Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pizza Pasta

This recipe was inspired by The Jerk. Just after college, I was living on my own for the first time with Beau and his brother Sean. We were watching the scene where Steve Martin's character enjoys "pizza-in-a-cup" and were simultaneously amused and inspired. We decided that pizza in a cup could be delicious, and I took it as a challenge to try to make it. I decided to take all of our favorite pizza toppings: pepperoni or sausage, peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions, and combine them with tomato sauce, cheese, and pasta. And thus, our favorite post-college food was born: pizza pasta. It was easy to make and could feed two big hungry guys and me for days on the cheap. (Ridiculously, I would actually double the batch back then to ensure that we had a ton of food.)

Truthfully, this is the kind of food that's great for kids or college students. After years of pretending to be too grown up and sophisticated to make it, I finally made it again today, and although my husband and I are legit adults--I'm a professor, in fact--we had no shame in enjoying this again. It's totally flexible, just add your favorite pizza toppings (except maybe pineapple!).

Pizza Pasta

8 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 t oregano
salt to taste
crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste
1 16 oz package pasta (whole wheat is fine. I like bow tie or shells)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup Parmesan
optional add-ins (pick one or more): ½ to 1 lb Italian sausage or pepperoni (turkey is fine; cut into bite-sized pieces); 8-12 oz sliced fresh mushrooms; 3 jalapenos; 6 oz can sliced black olives

Heat two large saucepans. In one, boil pasta. In the second, saute meat, if using, and vegetables until lightly caramelized. Add remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for about 10 minutes, until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and combine with sauce, adding a little water or pasta cooking liquid if it seems dry. Remove from heat and garnish with cheese. Serves 9

***UPDATE: Inspired by the pasta wonderpot trend, I recently converted this to a one-pot recipe and it worked great! Just follow the instructions above, except do not boil the pasta separately. Prepare the sauce, then add 3 cups of water, and add dry pasta. Simmer gently, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring frequently until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Unlike the original recipe, the wonderpot method creates a starchy sauce that will emulsify cheese, so you can stir the cheese directly into it.

***UPDATE #2: Now that I have an Instant Pot, I love making one-pot pasta dishes, and this turns out perfect! Just follow the wonderpot instructions above and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes, followed by quick pressure release.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tamale Pie

I have been playing around with recipes for enchilada casserole for the last couple of months, until I realized that I like tamales waaay more than I like enchiladas! Instead of having to fuss over wrapping individual tamales, why not just make one big casserole that tastes like tamales! So I decided to focus my fake-Mexican casserole skills on making a healthyish tamale pie. Tons of tamale pie recipes exist on the internet, but most replace the traditional masa dough with a cornbread topper. While I'm sure that's delicious, I wanted my casserole to actually taste like tamales: the soft, moist masa  dough is pure comfort food. So I decided to mix up some masa as if I were going to make tamales, and layer it in a pan with a delicious tex-mex filling. You can find masa in most supermarkets in the Latin section. It usually comes in a 2 kg bag, and is super cheap. Don't worry about having to buy a large bag, you will want to make this over and over again! It is so addictive and it freezes beautifully.

This is more of a technique than a recipe. You could do any filling/sauce combination you want. Next time I'm going to make green chile chicken tamales.

Masa Dough
3 cups instant masa
2 t baking powder
1 t adobo seasoning or Konriko Jalapeno Seasoning
3 cups water
1 T olive oil

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can Rotel
1 can refried beans
1 cup pureed pumpkin (optional; I've written before about how I enjoy sneaking this in to add veggies and creaminess to a dish)
1 T chili powder
1 t smoked paprika
red pepper flakes to taste
salt or Adobo seasoning to taste
approximately 1 cup water, enough to loosen filling to a soft paste

8 oz grated low fat cheese
10 oz can red enchilada sauce (I like Las Palmas)

Mix dough ingredients together in a bowl, then cover and let stand while preparing filling.

Saute meat, onion, and pepper until meat is browned. Add remaining filling ingredients.

Press half of the dough into the bottom of a greased 10x13 baking pan. Spread filling on top. Top with cheese, then rest of the dough. You may need to put the dough on in blobs and smooth them down as best as you can. Pour enchiladas sauce on top. Bake at 350, tightly covered with foil, for 1 hour. It is ready when the masa dough is firm. Makes 10 servings