Category Archives: Food Experiments

Perfect Pasta Cooking

For some, cooking pasta perfectly becomes an ordeal. One frought with perspiration and needless worry. And maybe some frustration thrown around for good measure. Pasta is easy to learn how to cook perfectly, however. Once you learn how, you’ll ace it every time. Let the great folks over at Cook’s Illustrated tell you how!

After the water comes to a full roiling boil, add salt (a generous 1 1/2 teaspoons per half pound of pasta; most of the salt will go down the drain with the cooking water) and then the pasta. Stir several times to separate the strands and, if necessary, bend long noodles with tongs to submerge them quickly.

Vinaigrette Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad & Fish by Pastarella Maker
Pasta Salad & Fish, a photo by Pastarella Maker on Flickr.

The other night I decided fish topped with black bean-corn salsa would be on that night’s dinner menu, but I only had a vague idea of what I’d use as sides to complete this meal. One of my ideas was to do a play on this Everyday Food Broccoli, Chickpea and Cherry Tomato salad since DH’s not fond of chickpeas. The other was going to be chunks of grilled baguette with rubbed garlic and lightly buttered. Nice, right?

Pasta Salad by Pastarella Maker
Pasta Salad, a photo by Pastarella Maker on Flickr.

By the time the end of yesterday rolled around, DH decided he needed to stay late so he was going to drop me off at home so I could hit the grocery store across the street before starting dinner. By the time I got going, I decided I would sub out the chickpeas for slices of cukes from my FIL’s garden. I prepped it all and stored it in the fridge to assemble once DH finally got home.

He worked longer than I thought, but was as it turns out, he arrived home five minutes before the fish was to come out of the oven, so I jumped up and started the dressing for the side salad and to prep the bread for the oven toasting.

In my haste, I forgot all about the cuke slices as well as the bread chunks all together. Whoops. Oh, well. This side salad turned out beautifully anyway with its lovely vinaigrette taste that made both of us think of summer time picnics where the coleslaw was a huge draw. So nostalgic. The meal, as it was, turned out to be so filling, the MIA bread chunks weren’t missed at all.

Since there is only two of us, and I had to use up all of my broccoli in one go, I ended up with a lot of leftover salad. Without missing a beat, I took out the bowl of cooked tubetti pasta from the fridge I was going to use in a casserole or frittata on the weekend, and made another batch of the dressing to create a gorgeous and very satisfying cold (or room temperature) summer pasta salad.

This will be a perfect companion to any other meat dish I make for dinner this long weekend, or simply on its own in a bowl for a quick, filling lunch. The fiber content in this one salad alone blows me away. So, if you need to bulk up your fiber intake for heath concerns, give this salad a go!

[Recipe via MSL’s Everyday Food]

  • 1 pound broccoli, separated into florets (4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (I used white vinegar and it turned out nicely)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Wash the broccoli well, dry off and cut into florets and medallians as you cut up the stalks, taking care all of it will steam cook in the same amount of time. Finely dice up the red onion and place in big bowl to start the dressing. At this point, I added roughly the same amount of finely sliced red onion chunks to the salad for overall pleasing colour and texture. Cut the tomatoes in half and set aside till after the broccoli is done steaming.

In the bowl with the diced onion, add the other ingredients to make the dressing, whisking well the incorporate the oil with the Dijon and vinegar. When that’s blended well, add the broccoli and top with the tomato halves as well as the red onion slices. Toss all of this in the bowl and serve immediately, or at room temperature, or chill for use later as a cold side salad.

Some swap outs to the chickpeas if you’re not into them is tuna from a can, small pasta or cubes of any mild cheese. Really, you can play around and make this salad your own but adding more or stripping it down to just the broccoli. It’s your kitchen, it’s you’re choice, Chef. 🙂

Homemade Raviolo

Like little birds nests, one egg yolk rests inside a nest of spinach, ricotta cheese, bacon, mozzarella cheese and salt, wrapped up in fresh homemade pasta sheets and gently placed in rolling water to cook for 2 minutes (for soft, runny centres).

Simple, tasty and somewhat fast once you have the pasta and nest filling made. Make a great appetizer or interesting breakfast choice. I would recommend this recipe.




I used the leftover pasta dough I had from the homemade tortelloni I made the other day. It works nicely for this recipe as well.

Remember to send the sheets through the roller at their thinnest setting for at least three to five passes to make it as thin as possible. It won’t tear — trust me on this — but it will make for a great al dente pasta when doubled up and cooked for the right amount of time.

Acorn Cakelet Recipes & Help

Getting lots of search hits for the Acorn Cakelet pan from Williams-Sonoma; specifically for recipes to use with it.

I tried a few different types of cake mixes, from scratch and from a box, and in my experience the only ones that work best are dense cakes like sponge cake recipes. Flavour doesn’t matter, the density of the mixture does.

Someone also mentioned in their review using bread mix in this pan. There are many interesting and versatile uses for this pan as long as you put your creativity hat on and are open to trying new things in your kitchen.

One reviewer said she, Plan(s) on using my pan for cornbread, brownies and small stuffing acorns w/my turkey.” Those are some terrific ideas for this pan. Talk about thinking outside the die-cast mould! I will have to try them all myself to see if they work out well.

Hope that helps all of you.

Bonus: When making cookies or biscuits with a tacky or slightly wet dough, it helps to flour the mould. For cookies, I dust powdered sugar into the pan detail after spraying the pan with non-stick spray. For biscuits, I use a bit of the same flour used in the dough or a touch of corn flour to give it a nice texture when they pop out later. i mentioned this idea to the local W-S demonstrator, and her eyes bugged out because it was such an obvious and simple solution to working with their Nordic pans. You’re welcome, Williams-Sonoma. 😉

Homemade Tortelloni

Marcella Hazan’s brilliantly easy to make homemade tortelloni.  This delicious recipe can be found in her “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” cookbook.

  • Yellow pasta dough
  • Filling
  • Pasta sauce
  • pastasheet.jpg

    The Recipe: This recipe states it makes enough for six servings, and sometimes recipe yields are wildly off; this one isn’t. I cut the dough in half, wrapped up one lobe and froze it while processing with the second lobe for dinner. It yielded two full servings plus enough for a single serving for my lunch today. Next time I will know to cut the dough into thirds and freeze two lobes for future dinners for two, or I will take a whole day to use up the full batch and freeze what we don’t cook that night.

    The Dough: Awesomely simple dough that comes out silky smooth when put through my KitchenAid pasta roller attached to my mixer, a.k.a The Mixinator. I love making pasta! The only issue I had making this batch was it was drier than it should have been, but that could be because I should have used four XL instead of four large eggs, or even five large instead of four large eggs, to sufficiently moisten the flour to get it ball up. I ended up deciding to add 3 tablespoons of water (one at a time) to make up the difference.

    The Filling: The Swiss chard at the grocery store looked like doo, so I used clean, ready-to-cook bagged spinach instead. I also substituted prosciutto with breakfast chicken strips because we don’t normally shop at an Italian grocery store. No matter, the filling was just as tasty and balanced as if I had used the intended ingredients.

    The Tools: I already mentioned using my KitchenAid “The Mixinator” mixer, and the Kitchenaid pasta roller from my pasta roller kit to make the long pasta sheets, but I didn’t mention the other tools I used to stuff the totelloni. I used my lovely little mini ice cream/cookie dough scooper to dump about 2/3 of a scoop out onto the long pasta strips, leaving about 1.5″ gutters between each blob, running the full length. I positioned each filling blob right below an imaginary middle line along the sheet so that when I folded it over, I would have a bottom edge to press together after I added a dab of water to the pasta sheet. I then used my fingers to press the air out and the pasta sheets together all around each blob, as though I were tucking a blankie around a child. The final tool I used was my seldom needed pizza cutter. I ran it along the bottom and side edges to square them up neatly before cutting smack dab in the middle of each gutter between the tortelloni squares. Worked like a charm.

    The Cooking: I laid out each assembled and cut tortelloni square on a clean towel to rest before I cooked each batch in a pot of boiling, salted water. The squares drop to the bottom when they are raw and rise to the top when they are cooked. This happened in a matter of 2-4 minutes. I scooped them out using a slotted Chinese wire wok spoon, placed them in a bowl and covered them with the pasta sauce and freshly grated cheese.

    The Sauce: I was running late with dinner last night, and by this point tired of being in the kitchen, so I cheated by heating up some bottled pasta sauce I had to use up anyway. I will try Marcella’s accompanying pasta sauce from scratch the next time I make this tortelloni. And there will be a next time; most definitely! I made so many that I have extra to cook here at work today for lunch in a lovely clear chicken broth. I can’t wait for lunch time to roll around. Hee.

    All in all, I can’t find even one remotely negative thing to say about this recipe for tortelloni. It was super easy, about as time consuming as I thought it should be and tasted just as great even with ingredient swapouts. I don’t think you can go wrong with this recipe, kids. I give it a full 10/10 and a big “TRY THIS RECIPE!!”