Healthy · Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes · Vegetarian

Cauliflower Chiocciole and Cheese

I love this stuff.  It’s a mac and cheese with cauliflower, but with chiocciole pasta instead of elbow macaroni.  Chiocciole takes its shape from its name, which means snail in Italian.  It’s a great vessel for holding the cheesy sauce.  And the best part…it’s delicious and lower in fat than most mac and cheese recipes.  The original recipe is from the Real Simple website.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  Sorry about that.  I do have some fun stuff up my sleeve, so get ready.  I promise they will be worth the wait.

Cauliflower Chiocciole and Cheese

  • 12 ounces chiocciole or elbow macaroni
  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup 1 percent milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Heat oven to 400º F.

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sauté onion for 3-5 minutes, season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and add cheese, sour cream, milk, Dijon mustard and nutmeg.

Cook pasta according to the package directions (or just a few minutes under); adding the cauliflower during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  Transfer the cauliflower and pasta with a slotted spoon to the onion and cheese mixture.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake 12-15 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup bread crumbs with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, stirring frequently until slightly toasted and fragrant.  Sprinkle over baked pasta.

Drizzle with a finishing olive oil.  Good stuff.

We’ve been hard at work on the pizza oven.  And when I say we, I really mean Dad and Sunshine.  Check out these latest photos of the men at work.

Sunshine applying the mud over the insulation blanket and chicken wire.

Now we just have to wait for it to dry, and then apply the decorative exterior tiles and bricks.  And that makes Sunshine one happy boy.

Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes · Vegetarian

butternut squash ravioli

Sunshine decided we should make ravioli with the butternut squash I roasted last week.  A very good call.

Sunshine made the pasta dough, Sondi rolled it out, and then everyone had their hands in shaping the ravioli.  I love inviting friends over to make their own dinner.  Where’s Melissa?  Probably manning the camera.

I changed up the sauce a bit for my vegetarian friend, Chik.  I’ve made this before with chicken stock and pancetta.  This time I used vegetable broth and eliminated the pancetta and it was still delicious.  I think I’ll keep to my vegetarian version from now on.  Thanks, Chik.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Cider Cream

Ravioli filling

  • Roasted Butternut Squash
  • large scoop of mascarpone
  • large scoop of ricotta
  • snow flurry of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • salt and pepper

Cider cream sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 sage leaves, chiffonade, plus more whole leaves for frying
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • olive oil, for frying the sage leaves

Puree the butternut squash.  Add the mascarpone, ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano.  Season to taste.

Make the fresh pasta, let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out sheets of dough .  If you’re using the Kitchen Aide attachment: start on setting number one.  Fold rolled out dough into thirds, and pass through the pasta machine on the same setting, but rotate the dough 90 degrees.  Repeat.  Now you’re ready to pass through to setting number two.  Dust the dough with flour before changing to setting number three, four and five.

Now you’re ready to make the ravioli.

Using a small scooper or spoon, place ravioli filling in the middle of each cut piece of pasta.

Dab the edges with egg wash and then fold into a triangle or rectangle.

Press down around the filling to the edges of the ravioli to seal.  The ravioli can be frozen on a sheet pan and then transfered to a large ziplock bag.

For the sauce:  Saute the shallots and thyme in melted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add broth and cider, and simmer for 8 minutes.

Add cream and sage, simmer for an additional 5 minutes.  Add freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, mix to incorporate.  Turn off heat.  Fry sage leaves in olive oil until they stop sizzling.  Drain on paper towels.

Cook pasta until it floats.  It’s fresh, so it won’t take long.  Drain and then toss into the cider cream.

Garnish with fried sage leaves and additional parmigiano-reggiano.



Greg Schroeder, owner of Amazing Grapes Wine Store

Greg says:  The “safe” choice is an Alsace Pinot Gris for its touch of sweetness and acidity, but instead, I’m really into this obscure white grape from Campania Italy called Falanghina. The producer is Terredora and we have the 2009 vintage Falanghina.   I’m not the only person who liked it either; Wine Advocate scored this beauty 90 points!
Falanghina has a surprising richness in its almost tropical expression of fruit. The aromatics that emerge in the glass add further complexity to this generous and utterly engaging white. It is unbelievably delicious, and has this great finish of pumpkin and all spice on the back palate.  This will pair with your Butternut Squash Ravioli perfectly!

Here’s Chik!  Crazy vegetarian…

Cakes and Cupcakes · Chocolate · Dessert · Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes

a ghoulish halloween feast

I’ve been under the weather lately.  When I plan a party, I usually PLAN at party.  This time I just didn’t feel up to the task.  So…Sunshine and I went to breakfast on the day of our party, armed with cookbooks for ideas and came up with a plan.  After breakfast I went shopping for everything I needed.  I got home just after 1:00pm, which didn’t leave me much time.  I was like that crazy guy that got kicked off of Top Chef Just Desserts,  racing around the kitchen and running through the house. I got everything done in time for the party.
I just screwed up the frosting for the cupcakes, so sorry Jon, Nicci, Sunshine, Veronica, Joey, Michael, Thom, Laura, Mackenzie and Steven.  I fixed them today, if anyone wants to give them a try.  Sunshine ate an improved cupcake and said “that’s more like it”.  Nicci made a delicious pumpkin trifle, and Veronica and Michael made their famous caramel popcorn, so we did not go without dessert!

Nicci and Jon came as us!  So hilarious.

Steven was scary!  He did an amazing job painting our faces too.

Nerd alert!  Mackenzie and Laura…

Thom, the rat catcher.  Day late and a dollar short, Thom.  You look fabulous though!  Why are you hiding behind Sunshine?  No wait, that’s Jon!

Veronica the pirate, and Joey as Mario!  All I can say is OMG.

Michael and his strap on banana suit.  Don’t ask.  Hey look!  There’s Santa!

I stuffed peppadew peppers as part of our antipasto.  I mixed goat cheese with a little cream to thin the cheese to a spreadable consistency, basil chiffonade, salt and pepper.

Laura had a good time making the balsamic “caviar”.  What a nerd.  Well, she dressed up as one anyway.  Thom said she looked more like a Natzi Helga.  Whatever.  She will always be a little caviar nerd to me.

Thom had a good time prepping the tomatoes and flinging the cheese onto the plate.

Here’s the final plate, tomatoes, basil oil, and burrata adorned with balsamic “caviar”.

I made a marinara sauce and meatballs to serve over rigatoni for dinner.  Here are the recipes:

Marinara Sauce

  • 6-28 ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crush by hand or quick pulse in a blender
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed by hand
  • 1 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil to a large stock pot, add the pancetta and cook until browned and crisp.  Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for a couple of hours.  Add fresh basil and blend with an emersion blender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • olive oil for frying

Combine ground meat, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and water.  Shape into balls.  Heat oil in a 12″ skillet.  Add meatballs, be careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Cook thoroughly on each side, until deep golden brown.  Drain on paper bags lined with paper towels.

Candy Bar Cupcakes

These recipes are from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts cookbook.  This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.  I will make these again, and the next time I’ll follow the recipe!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter


  • 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
  • Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make cupcakes: sift dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.  On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, and the milk in 2 additions, alternating.  Combine for 15 seconds after each addition, or until just combined.  Divide evenly in among the paper lined muffin pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and insert comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from muffin pan and cool completely.

To make the caramel sauce:  Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Place over high heat and cover.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove lid and continue to cook until the color changes to a dark amber, about 7-1o minutes.  Remove pan from heat.  Whisk in butter until incorporated.  Slowly whisk in cream.  Add salt and vanilla.  Once cool, fill a squeeze bottle with pointed tip.

Inject the cupcakes once cooled with caramel sauce by puncturing the center of the cakes with squeeze bottle tip.

To make the frosting: Add chocolate to a bowl.  Heat cream until bubbles form, pour over chocolate.    Stir until smooth.  Add peanut butter, stir until well incorporated.  Let mixture cool.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter for 1 minute, until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar, salt, whole milk, vanilla and lemon juice, and continue to beat on high speed for 5 minutes.  Add chocolate and peanut butter mixture to the buttercream frosting.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe onto cupcakes.  Sprinkle with peanuts and fleur de sel.

Crazy fire show.

Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes

A quick bolognese

Finally!!  We haven’t seen Stephanie and Peter in such a long time!  They were off to Italy, and  then we were off to Cabo..and now we’re home.  They came to dinner last night, bearing gifts from their travels.  They brought us an amazing bottle of wine from Sienna, chosen especially to celebrate our anniversary… and some beautiful pasta from Harry’s Bar in Venice.

We enjoyed a little tomato bruschetta while preparing our quick bolognese.  I used the last of our San Marzano tomatoes off the vine in our garden.  I will so miss our summer tomato bounty.  It’s time to rework the vegetable garden.  Maybe I’ll grow carrots for the winter, and maybe some romanesco broccoli, fennel and lettuce.  Yeah, that sounds good.

I’ve been using this recipe from Food & Wine for years.  The original recipe calls for sweet Italian sausage, but Sunshine likes it spicy.  The bolognese is great with polenta too.  Here’s my version with a few adjustments.

Quick Bolognese

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds spicy italian pork sausage
  • 2 carrots, small dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bunch italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk or cream
  • freshly grated parmegiano-reggiano

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat.  Remove sausage from casing, and add to the pan, cooking until no longer pink.  Spoon off most of the fat.  Add carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add wine and let simmer for 3 minutes.  Add chicken stock, tomatoes and thyme.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Uncover, add parsley and milk, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve over pasta or polenta, sprinkle with parmegiano-reggiano.

The Cipriani pappardelle is made with kamut, an ancient relative of modern durum wheat.  The pasta is very thin and delicate.  Delicious!!!!!!!

Greg Schroeder, owner of Amazing Grapes Wine Store

Greg says…

I’d go with a juicy Malbec like the 2009 Budini from Argentina.   Very perfumed with aromas of ripe black cherries and some sweet oak. Full, fleshy, and jammy in the mouth with loads of ripe and spicy red and black fruits. Great structure with loads of ripe, fleshy tannins, and a long, long finish. Wow!

Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes · Vegetarian

a new house, a homecoming, and stuffed shells

Toy and Sondi got the keys to their new house while Toy was out of town for work last week .  We had to wait for her to come home before we could celebrate.

And then there is the tradition of the going away dinner and the welcome home dinner for whoever happens to be  traveling, in this case it was Toy.  Sondi made blue cheese stuffed burgers for Toy’s going away dinner.  I volunteered to make the stuffed shells for her welcome home dinner.

You could make your own marinara sauce, and mozarella, and ricotta if you really wanted to for this dish.  I’ll do that next time.  Maybe.

Stuffed Shells with Marinara Sauce

  • 1-28 ounce jar of marinara (Rao’s is my favorite)
  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup grated whole milk mozzarella

Add the pasta to a stock pot of salted boiling water and cook for 6 minutes.

Combine the ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, nutmeg, and egg yolks.  Fold in the basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add 1/3 of the jar of marinara to a 12X9″ baking dish.  Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture.  Top with remaining marinara, mozzarella and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Toy and Sondi’s new house.

Woohooo!!!  The champagne was mighty fine…

Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes

Make your own lasagna

Our really good friends, Danielle and Paul, came for dinner on Saturday.  We love the make your own pizza parties, and have done build your own polenta parties.  We wanted to make pasta, and thought it would be fun to assemble your own lasagna.  We made the  tomato bruschetta, and used that as a sauce, along with the  vegetable bolognese, both from previous posts. We had sausage, a ricotta and spinach mixture, chopped hard boil egg, parmesan, mozzarella, and broccolini to fill our pasta.

Danielle and Paul brought an amazing antipasto from Monte Carlo Deli to start off the evening.

They also brought a fabulous Brunello di Moltacino… incredible bottle of wine.

Sunshine made the pasta using the recipe from our cooking class in Italy.

Check out chef Helene Stoquelet from Ristorante La Bottega del 30, and our instructor at Scuola di Cucina.  That’s a very long sheet of pasta!

Fresh Pasta dough

  • 1 pound 00 flour
  • 5 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Make a well in the center of the flour.  Add eggs, salt and oil.  With a fork, begin mixing liquids with the flour.  Then knead together with your hands, until well blended and dough is smooth and slightly moist to the touch, about 10 minutes.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.  Roll out the dough and cut into desired shape.  Add to salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve rolled out the dough.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So a video must be worth a whole lot more.

Paul and Danielle’s lasagna, ready to bake.

I had a really good time.

OMG.  How do I sign up for a self cleaning kitchen?

Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes · Vegetarian

Vegetable Bolognese

I love porcini mushrooms, and they are the star of this vegetable bolognese.  I bought my dried porcinis in San Francisco at the Ferry Building.  I used the last of them for this dish.  Now I’ll have to go back for more.  The recipe from  Giada De Laurentiis is awesome.  I added a lot more porcini than was called for.  I didn’t have tomato paste, so I replaced it with pureed sundried tomatoes.  I also added more wine.  Here is the recipe with the original quantities.

Vegetable Bolognese

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

Rehydrate mushrooms in hot water until softened.

Place vegetables in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Add mushrooms and pulse to combine.

Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Saute vegetables along with thyme and oregano for 6 minutes.

Add tomato paste and wine, and continue to cook for 1o minutes.  Add mascarpone cheese and serve over pasta.