Gettin’ Saucey

Vodka Sauce (With Shrimp & Baby Bella Mushrooms)

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I have made this three times, and each time I used different tomato sauces as the base. I will share the ingredients I felt were most successful in the completion of this dish. My tip: use up what sauces you have in the kitchen pantry – the texture may be a little different each time, but it does not stop you from enjoying what you intended to do in the first place – make a delicious, home-cooked meal! 🙂

Originally found on, and adapted from, Rocco DiSpirito: http://www.oprah.com/food/Penne-Alla-Vodka

Ingredients:

16 ounces (one 1 lb box) Barilla pipette pasta (up to preference) (The amount of sauce being made can withstand 1 1/2 boxes pasta, if you would like a higher pasta to sauce ratio)

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato sauce

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil sauce (or Traditional Tomato & Basil sauce)

1.5 oz (one shot or more) Kettle One vodka (any brand of vodka can be substituted, up to preference)

8 ounces (1 container) mascarpone cheese (Beligioso)

1/2 tsp or more ground and/or crushed red pepper, up to preference

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

6 tbsp Italian cheeses

1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

12 or so extra large shrimp (26/30), cooked and deveined (optional)

3 Baby Bella mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cover salted water and allow it to boil. Cook pasta according to boxed directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium to large saucepan, heat both jars of pasta sauce on low to medium-low heat.

3. Heat through, add vodka. Stir well, and allow sauce to simmer.

4. Add spices (crushed/ground red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper).

5. Add mascarpone cheese and stir well. Sauce should be a light red color, not yet blush.

6. Spice more to taste. Too much red pepper will overwhelm your palette, so be sure not to add too much unless you are ready to sweat! As an option, add heavy cream to make more of a blush sauce.

7. Add shrimp and/or mushrooms to sauce. You can also sauté the mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil first, with a few dashes of salt, pepper, and garlic.

7. Toss cooked pasta in sauce. Mix well. Sprinkle with Italian cheeses. Enjoy!

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Better Than Applebee’s

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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Referred to Martha Stewart’s Hot Spinach Dip recipe

Ingredients

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for sautéing and to coat baking dish)

1 medium sized Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

18 oz (2 9 oz bags) fresh spinach

5 or 6 (about 1/2 a can) artichoke hearts, washed and drained

Light margarine (to add to spinach and artichoke sauté)

1/2 cup water (to add to spinach and artichoke sauté)

1/4 cup milk (any type, or can substitute heavy cream)

8 oz (1 bar) 1/3 less fat Philadelphia cream cheese

4 oz (or about 1 hefty spoonful) Breakstone sour cream (can substitute reduced fat or fat free)

Hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Worcestershire sauce, to taste (optional)

Salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cup (Kraft) Italian shredded cheese (1 cup for mixture and 1/2 cup to top)

Tostitos Scoops! tortilla chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 8×8 glass baking dish. A ceramic dish would also work fine.

2. In a large skillet or sauce pan (or a medium sized pot), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, just until glossy, before they brown. Then add minced garlic. Cook for a total of 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add artichoke hearts and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add spinach in four additions, adding a bit of water after each addition. Finish with a dollop of margarine.

4. Drain spinach and artichoke sauté in a strainer or colander (this step is optional, it would be fine to add the sauté drippings to the mixture, and would certainly taste delicious).

5. In the same saucepan, heat milk over medium to low heat. Whisk in cream cheese and sour cream. Be careful not to burn the mixture or let it curdle.

6. Toss in spinach and artichoke mixture, in addition to salt, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Mix in Italian cheeses.

7. Add contents to oiled glass dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or put on low broil for about 10, or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

8. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Substitutions:

  • Can use frozen spinach instead of fresh (thawed and drained)
  • Serve with baguette slices or crackers of choice

Verdict: Being that this was the first time this recipe was attempted without following any exact directions, it was delicious! Creamy, with just the right amount of artichoke to spinach ratio, this dip will definitely serve as a great appetizer for a party or a cheesy snack. The only thing I thought should be done differently would be to put in more hot sauce, to give it some extra heat. Otherwise, this dip certainly turned out better than expected, but I cannot complain about that!

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*Second Edition*

When made a second time, I used:

2 1/2 (9 oz) bags of spinach

1 full can artichokes, drained

all heavy cream (substituted for milk)

Verdict: much heartier than last time, but the extra spinach and artichoke was spot on!

Better with Butter

Garlic Butter Sauce

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Ingredients:

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Pasta Extra Wide Noodle-Style (about 1/2 a bag)

5 tbsp unsalted butter (or margarine)

1/3 to 1/4 cup Lucini’s extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Black pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Peas and carrots, steamed

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions: 

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (boil water, salt water; at rapid boil, cook noodles for about 10 minutes or until tender)

2. Meanwhile, steam peas and carrots (10 to 15 minutes)

3. Make sauce when pasta is almost finished cooking, and when vegetables are almost done steaming, so it does not sit.

4. In a large skillet on low heat, melt unsalted butter and then add oil.

5. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Do not brown the garlic.

6. Add pepper and oregano, in addition to other seasonings, if desired.

7. Toss in cooked peas and carrots. Then toss the pasta in the same sauce pan. Add a bit of parmesan cheese (or any dry shredded cheese).

Simple, easy and very quick! Using whole wheat pasta is a great way to add fiber to your diet (even if it is not 100% whole wheat)! Adding vegetables to your sauce and pasta is also a sneaky means to get your daily recommended servings. Plus, it tastes delicious.