I’ve realized lately that the kind of food I enjoy most is food that is uncomplicated. Sure, it’s awesome to tackle a difficult recipe, but there’s something to be said for the simple satisfaction of grabbing fresh ingredients from the fridge and transforming them into a great tasting meal without consulting a recipe every five seconds.
One night, while wandering up and down grocery store aisles, searching for something that might satiate me, I became increasingly agitated. It was mega-mart overload. I set my basket on the ground and considered abandoning the whole thing and ordering a nice hot pizza. After a short silent debate (during which time I’m sure I got a couple woah-crazy-lady looks), I took one final lap of the produce aisle and grabbed the things that looked best: cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, a hunk of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (which the uptown grocery store conveniently keeps in the middle of the veggies), and a bottle of red wine. I had no recipe, just a bunch of things I eat often and love.
These days, we are inundated with recipes. They are everywhere. And if you’re like me, you’re constantly clipping and pinning and bookmarking things to try. The recipe pool is big and bottomless, and while these are great qualities for a mimosa, I often find myself completely flummoxed when I try to decide which one to make for dinner. I call this recipe paralysis. We’ve all become so reliant on recipes, we’ve forgotten how simple cooking can be.
When I got home from the grocery store, I poured a glass of wine and cranked the oven and some tunes (and by tunes, I mean NPR, of course). I put the halved Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic, drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt. I roasted the veggies in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes, during which time I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti (or was it linguine?) on the stove top. Saving a mugful of the starchy cooking liquid, I combined the drained noodles with the hot roasted veggies, a drizzle of evoo, red pepper flakes, some salt, a little of the cooking liquid, and a generous grating of the fresh parmesan. Dinner was served without the guidance of a recipe (what?!) and it was delicious.Read More
Shortly after moving to Charlotte, I fell in love with Mama Ricotta’s. I blame it on the goat cheese and mascarpone dip, which was my first bite of food on my very first visit to Mama’s.
Mama’s is the type of place where families feel equally comfortable as couples on hot dates. The dining room is cozy with large family-sized booths plus intimate tables for two, vintage family photos, and a large wood-fired pizza oven.
If you have any Italian friends or family, you know the importance of sharing food in the Italian culture. Food is love. This holds true at Mama’s, where most of the pasta dishes are available family-style and are served in deep dishes that are passed around the table, just like at home.
It didn’t take long for me to realize Mama Ricotta’s had common ownership with Bad Daddy’s (one of my favorite burger spots in town) and Midwood Smokehouse (my favorite barbecue joint). I’ve eaten at these restaurants dozen of times, and many of those meals have ended with toasts to Frank Scibelli, the owner and man behind the amazing food.
I’m a big fan of bread, and Mama Ricotta’s bread basket alone is worth a visit. The housemade rolls are served with olive oil sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes for dipping. As for appetizers, there’s that amazing dip I mentioned–it’s a warm goat cheese and mascarpone dip served with grilled crostini and a warm tomato basil sauce, a steal at $8.50. I also highly recommend the new house made burrata ($12). Burrata is fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, and Mama’s burrata is soft and supple and accompanied by olive oil poached tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic, and grilled ciabatta.Read More
Last week, on a lunch-break grocery shopping spree, I picked up ingredients for this shrimp and tomato bake. It’s a low-stress meal that can easily be made after work or prepared the day before. (I find that recipes using canned tomatoes taste even better when they’ve had time to sit.) Shrimp, tomatoes, and a bit of cheese–it’s a dish built for carbohydrates. I recommend a crusty bread or a twirly noodle.Read More
Call it Shrimp Fra Diavolo, as the Italians say, or simply spicy shrimp with tomatoes and onions in a garlic wine sauce. Either way, this easy pasta dish is one to add to your recipe repertoire, pronto.
When it comes to pasta, I’m usually a marinara kind of gal. I find cream sauces heavy and overly rich and oil based sauces often taste bland and greasy. This fra diavolo sauce is the perfect middle ground—light, yet flavorful, with a kick of heat from the red pepper flakes. Two bites into our pasta Saturday night, Jarrod and I agreed we’d be making it regularly. That’s when you know you have a good recipe on your hands!Read More
The process of planning out a dinner for the BF and I usually involves 1-3 hours of research, googling, cookbook flipping, blog reading and a substantial amount of quality time spent on allrecipes.com. This will result in a list of 3-6 options with corresponding website links and/or attached photos, which I will then email to the BF for his consideration. If I’m lucky he’ll rule out 1-2 items on the list that aren’t striking his fancy and then leave the final decision up to me. More often than not, he’ll respond that all the items on the list in question look fabulous and that “everything you cook turns out delicious” (LIES!!!!!) and then leave the final decision up to… you guessed it. Moi. This is a little game I like to call For the Love of God Will You Make a Decision, Man, or FTLOGWYMADM, as we say.
I wouldn’t say I’m indecisive. The problem is my decision making abilities are clouded by my gluttonous desire to eat the world once over. When I do finally reach a decision I stick to it with a supernatural stubbornness, but getting to that point can be a wee bit exhausting. Decision making on an empty stomach is horrid after all, and I’ve mentioned a time or five before that bad things happen when I don’t eat.
All I want is a plate full of deliciousness.
A mound of this, perhaps:
After playing our normal round of FTLOGWYMADM and going through the subsequent mental debate, I decided to go with this recipe for Bruschetta Chicken pasta I saw on Iowa Girl Eats. It’s really not much of a recipe, and that makes me love it all the more.
This pièce de résistance of this dish is the balsamic drizzle. Simply simmer a cup of balsamic vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes. The vinegar will reduce by about half, and once removed from the heat it will continue to thicken as it cools.
While I waited for the balsamic vinegar to reduce, I got to prepping my veggies.
The asparagus was for the pasta and the sprouts were our side dish. Love me some veg.
Jarred bruschetta sauce is the secret behind the simplicity of this pasta dish. Thank you Trader Giotto
This pasta was so simple, in fact, that I decided to squeeze in a little nap.
Before I fell asleep at the pan, I cut the chicken into big chunks, seasoned with S&P, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder and tossed into a saute pan with 2 tsp olive oil. Then I dropped 6 ounces of penne pasta into boiling water.
Once the chicken was cooked through, I sautéed the veggies with garlic salt, black pepper, and 1 tsp olive oil.
When the pasta reached al dente, I combined the chicken, asparagus, jar of bruschetta, and penne in the skillet and sautéed until everything was heated through.
Last but not least, I topped the pasta with a little balsamic drizzzzzzle:
This pasta was DELICIOUS, filling, and balanced, and the tangy balsamic drizzle wowed my tastebuds. I will definitely be adding this recipe to the playbook.
Bruschetta Chicken Pasta Ingredients List (serves 4)
Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats