July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Amanda Agati created this tasty sophisticated pasta salad just in time for the fourth of July. This pasta is best served room temperature which makes it perfect for an outdoor barbeque and July fourth. Amanda recommends choosing a pasta that will absorb the sauce nicely, such as Cavatappi- which is a thick, curly pasta.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad Recipe

Ingredients

2 lbs Pasta, preferably Cavatappi

1 large eggplant- chopped in small cubes with skin on

5 large roasted peppers

½ cup Pignoli nuts

2 bunches of arugala, washed, drained and de-stemmed and torn

1 Large Pepperoni Stick

½ lb pitted large Moroccan olives, coarsely chopped

Two small jars of Artichoke hearts, drained

½ tsp of Crushed Hot pepper flakes

8 cloves of garlic- minced

1 Small can of tomato paste

½ lb Ricotta Salata- sliced into cubes

Preparations

1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Boil the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is boiling, place the eggplant on a tray and drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast eggplant in the oven until lightly roasted. Let eggplant cool to room temperature once roasted.

2) Cover the bottom of a small sauce pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot, place minced garlic and crushed hot pepper flakes in the sauce pan. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper.

3) While the garlic cooks, puree the roasted peppers in a blender and add to the sauce pan when the garlic is lightly browned. Mix can of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of water to thin out the paste and) add to the sauce pan. Let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes on low heat. Then let cool.

3) When pasta is ready, place in a colander and rise with cold water to prevent further cooking. Let pasta drain.

4) Once the sauce has reached room temperature, mix in slowly to the pasta little by little, just enough so the pasta is lightly coated in the sauce. There should be no excess sauce.

5) Toast pignoli nuts in the oven, on 325 F until lightly brown. Watch the pignoli nuts carefully, as they burn easily.

6) Add pignoli nuts, olives, artichoke hearts, ricotta salata, and eggplant to pasta salad.

7) Slice pepperoni into thin strips about one inch long. Add to pasta salad.

8) Mix pasta salad well. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

9) Sprinkle pasta salad with arugala just before serving.

Entertaining With: Amanda Agati

Amanda Agati

Entertaining is a skill that takes practice to acquire but when you’re a guest of Amanda Agati’s, she makes entertaining seem effortless. Amanda and her brother Greg hosted an elaborately catered pool party for about thirty guests last weekend. And Amanda herself presented us with a colorful variety of summer dishes poolside.

With an eye for food and fashion, Amanda’s culinary prowess is as impressive as her own. Amanda’s astute preparation allows her to wine, dine, and schmooze her guests without worrying about the food. Amanda’s charm paired with her divine seasonal fare make her an excellent hostess and an even better caterer.

Amanda’s attention for detail in the kitchen is apparent and appreciated in her execution. From appetizers to desserts, you can tell that the components in each dish were meticulously placed which is what makes them so refined.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Grilled Vegetables

Amanda says she never follows any one recipe. When asked about how she comes up with recipes Amanda says, “I create new recipes of my own based on dishes I’ve eaten, recipes I’ve read, and my own ideas. Anyone can follow a recipe, but to create a new dish that is completely your own is really challenging and rewarding, but it is also exciting- and that is where my passion stems from.”

Moroccan Chicken

Steak Fajitas

The elegant presentation of Amanda’s food is reflective of the sophisticated ingredients she takes care in using such as the arugula and ricotta salata in her Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad. But with her favorite foods & ingredients being lobster, truffle oil, rabbit, and homemade pasta I’m not surprised! In regards to her sophistication Amanda says, “I have a high appreciation for fine dining since my parents exposed me to a variety of fine cuisines at a very young age. In college, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, a place I consider to be one of the great food capitals of the world. I also traveled extensively throughout Europe exploring regional cuisines. Enjoying great food is one my many pleasures in life.”

Entertaining by definition is to hold someone’s attention and Amanda Agati has clearly mastered that! At 24, this young and beautiful caterer has captured my attention with her enthusiasm for both food and life. Amanda is a third year law student at Fordham Law School and is currently interning with Burberry’s Intellectual Property Legal Department. Her interests include dancing, traveling, the culinary arts, and fashion. Amanda caters for small gatherings and intimate dinner parties, and can be reached at TheCutieFoodie@gmail.com to plan your event.

To be able to cook for people and share my love of food with them brings me great satisfaction,” Amanda Agati

Chocolate Cheesecake

Giada’s Stress-Free Pasta

After watching an episode of Giada that focused on stress-free Italian cuisine, I couldn’t wait to make her Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Now I’ve been known to watch quite a few cooking shows, so I am not easily tempted. But something about the combination of flavors in this dish inspired me.

Like all Hartley Confections recipes, I’ve revised Giada’s dish to suit my budget, available ingredients, and tastebuds. Hartley Confections’ Gemelli Medley features a hearty pasta accompanied by a medley of hot sausage, fresh cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Despite slight variations (using 7 items from the Top 10: Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients) all of the flavors remain the same and are equally delicious. I hightly recommend using gemelli pasta, which is probably fusilli’s sister, as it has a similar spiral shape though it is thicker and more narrow. I’ve found gemelli to be an easy pasta to keep al dente as it takes a great deal of time to overcook this particular type of pasta. I also recommend starting out with less cheese, and adding more as needed to keep the fat to a minimum!

I’ve halved the recipe which proves to be about three large servings that are great for stand alone meals. The Gemelli Medley is easily re-heated and makes a tasty, recession friendly, on-the-go meal which can made in 30 minutes!

GEMELLI MEDLEY

Gemelli Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian hot sausages (pork or turkey), casings removed
  • 1 (8-ounce) can artichoke hearts
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1  cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 8-12 ounces (1/2 – 3/4 of a package) gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)
  • 4 ounces fresh or shredded mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparations

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, about 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the broth and wine. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Next add the cherry tomatoes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gemelli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse).
  6. Gemelli MedleyAdd the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, spinach, basil, and parsley (if using) to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if needed.

Bright Green Pasta Salad

With summer comes seasonal produce and with barbeques come pasta salad. The result is a wonderful blending of year round favorites with fresh green vegetables like pasta & broccoli!

Although it’s doubtful that my pasta salad could trump Mrs. Bernacchio’s, I certainly try my best with this seasonal recipe whose philosophy is “the more garlic, the better“.  But though this recipe has very few ingredients, a bit of multi-tasking is required if serving warm because you are dealing with three things:

  1. Roasted Garlic
  2. Pasta
  3. Broccoli

If you are a novice cook,  then I recommend making the broccoli beforehand and then reheating it, if serving hot. This dish would also be excellent with fresh or sun dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, artichokes, or even grilled chicken. Feel free to mix it up!

BRIGHT GREEN PASTA SALAD RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • kosher salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/8 cup olive oil + a few tablespoons for drizzling
  • 2 heads fresh broccoli (could use frozen but won’t have as much texture)
  • 1 lb penne (or your favorite pasta- rigatoni, bowties, etc)
  • Fresh Basil, chiffondaded (optional)
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Preparations

  1. GARLIC: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel the garlic cloves’ outer layers and slice about 1-2 inches off the top, so you can see the “meat” of the garlic. Wrap the cloves in aluminum foil and lightly drizzle the tops of the garlic before completely sealing. Then roast in your oven for 30-35 minutes or until garlic cloves are soft.
  2. BROCCOLI: While the garlic is cooking, trim and chop your broccoli into small pieces (slightly larger than bite size). You can either sautee or steam the broccoli until crisp and tender. I usually eye ball the timing.
  3. PASTA: And while your broccoli is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta until al dente (follow boxed instructions).
  4. When the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, peel them from their shells and dice as best you can. Since the cloves will be soft, they can get a bit mushy. The trick is to cook them just enough so that they don’t reach this point. But they are delicious either way you slice it.
  5. If you time everything correctly (which admittedly take some practice) your broccoli and pasta should be ready at the same time. Hopefully this is the case and you can drain the pasta from the water, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  6. You can then combine the steamed or sauteed broccoli, al dente pasta, roasted garlic, cooking liquid, olive oil, and chicken broth. Sprinkle with kosher salt & pepper to taste and then to with the basil chiffonade & parmesan cheese. And voila…. Bright Green Pasta Salad!

Pasta Salad with Broccoli & Roasted Garlic

Elegant Italian

I’ve been waiting some time to visit Bowery Hotel’s Italian hot spot Gemma. But since they refuse to take reservations for less than six, and are always mobbed with eager foodies I just gave up. But when the opportunity arose to dine at Gemma during lunch, I knew it was meant to be.

Gemma’s decor is rustic but elegant. Glistening candelabra chandeliers hang from high ceilings surrounded by wooden tables and candles adorned with dripping wax. This dark but beautiful space comes alive at night when all of the candles are lit and the room is filled with chic diners. In the early afternoon Gemma was fairly quiet with few diners other than ourselves.

Gemma's MenuGemma’s menu is filled with wonderful Italian specialties such as Artichoke & Parmigiano Salad dressed with Truffle Vinaigrette, Papparadelle with Oxtail Ragu, and a vast selections of cheeses, charcuterie, and pizzettes. But having looked over their menu and read many reviews in preparation for my first goodbye lunch, I already knew I was ordering the Branzino Al Forno, which also happened to be the most expensive item on the menu. Oh, well!

My boss Andres suggested we begin our meal with the polenta fries and the calamari which were both delicious. The polenta fries were dusted with fresh parsley and served with a chipotle aioli that complimented the fries perfectly. And the calamari was cooked with garbonzo beans in a savory marinara sauce that I couldn’t stop eating.

Polenta Fries & Chipotle Aioli

Polenta Fries & Chipotle Aioli

Calamari with Garbanzo Beans sauteed in a Marinara Sauce

Calamari with Garbanzo Beans sauteed in a Marinara Sauce

For our main courses we ordered the Branzino, Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro,  Rigatoni, & a Margherita Pizza.

Gemma Branzino Al Forno; Roasted Mediterranean Sea bass on Cedar with sauteed green beans

Branzino Al Forno; Roasted Mediterranean Sea bass on Cedar with sauteed green beans

Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro

Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Rigatoni; Procuitto Cotto, Peas, and Cream

Rigatoni; Procuitto Cotto, Peas, and Cream

All of the dishes, aside from the pizza were wonderful, especially the Goat Cheese Ravioli. The plump fresh tomatoes in the marinara sauce were phenomenal and were a great pairing for the goat cheese.

Gemma is a great place to go for both lunch and dinner and is probably worth the wait during peak evening hours. Definitely try the Goat Cheese Ravioli and the Artichoke salad which I unfortunately did not order this time around.

Entertaining: DIY Pizza

Despite my bite sized kitchen, I love to entertain. And now that the weather is getting warmer, barbeques are a plenty and it’s nice to have an easy and affordable alternative, such as pizza!

You were probably thinking I’d say fruit salad, corn on the cob, or even pasta salad. But pizza, in summer… well, it’s genius! Pizza is another one of those foods that you’re quick to purchase because it’s quick, affordable, and delicious. And for someone whose looking to entertain, homemade pizza makes a greater  starter or main course and will most definitely impress your guests!

Pizza is an ideal food because of its versatility. Pizza can be vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, and will probably fall into a plethora of other categories that are important to health conscious, allergy-cautious, or religiously observant eaters. Pizzas are also very easy to make as they can be cooked in the oven on a sheet pan or pizza stone (which I highly recommend), a cast iron pan, or even on the grill (on a sheet pan).

To save time, I like to buy pre-made dough which you can pick up from a local pizzeria or at Trader Joe’s (which comes in white flour, whole wheat, or herb flavors for 99 cents). I also like to have some corn meal on hand which I spread at the bottom of the baking dish or pizza stone before cooking.

Grilled Pizza This past weekend I decided I’d try and grill my pizza on the barbeque. Though I’d seen recipes where the dough was cooked directly on the grill, I had a feeling that the dough would stick to the actual grill leaving me with very little to work with. Because I used a sheet pan to grill the entire pizza, from dough to cheese, the pizza didn’t retain the smokey flavor I was after. I guess next time I’ll have to try my luck by grilling the dough.

But whether you’re grilling pizza or baking it in the oven, you’re guests will taste and appreciate the homemade goodness of a DIY Pizza.

Margherita-Garlic Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Pizza Dough
  • Extra Flour
  • Marinara Sauce (up to 4 cups)
  • Fresh Mozzarella (8 oz), thinly sliced
  • Chopped Jarred Garlic (1/8 cup)
  • Fresh Basil, chiffonade
  • Olive Oil

TOOLS

  • Rolling Pin
  • Pizza Stone (or Aluminum Sheet Pan/Baking Sheet)

PREPARATIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees and begin heating your pizza stone until oven is completely pre-heated.
  2. Spread out about 1/4 cup flour on top of your countertop. Roll out pizza dough into one long rectangle that will fit on your pizza stone.
  3. Once the pizza stone is preheated, take it out of the oven and spread a light coat of corn meal on the bottom of the pizza stone.
  4. Lightly coat one side of the dough with olive oil and place that side facing down into the pizza stone. Then lightly coat the other side of the dough with olive oil and a few tablespoons of chopped garlic.
  5. Then spread anywhere from 2-4 cups of marinara sauce over the pizza dough and losely cover with the 8 oz of fresh mozzarella and basil.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is no longer gummy but crunchy and the cheese bubbly.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Pizza, Brooklyn Style

Grimaldi'sAt this point in my life, it’s pretty embarrassing that before Sunday I’d never been to Grimaldi’s. I say “at this point” because

1) I’m a Foodie
2) I’m a New Yorker
3) Pizza is my roommate Sarah’s favorite food
4) My second favorite food is cheese

Though there are probably more Pizza places per block in the five boroughs than anywhere in the world (well maybe not Italy), Pizza is one of those foods that we can never have enough of. Thin crust, thick crust, marinara, white, sausage, veggie… the options are endless. And clearly if the perfect pizza already existed, a new pizza place wouldn’t be opening every other week, right?

So what makes Brooklyn pizza, or Grimaldi’s for that matter, better than pizza in Manhattan, well I’ll tell you…

Grimaldi's Pizza

According to Grimaldi’s, a great pizza is made with three things; fresh, quality ingredients, know-how, and a great oven. Once you’ve tasted Grimaldi’s pizza, you can attest to their fresh ingredients. Grimaldi’s original thin crust pizza is dressed beautifully with a slightly sweet marinara and topped with incredbly fresh mozzarella and basil. They also offer a choice of  16 toppings from their home smoked roasted peppers to sweet italian sausage. But as far as their know-how and great oven, you need to see it to believe it.

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi's

Grimaldi’s bakes anywhere from 300-400 pizzas every day and probably more on weekends. And how might you ask? Aside from their very capable staff they have a great coal fired brick oven that reaches a firey 850 degrees and pumps out pizzas in two minutes flat! Apparently, it’s the coal-fired oven that distinguishes Brooklyn pizza from Manhattan pizza, since coal-fired ovens aren’t permitted in Manhattan. But Serious Eats seems to have disproven this theory based on their coal-oven pizzeria map. So please, someone tell me how they are different?

But regardless of the Manhattan vs. Brooklyn Pizza battle, Grimaldi’s is a Landmark and a MUST TRY for tourists, New Yorkers, and anyone after a world-renowned pizza. After all, owner Patsy Grimaldi learned from the chef of America’s FIRST PIZZERIA, Gennaro Lombardi. (Lombardi’s is next on the list…I know I can’t believe I haven’t been there either!)

Grimaldi'sGrimaldi’s is certainly one of the best pizzerias for thin crust New York style pizza. Though I must admit that a standard slice of cheese pizza is more up my alley.