Pizzas and Pastas

Angel hair pasta in lemon cream sauce with chicken

It was our first valentine’s day in the US, we had never celebrated this day before. I had just got a new job. So we thought of celebrating the day. I knew V does not like any non-Indian food, but I insisted that we go to an Italian restaurant. He booked in Zio’s restaurant which is close to our apartment. We went there and it was packed full. After waiting for a while, we got a place to sit. I had tasted Italian food only once before this, few years ago. So I started acting as if I knew everything about Italian dishes and told V that I want to eat lasagna. I told him it is the best dish they have. He took quite a while to read the whole menu and carefully selected Grilled Chicken Amalfi.

Are you still interested to know what happened or have you already guessed? As usual, I hated my dish. Not that it was bad, but it was not like how I had thought it would be.  I just ate few spoons and left a huge portion. V was enjoying his amalfi like anything. It had totally turned him into an Italian food lover. The chicken was very tender, just the way he likes and it was served with angel hair pasta. After that day, we ate at Zio’s almost once in every 2 weeks and every time we ordered same dish. We are so crazy about this dish.

Now we have become such a huge fans of Italian dishes that, when we eat out, it is usually Italian food. We have tried many dishes in different restaurants. We love them all, but amalfi is still one of the favorites. I have been trying to learn Italian cooking these days. Not that I have been very successful, but I keep trying. V’s only request every single time is – please learn to make amalfi. So this time, I read the menu carefully and made my version of it. I still don’t know what they use for the chicken, but atleast I know they use lemon cream sauce for the pasta. I tried this and it was just out of the world. I just fried the chicken in a skillet because I don’t have access to grill. But I am sure when grilled this would taste the best. I am not calling my version as amalfi, because this may not be the way they make it, its just my version.

This is my entry to Sig’s Grill It event.

1/3 rd pack (about 125gms) of angel hair pasta
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/2 tea spn chopped garlic
3 sun chopped dried tomatoes
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbl spn lemon juice
1 tea spn butter
Olive oil

Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and salt on both sides of chicken breasts and keep it aside for 30mins (Usually pepper and salt are added and immediately it is cooked, but I thought 30mins resting time would help chicken pieces to absorb the flavors).
In a skillet, spread some olive oil. Heat the skillet to screaming hot. Now add the chicken pieces. Do not disturb the pieces for few minutes. After a while, turn them upside down. When they are completely done, take them out on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them hot.
Cook angel hair pasta in water according to packet instructions.
In the same skillet used to cook chicken, add butter. Keep the flame on medium. When butter is melted add onion and garlic. Take care these two should not turn red. Fry only till they are translucent. Now add lemon juice heat for half a minute. Add cream(take care not to boil the cream. Just heat it till the cream is warmed up). Mix well. Add sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add Parmesan cheese, mix. Add the drained pasta, mix.
Serve the pasta with chicken piece.

Serves : 2
Preparation time : 20mins

Pasta with soya crumbles

About a year ago or so, somewhere on this blog I had mentioned that we both love pastas. So Gowri sent me this recipe. Thanks a lot Gowri.

I am not very fond of soya products even though I know it is good for health. Something about it’s taste used to put me down. (But for next few days it is one thing I want to work on. I will be cooking more with soy products). I ignored it for a long time and now I am kicking myself for this. I tried this yesterday. I was very hungry, tired and wanted something quick and easy. So I tried this and we both absolutely loved it. Note to self, “don’t judge any dishes, give it a try”. I will be making this more often now.

I didn’t have soy-crumbles with me. So I cooked some soya chunks and chopped them to tiny pieces. I topped it with some fresh basil from my vegetable garden and red chilli flakes. Gowri suggests to use soy crumbles (Morningstar Farms® Meal Startersâ„¢ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles).

I am sending this to Grow your own event by Jugalbandi.

1 and 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 ½ cup roughly chopped cabbage
2 cloves of finally chopped garlic
½ tbsp crushed black pepper
Olive oil
1/2 cup soy crumbles or soya chunks
½ tbl spn pizza seasoning or 1 tbl spn chopped fresh basil
Chilli flakes(optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to packet direction.
Heat olive oil. To this add chopped cabbage and garlic. Fry for few seconds (keep cabbage crunchy). Now add soy crumbles(if using soya chunks, cook them separately and then add) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add rest of the ingredients (except cheese). Cook for another 5-7 minutes. Take off the heat and sprinkle pizza seasoning ot basil. Serve with grated dry parmesan cheese, chilli flakes(optional).

Serves : 2
Preparation time : 15-20mins

Garlic flavored pizza

Garlic pizza
V and I love pizzas. We like to eat them once in a while at Pizza Hut. But I get a real urge to make my own pizzas sometimes. Recently, I was watching the show Emeril Live and it was a pizza special episode. I thought of giving the pizza base a try. I did a small addition. I added 1 tea spn fried garlic to the base. I wasn’t sure it would make a big difference, but I was so surprised at the result. The whole pizza had such a great taste. Next time I will try with 50% wheat flour, this time I decided to make it with whole purpose flour because I wanted to see how it comes out. It was just superb. For the first time, we finished the whole pizza in one go!!!.

1 cup water
1 envelope (2 and 1/4 tea spn) active dry yeast
1/2 tea spn sugar
3 cups(approx) all purpose flour
1 tea spn salt
Olive oil
1 tea spn chopped garlic

Heat water till it is lukewarm (105 F). I usually microwave it for 10-20 secs.
Now add the yeast, sugar, 1 tea spn olive oil. Leave it for about 10mins till the yeast becomes active. You can see some bubbles on top which shows it’s active.
In a pan, heat a little olive oil and fry the garlic till it becomes brown.
Now add salt, 2 cups of flour, garlic and mix. If necessary add more dough till it can be handled easily (but still a bit sticky. I would say something like chapathi dough). Knead it on a lightly floured surface for few mins. (Do not knead for long, just 2-3mins is enough).
Apply olive oil to a large vessel. Transfer the dough to the vessel. Cover the vessel with a plastic wrap and leave in a dry warm place for about 1 and half hours (or until it is doubled in size).
Take the pizza dough out from the vessel and spread it into a large disc. Drizzle some olive oil on top.
Spread a little corn meal over the pizza stone. Keep the disc on it.
Garlic pizza

How to assemble pizza:
Preheat the oven to 450F for 10mins.
Top with your favorite sauce(I use marinara sauce), vegetables(I use olives, onions, capsicum, sun dried tomatoes, jalapenos) and mozzarella cheese. Spread a little pepper and salt(optional). Drizzle little olive oil.
Garlic pizza
Bake at 450F for about 12-15mins.
Serve hot with your favorite sides.
Garlic pizza

Makes 1 large pizza

Vegetable pizza

One of my friends asked me if I am out of Konkani recipes because I am posting these non-Indian dishes continuously. No, don’t worry, I won’t run out of Indian recipes even if I write a post everyday for next 10 years(I am not exaggerating) and I am not even counting my experimental recipes. Many of my readers asked for this pizza recipe, so I thought of finally posting it.

Last few weeks, I have been experimenting a lot on pizzas. I tasted pizza for the first time at my aunt’s place in Belgaum. When I was studying in engineering college, I used to go to their house very frequently. One night, she had baked pizzas for dinner. That being my first time, I didn’t even know how to eat it. On the dining table, both my cousins(who are very younger to me), uncle and aunt were using their knives and forks to cleanly cut the pizza into small pieces. I was very nervous because I didn’t know how to use a knife :(. Then my cousin felt bad at my plight and he helped me. It was a “love at first bite” :).

After that we regularly started going to a bakery nearby our hostel to eat pizzas. After I moved to Bangalore, somehow I started hating them. The main reason was, I was working in a software company. Our first project needed all of us to work day and night (night literally meant, we used to work throughout night). On these days and on the weekends when we had to work (which was almost every weekend), people used to order pizzas for lunch & dinner. It continued till all the 30 people in the project had already eaten enough pizzas for one lifetime. If anyone suggested pizza, we would all get ready to attack that person :D.

So for almost 2 years, I never touched any pizza. Then one day, my cousin from Belgaum visited us. He wanted to eat in Pizza Corner. I was surprised that one large size pizza costed us 600Rs+. I vowed that day, never to keep my foot again in Pizza Corner :).

When I got married, I soon realized, hubby was a great fan of pizzas. Now we settled on Dominos. Somehow we always liked Dominos. When we came to USA, we are now back to Pizza Hut, but in Bangalore, we definitely prefer Dominos.

Initially when I started making pizzas at home, I always used ready made pizza base. But from last 1 year, I have not bought any base. I always made it at home. Initially I used to make the base with all purpose flour. But these days, I make wheat flour base for my pizzas. I also add few dried herbs which makes the base very tasty. I have experimented a lot with different toppings, different sauces etc. The one which I am posting below is my favorite one. Every time I bake a pizza, I make slight changes to it so that we don’t get bored of it.

Ingredients for Wheat base:
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 tea spn active dry yeast or 1 tea spn(5gms) fresh yeast
1/2 tea spn sugar
1/2 tea spn salt
1/2 tea spn Italian seasoning (a mixture of different dried herbs)
Extra vergin olive oil

In about 1/4 cup of warm water, add sugar and salt. (I usually heat water for 10secs in my ancient microwave). Add the yeast, slightly give a shake to the bowl and leave it for about 5mins. By this time the yeast starts working and you can see a kind of froth.
Now add flour, Italian seasoning and make it into a dough (of about chapathi dough consistency). Add more water if necessary. Pour some olive oil and mix well.
Cover the dough with a damp muslin cloth. I usually leave it as it is without covering, in a warm place. I usually start the microwave for 10secs, stop it and leave the dough there just to keep the dough warm. Leave the dough for 10mins. The dough increases to about double the volume in this time. If the dough is of same size as you started, then there is something wrong and you might want to leave the dough in a warm place for a little more time.

Press the dough to remove air. Roll the dough into a round using a rolling pin or just spread with fingers.
Prick the base with a knife/fork at few places.

Drizzle a little olive oil on top. Bake it in a preheated(heated to 300F for 10mins) oven for about 5-8mins at 300 F. I bake the base just to make sure even baking.

1 and 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 tea spn finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup onion cut into thin slices
1/4 cup capsicum cut into thin slices
1 tea spn chopped fresh basil leaves or about 1/4 tea spn Italian seasoning
1/4 cup fresh/canned pineapple
2 tbl spn chopped olives
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven at 450F for about 10mins.
Spread marinara sauce on the base. Spread all the vegetables on top.

Spread the mozzarella cheese on top.

Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Spread Italian seasoning or basil, garlic on top.

Bake it in oven at 450F till the cheese is melted.(about 12-15mins)

Serve hot.

Serves : 2

– I added ricotta cheese while taking above picture. I saw this in one of the Italian restaurants. I had this cheese with me, so added a little to the pizza. It tasted great.
– I like the fresh basil more than the dried herbs, it is very fragrant.
– Once I added crushed tomato on top instead of marinara sauce. I liked that taste too. I made marinara sauce at home once with Giada’s recipe, it tasted great. I sometimes buy ready made marinara sauce and use it when I am in hurry.
– Toppings can be used according to your choice. I don’t add mushrooms because my hubby is not very fond of them. But they taste great too. I sometimes slightly fry the onions and capsicums in olive oil before adding them to pizza.
– I add the garlic and herbs on top to give extra flavor to the pizza.

All said and done, please keep in mind, this is how I do veggie pizzas and in noway I am saying this is the ‘real’ and final version of it. There might be hundreds of different varieties people make and they may all taste great and be called the ‘real veggie pizzas’. I shall keep on improving and experimenting even with this version that I’ve posted and hope to get to the ‘real’, if there is one. Hope you all give this version a try and see if you like it.

Angel hair pasta lasagna

I have been cooking a lot of pastas these days. We love pasta, but the main purpose behind this is, I am hell bent on learning to make good pasta dishes. These dishes get ready in a very short time, so they are perfect for weekday nights when I return home tired with little patience to cook anything elaborate. A funky weather is adding to all my laziness. I somehow loaded up my pantry with different pastas, sauces, olives etc, which I need to finish. So all these are adding to the increased pasta/pizza nights :).

Initially when I started cooking pastas, it would always turn out to be an Indian version of pasta. I would have either fried garlic or onion till they turned brownish and it would give a very different taste to these dishes. Then I started following more closely and after many trials, I can say, I am somewhere close to the dishes available here in Italian restaurants. I hope one day will come when I can get the exact taste that is available in restaurants, fingers crossed :).

On one such trial and error days, I made this dish. It was inspired by one recipe – ‘spaghetti lasagna’, that I had found in a book called “Casseroles – simple recipes for hearty meals”. I twisted it completely to suit the materials I had in hand. It came out superb (otherwise I would not have posted it here). We simply loved it. So I am writing it down here before I completely forget it.

1/4 th pack angel hair pasta (1/4 lb)
1/2 tbl spn butter
1/2 tbl spn extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tea spn finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup marinara sauce
4 oz cream cheese (I used fat free cream cheese)
1 and 1/2 cup vegetables – Onion, capsicum, zucchini, olives, capers
1/4th cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tea spn pepper(approx)

Bring water to boil with salt. Pour the angel hair pasta. Cook till the pasta is almost done.
Heat olive oil and butter in a pan. Add garlic, onion and cook for a min. Add capsicum, zucchini and stir. Let it fry for 2-3 mins. When they are half cooked, add marinara sauce, olives, capers, salt, pepper, mix well and take out from heat.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.
Coat a casserole dish (I used a bread loaf pan) with baking spray. Spread half of the marinara sauce mixture in the dish.

Spread half of the cream cheese on top.

Spread half of the pasta on top.

Repeat remaining marinara sauce – cheese – pasta layers.
Spread Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 30mins at 375F.

Serve hot.

Serves : 3
Preparation time : 45mins

Vegetable Lasagna – 1

I can see some of you raising your eyebrows. You might be thinking what is this classic Italian dish doing in this blog. I am sure I will forget this recipe after few days if I don’t note it down somewhere. If I write in a book, I am sure I am going to loose it. So I felt this is the best place to save this recipe and such others which I keep experimenting.

Well, my husband and I have become a great fan of Italian cuisine. I first tasted it in San Diego 5 years ago when I was on a business trip. Our client manager, Vijay took us to this fabulous Italian restaurant and I simply loved whatever I ate there. Since my colleague, with whom I stayed there, didn’t like it, we could never go back to that restaurant. Then one day Vijay got us a big batch of vegetable lasagna which his wife had cooked for us. Needless to say, I alone ate that whole batch. It was amazingly delicious. I wanted to learn the dish from his wife, but there were too many hurdles to talk to her and get the recipe. But I never forgot the taste of the lasagna I had tasted.

So when we moved to Kansas in 2006, I always kept on telling my husband to take me to some Italian restaurant to eat lasagna. He is not a big fan of this dish, so whenever we went to Italian, we ordered something else. But on valentine’s day, I insisted on eating this. I asked him to eat whatever he wants and I ordered this dish. Two bytes into this and I was totally disappointed. He was relishing on his chicken amelfi, he had that look on his face, and I knew he was thinking, “I told you not to take that, but you didn’t listen. I am totally enjoying my amelfi”. So that was the end of lasagna for me, I had decided never to try it again, unless I happen to meet Vijay and his wife and she offers to make this for me, which looked highly impossible.

Then I saw a recipe request for this and I thought I have to give this dish a last chance. So I bought oven ready lasagna sheets. I referred pizzas and pastas by Tarla Dalal for the red sauce and modified it according to what I know about this dish. Then I remembered the white sauce recipe which I had seen in a TV show. I knew ricotta cheese is added to the lasagna. The final result was too good to believe. My husband who didn’t want to taste it before thoroughly enjoyed it. This may not be the authentic recipe, but I can assure, you will love this.

The first time I used a big baking pan, so the layers did not come out well. So second time I used a bread loaf pan and it was best suited for this.

Lasagna sheets
1 cup sliced eggplants
1 cup slices zucchini
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
Italian seasoning
Pepper powder
Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tea spn chopped garlic
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbl spn all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbl spn butter

Heat olive oil, add garlic and onion. When onion turns translucent, add eggplant, zucchini and cook on a low flame till they are little soft. Now add tomatoes, salt and cook till the tomatoes are slightly soft. Pour tomato ketchup, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and mix well. Switch off the heat after 2-3mins.

In a separate pan, heat butter and add all purpose flour, keep mixing to avoid lumps. Add milk and mix. When the milk boils, add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and mix well till the cheese melts and sauce thickens.
In a rectangular baking pan, line up aluminum foil. Cover the base with lasagna sheets. (Follow the instructions on the packet. Since I used oven ready sheets, I did not cook them before baking).

Pour a layer of red sauce. Arrange some pieces of ricotta cheese and then pour white sauce on top.

Repeat this (sheets-red sauce-cheese-white sauce)till all the sauce is evenly distributed. On the top, cover with lasagna sheets. Pour remaining white sauce on top. Spread some parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. (if this step becomes loose, the sheets fall apart when you take it out). Now bake in oven (along with foil) for around 45mins to 1hr at 350F. Check if the sheets have become soft.
Serve hot.

Serves : 2
Preparation time : 1 hr 15mins

Pasta and bean soup(Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli)

I am feeling that, my knowledge about non Indian cuisines is very low. I am trying my best to learn as much as possible about them . It is very difficult for a person like me, who has not tasted many different cuisines, to search for such recipes without knowing their names. So I asked a person who has a vast knowledge about Indian as well as non Indian food. Most of my food blogger buddies might have known who it is by now, yes it is indeed Pelicano, who has just started his own blog.

This is what he said, “The book this is taken from recommends whole-wheat Italian bread and a salad of endive to accompany this, but personally I never serve bread with a soup that contains a starchy ingredient as I feel this is redundant, and also excessive in simple carbs! I think this soup, paired with a nice salad and followed with a plate of fruit is quite enough for a simple meal”.

He sent me 3 recipes, an Afghani soup – vegetarian mosh awa, an Italian soup – Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli and one more dish. I don’t know much about pastas. So I picked up wrong pasta every time I went for shopping, though Pelicano gave me the name of pasta to be used in this soup. Anyway, after trying it out with different pastas(all wrong ones), I finally decided to choose the tiniest pastas from grocery store. I searched for it and found tiny “Stars estrellas” – “Pasta alimenticia” (well, I don’t know which is the name of the pasta and which is brand name, so thought of mentioning both). It is a Mixican pasta type, at least the packet says so.

I used the beans which I had. First time I used black eyed beans and next time I used dried green peas. The final result was too good. This is one more exotic soup and tastes heavenly.

1/2 cup dried white beans(navy beans)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tea spn finely chopped garlic
Olive oil
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped sweet bell pepper ( or poblano chile- large dark green)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tea spn oregano
1/4 tea spn crushed/powdered red chili
1/4 cup chopped tomato
2-3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta
1/2 tea spn fresh/dried basil
1 tea spn fresh/dried parsley
Romano or parmesan cheese

I didn’t use celery and pepper, still it turned very good.

Soak the beans overnight and cook them till they are soft.
Heat water and add pasta and little oil. Cook till al dente.
Heat olive oil and add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, pepper, bay leaf, oregano, red chili and saute till onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and fry for few moments.
Add carrots, broth and cook till carrots are soft. Add cooked beans, pasta, parsley and basil.Cook for around 10mins.
While serving, serve with cheese.

Serves :2-3
Preparation time : 40mins

PS: I have changed the proportions of the original recipe to suit taste. I have simplified the procedure.

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