Roasted Tomato and Onion Pasta

I previously mentioned in the Truffle Butter Pasta post, that I love to tinker and play with pasta recipes and basically make them up from whatever I can find in the fridge. This recipe is a variation on something I made years ago when I was stuck on vacation in a lake house and there was very little in the fridge. Essentially, all I had to work with was some fresh tomatoes and onions. It turned out pretty well, and I have been messing with it ever since.

For this particular recipe I used the following ingredients:

  • Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Flavorful Medley Snacking Tomatoes, FAMILY PACK – cut them all in half – 24 oz.
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion – sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1.5 pounds of pasta (your choice) I used pappardelle
  • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup black olives from the olive bar – not canned -, sliced in half
  • ½ cup olive oil – I usually use good organic olive oil
  • ½ cup of parmesan/romano cheese

I always start with the important parts first, good music and a little wine, then I preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, I cut the tomatoes, onions, and olives. I put the tomatoes and onions in a bowl with the olive oil and toss it all together so that all of the veggies are evenly coated in oil. I place the oiled up veggies in a glass 9 x 14 pan and put it in the oven to roast. While that is going on, I cut up the mozzarella into small cubes and I put the pasta water on medium to high to get started.

I don’t have a specific cooking time for the tomatoes and onions. I check after about 20 minutes to see if the skin is falling off of the tomatoes. The basic goal is to get the tomatoes and onions soft and juicy and for the skins to be falling off the tomatoes. I do my best to finish the pasta slightly after the tomatoes and onions are done roasting.

When the tomatoes and onions are done, I take them out of the oven and put the butter and olives in and mix it all together. When the butter has melted, I toss the mixture in with the pasta and do my best to mix it all evenly. After it’s all mixed together, I put the fresh mozzarella and parmesan/romano on top and mix that all in, but I don’t need that to be evenly distributed. I usually mix everything together right in the pasta pot.

Then, I serve it all right away! Done and delicious!

I have made several variations of this with different tomatoes and it almost always comes out great. Let me know if you try it or if you try something similar!

Enjoy!!

Roasted Beet Salad

Being able to cook for friends and family is a way of sharing part of myself and one of the ways I show love. It is one of my favorite things to do.  So, when I was invited to a dinner party recently, and I asked my friend what I could bring. He said, “make something delicious.” Game on!

I love a good beet salad. There is something so satisfying about the way all of the different flavors and textures come together. The arugula adds some subtle spice, the goat cheese is mellow and smooth, the nuts add some crunch and salt, the vinaigrette some zest and the beets complete everything in such a unique way. If you haven’t had a beet salad, I suggest you try this recipe. It is excellent!

I searched for a while before settling on this specific recipe from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. It was super fun to make. Especially when my fingers looked like I butchered an animal as I was peeling the roasted beets. I shopped around for some good locally sourced organic beets. I found them at the food co-op in Rochester called Abundance. They were awesome! I roasted them exactly the way the recipe suggested and they came out great!

I bought organic arugula at Wegmans and used all organic products to make the dressing. I would say it came out pretty damn good!

Click here for the complete recipe.

Another great thing about using fresh beets is that you can cook and serve the greens as a delicious side dish. I used the recipe linked here.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

Truffle Butter Pasta

Pasta is one of my favorite foods to tinker with in the kitchen. There are so many img_5431variations and options. The idea for this was inspired by a car ride conversation with my friend Martha. We frequently talk food, and she is an excellent cook! She told me how she used Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter on pasta and it was super simple and delicious. So, I have been tinkering with different ways to prepare pasta using truffle butter as the main flavor component. The recipe I am going to share is the latest version I have come up with.  

Ingredients:

  • 2 Shallots – thinly sliced
  • 5 – 6 Mushrooms – sliced
  • ½ container of Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter
  • ½ of 8oz. Wegmans Fresh Mozzarella – cut into ½ inch squares
  • ½ pound of Pappardelle Pasta
  • 1 slice of Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon
  • Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesan and Romano Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

I start out with the usual important steps first, music and a little wine. The next thing I do is prep and cut everything I need to complete this dish. This includes the shallots, mushrooms and the fresh mozzarella. I also start the pasta water. All of this will finish quickly and the biggest mistake I make is overcooking the veggies while waiting for the pasta to cook.

Then, I get a pan warming for a few minutes before I drop in the slice of bacon. The bacon is the perfect way to add some great smoky flavor to the base of this dish. Once the bacon has crisped up, I remove it and set it aside on a paper towel.

I will add a touch of olive oil to the bacon fat depending on how much fat renders out of the bacon and then drop in the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, just enough to soften them. This will all cook super fast.

Once everything is done, I put the strained pasta into the pan with the sauteed shallots and mushrooms. I spoon in about ½ of the container of truffle butter. At this point, I do not have any heat going in the pan. The residual heat of the pasta melts the butter. I use a pasta cooking utensil to mix up the butter, shallots, and mushrooms. Next, I add the fresh mozzarella and crumble in the bacon. I keep mixing it all the best I can to get everything evenly spread throughout the pasta. Most of the time the veggies hang out on the sides of the pan, so pay attention as you mix.

The last few ingredients, parmesan and romano cheese, salt and pepper, I add to taste. Then, I plate and serve usually with some good crusty bread. I have served this as a stand-alone dish or as a side to accompany a protein of some kind. Either way, it’s simple and delicious!

Thai By Night

I love to try new restaurants especially to places that serve cultural cuisines that I don’t often eat, or that I am not well versed in cooking. This past year, Thai By Night opened in Canandaigua, and it has taken me has too long to visit. The excuse to go there was for my daughter Gabi’s 16th birthday. She also enjoys trying new foods.

The space is relatively small, the tables are close together, and the decorating is simple and tasteful. The food and the service were both was outstanding. All of the food came out quickly and hot, and our water glasses were constantly being refilled by the very attentive wait staff.  

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We had the Crispy Spring Rolls as our appetizer. They were crispy, hot and full of flavor. The dipping sauce complimented the rolls and added some spice. We decided to get two entrees and share them. We ordered Pad Kee Mao with chicken a noodle dish served with flat rice noodles, onions, tomatoes, scallions, and Thai basil and chili garlic stir-fry sauce. We also ordered Mom’s Nam Tak a dish of grilled strip steak, red onion, cilantro, scallion, Thai basil, jaew, and toasted rice powder. Both of the meals were outstanding.

 

 

The Pad Kee Ma noodle dish has an interesting combination of flavors. You have the option to order this dish with three levels of spiciness, mild, medium and spicy. We went with the mild option. I really enjoyed all aspects of this particular dish and how the subtle spicy kick balanced out the rest of the flavors.

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The steak dish was equally as good, and it was cooked perfectly. The meat was tender, flavorful, sliced thin, and served with cilantro and sticky rice. The cilantro seemed to make a perfect compliment to the steak, and I tried to eat a little in every bite.

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I am really bad using chopsticks but I worked hard to eat with them for the entire meal. Gabi is a natural at using them and she enjoyed watching me struggle. Personally, I love that Canandaigua has a restaurant with a true an urban feel. I felt like I was in New York City or San Francisco and the food was great! I also think it’s great that the owners are sourcing the foods and beverages from local farms, wineries, and breweries.

I am linking a few news stories below so you can learn more about the story behind Thai By Night.

Democrat and Chronicle – Thai by Night in Canandaigua blends authentic and creative approaches

The Daily Messenger – Thai food coming to downtown Canandaigua

You can also find Thai By Night on Facebook and Instagram

Overall it was a great experience and I would highly suggest you get in there ASAP!

Naan Pizza

I love all kinds of pizza! When I have time, I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of dough and trying different sauces, toppings, spices, crust thickness…I could go on and on. But, sometimes I just want something simple, quick and tasty. That’s when I go to the naan pizza. Naan is a simple flatbread that is served with Indian food.  I purchased naan bread at Wegmans, Aldi and Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s naan (available in frozen or fresh, and garlic or plain) is the most similar to what I had at an Indian restaurant.

Another reason why I love making naan pizza is that they are family-friendly and party-friendly. Make your own pizza parties get super easy using naan bread as the crust. I usually keep it pretty simple in terms of toppings. I use jarred sauce or tomatoes, fresh veggies that I have on hand. If you are using fresh vegetables, it might be worth a little extra time to do a quick saute before putting them on your pizza. Depending on the vegetables you use, they excrete moisture and make your pizza wet and soggy. The texture of the vegetables can remain crunchy if they don’t have a chance to pre-cook. I will cook and drain them on a paper towel to remove some of the oil. I like to use fresh mozzarella cheese when I have it as well as regular shredded mozzarella. I always top the pizza with some a combo of parmesan and romano cheese. You can use the naan bread to make breakfast pizza (this will be another post). For this pizza, I am using a simple strained tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, dried oregano, olives, grape tomatoes and mushrooms with a sprinkle of parmesan and romano cheese on top.

I start off preheating the oven to 425℉. If you are using a pizza stone, it’s always good to let the stone get hot before using it. I like the crust to be somewhat crispy, so I use a pizza stone and I put the naan on the stone for a 3 – 4 minutes to pre-cook.

I construct the pizza on a large wooden cutting board. This allows me to easily slide the pizza into the oven and onto the hot stone. You may find it helps to use a spatula to slide the pizza around on the stone if you want to cook more than one at a time.

I am not a “time specific” person. The cooking time will vary based on how I want the pizza cooked. Sometimes I like it well done and crispy, sometimes I want it softer. I check the pizza frequently after about 5 – 6 minutes or so. The cheese can get burned quickly if you don’t pay attention.

All told, it takes about 30 – 40 minutes from preheat to table. This is a tasty, customizable, simple, quick meal that I have really enjoyed making and eating!

Do you have any simple pizza recipes or ideas? Share away!

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Faro’s Eggplant Parm Sub

I stumbled onto this sub a few years ago and I tell anyone who will listen to me about it. Faro’s Pizzeria is a locally owned pizza shop on South Main St. in Canandaigua. The owner, Faro, makes an excellent thin crust NYC style pie and he is a super nice guy. I love the small town feel when I am greeted by name as I walk in. When he isn’t too busy we talk shop and I share stories from when I managed my cousin’s shop in college. He also serves one of my favorite subs EVER!

I am a sucker for good eggplant. I am also a sucker for a good hot sub. This is both! There are so many things I love about this sub. It’s served open face and it’s so big they have to put it in a medium pizza box. The cost is so ridiculously reasonable. With tax, it’s $8 and change and I can eat this thing for 3 days, no joke!

It’s always cooked to perfection. It’s hard to make a hot sub and get it just right. There are lots of variables that can impact the overall quality and taste. Too much sauce and it’s mushy, too much cheese and you can’t taste the eggplant, overcooked and it you get that charred flavor. I have yet to get a sub that has any of those issues.

If you are in Canandaigua and you are looking for a great hot sub to share with a friend or to eat for a few days, I would highly recommend this sub. And, while I am recommending things, Faro’s also has calzones that are delicious, huge and reasonably priced!

Side note: I stopped in to grab a pizza the other day. Faro knows I love the eggplant parm sub, so he offered to make me a pizza with eggplant on it. Looks like my next pizza will be an eggplant parm special!!

 

Benny’s Breakfast Bowl

I love breakfast! It’s probably my favorite meal. Well, I like all meals. I guess I am a little hobbit-like about meals. Anyway, my brother Ben made this delicious breakfast bowl of goodness for me and since then I continue to make different versions. It’s really quite simple. It’s a bowl of sauteed vegetables and a smaller sized potato cooked in the microwave. It is all served in a bowl with an egg on top. The ingredients vary depending on what’s in the fridge. Everything is cooked in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.

First, I get the skillet up to temp. I usually keep the burner on medium-low. For this version, I used eggplant, sweet onion, grape tomatoes, and mushrooms. I add the ingredients to the skillet based on how long each vegetable needs to cook. I start by cooking one strip of bacon. The bacon is thicker cut and from a local farm called Bostrum Farms in Stanley, NY (Bostrum Farms and bacon will separate posts).

I wipe out the skillet and remove some, not all, of the bacon grease before add adding a little organic canola oil to the skillet and let it get hot. The onion and the eggplant go in first. Eggplant will absorb quite a bit of oil so I will add a small amount of olive oil as needed. After the onion and eggplant have softened a bit (about 3 minutes) I add the mushrooms for another 2 minutes and finally the tomatoes. I let everything cook together for another 2 to 3 minutes and I add a little salt and pepper. I transfer all of the cooked vegetables to a bowl. I crumble some cut cheddar cheese and the bacon on top of the veggies. I love to use Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar. It is reasonably priced and has amazing flavor!

When the veggies are done, I gently wipe the skillet and spray a little cooking spray, then I add the egg. Personally like the egg to be cooked “over easy”, so I flip the egg after a minute or so and immediately remove the skillet from the stove. The skillet holds the heat for a long time so it doesn’t need much time to cook. I top the bowl with the egg and it’s done.

I like to add ketchup and hot sauce for more flavor. I will sometimes add fresh sliced avocado to the bowl when I have it on hand.

Serve and enjoy!

My Go To Dinner

I have been making a variation of this dinner for years. I love salmon, and I like to buy the wild caught but it’s not always in the budget. I have cooked salmon so many different ways over the years, but I usually come back to this method. It’s a combination of searing and roasting in a cast iron skillet. This NY Times Cooking post does a great job of explaining the many ways you can cook salmon. As with all cooking, finding the best way to do something is entirely up to you. I was taught a long time ago that all recipes are guides and not a set in stone list of linear instructions. Do what feels right or good to you.

I am paring the salmon with a simple pasta dish. This also varies depending on what is in the fridge. Today, I have mushrooms, shallots, and some canned organic tomatoes in juice. I will be using Wegmans Italian Classics Linguine (Wegmans will be its own post at some point, I LOVE Wegmans!) and I have some amazing crusty bread Torpedo Italian Bread from Martusciello’s Bakery in Rochester, NY. I buy the bread from a local Italian deli called Casa Italiana (This will also be its own post at some point, great subs!) in Canandaigua, NY.

 

First, I take the fish out to sit for about 15 minutes or so to let it get to room temperature. When I am ready to start cooking, I make sure I have a Spotify playlist playing. I can’t be messing with music while my hands are dirty and wet! Then, I turn on the oven to 400 to preheat. While that is going on, I prep my veggies and set them aside. I also start the pasta water on a lower heat and turn the heat on the cast iron skillet to med. I like to give the cast iron skillet about 5 minutes to get nice and hot. Next, I prep the fish. I put a light coating of olive oil on first and then season the fish with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin. The spices vary sometimes too. I have used chili powder or even a BBQ rub. IMG_5220

Next, I start the pasta sauce. I saute olive oil, shallots, and mushrooms until they get soft and then I put in the can of diced tomatoes and I add some sea salt. I lower the heat and let that all simmer for a 5 minutes or so. I then add some butter and a splash of red wine. I will vary the butter depending on what I have in the fridge. I love the Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter, it has great flavor (I make another pasta with this – future post 😊). I like to add in garlic at different times depending on my mood. Sometimes I will add it with the shallots, sometimes I will toss it near the end to poach in the sauce. It’s fun to play with those flavors. 

img_5221.jpgOnce the skillet is hot, I place the fish on the skillet skin side up. I want to sear the top of the fish first. I do this for about 3 – 4 minutes. Once I flip the fish over (skin side down), I put it right in the oven for about 8 – 10 minutes.

While the fish is cooking I finish the pasta. The pasta only takes about 3 minutes in boiling water and I strain it and stir it in with the sauce and let that all simmer together. I add a good amount of parmesan/romano cheese for some good salty flavor.

 

Plate it and serve. My guilty pleasure is to include a little BBQ sauce on the side to img_5233.jpgaccompany the salmon. Serve with a little red wine, crusty bread and enjoy!

Let me know what you think.

Tony

Pasta Ingredients

  • Wegmans Linguine
  • Wegmans Organic Canned Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter
  • Red Wine

Fish Preparation

  • Farm Raised Salmon – Wild Caught is preferred

Spices

  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • BBQ Sauce

 

 

 

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