A Rainbow of Fresh Pasta: Cooking With Kids At Home

A Rainbow of Fresh Pasta: Cooking With Kids At Home

Homemade pasta is not only delicious, but it’s a great activity to do with kids. Click for recipe to make pasta in all the colors of the rainbow with your kiddos! Click to skip to the recipe

Jorj Morgan Camp Nana Homemade Pasta

 

While brainstorming to come up with some activities to do with campers at my recent Camp Nana, one of my first ideas was to offer a class on baking and cake decorating. 

But, here in the mountains of North Carolina, we sit in a bit of a rain forest. 

A humid, wet rain forest. 

This is not the best environment for cake decorating as the frosting has a hard time setting up. Get the pun?

My next thought was to do a cooking class where we eat what we cooked for dinner, doing double duty.

Then I thought about pizza which led me to think about pasta (My mind wanders in strange and mysterious ways…)!

This time, I thank goodness for strange thoughts as this class went down with pasta perfection.

My over-achiever self decided that we would make differently colored pastas instead of plain old noodles. 

Why not? If you are going out on a limb, it might as well be a high one. 

I amassed several pasta machines and decided to make a go of it. 

I took beets and boiled them, spinach leaves and steamed them and carrots and roasted them. Then I pureed each veg into a puree. 

Note to self, boiling root vegetables creates a smoother puree than roasting, although roasting gives a better flavor. The difference in the pasta is that a smoother puree will create a full-colored noodle, where a coarser puree will create little bits or dots in the noodle. How’s that for insider info?

The technique is really simple and a perfect activity for kids of all ages. 

Since we were creating four different types of pasta, I used a smaller amount of ingredients per pasta maker. You can double or triple this basic recipe based on your needs. You dump the flour onto your work surface and use your CLEAN, WASHED hands to bring it together in a circle. 

You then create a well and put the wet ingredients in the center. This is just like you pool gravy in mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. 

Then use a fork to start swirling the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and eventually form everything into a smooth dough. Kids LOVE this!!! 

Next, we cut the dough into pieces and run it through the machine. Through various degrees of thinness, we smooth the dough into thin sheets. The last setting on the machine cuts the dough sheets into the size noodles you prefer.

We let the noodles dry on a rack for a bit and then we boil them quickly in salted water and serve them with a topping of your choice. 

I offered marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, and plain old delicious browned butter with just a hint of sage. 

It was soooooo much FUN!!!

You don’t have to have a group of kids to make pasta. You can make pasta with just one of your favorite kids. 

Or you can gather a few and take turns on the pasta machine. You can store dried pasta for several days in the fridge. 

You can also purchase prepared sauces to go on top of your pasta. It’s all good.

Just as long as the smiles keep coming. Enjoy!

A Rainbow of Fresh Pasta

Homemade pasta is not only delicious, but it’s a great activity to do with kids. You can make pasta in all the colors of the rainbow, although some might take a bit of imagination! Gather a kid or two and have some fun!

Camp Greystone Famous Opening-Day Scones

Ingredients

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

½ cup spinach puree (substitute with beet, carrot, or your favorite)

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Serves:  4 hungry kids

Time:   60-minute cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Use a fork to combine the eggs and yolk with the puree in a small bowl. Place the flour onto your work surface. Use your impeccably clean hands to scoop the flour into a circle. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well. Use a fork to combine the flour into the wet ingredients starting from the center of the well and working your way to the outside. Use your hands to gently knead the dough into a smooth circle.

Cut the dough into four pieces. Flatten with your hand and run through a pasta machine on the thickest setting. Do this twice and then move to the next setting until you get a thin sheet of pasta. Run this sheet through the machine on the final setting that cuts the pasta into the noodle size of your choice.

Dry the pasta for several minutes (or longer) on a rack or swirl the noodles onto a baking sheet lined with a bit of flour. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water for just a few seconds, until the pasta is tender. Drain and top with your favorite sauce.

Overboard Tip:

To make the puree, cook (boil or steam) the vegetable until it is incredibly soft. Drain the vegetable thoroughly in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Place the veggie into the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until it is pureed.

Lofty Leftovers: Chicken Ravioli, Two Ways

Lofty Leftovers: Chicken Ravioli, Two Ways

One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually make more than you need…and when you learn how to make leftover food recipes, the more meals, the merrier! Get my recipes for a hearty soup and a clever take on chicken ravioli, two ways. Click to skip to the recipe

 

 

One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually cook more than you need. This is a by-product of not getting it totally right the first time or making sure you don’t run out of food! 

On the one hand, say your making soup and upon first taste, you discover that you were a little heavy-handed with the salt. No problem, you just add more liquid or starch and the taste is repaired to delish status!

You now have not only yummy soup, but enough for an extra meal down the road. Win! Win!

On the second hand, you’ve invited pals to dinner who notoriously travel in packs and bring along more pals at the last minute. Therefore, you cook two chickens instead of one.

Both of these happened to me during the past week.

The results were some great leftovers that I morphed into two really yummy dishes. The first was what started out as my butternut squash soup and ended up as a cheesy, thick butternut and potato soup.

It’s hardly a recipe, but here’s the lowdown.

Cook onion and butternut squash chunks in oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until the veggies are soft.

At this point, I remove the pot from the heat and a splash of sherry or dry white wine. I return the pot to the heat and add chicken or vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cool the soup to room temperature and use a blender to pulse the veggies to make a smooth soup.

But then, I returned the soup to the pot to reheat and found that it was a tad too thin and a bit too salty. So, I added a couple of spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes as I warmed the soup over medium-high heat. I tasted the soup and it wasn’t too bad.

So, I add more potatoes.

Then hubby came in and asked if I was making cheese soup. The butternut squash had given the soup a cheesy golden glow.

So, I nodded in the affirmative and added some grated cheddar cheese. I kept adding potatoes and cheese until the soup was rich, and velvety and hearty and really, really good.

I cooled it again, pulsed it again, reheated and poured it into bowls. Hot pepper sauce and parsley were the perfect garnish. Voila!

The second dish takes advantage of leftover chicken and wonton wrappers in place of pasta to make a yummy chicken ravioli that tastes as good as it looks. 

Leftovers are not an afterthought, they’re the new way to cook smart and cook well!

Enjoy!!

Chicken Ravioli: Two Ways

Tomato Pie

Ingredients

Make these on a day when you have leftover chicken. You can store extra ravioli in a single layer in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer. To serve, bring them to room temperature before you drop them into boiling water.

For ravioli:

2 cups cooked chicken

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 package Wonton wrappers, about 36

For brown butter sauce:

½ cup butter, 1 stick

4 to 6 sage leaves

For red sauce:

1 cup prepared marinara sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons half and half

Toasted pine nuts for garnish

Grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Servings: 4 or more

Time: 30-minute cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the chicken into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mince the chicken. Place the ricotta cheese, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese into the bowl and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper and pulse a final time.

Spread four wonton wrappers onto your works surface. Place a spoon full of the chicken filling into the center of each square. Place a small basil leaf on top of the filling. Wet the border of the wonton square with water. Place another wonton wrapper on top. Gently press with your fingers to seal the ravioli. Use the tines of a fork to firmly seal the edges. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers and filling.

For the brown butter sauce, warm the butter over low heat until it begins to froth and turn golden, about 5 minutes. Toss in the sage leaves and continue cooking for two minutes more.

For the red sauce, heat marinara sauce over low heat. Stir in the cream.

Fill a deep pot with water and bring to a boil. Season the water with a generous amount of salt. Lower the ravioli into the pot, one at a time. Do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pot and damage the ravioli. The ravioli will cook in just minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the ravioli from the pot. Transfer to the brown butter or red sauce. You pick! Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Jorj’s Greatest Hits Inspired by Little Italy + Bakery Recommendation

Jorj’s Greatest Hits Inspired by Little Italy + Bakery Recommendation

There are over fifty Little Italy neighborhoods in the U.S., and today, Columbus Day, is a big deal for all of them. The celebrations marking the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America over 500 years ago began with weekend parades, and are being sucked up – sometimes in the form of pasta drowning in Italian style gravy  – all day today.

I am familiar with and love quite a few of the big ones: the Little Italy of Cleveland, Ohio (close to where I grew up), Manhattan, The Hill in St. Louis, and handful of Little Italy’s out west where the cannoli and baked lasagna make you happy to be alive…I could spend hours studying old family recipes from these bakeries and romantic restaurants that burn away the hours on a Roman candle…. Here are my greatest Italian hits in pictures.

While I was dunking my favorite Italian cookie into a mug of espresso, I called up a Sicilian chef I met on an historic food tour of Boynton Beach this summer. Here she is in front of some goodies.

Chef Anna is from a village near Sicily. She and her family have managed Palermo’s in Boynton for decades. The bakery draws in all kinds of customers. Once, Charlotte York (actress, Kristin Davis) walked out of Sex & the City’s nearest Little Italy and straight into Palermo’s — celebrity photo on their site.

You can come into this colorful bakery and see a lot of history hanging on the walls. I asked Chef Anna what her favorite Italian dessert is, and she answered with one sweet word and this picture of it:

Cassata. It is a tort cake filled with ricotta cheese that involves a detailed process to cook, then intricately decorate.  In fact, the making of the Cassata is considered a specialty talent done by skilled pastry chefs.

“The essence of Italian sweets goes back our ancestors, our grandmothers in Sicily who made sweets using naturally produced ingredients like honey,” said Chef Anna, adding that she just did a Cassata cake making demo in the culinary department at Macy’s.

Hmm…well, that’s food for thought. I love to bake and teach, so perhaps I will do a pastry inspired lesson with my next cooking class at the Diamond Creek Golf Club in Boone, NC.

Don’t forget, my cookbook, SUNDAY BEST DISHES: A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks has quite a few of Italy’s greatest hits.

My family style recipes, most ideally suited for culinary exploration on a leisurely weekend at home, can be purchased at Dorrance or Amazon, and is also available, with audio by me, at iTunes.  Aaaaand…in my upcoming cookbook, CANVAS & CUISINE, the best culinary stops under the Tuscan sun are featured in chapter after chapter.

Caio – Happy Columbus Day!  I leave you with my recipe for pumpkin risotto!

Pumpkin Risotto with Wild Mushrooms

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

1 quart home made chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces assorted wild mushrooms, chopped

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup Marsala wine

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons half and half

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Whisk the chicken broth and pumpkin puree in a pot over low heat.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and cook to toast, about 2 to 3 minutes more.  Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid disappears. Stir in a ladleful of warmed broth.  When the liquid is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth.  Continue until all of the broth has been absorbed.  This should take about 20 minutes.  The risotto will be wet, not sticky, chewy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Stir in the butter, half and half and Parmesan cheese.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh parsley.

 

Creole Shrimp Roasted Spaghetti Squash Boats

Creole Shrimp Roasted Spaghetti Squash Boats

Delicate strands of spaghetti squash soak up the spiced, lemony sauce in this dish. Scoop the squash onto a serving platter and ladle the shrimp and sauce over top… or take the squash boats to the table and invite everyone to dig in!

Serves 4
40 Minute Cuisine

Preheat the oven to 375°

For Squash:

  • 1 whole spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For Shrimp:

  • 1-pound jumbo (21 to 25 count) frozen shrimp, peeled, deveined with tail on, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • ½ cup butter, 4 tablespoons
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup chili sauce
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 2 large lemons, about ¼ cup
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pierce the squash with the tines of a fork. Microwave the squash on high for 2 to 3 minutes to soften (this will make it easier to cut). Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle the flesh of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash and bake flesh side down until soft, 30 to 40 minutes.

Toss the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Melt the butter, olive oil, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and oregano in a pot over medium low heat. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and place into the butter sauce. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and flip over, flesh side up. Use a fork to pull spaghetti strands from the squash. Divide the shrimp into the squash boat. Pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.

Butternut Squash Fettuccine

Butternut Squash Fettuccine


Not for the faint of heart this rich, sweet, savory dish of velvety-ness accompanies pork cutlets and sautéed green beans for a stunning fall supper.

Serving Size: serves 4
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  • 1 cup roasted butternut puree, made from 1 small butternut squash
  • 8 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup homemade chicken stock
  • 2 large fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

To roast the butternut squash, preheat the oven to 375°. Slice the squash in half, from stem to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle a baking dish with olive oil and place the squash, cut side down into the dish. Roast until the flesh is fork tender, about 20 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the outer peel and place the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes for dry pasta.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the sherry until smooth. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting for several minutes so that the sage infuses the sauce.

Remove the sage leaves from the sauce. Stir in the butternut squash puree and Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper. At this point if the sauce is thicker than you like you can add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.