by Chef Belinda
Pasta is that ingredient that may not always be the star at every meal, but it will always be the best supporting actor! Considered by most to be the ultimate comfort food, a recent survey named pasta as the world’s most popular dish, ahead of meat, rice, and pizza. Maybe its popularity is due to the fact that you can create lots of different dishes with pasta. It tastes good, is filling and has a long shelf life. And a sauce to go with it can be made from very simple ingredients. October is National Pasta Month, so what better way to celebrate it than with a few well-chosen, yet easy pasta dishes that are guaranteed to delight every time.
1 pound ziti pasta
¼ cup salt
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 32-ounce jar of marinara sauce
1 cup of mozzarella cheese, grated
½ cup pecorino Romano, or ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan
In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring water to a strong boil. Add salt and pasta. Boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm. Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together.
Into a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the ground meat. Do not crowd the pan (work in batches if needed). Break up any large chunks of meat as it cooks. Brown well.
When the meat is browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the Romano/ricotta cheese. Combine the sauce with the pasta; mix well and add the pasta to the casserole. Dot the remaining Romano/ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheeses on top. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the top is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.
Shrimp and Crab Cannelloni
3 tablespoons butter (plus extra for the dish)
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced (optional)
½ pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound crab meat
3 tablespoons cognac
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk, warmed
White pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or basil)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 cannelloni sheets, boiled (or no-bake lasagna sheets, boiled)
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Butter an ovenproof dish. In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft. Add the shrimp, crabmeat, cognac and ½ cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 2-3 minutes.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining butter and add the flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes, without coloring (do not allow flour to brown). Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Add half the sauce into the shrimp and crab mixture and stir in the dill.
Lay the pasta sheets on a work surface, fill with about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll up into tube shapes. Arrange the cannelloni in the buttered dish and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and cook for 15 minutes, until hot and golden. Garnish with additional dill.
Chicken Fettuccine with Sundried Tomatoes & Basil
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 pound fettuccine, cooked
1 pound boneless chicken breast, sliced
Basil, julienned (cut in strips)
Parmesan, grated (for garnish)
In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Continue whisking until sauce thickens. Add the Parmesan cheese and tomatoes and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and chicken and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until completely warmed. Add basil strips and gently toss. Transfer to a serving dish aand garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices. Recently she was inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier, Charleston chapter.