2 hours and allow 15 minutes rest before serving. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.



Chicken Penne Mediterranean

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be so boring sometimes! Yesterday morning I had taken two frozen breast halves out to thaw and thought all day about how I was going to prepare them; I ran the gamut from simple and uncomplicated to full blown kitchen chemistry lab. By the time I left work I had in my mind visited Italy, Spain, and the South of France, stopped off in Ireland for a while and even hung out in Mexico and the Deep South!

When I finally got to the grocery store I was feeling totally uninspired so I picked up salad ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and headed home. I figured I would cook the chicken simply, using whatever I could dig up in the pantry. Then as I dug around I began to form an idea; I had zucchini that needed to be used, pasta, a giant jar of capers, Spanish olives, a can tomatoes and bingo that was it…We were going to the Mediterranean!

Drawing on fond memories of Snapper Veracruz and Pasta Puttanesca recipes I had prepared in the past I landed somewhere between simple and a science experiment. I cooked the chicken separately from the sauce because oftentimes when chicken is cooked in a liquid, it produces an unappealing protein scum (for lack of a better description). This also allowed for a good browning of the meat, assisted by a little tomato paste, that really added a richness to the final product. The anchovy paste and the final tablespoon of capers also boosted the flavor of the sauce.

Note: If it seems your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything use a large bowl to fold together, the sauce and the pasta.

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

1 – 28 Oz Can, Peeled Whole Tomatoes
2 – Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed and cut in ¾ to 1 inch chunks
8 Oz – Whole Wheat Penne
2 – Med. Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 – Med Onion, Quartered then sliced
1 – Small Carrot, finely grated
¼ Cup – Capers, 1 Tbsp reserved
¼ Cup – Green Spanish Olives, pitted
¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
¼ Cup – Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbps – Tomato Paste
1 Branch – Celery, sliced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced (divided)
1 Lg. Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. – Dried Oregano
¼ tsp – Anchovy Paste (Optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Ground – McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

In a large sauté pan over med heat warm 4 Tbsp. of olive oil until shimmering. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, anchovy paste and about ¼ Tbsp. of ground Italian seasonings to the pan and sauté 1 minute, stirring. Stir in onions and celery and cook stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in the carrots, rosemary, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and allow it to come to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes, carefully crushing them as you add them to the pan. Add the capers and olives and allow the sauce to come to a boil once again. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering.

Meanwhile warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add 1 clove of garlic and stir briskly, 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook stirring for 1 minute then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken has browned and just cooked through. Add the cooked chicken, zucchini, and chicken stock to the sauce and continue simmering until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and remove and discard the rosemary sprig.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain (do not rinse!) in a colander and fold the pasta, along with the reserved tablespoon of capers, into the sauce. Serve garnished with shaved parmesan.



Mmm…Turkey Stroganoff

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 3)

We’ve been eating a lot of plain non-fat yogurt lately and I have been using it more and more in my cooking. I started out utilizing it in place of sour cream on baked or twice baked potatoes, then we started mixing it with a little sugar-free fruit preserves and a touch of agave nectar for a guilt-free dessert. Nowadays I use non-fat yogurt in everything from cornbread and pancakes to French onion dip.

To boost the acidity to more closely resemble sour cream, I nearly always add a little lemon juice to the recipe. When using plain non-fat yogurt in a sauce remember to remove the sauce from the heat before incorporating the yogurt. The reason for this is because with no fat to assist in thickening or emulsifying, plain non-fat yogurt will separate or curdle if you boil it.

You can lessen the chances of your sauce separating by using Greek yogurt which is thicker by nature or by straining your plain non-fat yogurt to thicken it. This is done by draining the yogurt through a fine sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filter to remove the whey (the watery stuff) and thicken it. This results in a thicker more flavorful “yogurt cheese” that is delicious in dips and cold sauces like Tzatziki. There is a great article here that explains better how to do this.

This Turkey Stroganoff is a “lower” fat recipe that is a good example of using plain non-fat yogurt in a savory recipe. It is also another way to use that good homemade chicken stock I’m always preaching about. Reducing the stock with the turkey, mushrooms, and onions creates a rich sauce with a depth of flavor that would fool even the pickiest of eaters in your house.

Turkey Stroganoff

1 Lb – Ground Turkey
1 Lb – White Mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 – Med Onion, chopped
3 Cups – Homemade (or low sodium) Chicken Stock
1 Cups – Plain non-fat yogurt
Juice of ½ Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Dry Rubbed Sage
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 – 16 oz Package Whole Wheat Extra Wide Egg Noodles
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a very large (12” or more) sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, stir in the onions, sage, rosemary, and a few good grinds of black pepper. Continue cooking and stirring one more minute, then lower the heat to medium high. If the pan seems dry add one more Tbsp of olive oil then add the ground turkey and continue to cook stirring often and gently breaking up the turkey until the meat is mostly cooked through.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. Place the pot over high heat to come to a boil.

Stir in two cups of chicken stock into the turkey mixture, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan, continue to cook stirring only occasionally. Allow the stock to come to a boil and cook stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add one more cup of stock and return to a boil cooking about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

When the pot of water has come to a full boil, stir in the noodles, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook according to the package directions.

When the noodles are done drain them in a colander and while the noodles are draining remove the turkey mixture from the heat. Gently (so as not to break up the mushrooms) stir the yogurt into the mixture to form a sauce. Now gently add the noodles to the same pan, folding the noodles and sauce until well mixed. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve hot.



Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

For a weeknight dinner that is super easy to prepare try this Penne with Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, and Herbs. Want to mix things up a bit? Replace the sausage with bite sized cubes of cooked chicken or turkey breast, use whole grape tomatoes instead of chopped, or add capers and chopped green & black olives for a real Mediterranean twist. This pasta is great served with salad and a hunk of crusty whole wheat baguette and makes more than enough for lunches the next day.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
1 16 ounce package Chicken or Turkey Sweet Italian Sausage, sliced diagonally, browned well, and drained
1 cup green onions, green and white parts diagonally sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 13.5 ounce box Whole Grain Penne pasta

Mix first 8 ingredients in a large pasta bowl. Set mixture aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and gently toss to coat. Add Olive Oil, Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss.