Category Archives: Italian

Weeknight alphabet vegetable soup

When was the last time you had alphabet soup? Now that I think of it, I can’t remember ever having it, yet I always see the cute bag of dried alphabet pasta at the grocery store and think about making it.

My 5-year-old son has been showing an interest in cooking lately so we went to the library last week to check out kids cookbooks. One of the recipes was a tomato-based alphabet soup. He really wanted me to make it.

Fast forward to 4:30 p.m. today when I was driving home with zero plans for dinner. Thankfully I had already done the shopping for this meal. It came together in a jiffy!

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This soup is packed with flavor and nutrition. The reason for the flavor? Pancetta and parmesan rind. Both add wonderful depth to the soup.

I also made chicken meatballs and dropped those in while cooking. I didn’t include the recipe for those, but you could use Italian sausage or any meatball recipe you prefer.

The verdict? My son and husband gobbled up this soup! Plus, we all had fun trying to spell words in our bowls. So much fun.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Alphabet soup with vegetables

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 oz. pancetta, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced small
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4-5 leaves of swiss chard, chopped
  • 1, 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups frozen green beans
  • 1 chunk of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of canellini beans, liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 oz. dried alphabet pasta, or small pasta of your choice
  • 1 pound of meatballs or Italian sausage

Directions:

Add a little olive oil to a large dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the pancetta and sauté until cooked but not browned. Add the onion, carrots, chard and celery and cook till onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic powder, oregano, basil pepper flakes, parmesan rind and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Cover, bring to a simmer and turn heat to medium-low. Add raw sausage or meatballs and simmer, partially uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the frozen green beans and return to a simmer for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the beans and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid. Whisk the flour into the bean liquid and add this to the soup to thicken it slightly.

Add the beans and pasta to the soup and simmer for 7 minutes or until pasta is done.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Serve with generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

 

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Perfect stuffed mushrooms

The best stuffed mushrooms | a simple recipe from alaskaknitnat.com
Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley Flickr via Compfight cc

Perfect stuffed mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 carton of Costco baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup panko flakes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Chop stems finely and mix with the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions until the liquid has been drawn out of the mushrooms and the onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl.

In the same pan, add another tablespoon of butter and stir in the panko flakes. Sauté until the flakes are lightly browned, about two minutes. Place flakes in the mixing bowl with mushrooms and onions.

In the same pan add the loose sausage (remove from casings if necessary). Cook until meat is browned, about 7 minutes. Place the meat on a cutting board and chop finely. Add to the mixing bowl.

Toss in the Parmesan, parsley and cream cheese and mix thoroughly (hands are best). Add salt and pepper.

Stuff each mushroom with a heaping amount of filling and place on a baking sheet. Top with more grated Parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Quick dinner: creamy pesto with chicken

Pesto. I love pesto. I’m a traditionalist and tend to prepare it in the classic Genovese way but recently a friend told me his method, with cream and white wine, and I thought I’d try it.

I loved it! Pesto can sometimes have an overpowering garlic taste (it does contain raw garlic) so this version provides the flavor of pesto but is a little smoother.

If you use the Costco basil pesto then it’s a super quick meal, just perfect for a weeknight.

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

Weeknight meal: creamy pesto with chicken

Ingredients:

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

  • 1 lb. spaghettini
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2/3 cup pesto
  • 3/4 pound leftover rotisserie chicken, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon (optional)

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat. Add the wine and let simmer for about 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the pesto and chicken.

Drain the pasta. Add to the sauté pan and toss till evenly coated with sauce. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze a lemon over the top. Serve with a side salad.

White vegetarian lasagna with wild porcini

This is my favorite time of year in Anchorage. It’s cool, rainy and chock full of mushrooms. It’s a mushroom wonderland out there!

Aspen scaber stalk bolete mushrooms Inedible mushrooms found in Anchorage forests Inedible mushrooms found in Anchorage forest

I grew up eating boletus mushrooms and this year they have been abundant. If you’re interested in picking them, check out my handy mushroom guide.

Continue reading White vegetarian lasagna with wild porcini

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce

My husband travels for work so I’m frequently “solo parenting.” Working full time, picking up our son and getting dinner on the table by 6 or 6:30 can be a struggle. Tonight was really tricky since we got home late, but thanks to my rare meal planning this week I was able to put together a wholesome pasta dish in under 30 minutes.

By marinating the frozen chicken in the fridge overnight I didn’t have to make a mad dash to thaw it out and flavor it right before preparing the dish. I felt like a winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce

Serves 4

For the chicken marinade:

  • 5 frozen chicken tenders
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper

For the pasta:

  • 3/4 pounds pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

The night before, place the frozen chicken in a large Ziploc bag with all the marinade ingredients. Let sit overnight in the fridge. It’ll be delicious by tomorrow.

Place a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Cook the noodles according to packaging.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet with a tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, cook the chicken tenders till browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside. When cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Clean out the pan with a paper towel and add the rest of the oil and the butter. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook spinach till it’s wilted. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. When pasta is drained, add it to the pan with the chicken, Parmesan and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Sausage 101 — a photo & video tutorial

The kitchen is the heart of our family. My dad would spend the weekends making vats of marinara sauce and in the late summer my mom would be canning blueberry jam. Back when apples were cheap we’d make gallons of applesauce with the food mill and mix in low-bush cranberries for color. Most of my childhood memories are centered around cooking.

One staple in our family is sausage. I remember waking up early on Saturday morning to the loud humming of my dad’s homemade motorized sausage grinder. I was thrilled to stuff  hog intestines with meat — I was the best sausage stuffer in the family thanks to my deft, friendship bracelet-making hands.

Sausage-making 101 | a photo tutorial from alaskaknitnat.com. Learn how to make your own Italian sausage with this step-by-step guide.
Me, age 9, stuffing sausage with some old family friends.

My dad owns one of the most popular sausage-making sites on the Internet, sausagemania.com (yes, that is really the name). People from all over the world come to his site for his detailed recipes and tutorials.

When we decided to make 100 pounds of Italian and breakfast sausage this morning at 7:30 I thought it would be the perfect time to make my own tutorial for my little DIY audience.

Continue reading Sausage 101 — a photo & video tutorial

Spaghetti & Chicken with Lemon Thyme Mushroom Sauce

Sometimes I just don’t want to plan dinner. Today was the case as I opened my fridge at 5:10 p.m. to figure out what to prepare for my family. I came up with frozen chicken breasts, frozen broccoli, lemon and fresh thyme. I was uninspired, but decided to put the frozen chicken in the pressure cooker and figure it out as I went along.

Then, when my son called me out to the yard to look at the newest addition to his playhouse, the best thing happened: I found two pristine king bolete mushrooms standing proudly under our large spruce trees.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

I’ve been waiting all summer for this moment. King boletes are the most delectable of the mushrooms my family gathers and they happen to grow in my yard every summer from late July to early September. For the past three weeks I’ve been checking the areas under the spruce trees for these meaty, delicious fungi. They pop up overnight and you have to pick them when they are fresh otherwise bugs will lay claim to them.

As soon as I cleaned my two treasures I had formed a supper strategy. Lemon, thyme, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, chicken and pasta — yeah, that’s a good combination. By 6:15 I had a decent meal that was a real crowd pleaser.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Of course you can use store bought mushrooms, but if you happen to have wild porcini, I encourage you to cook them as soon as you can.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a Lemon Thyme Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry cooking sherry (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup of chicken stock in a pressure cooker. Line the bottom of the cooker with lemon slices. Add the frozen chicken, zest, thyme and salt and pepper. Set the pressure cooker to 35 minutes. When it’s done, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside and reserve the cooking liquid as well.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place broccoli and 1/4 cup chicken stock in a large sauté pan. Cover and steam over high heat for 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Set broccoli with stock aside.

In the same sauté pan, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat on medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms have given off their liquid and they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the sherry and let it evaporate, about 2 minutes.

Create a slurry with the flour and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Add this to the mushrooms and garlic. Once it’s thickened, add some of the stock from the pressure cooker until it’s a sauce-like consistency. Add some more butter if you want it creamier. Add the drained pasta, broccoli and chicken. Toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com