There’s nothing I love more than a healthy, hearty, home-cooked meal, but until recently that was something I had to count on others for! I didn’t know a mandoline from a melon baller, but when I got married I promised myself (and my husband) that I’d learn my way around the kitchen. Now I’m not exaggerating when I say I needed professional help, so I finally broke down and hired the fabulous Chef Amanda Cushman to come show me and a girlfriend the ropes. The thing is, we had a blast! Even if you aren’t in as dire need of a cooking lesson as I was, I can’t recommend it enough as a fun activity for you and the girls or you and your partner. Plus, our food turned out to be DE-licious. I didn’t even know I had it in me!
Now you can trust me when I say everything tasted as good as it looked, but you can also try Chef Amanda’s “simple, real food” recipes for yourself because she’s agreed to share them with everyone! This wouldn’t have been a good thing if I’d said it a few months ago, but here’s how to cook a hearty Italian meal like moi:
Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
Serves 6 to 8
½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup very hot water for 10 minutes
2 Tb. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
8 oz. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 Tb. chopped thyme
1 ½ cups of Arborio rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, heated
10 oz. baby spinach, optional
Pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
1. Strain the porcini, reserving the liquid, strain the liquid and set aside. Chop the porcini and add to the bowl with the sliced shitakes.
2. Heat a large saucepan with olive oil over med-hi heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add white wine and allow to evaporate and then add the mushrooms and thyme and sauté until mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and coat with the mushrooms and oil.
3. Add a couple of ladles of the hot broth and stir constantly until the broth is almost absorbed completely over medium heat. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender and al dente. Add the mushroom soaking liquid in the last 5 minutes of cooking time. This will take about 25 to 30 minutes, altogether.
4. Add the spinach and stir in to wilt, add the cheese to taste and serve.
Quick Tomato Meat Sauce (Bolognese)
Serves 4 to 6
2 Tb. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground beef
¼ pound ground turkey
¼ pound ground pork
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
8 basil leaves, chopped
1 28 ounce can Italian tomatoes, pureed with juice
2 Tb. tomato paste
1 pound short shaped pasta
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the ground meats and turn heat to medium high. Cook, breaking up the meat, until browned.
2. Add parsley, basil, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Lower heat and cook until thickened about 30 to 40 minutes over med-lo heat.
3. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, add to sauce and toss. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve with cheese.
Pasta Shells with Chicken, Mushrooms and Capers
½ ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 ¼ cups very hot water for 30 minutes
2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb. butter
8 ounces white or wild mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 large shallot, minced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp. minced rosemary
½ cup white wine
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cute into bite-size pieces
2 Tb. capers, rinsed
Salt and pepper
Chicken broth, as needed
1 pound pasta shells
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Strain the liquid from the mushrooms, squeeze them and chop finely, reserving the liquid. Strain the liquid thru a sieve lined with cheesecloth.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring briskly until lightly browned about 3 minutes. Add the shallot, rosemary, and chopped porcini, cook another 2 minutes. Add the wine and the reserved porcini liquid and de-glaze the pan reducing the liquid by about a quarter.
4. Add the chicken pieces and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until chicken is done about 12 minutes. If the pan doesn’t have enough sauce add some chicken broth.
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir once or twice, cook until al dente about 12 minutes.
6. Drain the pasta and then transfer to the skillet with the sauce season with salt and pepper. Serve with the grated cheese.
What are your favorite recipes to make? Leave them in the comments section and maybe I’ll test them out for a future blog post!
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Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.