Penne and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecorino

I was making dinner for a friend who recently had a baby and asked if she had any requests.  Her answer was, “something with vegetables!” and thus this meal seemed like the perfect fit.  I ended up looking for some options that could be easily adapted to having more protein or less and this recipe where I substituted orecchiette for penne seemed to do the trick.  I also marinated a couple chicken breasts in a roasted red pepper Italian dressing and sliced them and put them on top of the pasta when I took it over.  The recipe came from Dinner: Changing the Game and it will remain on my easy to make and serve to others list!

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Penne and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecorino

Kosher salt, as needed
8 ounces whole-wheat or regular penne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 ounces pancetta or regular bacon, diced
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, thinly sliced (or substitute a large pinch of red chile flakes)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Freshly grated pecorino cheese, for serving (optional)

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until it is just al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions. Drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat a 12-inch skillet over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and rosemary and sauté until the fat on the pancetta starts to turn translucent and very light brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, chile, and black pepper to taste, and sauté until the garlic and pancetta turn a rich brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, a large pinch of salt, and a splash of water to the skillet, and sauté until the sprouts just start to soften, about 2 minutes. Spread the sprouts mixture out in the skillet and press it down to flatten it. Let it sear for 1 minute; then stir it up and repeat the flattening (this helps brown the sprouts). Stir in the butter and cook for another minute. Add the penne and cook, tossing, until everything is well mixed. Spoon into warmed pasta bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of lemon juice, and a little cheese if you like

Italian Hot Sausage Soup

In addition to the folks who I made soup for in my last post, I also had a neighbor who recently had surgery and her dog passed away.  Again, soup seemed to fit the bill and this Italian Hot Sausage Soup seemed appropriate, from Recipes from Iowa with Love.  I love that this incorporated a little wine, so I was able to drink some of the leftovers over the next few days.

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Italian Hot Sausage Soup

1 1/2 lb Italian hot sausage
1 28-oz can Italian pear-shaped tomatoes
3 14 oz cans chicken broth
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced and slices quartered
1 large green pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
Pinch of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c uncooked bow-shaped pasta
1 1/2 c red wine

Fry Italian sausage until done.  Pour off grease and slice into 1/2 inch slices.  Add remaining ingredients except for pasta and red wine.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Add pasta and red wine, cover and simmer another 20 minutes.

Taco Pasta Salad

A few weeks ago the family joined together because my sister and her family were visiting from Ohio.  It was the oldest nephew’s birthday — he turned 5 years old — and he picked the menu for much of the weekend.

One of the items we ate was from my mom’s recipe collection.  I didn’t quite get where the recipe came from, but it was this great Taco Pasta Salad.  The recipe seems great for a potluck, picnic, or as a side during these hot summer months.

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Iowa Pasta

I was using up leftovers from a number of meals recently and this pasta dish seemed like the perfect mixture of items.  I’m not sure Iowa Pasta is the right name for it, but since it combines pork, which in my mind is quintessentially Iowa, and cheese, which is quintessentially Wisconsin, it seems that it is a Midwest Pasta dish, if not Iowa Pasta.

Iowa Pasta

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Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs

My love for recipe books has been well-documented through this blog and as I start today’s post where I “cook the book,” I want to note that this recipe is not coming from some celebrity or must-have recipe book.  Instead, it’s coming from my favorite genre of cookbook, the church cookbook.

For years, as I have driven to Fort Collins to work on my doctoral studies, I have stopped in Kearney, Nebraska as a halfway point, where I have walked around a Target, gassed up the vehicle, or grabbed a quick bite to eat at the grocery  store.  Each and every time I make the drive, I see the sign for the Cookbook outlet.  Two years ago, I tried to stop at the outlet, but it was Memorial Day and they were closed.  This year, I decided I needed to stop and see what the cookbook outlet had in store for me.  And it was marvelous.

The cookbook outlet is at Morris Press, a small publishing company that specializes in family and church cookbooks and the outlet features overrun or extra cookbooks that they have.  These cookbooks are sorted in a number of ways, including by state.  I picked up a few cookbooks from states I had and hadn’t been to.

Well, over the weekend I was invited to a small Memorial Day party and I decided to spend a few minutes looking through a cookbook entitled After the Harvest: A Collection of Favorite Recipes.  It is from the First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Mississippi.  The first thing I noticed when paging through the book was the number of recipes that involved fish and shellfish that we don’t have access to in the midwest.  Then I started looking for something I could bring to the upcoming party and the Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs submitted by Karen Williams looked like it was a must.  Having recently planted my garden, I was excited about using some of the herbs.

Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs

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Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad

It’s been the first week of summer here on campus.  With commencement last weekend, now we are celebrating the summer by writing annual reports, cleaning our offices, and developing programs we dreamed of doing this year and are excited to have in place for next year.  Yesterday, our division had some great end-of-year celebrating by spending the afternoon doing a service project in Cedar Rapids.  After it was over, we had a potluck and as I’m doing another round of preparing to move, I planned my contribution by looking at what was left in my pantry!  I made Penne, Spinach & Asparagus Salad, a recipe I found on the Epicurious site, originally from Bon Appetit magazine.  I love asparagus, almost as much as I love other springtime flavors, so before it’s out of season, I thought I should take advantage of cooking with this spring vegetable!
Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad
1 ½ lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ lb whole wheat penne
1 Tbsp plus ½ c olive oil
¾ c sliced green onions
6 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 oz baby spinach
1 c salted, roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
Cook asparagus in large pot of boiled salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to small bowl.  Coo.  Add pasta to same pot and cook until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to very large bowl.  Toss with 1 Tbsp oil.  Cool.
Blend ½ c oil, green onions, vinegar and soy sauce in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Pour over pasta.  Add asparagus, spinach and cashews; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.