Category Archives: Pasta

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips

After my less-than-stellar morel hunt last weekend I needed to forage something more gratifying. It’s the perfect time for spruce tips. Pretty much all the spruce trees in town are boasting bright green tips with brown papery casings. I ventured as far as my yard to collect a pound of them. They required very little processing; just remove the papery casings and you’re good to go.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

I’ve never been quite sure what to make with these edibles. I’m not much for tea or jelly. I wanted something savory.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

I first referenced the Goddess of Alaska Forests, Laurie Constantino, and made a delectable dip with mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and minced spruce tips. It was perfect for the garlic bread crusts I had leftover on my dinner plate last night.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Recently a friend of mine told me about a Juneau-based blog that’s all about foraging Alaska edibles. There was an intriguing recipe for spruce tip gnocchi. I had to try it.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips

Harvesting Anchorage: Devil’s Club Pesto

As Part Two of my summertime Alaska blog series, I tried to harvest a few things such as fiddlehead ferns and fireweed shoots, but I only successfully cooked something using devil’s club.

You’ve probably encountered devil’s club in any Alaska forest. It’s pretty much the last plant you want to encounter because it’s covered top to bottom in sharp thorns that can easily embed themselves in your skin; but in the spring the plants produce short buds covered in premature, soft thorns. This part of the plant is edible. Is it good? That’s what I aimed to find out.

I embarked on my devil’s club hunt on a sunny spring day after the birch trees had started budding. I had no trouble finding a thicket of devil’s club up on the hillside. They all had 1-to-3-inch buds emerging from the dry, wheat-colored stalks. I used a gardening glove to pluck them and collected them in a bucket.

Harvesting Anchorage: Devil's Club Pesto | A free recipe from AlaskaKnitNat.com
This one isn’t quite ready yet. There should be an inch or two of green coming out of the brown sheath.
Harvesting Anchorage: Devil's Club Pesto | A free recipe from AlaskaKnitNat.com
This one is ripe for the plucking!

After getting stuck with thorns a few times I felt as though I had enough to work with. On the drive home my car started smelling like an Alaska forest. The devil’s club buds had a spicy, celery-like scent.

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Devil’s Club Pesto

Pasta with Chard & Sausage in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Time to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon. I’ve had a medium baking pumpkin sitting around the house for a couple of weeks and I’ve been putting off cooking with it because I have so little pumpkin-cooking experience.

I was inspired by a recipe from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks, but I also had items in the fridge I needed to use up, so I winged it a little. What I came up with was a flavorful casserole that was creamy, cheesy and somewhat healthy too.

You can use canned pumpkin, but I recommend baking your own using this method, as it was super easy and fresh.

Pasta with chard, sausage & mushrooms in a creamy pumpkin sauce | a tasty recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Pasta with Chard & Sausage in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

4-5 hot Italian sausages, casings removed

14.5 oz.-box farfalle noodles

10 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cups chopped Swiss chard

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1.5 cups pumpkin puree

3 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Pasta with chard, sausage & mushrooms in a creamy pumpkin sauce | a tasty recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil noodles till just al dente, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large saute pan, breaking it up as it cooks. Set sausage aside and in the same pan, add the mushrooms, onions, chard, salt and pepper and toss till coated with the sausage grease. Add a small amount of olive oil if needed. Cover and let steam for five minutes. Uncover, stir in the garlic and saute another minute.

Stir in the pumpkin, chicken stock and oregano. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Add the evaporated milk, sausage and parsley and bring back to a simmer. If it’s too thick, add more chicken stock.

Place pasta in a large casserole dish and pour sauce over noodles. Sprinkle in half the cheese and mix thoroughly. Top with remaining cheese (and more cheese if you’d like) and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Pasta with chard, sausage & mushrooms in a creamy pumpkin sauce | a tasty recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

This is a wholesome dish the whole family will love!

Pasta with chard, sausage & mushrooms in a creamy pumpkin sauce | a tasty recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Ravioli Nudi and the End of Summer Camp

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend End of Summer Camp, which proved to be a unique bonding experience for Anchorage grown-ups. I met bloggers, event planners, printmakers, food critics, photographers, storytellers and other local professionals all while enjoying nostalgic campy activities. The campers were fed by Fork Catering, and I took every available moment to enjoy their meals and chat with chefs Rob and Dave.

Chef Rob Kinneen taught a cooking workshop, which I eagerly signed up for. Turns out he was going to demonstrate homemade pasta-making. I’m familiar with making my own pasta, such as comb pastas, basil fettuccine and Russian pelmeni, but I was interested in learning techniques from a professional chef.

He led a hands-on lesson on tortelloni and ravioli nudi. The tortelloni, which were essentially large tortellini, were familiar to me, but the ravioli nudi were entirely new. The nudi are like ravioli without the noodle, literally naked ravioli. Instead you incorporate cheeses, flour, herbs and egg into a sticky, soft dough and create small dumplings, which are then boiled. They are sort of like gnocchi, but with cheese instead of potato.

Chef Rob Kinneen (left) instructs campers on how to roll out ravioli nudi dough.
Chef Rob Kinneen instructs campers on how to roll out ravioli nudi dough.

My only attempt at making gnocchi in the past was a complete slimy failure and Rob’s technique for making nudi could be easily translated to gnocchi. I had to try the recipe myself when I got home.

And I did.

Ravioli Nudi | Alaska Knit Nat

Ravioli Nudi with Spinach, Ricotta, and Parsley

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour plus about 1/2 cup for coating dough

Useful utensil: spider strainer

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and set beside the pot. Meanwhile beat together the eggs, yolks, garlic, chili flakes, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Incorporate the ricotta till smooth. Add the parmesan, parsley and spinach. Slowly add the 1/4 cup flour till a super sticky dough forms. It should be the consistency of thick, lumpy pancake batter. Heavily flour a large cutting board. Gently turn the dough onto the board and work in enough extra flour for it to be very soft and sticky inside, but coated on all sides in flour. Form the dough into a 1.5-inch tall rectangle.

Cut the dough into 1.5-inch strips and gently roll each strip around, dusting with flour, till coated evenly on all sides. Cut each strip on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces so you have small, oblong dumplings. Gently roll each dumpling around in your floured hand till they are each coated and no sticky dough is exposed.

Ravioli Nudi | Alaska Knit Nat

When the water is at a rolling boil, gently add the ravioli in batches so the water doesn’t cool down too much. Boil for just a few minutes, until the ravioli float to the surface. With a slotted spoon, strain out the ravioli and add to the ice water bath. Repeat with remaining ravioli.

Ravioli Nudi | Alaska Knit Nat

Now that you have made your ravioli nudi, there are lots of ways to serve them. Use them in any ravioli recipe, or fry them up with butter till lightly browned and crusty.

Ravioli Nudi | Alaska Knit Nat

Thanks again, Chef Rob, for your excellent instruction. I’m happy to add this technique to my repertoire.

Ravioli Nudi with Spinach and Parsley | Alaska Knit Nat

Leftover Spaghetti Pie

Growing up we had a lot of spaghetti dinners. It was common knowledge that my dad made a wicked marinara sauce, so much so that he was head chef at several of my school’s spaghetti dinner fundraisers.

We inevitably ended up eating a lot of leftover spaghetti, and I have to be honest, it wasn’t ever as good as the fresh stuff.

But sometimes my dad would whip together spaghetti pie. He would take the leftover pasta, stick it in a skillet with some eggs and cheese and bake it till it was crusty and delicious.

I don’t know his recipe, but I decided to try it out myself and it was an instant success — well, a 30-minute success. 

This is comfort food at its best and is perfect for a quick weeknight meal. Plus, it’s easy cleanup since you only use one skillet.

Leftover Spaghetti Pie - A Quick Weeknight Meal | Alaska Knit Nat

Leftover Spaghetti Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/2 pound leftover pasta

3 italian sausages, cooked

One jar of marinara sauce

1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

1/4 cup cream

Leftover Spaghetti Pie - A Quick Weeknight Meal | Alaska Knit Nat

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the cooked sausages into bite-sized pieces. Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high and brown the sausages on both sides. Meanwhile, roughly chop the leftover spaghetti into 2-inch pieces. Toss the pasta into the skillet with the marinara sauce. Turn heat to medium-low and heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese and the cream. Top with a hefty layer of cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Leftover Spaghetti Pie - A Quick Weeknight Meal | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps

Last year we picked hundreds of pounds of boletes — wild porcini mushrooms. We dried them and have since not consumed many of them; so before we hit mushroom season this summer we decided we better start using these earthy, flavorful morsels.

Wild mushrooms pair well with risotto. I had a half box of Barilla Orzo pasta, which look like grains of rice. I thought the orzo would taste super with portobello and porcini with a hint of lemon and garlic.

Costco sells a four pack of portobello caps for just a few dollars. I lightly marinated them in oil and vinegar then grilled them over high heat and topped them with roasted bell peppers and chèvre. The fresh arugula salad was the perfect accompaniment to the meal with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

This is a quick meal that’s hearty and vegetarian too.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad

Serves 3

Ingredients:

4 portobello caps

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

4 Tbs. butter

Olive oil

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 cup dry orzo pasta

2 cloves garlic

zest and juice of one lemon

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup crumbled chèvre

3 mini bell peppers

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

Bring a cup of water to boil. Pour over the dried mushrooms and cover. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the stems from portobello caps and set aside. Remove the gills with a spoon. Lightly score the tops of three of the caps with a paring knife. Reserve one cap for the orzo. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, the vinegars, one minced clove of garlic salt and pepper to a one-gallon ziploc bag. Carefully add the caps, seal and gently toss to coat the caps. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour.

Chop the stems and one portobello cap. Remove the porcini mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Chop the porcini. Set aside.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the orzo for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. Lightly toss with olive oil so they don’t stick together. Meanwhile, heat the butter and one tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated from them. Add the lemon zest and one minced clove of garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, till garlic is fragrant. Add the orzo, 1/4 cup of reserved mushroom liquid and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Toss thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.

Set all burners on your gas grill to high and heat for 15 minutes. Chop the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds. Skewer them on a metal skewer. Turn grill burners to med-high and set the peppers and the mushroom caps, top side down, on the grill. Cover and grill for about 4 minutes. Flip and grill another 4 minutes. Remove everything from grill and slice the peppers. Serve the caps with sliced peppers and crumbled chèvre alongside the orzo, sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

For the salad: Top baby arugula with sliced cherry tomatoes, blueberries and crumbed chèvre. Squeeze fresh lemon on top and drizzle on extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

How to Make Marinara in Bulk

I never thought I’d be a label reader. But then I had a child and started feeding him. I quickly realized there’s a lot of extra stuff in store-bought food. I could be making a lot of that food myself and it would probably be cheaper.

Then again I am pretty lazy. I’ll make homemade marinara every once in a while, but when I’m in a pinch, I just go buy the jarred stuff. If I want the good jarred stuff it usually costs about $4.

Here is where I take a lesson from good ol’ dad. My entire life he has cooked sauce in bulk and freezes jars of it for later. I’ve been saving quite a few pickle and sauce jars so why not give it a try?

How to Make Marinara Sauce in Bulk

It was easy and in the end cost less than half as much as store bought; and it’s probably twice as good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 GIANT 106-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes – $2.99 apiece at Costco

25 cloves of garlic, smashed

about 1/3 cup good olive oil

1/4 cup dried basil

2 Tbs. dried oregano

2 Tbs. sugar

8 dried red chilis

salt and pepper to taste

6-7 large 40-oz. jars with lids

 

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in an extra large stock pot over medium-high. When oil is heated, toss in the garlic and turn heat to medium. Stir frequently and sauté till garlic is golden, about five minutes. Add all the other ingredients and turn heat to high. Cover and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to med-low and simmer for about two hours, stirring every once in a while so sauce doesn’t burn.

Let cool and spoon into jars. Do not fill right to the top because the sauce will expand in the freezer and then you’d have a sauce bomb to clean up later. If sauce is still hot enough, the jars might self seal as once they cool on the counter. Freeze up to six months.

To thaw: Defrost in microwave according to your microwave settings or leave out on the counter during the day. Once it’s slightly thawed and can be loosened into a sauce pot, thaw the rest of the way over medium-low flame.

How to Make Marinara Sauce in Bulk

Pasta Alfredo with Peas and Salmon on a Bed of Arugula

In case you don’t live in Southcentral Alaska, it’s sockeye salmon season. If you do live in Southcentral Alaska then you, your brother, your coworker and your landlord’s cousin have a freezer full of salmon. My husband came home with 36 gorgeous fish and after 4 hours of processing we now have to come up with ways of eating this healthy, delicious animal.

Last night we grilled up simple salmon steaks with just butter and lemon pepper, but tonight I wanted something fancy. No, I just wanted pasta.

This turned out amazingly. Here’s how to make it. Please keep in mind that I eyeball everything so these measurements are approximate.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 small salmon fillet
butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 lb. pasta of your choice
fresh baby arugula
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon fillet, skin side down, in a baking dish. Spread butter all over your fillet. Salt and pepper to taste.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Bake your salmon for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When you see white “sweat” coming out of the edges of the filet, it’s done. Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook your pasta al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about one minute. Add the cream, cream cheese, and milk. Stir until cream cheese is melted. Add the nutmeg and cheese and pepper to taste. Turn down heat as soon as sauce thickens.

When pasta is almost done, add the peas to the sauce. Drain the pasta and add it to the saute pan. Mix till pasta is thoroughly coated in the sauce.

With a fork, flake the salmon into bite-sized pieces.

Line each serving plate with baby arugula leaves. Add the pasta and top with a serving of salmon.

Deeeeeelish!

Homemade Basil Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and More Basil

My friend Kelly and I wanted to make bruschetta today so we asked my dad if we could raid his homegrown basil. My father doesn’t just have an herb garden by the window. He dedicates two thirds of our dining room table to growing his own basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and now, hot chile peppers. He uses special hot pink LED grow lights for his little herbal infatuation and what he produces are the bushiest, biggest, almost mutant-like herbs and peppers. His basil is no exception.

When we went up to snag some my dad said “It’s either all or nothing” and forced us to butcher his entire crop. We were left with a conundrum — what the heck do we do with all this basil?

Make green pasta, ff course. And top it with more basil. Double of course!

We came up with the brightest green pasta, tossed it with a creamy sauce and then topped it with cherry tomatoes. Amazing!

And here’s how we made it.

Ingredients

For the Pasta:
3 cups flour
3 eggs
3 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt
3 tbs. olive oil
water

For the sauce:
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. pine nuts
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. Wondra flour, or regular flour
salt and pepper
chopped cherry tomatoes
chopped basil

To make the dough:
Add the flour, garlic powder and salt to a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the basil, eggs and oil and start processing. Through the little tube in the top, start slowly pouring in water until a rough ball of dough forms. Turn on to a floured surface and knead for a few minutes, incorporating more flour if it’s too sticky. What you should end up with is a smooth, elastic dough. Place in a bowl and cover with saran wrap for 30 minutes or so.

Set up your pasta roller. If you do not have a roller then this is going to be a long cooking job for you and I recommend putting your dough in the fridge and driving to a store that sells a pasta roller.

Using lemon-sized balls of dough, run it through the largest setting, folding it over itself and adding more flour if necessary. This kneads the dough for you. Make sure the dough isn’t sticky at all during this process. Fold the dough on itself and run it through this setting about seven times. Now start adjusting the rollers thinner and thinner, running the dough through once each time till it’s as thin as you prefer. I like setting 6 on my roller.

Flour each sheet of pasta on both sides and set on a cookie sheet. Repeat with lemon-sized balls of dough till you’ve rolled out all the dough.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and add the pine nuts, stirring frequently, till they are lightly toasted. Add the chicken stock, cottage cheese, salt and pepper, flour and Parmesan cheese stirring rapidly until it thickens. Turn heat to low.

Meanwhile, run your sheets of pasta through the cutters. I like the fettucini setting because the vermicelli can be stickier sometimes. If your pasta sticks together a little, just separate the noodles when they’ve gone through the cutter and dust with flour. Collect on a tray.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and stir to make sure noodles don’t stick. Cover the pot till it boils again and then cook the noodles for about 30 seconds. Test a noodle. It should have a bite to it. Before draining the water, reserve about 1/2 cup of the noodle water and add it to the sauce.

Steaming pile of noodle

Drain the noodles and immediately transfer to the saute pan. Turn the heat to med-high and add the tomatoes and chopped basil. Toss till the noodles are well coated and the tomatoes cook a little bit, about 3 minutes.

Enjoy all the hard work you put into making a delicious meal. You deserve it!

Whole wheat linguine with creamy sauce and peas

Ingredients:
3/4 pounds whole wheat linguine
1 cup of frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
2 tsp italian seasoning
several shakes of red pepper flakes
3 TBS fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 of a block of cream cheese
1/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente. Add the frozen peas at the end of the pasta’s cooking time just to heat them up a little. Meanwhile, heat up butter and oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic, italian seasoning and pepper flakes and slowly brown the garlic. Drain the pasta and peas and add directly to large pan. Turn up the heat, add all the other ingredients and toss till pasta is fully coated.