Käsespätzle

Adapted from the Daring Gourmet and Eat Little Bird

Ingredients:

  • batch Homemade German Spätzle (about 5 cups cooked Spätzle, I made about 4 cups of store-bought because I’m not a dough person)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 very large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube
  • 1–2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 ounces shredded Emmentaler or Jarlsberg (something mild, basically — I liked adding Gruyère for extra flavor!)
  • Salt
  • parsley and/or chives, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Cooke the spätzle if you haven’t already (16 min. in salted water according to the package)
  2. Caramelize the onions. Don’t let them burn (this can take up to 30 min. to brown slowly).
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Caramelize the onions in a pan (I used a little olive oil and butter for this).
  5. Butter a 9×13 (or a little smaller) casserole dish. Once the butter starts to melt, add some flour, stock cube, and Dijon mustard. Add a bit of milk if you have some, season with salt and pepper, and mix the paste well.
  6. Layer 1/3 of the Spätzle in the bottom of the dish followed by 1/3 of the cheese and 1/3 of the caramelized onions. Repeat, sprinkling each layer with some salt, ending with cheese and onions on top.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or longer until the cheese is melted and the edges are just beginning to get a little crispy.
  8. Serve immediately.

So many times I ate this in southern Germany. I lived in the state of Baden-Württemberg, so there was loads of Swabian influence. Schwäbisch! This was a lot of work — I see why Kraft Macaroni and Cheese exists as a product. I forgot to get the chives! Facepalm. 1 organic yellow onion $0.74, 0.42 lbs. Emmental $6.30, 0.26 lbs. Gruyere $5.72, and 6 oz. Jarlsberg $5.99 from Whole Foods.

~Jessica

Chicken broccoli Alfredo casserole

Adapted from Freezer Meals 101 and The Kitchn

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry fusilli pasta
  • 1 (14- to 16-oz) package frozen broccoli florets / 1 cup broccoli, steamed and coarsely chopped
  • 6-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated young Parmesan cheese (about 6 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until almost tender (you want some bite left in the pasta, check it one minute before the time called for on the package).
  2. Turn off the heat, add the broccoli to the pot, stir to combine, and let sit for one minute (the broccoli will not be cooked all the way through). Drain well and set aside.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in an even layer, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the chicken is browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate or bowl. Do not wash out the pot.
  4. Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add the flour, scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan, and stir constantly until the flour starts to smell toasty and darkens slightly in color, about 1 minute. While constantly whisking, add the milk until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Add the cheese and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices, pasta, and broccoli, and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Divide the mixture between 2 (8- to 9-inch) baking dishes or disposable foil trays (try to get ones that are around 2 inches deep), or transfer all of the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish or disposable foil tray. Let cool completely, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months.
  7. Bake frozen, still covered in the foil, on the middle rack of a preheated 350°F oven until heated through, about 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake for only 1 hour.

“Fettuccine Alfredo or fettuccine al burro is an Italian pasta dish of fresh fettuccine tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese (pasta al burro e parmigiano)… The dish is named after Alfredo di Lelio, who featured the dish at his restaurant in Rome in the early- to mid-20th century; the “ceremony” of preparing it table-side was an integral part of the dish.” Wiki I prefer this fresher, lighter version to the heavy cream American one. I also wished there were cut chicken pieces at the deli, because chicken thighs take way longer to cook, especially if you only brown them the first time. I have to say this was only “ok” as far as freezer meals go — I think I would have liked this far more freshly made. And it was a substantial amount of work, even for two people!

~Jessica

Sopa de fideo

Recipe courtesy of my co-worker, Ms. Carchichabla and the blog Isabel Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet Goya Sazón Seasoning with Azafrán
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 6 cups chicken/vegetable broth
  • rosemary, thyme
  • vegetables (e.g. celery, carrots, cauliflower, potato, bell pepper)
  • 8 oz. fideo pasta
  • olive oil
  • black beans, cooked (we used canned)
  • garnish: lime and cilantro, Mexican Queso Fresco and diced avocado. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut up two plum tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, little bit of onion and sautée until soup-like. We also added diced jalapeño pepper (I recommend removing the seeds as much as possible), but you can also add red pepper flakes.
  2. Add a packet of Goya Sazón con Azafrán.
  3. Add 3 – 4 cups of water (or broth) to boil.
  4. Then, put in the veggies — we used celery, carrots, potato, and turnip.
  5. To make the fideo, which is the (bow tie) pasta, you’re going to toast it in a pan in olive oil. Don’t toast it too much or it will burn, just toast it till gets to a tannish-yellow color.
  6. After putting the fideo in the soup along with the veggies, add the beans. (The beans should already have been cooked before!) Add some salt, rosemary, a pinch of thyme.
  7. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes or whenever you feel it’s ready. Taste. Add some salt if necessary. Garnish with cilantro, etc.

It’s a perfect meal for the fall/winter weather. Additional soup ingredients can include vegetables such as bell pepper, onion and garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken, chili peppers, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. I quite liked my second attempt too, with canned tomatoes!

~Jessica

British macaroni cheese

Adapted from Great British Chefs and British Food History

Ingredients:

  • 30 g plain flour 
  • 30 g butter 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 400 ml hot full-fat milk 
  • 6g of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200-250 g macaroni 
  • 1 slice stale bread 
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or ¼ tsp fried rosemary (optional) 
  • 225 g Stilton cheese, grated 
  • 200 g Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30g of Parmesan
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper or 20g of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
  • 15 basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Start by cooking some pasta of your choice in a pan of boiling water. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside
  2. Place 50 mL milk into a pan over a low-medium heat and add the thyme and bay. Bring up to a warm heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place a separate pan over a low heat and add the 4 tbsp. butter and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the flour. Heat for for 2-3 minutes and stir constantly so the mixture comes together. –> Béchamel sauce
  4. Strain the milk, thyme and bay mixture so that you are just left with the infused milk. Gradually (over 5 minutes) add the infused milk to the other pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer
  5. Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese, mustard, basil and pasta to the pan and then pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish. Cover with some extra cheese and place in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes (I prefer stovetop because I haven’t a baking dish currently).
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, divide the macaroni cheese into 4 portions and serve immediately.

My grandmother gave me a box of instant mac and cheese from her senior citizen community center (before the pandemic lockdown). Of course I didn’t want to eat that stuff straight, so I thought I would try to dress it up with some caramelized onions, garlic, herbs, and whatever else I might find in the pantry.

~Jessica

Spaghetti ai funghi

Adapted from Memorie di Angelina

Ingredients:

  • 500g (1 lb) penne
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) pancetta, cubed
  • 1 or 2 garlic clove, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 250g (8 oz) mushrooms, roughly chopped (see Notes)
  • A fresh sage leaf and a sprig of parsley, finely chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) passata di pomodoro or crushed canned tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Start with a soffritto, this one consisting of some cubed pancetta and a crushed garlic clove sauteed in olive oil over moderate heat. (As always, make sure that the garlic hardly browns.)
  2. Once you scent the garlic’s aroma, add some roughly chopped mushrooms (125g or 4 oz. for 2 people), raise the heat to high, give the mushroom a good flip (or a stir if you’re feeling timid) to coat them with the soffritto-infused oil and continue sauteing. Very soon thereafter, add a pinch of salt to encourage the mushrooms to give off their liquid. Continue until the mushroom liquid as evaporated completely. You will begin to hear the mushrooms sizzle.
  3. add a few sage leaves and a sprig of parsley, both nicely chopped, a good grinding of black pepper, and mix well with the mushrooms.
  4. When the mushrooms are quite tender and just begin to brown around the edges, add a good dollop of passata di pomodoro or crushed canned tomatoes. Lower the heat and allow the sauce to simmer gently until the tomatoes have reduced and separately from the oil, having turned a nice darkish color, somewhere between red and mahogany.
  5. Meanwhile, you will have cooked your penne in well salted boiling water until very al dente. Add the penne to the pan, mix well and allow it to simmer gently for a few moments with the sauce.
  6. Serve immediately.

We cooked this last weekend, and it was fabulous. Great big saucepan courtesy of Jesse.

~Jessica

Frittata di pasta

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria and Gennaro Contaldo

Ingredients:

  • Pasta leftovers
  • 4 eggs
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk very well, until streaks no longer appear. Mix in the cheese, oil, salt, and a grind of pepper.
  2. If you have sauced spaghetti, dump it in a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat along with a couple tablespoons water and heat until it’s warm but before it starts to sizzle.
  3. Drain off any water that hasn’t evaporated and turn the spaghetti into the egg mixture.
  4. Wipe out the skillet, return it to medium-low heat, and add enough oil or butter to slick the bottom and sides of the skillet.
  5. Add the egg mixture, distributing the spaghetti evenly if it clumps.
  6. Turn the heat to low and occasionally rotate the skillet a quarter turn if the egg seems to be cooking unevenly around the edges. When the perimeter of the frittata looks set and the center is still somewhat liquid, which should be after about 8 minutes, run a table knife around the skillet to loosen the sides of the frittata and carefully slip a thin metal spatula under it to loosen the underside.
  7. Invert a plate over the skillet and place one hand over the plate and the other hand on the skillet handle. Here comes the exciting part—you’re going to flip the frittata onto the plate. (We admit that it can end in disaster, but you have to stay confident and strong.) You don’t want the frittata to slide onto the plate or fold over, so the motion should be up and over, not just over, and it has to happen kind of quickly. Alley-oop, and it’s on the plate and the skillet is clean.
  8. Set the plate down and quickly slick the skillet with a little more oil or butter. Then, with the help of the spatula, encourage the frittata to slide back in. Don’t worry if things are looking a little Humpty Dumpty—just fit it all back together again and keep it over low heat until it’s cooked through, about 7 more minutes.
  9. When the frittata seems to be cooked through, make a crack in the middle with the tip of the spatula and sneak a peek to see that the egg is all set. Then slide or flip the frittata onto a plate.
  10. Let cool a little or a lot, slice in wedges or squares or long skinny strips, and serve. (A frittata tastes good hot, better after it has cooled a half hour or so, and possibly best after it has had a chance to regroup on the countertop for an afternoon.)

I had the leftovers from this other pasta dish, so… I love Gennaro’s suggestion: “If it’s springtime, make the basic recipe extra special by adding peas and pancetta.” Shelling fresh peas in Germany was such a dream. I wish we had in season produce like in Radolfzell. Next time I will use more eggs, so that it holds together better!

~Jessica

Pasta con zucchine e ricotta

Adapted from Memorie di Angelina and Galbani

Ingredients:

  • 400g (14 oz) short pasta of your choice (I had De Cecco Rotelle)
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into thin slices
  • 2-3 shallots, finely minced (used a small brown onion)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 250g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 50g (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or sauté pan, sauté the shallots in abundant olive oil and a knob of butter for a minute or so, until wilted. Add the garlic and zucchini and raise the heat. Toss them as they cook until the zucchini is just tender, about 5 minutes or so. Turn off the heat when the zucchini are done.
  2. Mix the ricotta and the grated Parmesan cheese, together with the basil leaves if using.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in well salted water until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta, but not too well and add it to the skillet and toss it with the zucchini over gentle heat. Add the ricotta mixture and mix well.
  5. Serve while still warm.

Shallots and onions are not the same, I know. No fresh basil, although a student last week told me, in all seriousness, that I should just buy a basil plant. You’re absolutely right, M. I only had one zucchini, so I would get at least two or three next time. Not my best picture, but I didn’t balance the cheese to zucchini proportion right (only 1 zucchini, correct cheese + mozzarella). Will do better next time ^_^

~Jessica

Pasta e ceci

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Pina Bresciani GIC

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, diced (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (from one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces or 55 grams) uncooked ditalini pasta (or another small shape)
  • 2 cups (475 ml) boiling water (update: actually I just use tap, not boiled, water)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (estimate 1 per serving)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. In a medium-large heavy-bottomed pot or deep saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until it shimmers. Add 2 smashed cloves of garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring until it becomes lightly, barely browned but very fragrant (5-8 min.)
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook them with the garlic for 30 seconds or so.
  3. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and a lot of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning and ladle into bowls.
  5. Make finishing oil: Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauce- or frying pan over medium-low heat with remaining clove of garlic, rosemary, a pinch or two of salt and pepper flakes, until sizzling; pull it off the heat as soon as the garlic is going to start taking on color. Drizzle this over bowls of pasta e ceci and eat it right away.

I would have liked to have time on a school night to make the finishing oil, but, alas, lesson plans await. We’re in the middle of remote learning right now, but the high school students feel burned out every day. Some definitely have easier access to technology than others though. As I used bigger pasta (2 cut ziti) a roommate left behind, I should have thrown in more than a half cup, since the smaller pieces swell up more.

I found out a freshman student’s father succumbed to COVID-19. Stay home, everyone, be safe.

~Jessica

Cacio e pepe, take 2

Adapted from Cook Around and Bon Appetit (updated link)

Ingredients:

  • 500 g bavette or linguini fine (I used Rotelle no. 54, not a long pasta at all)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 110 g butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Cacio di Roma (did not have)
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano (used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 pinches of Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan on low.
  2. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain but reserve the pasta water.
  3. Add the pasta to the pan. Add the butter and toss. Add cheeses and pepper. Serve immediately.

This time I stuck with the traditional (although I only possessed one kind of cheese). It was savory.

~Jessica

Penne alla vodka

Adapted from hapa nom nom

Ingredients:

  • 5 large tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer the tomatoes to the ice water. Peel the skins off and slice the cooled tomatoes in half. Dice the tomatoes small, and let drain over a colander. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the vodka, and return the pan to medium heat. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  2. Generously salt a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain well and immediately add the pasta to the sauce. Add the cream and stir until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!

My sister and I first made this back when I was in graduate school, and she had started working in the city. It was a blast, we got tipsy, and it tasted wonderful. I tried recreating it again on my own, and it tasted nothing like I remembered, and not very good at that. Ten years later, I suggested we try to recreate it again. If only I had had the presence of mind to snap a shot of when the my sister, ever so carefully, set the pan en flambé. ^_^ The guests loved it.

~Jessica