Toad's Kitchen

(mostly) healthy recipes for the family

Archive for the tag “pasta”

Pasta with Mushrooms and Spinach

This past weekend, I visited with family in Vancouver. Vancouver is one of my very favourite places, not only because many of the people I love live there, and the fact that it is a stunningly beautiful place, but also because it is a vibrant, multicultural feast for all the senses. I had the opportunity to go shopping with my sister-in-law, who is a formidable foodie. She has sussed out all the best places to buy ethnic foods, and we always go out together on food adventures…this time, we visited little grocery stores in Chinatown (she is Dutch-Chinese and was able to identify a lot of things I did not recognize or know the use of), and hit up an amazing Italian grocery store called Bosa. If you ever need *anything* Italian grocery-wise in Vancouver, Bosa will have it! I stocked up on pastas, antipasto, all kinds of things…a place like that is like the proverbial candy store to me. I could wander in there all day 🙂

One of my purchases was a dry spaghetti pasta containing hot chili. It is a pretty orange colour (it has a bit of tomato and garlic in it as well). I wanted to have it today, but had not been grocery shopping and did not have a huge variety of stuff to cook with it. Some of my yummiest inventions come to me when I have limited selection. The following is what I made, and it was, in my husband John’s words, “damn good”.

2 tbsp. avocado oil (or other high heat-tolerant oil)
one medium onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 pound brown mushrooms, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups fresh spinach (packed lightly)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash Old Bay seasoning
dash cayenne pepper
lots of freshly ground pepper
good pinch sea salt
250g (1/2 package) “spaghetti al peperoncino” – Italian hot chili pasta (plain pasta would be fine)
1 tbsp. olive oil
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to taste

Bring salted water to boil, and put pasta on to cook for about 8-9 minutes or until “al dente” (slightly chewy in the centre of the pasta), or longer if you prefer it to be softer.

While water is heating/pasta is cooking, heat avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms brown and lose most of their liquid. Stir in oregano, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, salt and pepper.

When pasta has about 3 minutes left to cook, add garlic and spinach to onion-mushroom mixture in pan. Stir in and allow spinach to wilt. With measuring cup, scoop 1/4 cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and add to the vegetables. This will make a bit of sauce. You may like to add another 1/4 cup, just do it carefully as you don’t want to make it too wet. The starch in the water will cause a bit of thickening of the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Drain the pasta when it is cooked to your taste, and toss with the olive oil. Mix in the vegetables and any liquid, tossing thoroughly.

Plate the pasta and top generously with freshly grated parmesan cheese. This amount could serve three people, but the two of us ate the whole lot. Buon appetito!

Top Chefs-inspired Leftover Pasta Idea

Don’t worry, I am not yet quite delusional enough to call myself a Top Chef – I have to say, though, that having recently watched Top Chef Canada 3, I found myself fired up and totally inspired by what those amazing chefs could produce on very short notice, often with no knowledge of what ingredients would be available to them!

The other day I made a double batch of Adrian’s Tomato Sauce (recipe posted on this site back in September) and a double batch of pasta to go with it. Adrian and his friend Hayden were coming to visit, and I wanted to make sure we had enough! Needless to say, there was a lot left over…the leftover pasta and sauce were mixed together in a bowl and put in the fridge, and we have been working away at it. Tonight, there was enough for one last meal for us, and I really did not want to eat it as it was…again. As we know, pasta absorbs sauce when it is left for any amount of time, so this stuff “needed help” – and not just lashings of cheese, again!

Wanting to do something creative with what was left, and not really wanting to  go shopping to do so, I thought about Top Chef Canada and the various challenges the chefs faced in their competition, which were always inspirational to watch 🙂 I rummaged though the fridge and pantry to see what all I had, and the following casserole is the result. 

This is kind of a “freeform,” recipe – I have listed the ingredients without quantities, because if you are in a similar position, you may not have the ingredients I used, or the quantity of pasta/sauce I started with. My only recommendation would be to add the pesto gradually as you want it to flavour and moisten, not be a sauce. Add other “fillers” to taste, and be creative 😀

Olive oil (EVOO for the flavour)
Cooked chicken breasts, chopped
Basil pesto
Sundried tomato pesto
Garlic scapes, chopped (flower tops of garlic plants – available at farmers’ markets -or just use some minced fresh garlic!)
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Panko breadcrumbs

Drizzle pasta with a bit of olive oil to moisten it very slightly. Mix in the chicken. Blob on some pesto (I used both kinds), a tablespoon at a time, and toss until pasta and chicken is coated lightly.

Mix in some of everything else listed as desired, except the Panko. Put mixture in a greased casserole dish. 

Make a gratin topping of grated Parmesan, pine nuts, and some Panko. Distribute this over the top. 

Bake casserole in 350 degree oven, covered with tinfoil for 15 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes longer or until heated through and top is crispy and browned. Good with a simple green salad and a flavourful red wine (we had a Spanish one) 🙂

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