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Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

When life gives you anchovies, make puttanesca.

At least that’s what I suggest for the salty little fishies, a relatively foreign ingredient to me.

When my last freelance assignment called for anchovies, I admit I was skeptical. The smell alone from opening the can made me nervous about what they’d do to the end result in my frying pan. Just to get them into the pan caused a little anxiety. Would their signature aroma get a little too cozy with my cutting board? Luckily it didn’t.

The first recipe I used them in, a smoky potato and leek salad dressed with Bagna Cauda, awakened me to the fact that cooking anchovies will help cut their pungency. Still, a little does go a long way, but sautéed in olive oil, these fishy fishies become much more flavor-lending than fishy-tasting. I was quite pleased with the results of the Banga Cauda. Anchovy fear, I have no more.

After that first cooking venture, I was left with half of a can’s worth. Without doing prior research, the only dishes that came to mind utilizing anchovies were pizza and puttanesca. I went with the latter.

I admit, I did once make an ode against using this ingredient in tomato sauce. But that was from my anchovy-fearing days. Which as I just said, I’ve parted ways with. After my awakening, I was finally ready to tackle puttanesca in its original form, anchovies and all.

Again, quite pleased with the results, I’m sharing my recipe with you here. It’s simple to make and much quicker than your standard simmer-all-day marinara sauce. When you’re looking for a weeknight dinner, I suggest you try tackling your fear of anchovies too. Or just wait until life throws them your way. Then, when life gives you anchovies, make puttanesca.

If you do already happen to be an anchovy warrior, give me a shout out. I’d love to hear your recommendations of how to next utilize the ingredient’s flavor.

Pasta Puttanesca

Click here for recipe…

Slow-cook Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce

If you have tomatoes still ripening away in your garden (or magical access to a bucket full of fresh ones nearby) you should make this. Make THIS. MAKE THIS.

I can’t reiterate it enough, but truly, when winter comes around, you won’t be sorry you took away one summer Sunday afternoon of your life to cook sauce. If you’re into the whole canning process—which sadly, even after writing about it in last year’s marinara post, I have yet to learn—now’s the time to put those wonderful skills to use. Otherwise, make some room in the freezer. Which is what I did, after cutting up a solar system full of tomatoes and doubling my original recipe.

I froze sauce last year, and every time I pulled a batch out, my life became instantly and magically brighter. Even in the darkness of early winter evenings. Seriously. Warm summer sauce on a fork full of linguine when there’s snow outside your window—well, I’ll let you describe that experience for yourself once you pop your own taste of September out of the freezer…in January.

Below, you’ll find the same recipe I posted last summer. However, I doubles the amounts simply to make it more convenient for those with the intentions of freezing/canning. If you’re interested in just making a dinner portion for six, refer to my original post.

Click here for recipe…

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Tuna

I was never a pasta junkie in college. Sure, I loved smearing spaghetti sauce all over my face when I was five (and still do, to an extent). And I loved packing my 5th grade thermos with ramen noodles, despite the condemning looks my mom would give me. And I really loved boxed mac & cheese once I hit high school, a period where my friends lived off of the creamy convenience. But once I hit college, I really started getting into my cooking groove, and while pasta and sauce was cheap and quick, I began preferring a little more experimentation. (Hence, my blog was born!)

However, lately I’ve rediscovered a love for noodles, especially in the form of thin, whole wheat strands. You can read more of an explanation about this here, but basically, by keeping the noodles on the skinny side, that nutty taste of using whole wheat becomes pleasant, rather than overbearing. With the pungent components in this recipe, the slight nuttiness is actually ideal for balancing out of all the flavors.

I’ve kept this one simple because I do think that’s the best part about pasta. It’s an easy base that lends itself well to so many flavor combinations. With the notes of sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and tuna, you really don’t need to add too much else. A few simple seasonings and a hit of freshness from diced spring onions, and this becomes a meal that comes together in no time. Filling and delicious…I.e., what makes pasta and sauce a college kid’s dream team, although this one’s just a tad bit spruced up. A perfect step up for what I forgot to mention… I graduated from college on Thursday!! Goodbye four years of j-school. Whew and woohoo!

Click here for recipe…

Italian Soy Sausage Hoagies

Here in Philadelphia, we’re serious about our bread. It’s what helps make Pat’s and Geno’s the legendary joints that they are. And the subtle differences between the rolls of the two South Philly fames only fuels the fire heating up the rivalry among these two. While I’m not one to dive into Philly’s mainstream cheesesteak scene, you can catch me in another part of South Philly chowing down on the occasional vegan cheesesteak at Blackbird. Even this joint knows its bread.

If you have quality ingredients on your hands, dinner doesn’t have to be difficult. And for these vegan, Italian-inspired babies, it’s all about the bread. A crisp, crusty exterior hiding a soft, airy core is what you’re aiming for. That yeasty smell should still linger on the outside with an aroma* that deepens when you cut into the heart of the bread.

To achieve this optimal, chewy goodness, you have to go with the standard white flour roll. Obviously, I’m generally a whole wheat kind of gal, and have enjoyed some pretty impressive WW loaves. But when it comes to that light, chewy consistency needed for the perfect Italian Hoagie, it’s worth the occasional whole wheat sacrifice.

My search for the perfect hoagie roll led me to Philly’s Italian market, where I was able to snatch two of these rolls for less than a dollar! From there, the rest of this meal was effortless. I went with my favorite soy sausage, sauteed up some fresh veggies, and served it with a colorful side of red cabbage and spinach salad. Stick with fresh, veggie-loaded sides to offset the whole wheat swap, and you’re golden.

*(If you want to take the aroma-factor to the next level, bake your own bread, and you’ll concurrently fill your house with that heavenly, breadalicious fragrance…but the process might also add a little of that difficulty factor back into the kitchen that we were trying to avoid, so save it for a lazy-but-not-so-lazy Sunday.)

Click here for recipe…

Lightened Eggplant Parmesan

The one year we shared a kitchen together, my friend Deirdre instantly won my heart by making me homemade eggplant parm. A couple years later, I had yet to forget the occasion.

My fridge still stocked with eggplant, and my bowl of eggplant ideas running empty, I asked her to share her recipe with me.  After planning to make dinner together, there we were again, months till we graduate from college, still feasting side by side on eggplant parm. So much and so little has changed.

Deirdre started making this eggplant parm. with her dad when she was just a kid.  As she got older and ventured to a kitchen of her own, she started playing with the recipe a little, abandoning the classic deep-fried eggplant version for a slightly lighter, oven-broiled variation. Genius. You’d never know the difference unless you were standing in the kitchen watching the whole process go down. Much of the crispiness from deep-frying eggplant gets lost in the layering process anyways, while the broiled version is capable of maintaining that breaded, dense texture of the eggplant needed in this dish.

I still wouldn’t label this “light,” but the broiling process definitely cuts down on some of the grease. Today, Deirdre, her dad, and I will all be using this method from here on out.

It makes a good-sized portion, so share with friends, or freeze for later. Enjoy!

Click here for recipe…