It’s still cloudy here in southern California today but tonight’s ragù was made with leftovers from the solar braised ribs I blogged about yesterday. Paired with a salad and a good glass of wine it makes a great weeknight dinner. Make sure to set aside 1 cup of the onions and 1 cup of the sauce from the ribs to make this sauce. It’s more than enough for a pound of rigatoni.
Rigatoni with Beef Ragù
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup cooked onions leftover from braised chuck ribs
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (14 ounce can) strained tomatoes
5 ounces leftover braised chuck ribs, shredded
1 cup leftover sauce from chuck ribs
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1 pound rigatoni prepared according to the instructions on the package
Heat the oil and the garlic in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the cooked onions and the wine and cook until the wine evaporates. Stir in the tomatoes, the shredded meat, and the leftover sauce. Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Toss the sauce with the butter and rigatoni. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.
With our new hectic schedules I’m finding new ways to use my Sun Oven. I’m keeping a close eye on the weather forecast and trying to get as much solar cooking done on sunny days as I can. I’m concentrating on things that can be used to put together for weeknight dinners and for packed lunches. Over the weekend I solar roasted a big batch of beets. I knew they’d come in handy for salads and such but tonight’s pasta may be my all time favorite beet recipe. I found it on epicurious.com and even if the beets are the only part cooked in the Sun Oven it definitely deserves to be included on this blog.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Solar Roasted Beets, Brown Butter, and Poppy Seeds
1 pound beets, scrubbed clean
1/4 cup water
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
As good as last Sunday’s pasta was, I still prefer that particular dish when it’s prepared the traditional way, so I spent the next few days searching for recipes that used similar ingredients but were more adaptable to solar cooking. I found one on epicurious.com, Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Torta, that consisted of layers of crespelle (an Italian version of crepes), bechamel sauce, rapini, and sausage.
The crespelle were way too much work and I didn’t like the idea of a butter based sauce (bechamel) combined with the other ingredients. I decided to make up something of my own. I used no-boil, whole-wheat lasagna noodles and made an olive oil based bechamel.
I think I’m on the right track, but as you can see in the picture I was a little short on sauce. The top noodles were too dry and I had to throw them away.
Once I get the quantities right this will probably be put on our dinner rotation. It makes a satisfying one dish meal and the leftovers are good for an easy to reheat lunch. And, of course, when I have those quantities I’ll post the recipe here.
Pasta with rapini is a common southern Italian dish. I adapted this recipe for the Sun Oven from one I found on epicurious.com where the pasta was cooked along with the vegetables risotto style. I don’t often make pasta in the Sun Oven (with the exception of lasagna or other baked pasta dishes) for a variety of reasons. But every now and then I like to give it a try.
Solar Pasta with Rapini
1 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 tablespoon olive oil
The Sun Oven and backyard cookouts are a match made in heaven. Here are some links to a few of my favorite crowd-pleaser recipes. And don’t forget the corn on the cob. Just give it a good wash and put in in the cooking chamber unhusked next to, or on top of, whatever else is in there.
All these recipes can be made in advance. I usually make the pulled pork and the baked beans the day before since they can be easily reheated and kept warm in crock pots. That frees up the Sun Oven for the mac’n'cheese on the day of the cookout.
I volunteered at the Arizona Humane Society today and here’s the lunch packed full of solar goodies that I brought with me. A Mac and Cheese Muffin, a Solar Lunchbox Drumstick, carrot and celery sticks, and a Solar Sour Cream Muffin with strawberries. Everything (except the carrots and celery) had been made in advance and was easy to put together before heading out in the morning. By the end of my shift six cats had gone to their new homes and one lunch had been thoroughly enjoyed. That’s what I call a good day.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t work from home just so I could pack a lunch. When I did work in an office I used to looked forward to my mid-day meal. Even though I’d made it myself, opening the various containers always felt a little bit like Christmas. But having some fun-to-eat, quick-to-heat up lunch fare is a good idea for those of us who work from home, too. Many days I don’t start thinking about lunch until I’m so hungry that I just start raiding the fridge and that’s never a good way to enjoy a meal. These mac and cheese muffins make a great quick lunch option.
I got the idea to bake mac and cheese in individual portions form “The Sneaky Chef” by Missy Chase Lapine. She bulks up otherwise not so heathy recipes with lots of vegetables, a trick I use a lot too, but since they’re mostly for kids they’re a little on the bland side. I borrowed her idea of using sweet potatoes, carrots, and eggs in place of the usual milk, butter, and flour roux, but, since I don’t have any picky-eaters to deal with, I spiced it up a bit and even threw in a bit of green. I’m sure any mac and cheese recipe could be made into muffins. They would be a great for picnics or potlucks.
You can used canned pumpkin (not pie filling) instead of the sweet potato and carrot puree. The recipe below makes more than you’ll need for the muffins. The leftovers can be frozen for future use.
Sun Oven mac and cheese will dry out if it’s not covered so it’s easier to use ramekins or silicone molds placed in a baking pan rather than a muffin tin.
Pancetta is an Italian bacon. It’s not smoked and has no sugar added. Purists will tell you that you must use pancetta (or the even harder to find ‘guanciale’) to make a true Amatriciana sauce. I used to be one of them until I got tired of spending excessive time and money tracking down exotic ingredients. American bacon may add an untraditional smokey flavor to the sauce but it’s still good.
Amatriciana Pasta Sauce
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans imported whole Italian tomatoes with their juices, chopped
Freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese for serving
Dried porcini mushrooms are packed full of flavor so a little goes a long way. I’m lucky, whenever I’m running low I get a friend in Italy to send me some. If you don’t have an Italian connection they’re still worth the hefty price tag, even if it’s only for special occasions. Be careful though, the market has been flooded with low quality impostors that lack the distinctive intense flavor and have a slightly bitter after-taste. Look for porcini that are imported from Italy or France and avoid those sold in bulk of unknown origin. The most common use for these mushrooms is probably risotto, but sometimes I like to use them in red pasta sauce. When I do I always save the soaking water to use for risotto the next day.
Tomato Sauce with Porcini Mushrooms
Well it turns out that as much as I love them both, combining pasta and pie may not be the best idea. I’m not really surprised, even in Italy it’s not a very popular dish. I may play with the concept in the future.
I’d like to come up with a savory pie that has an Italian flavored filling, but given the high calorie content of pie crust (which came out incredibly good for this pasta pie) it will probably be a while before I tweak this recipe. I’m thinking along the lines of a vegetable filling, maybe tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, and less pasta.