Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Pastas for Fall!

As much as I love cooking with ground meats - beef, turkey, chicken...nothing quite matches the flavor of ground sausage, already mixed with mouth-watering seasonings.  Sausage adds a touch of elegance to dinner recipes from soups to sauces to pasta.  Johnsonville offers a number of brilliant varieties of sausages, and I incorporated them into some comforting dinners as we welcomed Fall into our home. 

I don't think I can ever tire of sausage.  I sauté sliced sausage with colorful peppers, crumble them from their casings and cook them in soups, roast them whole or simply cut in half, and use them to flavor up any kind of rice dish.   One of my favorite things to do with sausage, though, is to use it in place of hamburger for my pasta sauces.  In particular, using sausage in a tomato-based spaghetti sauce adds a certain type of zing, especially if there is some sort of spice involved.  I take a small sharp knife and slip it into one end of a sausage link with the blade pointing out and run it the length of the sausage, cutting the casing.  Wanting to try something new, I came across this Johnsonville recipe that called for grilling sausages and slicing them into coin-sized pieces before combining with a pasta sauce:  Italian Sausage Rigatoni.  I was intrigued by this new take on a red sauce, so decided to try it.  I parboiled the sausages before placing them on the grill to brown nicely, sliced them up, mixed everything together, and sure enough, this pasta was delicious and satisfying. 

The second recipe I served this month was a Creamy Pesto Gnocchi.  To be honest, gnocchi is not my favorite form of dumpling, but there is a little Italian market near my home that makes them fresh and sells them by the 1/2 pound.  How could I resist the thick, pillowy little things?  I love pesto and I love sausage so I knew this recipe had to be a hit.  And it was!  The fresh peas and diced red bell pepper added to both the color and flavor of this dish.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

And, lastly,  cream based sauces are my favorite.  I tried this Bowtie Pasta recipe, and loved the spicy flavor that came from the red pepper flakes and Italian sausage together.  Truly a quick meal that makes you look like a superstar -- with the perfect blend of fresh herbs and spices, this is an easy and beautiful dish for company, or just to impress your whole family. 

Johnsonville, thanks for helping us make some authentic Italian dishes this month!! 

Ore-Ida...yep, we're fans!!

We are a family who loves potatoes - mashed, baked, grilled, fried, braised, the list goes on.  Forget the fact that the potato is an important worldwide crop and a source of nutritious just plain tastes good, no matter how it's cooked.  The spud is kind of a humble veggie, and it's a surprise gift from terrain in North/South America, Europe, and worldwide, springing forward with such versatility.      

This is why I was so pleased to be using Ore-Ida products this month in their partnership with  I used three of their products -- french fries, tater tots, and shredded hash browns.  They were perfect for quick and delicious meals. 

I started with French Fries.  They were easy to make, and tasted the same as the homemade "pommes frites" I make for the kids every now and again.  This was much easier because the frozen fries were ready to go.  After baking, I topped them with our favorite seasoning of kosher salt and a little bit of pepper.  In the past, I've also sprinkled Parmesan over the fries, or covered them with minced cloves of garlic sautéed in a little bit of olive oil.  These frozen fries baked up perfectly and offer an equal comparison to any European delicacy.  Here's another great recipe with some Cajun seasoning...Cajun Baked French Fries

My next foray was with Ore-Ida's popular crowd pleaser, Tater Tots. was so easy to whip up this casserole with a crowning layer of these delicious potato bundles.  Talk about hot dish heaven.  This dish is very similar to something Grandma used to make, and brought back all kinds of cozy memories.  Loved how the tater tots crisped right on top.  Tater Tot Bake

And lastly, I made hash browns as a side for our Saturday breakfast.  It's a staple breakfast food in most diners, and was so easy to replicate at home with this brand.  I used nonstick cooking spray on my griddle to keep it healthy, and cooked them until they were a beautiful golden brown.  They were the perfect side to eggs benedict, with a hollandaise sauce made by hand.  Here's my recipe:  Hollandaise Sauce

Ore-Ida.  When you need to make a meal fast, this brand comes through to round out any meal.