rigatoni with chipotle cream sauce

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Apologies for the long delay in posting – those of you who follow me on facebook I had to take a work trip to Mesa Verde National Park. For those of you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a national park located just outside of Mancos, Colorado… more on that to come later. For now, I will reward your patience with a delicious pasta recipe :)

Around here, we have a restaurant called Oregano’s, and at Oregano’s they have something called “the big rig pasta.” The big rig pasta consists of rigatoni in a spicy tomato-chipotle cream sauce. Crazy, right? Initially I was conflicted, what on earth is chipotle doing with pasta? But I love chipotle… So the shock faded away and was replaced with my undying love of all things chipotle.

Once I tasted the “big rig” pasta, I was hooked. When the craving struck, I was thinking about it for days. Seriously, days. Oregano’s isn’t a restaurant we can really go to very often because it’s always crowded. Even at “old person” dinner time, which is when BF and I like to eat, there is usually an unreasonably long wait. As much as I love Oregano’s, I do not love it enough to sit in the hot Arizona sun for an hour while we wait for a table to open up. The only way for me to satisfy this craving was to (attempt to) recreate the dish at home.

I used just a basic tomato cream sauce, and added a chipotle pepper (or two) to it. How much you add really just depends on how spicy you want it. If you add too much, the cream will help to mellow it out a bit, but not completely (it’s always easier to add more than to take it away). When I served it initially for dinner, it actually was a little bit shy of the amount of cream the sauce really needed. I adjusted the cream for round two and it had a much more rounded, well-balanced (less fiery) flavor. All-in-all, I consider this a win. It’ll get me through those tough times when I just need a “big rig” fix, but don’t want to have to wait around for it.

Chipotle-Tomato Cream Sauce

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small celery ribs, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 chipotle peppers, minced
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup (more or less) heavy cream
  • Fresh basil
  • Pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used rigatoni)
  1. Warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again to coat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes and crush with a spoon. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender. Stir and add chipotles & 4 basil leafs for last 15 minutes of cooking, simmering with lid slightly ajar.
  3. Remove basil and puree the sauce using an immersion blender (you can use a regular blender or food processor, but you will have to do it in batches and there will be lots of transferring of hot liquids and the like).
  4. Once pureed, stir in ¼ cup cream and place back over medium/medium-low heat, and bring the sauce just to a simmer.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, with salt and pepper, add more cream if desired. Add extra basil on top before serving.

* Sauce may be stored as is in refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  If freezing, leave out the cream until you reheat the sauce, adding in the last 10 minutes of simmering before serving.

 

pesto pasta

pesto pasta
I never realized how often I make pasta until I saw the number of pasta recipes in queue for this site. I don’t feel like we eat pasta that much, I don’t even particularly like pasta. It must just be that it’s so easy to just boil some water and throw a sauce together after 8 hours of work, 2 hours of commuting, and an hour of gym time. When all I want to do is just go home and crash, apparently pasta is my go-to dish.

One type of pasta that I started making often just involves sauteing some fresh veggies, adding a bit of butter, a splash of cream, and a bit of garlic then tossing it with the pasta. On the off-chance that I have a bit of pesto lying around – even better. Add a tablespoon or two of pesto and voila – delicious creamy pesto pasta.

This dish has all the nutrition of fresh veggies mixed with the bright flavor of basil pesto, all rounded out with a dash of cream. Just a dash – not so much to make you feel guilty but just enough to turn it saucy. Of course, if you’ve been good all week – add as much cream as you like :) If you’re the type who feels guilty (like yours truly), just a splash of cream and a bit of starchy pasta water will do.

Creamy Pesto Pasta

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • Pasta (enough for 2 -3 people)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons pesto (fresh is better, but store-bought will do)
  • Splash of heavy cream
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter

1. Cook & drain pasta, set aside in a bowl. Reserve a bit of the cooking water.

2. Saute onions in a drizzle of olive oil until translucent, add chicken and heat through. Add tomatoes and garlic, stirring constantly until heated through. (Make sure not to burn your garlic) Transfer to bowl with cooked pasta.

3. Melt butter in pan, stir in pesto, chicken stock, and a splash of heavy cream. Let simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened (a few minutes). Add pasta, chicken (if using), and veggies and toss to coat. If you need more sauce, add some reserved pasta water or cream and continue to toss until sauce completely covers the pasta. Taste and adjust seasoning (lots of cream means you will probably need to add more salt).

Creamy Cheesy Pasta

creamy chicken pasta

I never realized how often I make pasta until I saw the number of pasta recipes in queue for this site. I don’t feel like we eat pasta that much, I don’t even particularly like pasta. It must just be that it’s so easy to just boil some water and throw a sauce together after 8 hours of work, 2 hours of commuting, and an hour of gym time. When all I want to do is just go home and crash, apparently pasta is my go-to dish.

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While I usually will make pasta with a red sauce or just some fresh sauteed veggies, it’s always good to change it up now and then with something new. This particular recipe comes to us from a recent issue of Cooking Light. I used skim milk and added some shredded chicken for extra protein.

Creamy Cheesy Pasta

Print Me!

·  8 ounces uncooked pasta
·  1 cup milk
·  2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, divided
·  1/2 tsp salt
·  1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
·  1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
·  1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
·  1/2 C (2 oz) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
·  1 1/2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
·  ½ – 1 C cooked, shredded chicken* (optional)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

2. While pasta cooks, whisk together milk, 2 teaspoons basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

3. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add flour to pan, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Add milk mixture; cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and add 1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheese to milk mixture. Add pasta and chicken to pan and toss with tongs to combine.

5. Sprinkle with remaining 4 teaspoons basil and remaining 1/2 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve

[Adapted from Cooking Light]

pesto

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My love affair with pesto and all things basil started at an early age. I remember the first time I had pesto – my dad took me to dinner at Avenue Bistro in Toledo, OH. I was a nasty hybrid of vegetarian + picky-teen-eater at the time so my dinner was essentially a house salad and this mystery green concoction on the table. I probably ate at least two loaves of bread covered in pesto. My dad must have been horrified at the amount of food I consumed, since he was the type who ran five miles a day and lived off of iceberg lettuce alone. But oh man that stuff was good.

Now that I’m a “grown up” I can make my own pesto. Honestly, it’s so easy I’m sure I could have made it back then, too. The bright flavor of basil with the salty parmesan cheese, plus the subtle depth added by the toasted pine nuts (mmm, pine nuts)… pesto is just divine on all accounts. It’s a perfect, refreshing snack in the summer – just buy a loaf of crusty bread at the store, rip off a piece, and dunk it on in! Don’t want the guilt that accompanies realizing you’ve eaten a whole loaf of bread in one sitting? Try using it as a pasta sauce – just toss it with pasta. Maybe add a splash of cream if you feel so inclined… I think I like where this is going….

[[PS – I’m entered in a kitchen contest – VOTE FOR ME HERE!]]

Pesto

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  • 1 C basil leaves
  • 1/2 C freshly-grated parmesan
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted (some stores will sell them pre-toasted if you’re not a fan of toasting them yourself)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Splash of fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C olive oil

1. Whir everything except the oil in a food processor until it forms a paste.

2. Pour oil in, a few tablespoons at a time, while the food processor is running until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. (Some people like theirs with less oil, ideal for spreading, while others like it with more oil, which makes it more dip-able)

3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper

*Tips

*This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for company

*It’s not baking – so don’t worry about exact amounts. Adjust the taste to your liking – you can even add a different kind of cheese or different leafy greens – spinach & feta perhaps?

*A splash of lemon juice is always a welcome addition to pesto

*Extra pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays – it makes a great addition to pasta sauces. I like to add a pesto cube to red sauce for an extra boost of flavor.

in honor of summer fiestas – salsa

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I’ve been hiding this recipe for some time now from my friend, Rob. All that he wanted ever since I started blogging (and really, before I started blogging) was a good salsa recipe. I tried to blackmail him in exchange for him learning wp code and making me a beautiful, glorious webpage… but he held out. What a little turd, right? Oh well, I will give you this delicious salsa recipe anyway. Know why? Because I like you that much. (Close your eyes, Rob!)

I don’t blame him for needing a salsa recipe – I struggled with finding a good one for a long time. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t achieve that restaurant-y salsa that I so badly wanted. I finally just gave up, I could still make pico- and if I must resolve myself to a lifetime of fresh pico – so be it! Never in a thousand years would I have imagined the key to unlocking great tasting restaurant style salsa was in a can.

Crazy, right? All this time I thought it was the fresh ingredients, maybe some secret black market spices, I wasn’t quite sure. I was positive fresh ingredients were an important part… then I saw PW’s recipe. The only recipe that was different from all the ones I’d tried before – using canned tomatoes. Canned?!? I can honestly say that I never in my life thought I would put a can of “Ro-Tel” in my shopping cart, let alone two… I guess there’s a first time for everything… Now that I know the secret of the can, I can adapt this salsa recipe into pretty much endless variations (and now, so can you).

It makes a lot though – so invite some friends over to share. You need them or else you will eat it… all of it. You will just black out and wake up with an empty salsa container and no chips… you poor thing, you. You don’t even know what you’re in for… Congratulations on your new crack salsa addiction. :)

Restaurant-Style Salsa – Adapted from PW

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  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
  • 1-2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies) OR if you are like my sister and are afraid of heat – you can just add 2 cans of diced tomatoes – no chiles!
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin (I used a little less)
  • 1/2 C cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

1. Throw everything in the blender, then process to desired consistency. Done-zo!

2. Salt & Pepper to taste, if you think it needs it.

Ok, that’s basically it, but since I like to make life more difficult and am maybe medium control-freak, I put the tomatoes only from the can of whole tomatoes, and reserved the liquid so that I could adjust the salsa to be as thick (or thin) as I wanted. Process without the liquid – then add the liquid in as you see fit (if you think it needs it)

Also, if you do ONLY canned tomatoes, you can use fresh peppers of any kind to your liking – which is better to control taste and heat than using Rotel