Pizzas and Pastas

Roasted cherry tomatoes pasta

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What is your favorite pass time when you are waiting in the doctor’s office? Mine is undoubtedly reading recipe section of magazines. Sometimes I write them down, sometimes just read them and want to make them once I come back home. But then, every time, I forget about them. Recently on one of such occasions, I read this very simple pasta recipe. I have forgotten the exact recipe, but remembered the gist of it. So I created this one.

Recently we have started buying vegetables at a farmer’s market here. They are so much tastier and very fresh. Almost always I get attracted to cherry tomatoes. There is something great about these cute little beauties. Usually, I don’t know what I will be making with them. But this time, I clearly knew.

First day, I made this sauce of cherry tomatoes and served with angel hair pasta. Next day, made a sandwich with my jeera bread. I don’t have any measurements, as I eye-balled everything. The roasted tomatoes were so tasty.

Next on my list is Nupur’s pasta salad. Check out.

Roasted cherry tomato sauce:
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves finely chopped
Red chilli flakes
Finely chopped garlic
Olive oil
Onions
Salt

Method:
Preheat the oven at 450F for about 10mins.
In a baking dish, spread cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle generous amount of olive oil, garlic, basil, chilli flakes and salt.
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Bake for about 15-20 mins or till the tomatoes burst open.
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Heat oil in a skillet and fry onions on a medium flame. Take care not to brown them. They should be cooked.
Now add the roasted cherry tomatoes and mix well. The sauce is ready.

Pasta:
Cook pasta according to packet instructions. Add the sauce. Mix well. Sprinkle some chopped fresh basil leaves and handful of Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

Sandwich:
Cut the bread horizontally. Apply butter and toast them till it is crispy. Now spread the thick sauce and some fresh chopped basil. You can also spread mozerrella cheese like this(I did not add cheese). Serve hot.
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Eggplant parmesan – spaghetti bake

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This is my own version of  eggplant Parmesan that I made couple of days ago. Eggplant Parmesan is a dish which has eggplants coated with breadcrumbs, shallow fried or baked, then layered with pasta sauce/marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. I adore this dish. When I bought a eggplant during my last grocery trip, this was the first thing that came to my mind.

Planning ahead in cooking is something I will never be able to do. I always decide and cook at the very last moment. So when I started making this, I realized that I didn’t have some of the ingredients needed for this. I decided to make this with whatever I had on hand, I also thought of adding some spaghetti to it to make it a complete meal. It was made in a hurry, so I don’t have exact measurements. I am still posting the recipe as I really liked the way it turned out.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Pepper
1 and 1/2 cups pasta sauce or marinara sauce (use any brand)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese or mozzarella cheese
1/3 package spaghetti
Oil
Salt

Method:
Beat eggs with salt (or use garlic salt), pepper. Keep is aside.
Take breadcrumbs on a plate (I toasted 4 bread slices and powdered them as I didn’t have breadcrumbs)
Peel eggplant. Cut it into 1/4 inch slices.
Dip the eggplant in eggs and then coat it with breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in a shallow pan(or use tava) and fry them till they are golden brown.
Cook spaghetti according to package instructions with enough salt.
Preheat the oven at 350F for 10mins.
In a baking dish, take the cooked spaghetti. Spread some ricotta/mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and mix everything.
Keep a layer of eggplants. Spread a layer of sauce, followed by ricotta/mozzarella cheese.
Spread remaining eggplants, sauce, cheese. Spread parmesan cheese on top.
Bake the dish at 350F for 30mins or till all cheese is melted.
Serve hot.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 60mins

Pictorial

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Vegetable and almond pasta

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I love to make one pot dishes on weekdays. This is a simple and easy dish, loaded with vegetables, easy to make and delicious to eat. Almond pieces give a nice crunch and taste to it.
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Ingredients:
2 cups pasta(fusilli or penne)
1 cup vegetable (bellpepper, zucchini)
1/4 cup tomato
2 cups milk
2 tbl spns all purpose flour
2 tbl spns butter
1 tea spn chopped garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup almonds
Pepper
Salt

Method:
Heat water and cook pasta along with salt according to package instructions.
Heat butter in a wide pan on medium low heat. Add vegetables (do not add tomato), garlic. Fry for 5-6 mins.
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Make a well in the center and add flour. Whisk it, taking care not to butn it and removing all lumps.
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Pour the milk and let it thicken. Add salt and pepper as required.
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Add cooked pasta, tomato.
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Lightly roast the almonds and chop them. Add these to the pasta. Mix well. Add cheese and mix.
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Serve hot.

Serves : 3
Preparation time : 20mins

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Spicy paneer pizza

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I had heard so much about grilled paneer pizzas which are very popular in Mumbai. I wanted to try it for a long time, but when I made this paneer biryani, I thought of using those marinated paneer pieces on a pizza. I had some bread dough in freezer which I had frozen last week. Thats how this pizza was born.

You could use any pizza base. But I tried a new dough this time. It is mostly wheat based. I am not a big fan of wheat base, as it has very different taste. But because it is good for health, compared to that made with all purpose flour(maida), I will stick to this recipe hereafter.

According to V, this is one of the best pizzas I have ever baked :). We had a hearty pizza night yesterday.

Pizza base(Makes two large pizzas):
1 and 1/2 cup wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 and 1/2 tea spns active dry yeast
2 tbl spn butter(at room temperature)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tea spn sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
1 tea spn salt

Method:
In about 1/2 cup luke warm water, add sugar and yeast. Let it get active.
Add all other ingredients and flours (except milk). Mix and gradually add milk. Make a dough. If needed, use extra milk. Knead for 5minutes. Transfer it to a large bowl and keep it aside for about 2hrs till it doubles in volume.
Make two equal sized pieces (you can freeze one if not using).
Roll into a base.

Toppings:
1 cup marinated paneer
1/2 cup corn
Sun dried tomato
Dried basil
1 cup Parmesan cheese + mozzarella cheese (I mixed both)

Method:
Grill or bake or shallow fry the marinated paneer pieces(slightly undercook the pieces, they get completely cooked after baking).
Heat a little olive oil and stir fry corn, let it cook for few minutes.

Assembling the pizza:
Preheat the oven at 400F for 10 mins.
Spread the cheese on the base.
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Spread basil.
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Now spread the paneer, sundried tomato, corn. Bake at 400F for about 15mins or till it is done.
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Serve hot.

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Grilled pizza

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I have been baking a breads/pizzas a lot these days. Mainly because I feel they are very easy to make. I usually make pizza base at home, use half immediately and freeze the remaining, which I finish within a week. Making the base does not take long time. Once the base is ready, it is just few minutes work to put together the pizza. Recently, I started grilling the pizza instead of baking it.

I skip the sauces and just add cheese and vegetables on it. This is something I had watched on Food Network. Grilling the base makes it very crispy, the way I like it.

Ingredients:
Pizza dough(store bought pizza base can also be used)
Cheese – mozerrella or Italian 3 cheese combo (parmesan, asiago, romano)
Vegetables
Chilli flakes
Olive oil
Salt

Method:
Roll the pizza dough into desired size and thickness.
Heat the grill to high temperature. Sprinkle some olive oil. Now keep the rolled pizza base on the grill and reduce the temperature to medium. After few minutes, flip the pizza base.
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Now spread the cheese on it.
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Then spread the vegetables, salt, chilli flakes.
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Cover the grill with a foil (optional, this helps to trap the heat and cheese melts faster). Take off the heat when the base is done.
Serve hot. 

PS: – Keep all the toppings, cheeses ready and near the grill. Once the base is flipped, you need to work very fast to add all the toppings, otherwise the base gets done and the cheese does not get time to melt.
– Sauce can be added before the cheese if required
– The toppings do not get cooked well by this method, so if you like, stir fry the toppings for few minutes before adding it to pizza
– Do not make the base very thick. This method works best for thin crusted pizzas.
– Do not cook it on high flame, the base gets eaily burnt. So keep it on medium flame.
– It takes few trial and errors to get the base and temperature right.

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Macaroni soup

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A fresh bowl of soup is something I want to have when I reach home daily from work. Sometimes when I am not very tired, I make something special apart from usual dinner. This is one such soup I tried. We loved it.

Ingredients:
1 cup finely chopped vegetables – I used bellpeppers(capsicums) of 3 colors, cauliflower, green beans, carrots
1/2 tea spn fresh chopped ginger
1/2 cup macaroni
1/4 tea spn pepper + 1/4 tea spn red pepper flakes
1 tbl spn chopped basil
2 tbl spn milk
1-2 tbl spn Parmesan cheese
1 tea spn corn flour
Salt

Method:
Cook macaroni till it is done.
Cook the vegetables and ginger in enough water till they are almost done with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Add macaroni.
Mix corn flour with milk. Add this to vegetables, macaroni mixture. When the soup becomes thick, take off the heat. Add cheese, basil. Serve hot.

Serves : 2-3
Preparation time : 20mins

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Macaroni and vegetable bake

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There are times, when I get bored of cooking and like to make some one pot dish. I usually go back to pasta/noodles dishes. This was one such dish that I just made up. I had seen similar baked dishes in different books, but I mainly used all the vegetables I had with me. It was a nice change and very filling dinner.

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups vegetables – red & yellow bellpeppers, cabbage, corn, jalapenos
1/2 cup tomato
1/2 cup soya granules
1 tbl spn chopped fresh basil
1 egg white
1/2 cup milk
1 tea spn all purpose flour
1 tea spn butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pepper
Olive oil
Salt

Method:
Cook macaroni according packet instructions and keep aside.
Cook soya granules according to packet instructions.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add all the vegetables. Fry for a minute and then add cooked soya, salt pepper. Fry for about 5mins. Then add tomatoes and cook for few more minutes. Take off the heat and garnish with chopped basil.

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In another sauce pan, heat butter. Add flour and whisk continuously. Now pour the milk whisking it all the time to avoid any lumps. Take off the heat and pour a little of the this sauce into well beaten egg white whisking all the time. Transfer the mixture back to the sauce pan and cook the sauce for about 1min. Take care the sauce does not form any lumps. Add salt pepper.
Preheat the oven at 350F for 10mins. Spray an oven safe bowl with cooking spray (or apply some butter). Pour in half of the cooked macaroni and then half of the vegetable mixture. Then put another layer of remaining pasta and then a layer of remaining vegetables. Pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle parmesan cheese.

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Bake for about 10mins or till the cheese melts.
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Serves : 4-5
Preparation time : 30mins

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Pizza with white sauce


V and I are big fans of pizza. When we were in India, I had thought, pizza always had tomato sauce, vegetables(or meat) and cheese. But after coming to US, I learned about many different toppings and different sauces for pizza. While I love these different tastes, V loves Pizza Hut types with tomato sauce and the standard toppings. My latest love is Spin Nepolitan pizza. I became a huge fan of it when we ate there couple of months ago.

Recently, I have been baking pizzas at home very frequently – like once in 15days or a month. I know some readers would talk about all purpose flour/maida not being healthy etc etc, but I still like to make this version once in a while. We both simply love this. I have tried different toppings and this one is something we really really loved.

For the base, I followed the recipe from here. I used half wheat flour and half all purpose flour.

For the sauce:
(adapted from Béchamel sauce and this)
1 tbl spn butter
1 tbl spn all purpose flour
A pinch nutmeg powder(freshly grated/powdered)
1/4 tea spn red chilli flakes
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tea spn dried basil
Salt
Pepper
1 tbl spn parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:
Heat butter in a pan. Now add chilli flakes, all purpose flour and whisk continuously(keep on a medium flake to avoid burning).
Now slowly add milk whisking all the time. Add nutmeg powder(grate a nutmeg directly into the pan). Add parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil and whisk it. Cook till the sauce thickens.

Toppings:
Eggplant – sliced, sprinkled with olive oil, salt pepper and grilled for few minutes
Pineapple
Olives
Sundried tomato
Jalapeño
Artichokes
2 tbl spn grated mozzarella cheese(optional)

Assembling:
Preheat the oven to 450F for about 10mins.
Roll the dough into desired thickness. Sprinkle some olive oil.
Spread the sauce, toppings, cheese(optional) and bake it in a preheated oven at 450F for about 12-15mins.
Serve immediately.

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Sun dried tomato pesto


Pesto is Italian sauce. I have been watching many pesto preparations in food network ever since I started watching it. So from this experience, pesto meant a chutney like preparation in which olive oil is used to bring to a required consistency in place of water in our chutneys. I may be totally wrong in this perception, but that is what I have seen on TV. I am always horrified to see the amount of oil that goes into this. What bothers me most about olive oil is, its smell and taste. I am slowly getting used to it, but there is a long way to go :).

The pestos I have seen are usually a bit thinner in consistency than what I am posting here. I did not add any extra olive oil, but since I used sun dried tomatoes that were preserved in olive oil, it still had that taste to it. I made a coarse paste so that I could taste small bits of sun dried tomatoes and also the cheese. It goes well with a freshly baked bread. I think this can also be used as a sauce for some kind of pasta.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 tea spn chopped garlic
1/2 tea spn chilli flakes
1/4 tea spn dried basil
Salt
1 tea spn grated parmesan cheese

Method:
Grind together sun dried tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes, basil and salt. Add parmesan cheese and grand a bit.
Serve. 

PS: To bring it to more spreadable consistency, add a table spoon or so extra vergin olive oil while grinding.

Serves : 2-3
Preparation time : 5mins

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Grilled shrimp with angel hair pasta


It happens very regularly with me, I see something on one of the foodblogs and I get this craving to make it myself. I try to suppress it as much as possible, but sometimes, the cravings take the upper hand. If I have to blame someone for my latest craziness – it is Sig because of her lovely event Grill it. I have seen grilling in all its forms on Food network which I watch almost all day (when I get time). But it was till Sig started with this event, I never thought of buying a grill pan for me. Not only she announced this event, she started posting absolutely mouthwatering dishes one after the other (check here, here and here). Finally I lost the battle and decided I had to buy a grill pan if I had to sleep well.

I bought a tiny cast iron grill pan – on one of my grocery shopping trips where I just wanted to buy yogurt, I thought of having a look at grill pans. I stopped near that isle for close to half an hour trying to convince myself against buying the pan. But in vain. I finally bought it (Ah, did I mention, I forgot to buy yogurt and returned with just the grill pan??). Anyway, that’s how my grilling madness began.

Now it is this situation in my home- I grill anything and everything on this pan , which by the way is the only cast iron pan I have. I hate cast iron because of its weight. I know it is good to use these pans compared to non stick, but I never owned or liked cast iron pans because of their weight. Since we keep moving from place to place, I feel things keep adding up. So when I showed it to V, he didn’t know why in the world I had decided to buy such a heavy pan.

This is one such dish I prepared last week. Very easy to make and very delicious. I don’t miss those fancy Italian restaurants anymore :).

Pasta same as this recipe. Only changes I made are – did not use lemon in the sauce. Added sun dried tomatoes, olives and basil as garnishes after the pasta got ready.

Grilled shrimp:
20 medium sized shrimps
1/2 tea spn black pepper powder
1/2 tea spn salt
1 tbl spn lemon juice
Olive oil

Method:
Clean the shrimp. Add pepper, salt, lemon juice to shrimp and leave it aside for about 45-60mins. Arrange the shrimps on skewers and grill them on a hot grill.


Serve with the pasta.

Serves : 2
Preparation time : 20mins

Update: Click here for details of my grill pan. It is a small one (and very reasonable) which I found at Target. Its enough for two people. But if you have more people in family, go for the bigger one.

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