Chicken & Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Luke and I are still adjusting to living in a house.  So far it hasn’t been that much different than living in an apartment, but some changes are natural I suppose.  I stand on the porch and stare at the lawn, wondering how long it’ll take before the grass is so high I need to try out (read: hopefully not break) the electric lawn mower the previous owners left us.  I also think about where I can possibly plant a vegetable garden among the tightly landscaped flowers and how I will ever manage to get usable compost out of the bin out back.

There are changes indoors as well.  Obviously the one most worth mentioning is our house bunny.  Without the precarious, steep steps of a second floor apartment, our little bun is running free and loving it.

I am terrified of our basement and all the creepy crawlers that live down there.  I brave it nearly everyday to use the elliptical (where my head comes oh so close to the cobwebby ceiling) and to access stored goods and the chest freezer we just bought.  Still, I dread going down there.

Since Luke’s office is on the second floor, I have begun to receive texts from him…while we’re in the same house.

Oh pasta!  So we’re back to carbs now; I knew I couldn’t stay away too long, though this one is much more of a balanced meal.  This chicken mushroom marsala is light and flavorful, and could easily be served over rice or polenta.  It’s also incredibly easy to make, so pick your carb and have at it!

Chicken Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Adapted from Meals in Heels

Makes 4-6 servings

 2 lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
16 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 cup Marsala
14 oz beef or chicken stock
thyme leaves and parmesan cheese for garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, for 1–2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic and rosemary to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the shallot is softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more or until browned. Add the tomato paste, Marsala, stock and chicken, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Garnish with thyme and cheese and serve.



Mushroom Marsala Pasta

When people ask me if I use a lot of vegetables in my cooking (well… let’s pretend people ask me that) I want to answer yes.  I really do.  I think vegetables are very important and obviously need to be included as part of a balanced diet.

But here’s my dirty secret.  I claim to like vegetables, but if you listed them out for me, I’d probably make an “ewww, gross” face for more than half.  I do not like tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, kale, artichokes, olives….and the list goes on.  Sad I know.  I had a courageous friend in college who would eat cherry tomatoes at practically every meal in the dining hall because he wanted to make himself like them.  That’s too hardcore for me.

I like my vegetables starchy.  My Nana always tells me my favorite food as a young child was peas.  I still love peas.  And corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  And carrots, because they’re sweet.  I also like onions, garlic, shallots, peppers, spinach and of course, mushrooms.

When I saw the adorable, and well manicured lawn behind our prospective house, I couldn’t help but fantasize about the garden I wanted to have there.  But then I thought about my disdain for most vegetables…an herb garden perhaps?

Then I would have fresh thyme for this dish.  Marsala and thyme are totally best buddies; like the peanut butter and jelly of the savory world.  Their flavors are distinct, yet they meld together in the most delicate and delicious way.  Add some mushrooms and cream, and you have yourself one delectable pasta topping.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Makes 2-4 servings (and can easily be doubled to feed more)

1/2 lb fettuccine (or other pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup heavy cream
several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Cook your pasta of choice according to the instructions on its packaging.  Meanwhile, make your sauce.

In a Dutch oven or similar pot melt and butter and olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add in the mushrooms and saute, stirring often, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms are just tender.  If the pot seems too dry, add a little more olive oil.

Add the Marsala and let it evaporate for a minute, then add the chicken stock, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Let the sauce simmer and reduce for 5-10 mins.  If it still seems too liquidy at this point, add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and stir to help the sauce thicken.

Add in the cream, and bring back to a simmer.  Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper.

When the fettuccine is just al dente, either add it to the sauce and toss well, or put it in a serving bowl and top with the sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley if desired.

Mushroom Ravioli

The weekend officially started when Luke performed his TGIF dance for me.  Let me tell you, I am totally marrying this guy for his dance moves.  Boy knows how to work it.

He also believes we are developing a sixth sense that alerts us when Izzy is about to yawn, so we never miss an adorable moment.  I do not feel that much responsibility is required for this super power.

Did you know that the Vietnamese word for “wonton” practically falls halfway between the Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciations of the word?  I think that is soooo cool.

Can you tell that I am wayyy too tired to be writing this post?  Does the absurd randomness of my topics give it away?

I’m basically typing anything that comes to mind.  So I best make this quick before I type something incredibly stupid that I will totally regret in the future.

Making ravioli with wonton wrappers is very easy and much less time consuming than trying to roll out your own pasta dough without a pasta machine.  Believe me, I’ve tried.

I also happen to love proper wontons, so making a mushrooms version and covering it in pasta sauce seemed like a pretty good deal.  I have concluded that it was in fact a very good deal.

Mushroom Ravioli

Adapted from Taste & Tell

Makes about 4 servings

8 ounces button mushrooms
6 ounces portobello mushrooms (I used reconstituted shiitakes)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
30 wonton wrappers

Place mushrooms in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Heat oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and salt; cook 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese.

Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to keep them from drying), spoon about 2 teaspoons of mushroom mixture into center of each wrapper. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite corners together. Pinch edges together to seal, forming a triangle. I also like to crimp the edges with a fork for extra security.  Place ravioli on a large baking sheet covered with wax paper.

Cook ravioli in boiling water 2 minutes or until tender. Drain and serve with you favorite sauce.  The ravioli can also be frozen on the sheet, then transferred to a ziploc bag for longer storage.

Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Today we’re heading down to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my family, since we spent Christmas with Luke’s family.  We don’t go down too often, so I’m always very excited when we go, and I always bring a bundle of baked goods for my family members.  This time I’m bringing the leftovers from my Christmas cookie-baking extravaganza.  I’ll be posting about those starting on the first day of 2012.

Moving on to gnudi.  That’s pronounced new-dee.  Gnudi is like gnocchi (similar pronunciation rules) except that where gnocchi’s primary ingredient is potato, gnudi is mostly constituted of ricotta cheese.  So they’re like little ricotta dumplings.

Little soft, pillowy clouds of deliciousness that are a snap to make, and cook really quickly.  They also freeze really well, just put them on a plate covered with wax paper to keep them from sticking together, then once frozen through, transfer them to a Ziploc bag.  Then you can just pull them out later and boil ‘em up.

They cook in just a few minutes, and are incredibly versatile.  Luke likes his with a spritzing of Italian dressing, and I like mine smothered in tomato sauce and extra cheese (my shots are pre-topping).  Pan frying gives them a crispy shell and a little extra flavor, but you can skip that step if you want.  They’re just as good boiled, like Asian dumplings.  Add some sautéed mushrooms, and it’s a meal!

Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Adapted from Petite Kitchenesse

2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 ½ cups of freshly-grated parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

12 oz. of white or crimini mushrooms, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a bowl. Add flour and stir until a wet dough forms.

At this point, I like to put the bowl of dough in the fridge for 15–20 minutes. I find that cold dough is less sticky, and therefore easier to work with. In the meantime, slice mushrooms and sauté in the butter in a large skillet, until mushrooms just begin to brown and soften. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.

Remove dough from fridge. Grab a fistful of dough and place on a well-floured surface. Roll out to form 1-inch thick ropes, then cut into pieces.

Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. While you wait for it to boil, roll out and cut up the rest of the gnudi. Once the water is boiling, add in half of the pasta.  When the gnudi are puffy and floating at the surface of the water(this will take around 4 minutes) transfer them to the pan with a slotted spoon.

Fry gnudi until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate or large bowl. Repeat process with the second half of the pasta. Once the second batch is browned, add the first batch and the mushrooms to the pan, and stir until evenly warmed. Remove from heat and serve with favorite sauce.




Fontina & Mushroom Mac n’ Cheese

Even though it’s not quite Christmas yet, I’ve already received two presents!  The first came in the form of a visit from a good friend, which, in my opinion, is one of the best things you can receive from someone you aren’t able to see very often because they moved from the East Coast to Texas.  The second present technically isn’t a present (because I paid for it) but getting it in the mail was so exciting that it felt like a gift.  Our “Save the Date” magnets arrived!!  And they are adorable.  I can’t wait to send them out, though it also means I have to buy a ton of stamps and harvest addresses from our invitees.

My cookie baking marathon was a success, filling my kitchen with fabulous aromas and Vince Guaraldi music.  I apologize for it not taking place earlier, because they won’t make it up here until after the holidays have gone by.  Luke and I are going on our first couples “vacation” Christmas night until Tuesday night up at Sunday River in Maine.  I haven’t skied in a while (read: 8 years), but I’m pumped to get back on the slopes.

Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve…so why am I posting about mac n’ cheese you ask?  Well,  why not?  Mac n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food, warm, cheesy, and always there to pick you up when you’re feeling down.  Or make you even happier when you’re feeling fine to begin with.  On that note, may your holiday be filled with comfort, be it the kind covered with cheese or perhaps covered in frosting and sprinkles.  Either way, Merry Christmas!

Fontina & Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

1 lb. small or medium pasta shells ( I used penne)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (I omitted these)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.

Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave.  Cover to keep warm.

Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well.  Stir in the warm cream and the fontina until the cheese starts to melt.  Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.

Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish.  In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded parmesan.  Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Wild Mushroom Soup

During this time of year, most people are scrambling to finish Thanksgiving leftovers before they go bad, stringing holiday lights over their house-front bushes, or bringing home a fresh Christmas tree ready to be decorated.  As a new couple starting out, however, Luke and I don’t participate in these activities.  My mom was always very adamant about seasonal decorating our house growing up, and it’s something I’d like to do too, once we have the means to do so.

One thing I do love doing once the weather turns chilly is making soup.  A steamy bowl of soup and a hunk of bread is my ideal winter meal.  Sadly, Luke has described himself as “just not a soup guy,” so whenever I make a pot of soup, I am responsible for consuming all of it.  I like soup, nay, love it, but this is a daunting task.  Especially considering how many different types of soup I’m dying to make this winter.

This past weekend, we drove down to Connecticut to visit my parents.  We most likely won’t be back down until after Christmas, so this was our “holiday” trip.  And of course the gift I bestowed upon my parents was extra soup!  I gave potato leek soup to my mom and stepdad and wild mushroom soup to my dad.  Talk about spreading holiday cheer!

I’m sharing the wild mushroom soup with you first because I made it first.  My grandma sent me this recipe because Luke loves mushrooms, and I’m always looking for ways to get him to eat vegetables.  Needless to say, he enjoyed it a lot, but he can’t eat soup all week, so I had some leftovers.  This soup is creamy and perfectly spiced.  Luke requested that I add potatoes to give the soup more body, and I thought it was a great addition.

Wild Mushroom Soup

Adapted from Family Circle Magazine

Makes 6-8 servings

3 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, diced (I used onions)

1 ½ lbs mixed wild mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of cremini and reconstituted shitake)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (I used dried)

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

7 cups low sodium chicken broth

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ dry sherry (I used dry white wine)

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)

Melt butter in a large, lidded pot over medium heat.  Add shallots (or onions) and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.  Add mushrooms and thyme and cook for 8 minutes.  Sprinkle in flour, and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in heavy cream, sherry (or wine), salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer (do not boil).  Mix in parsley (if using) and serve.