Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bake Rigatoni (Saturday Mar 14, 2010)

Tonight we had a few friends over for dinner. I was in the mood for Italian so I made baked rigatoni from Marcella Hazan from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

The rigatoni called for bolognese and béchamel sauces. This was the first time I've made a classic bolognese sauce--turns out it takes 3-4 hours of simmering and is not at all saucy.

None of the vegetables looked good in our local supermarkets (see my complaints on a local neighborhood forum), so I ended up using frozen spinach. I used it to make my version of a very venerable Italian dish which involved baking the spinach with vinegar, parmesan, currants, and a bit of sugar. I topped it with a mixture of panko bread crumbs, more parmesan, and olive oil.

Pine nuts are common in this dish, but we had just tossed out a huge bag of them due to a rumors of Costco selling tainted Chinese pine nuts. In their place I used some leftover chick peas, which worked great--in fact, I think chick peas will become a permanent part of this recipe for me. They're cheaper and healthier (especially in light of Cosco problem) than pine nuts.

I picked up a bottle of St. Michael-Eppan 2008 Alto Adige Pinot Grigio for the bolognese sauce. Wow, it was good and very flavorful (which isn't how I typically think of pinot grigio). I looked it up and it turns out the wine received a 90 rating from wine spectator. We're going to get more bottles of it.

For dessert Janet made carrot cake. I'm not a big carrot cake fan, but this one is great--I had two slices.

Homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Land o Lakes

Classic carrot cake is filled with coconut and pecans and frosted with cream cheese frosting.

Preparation time: 25 min Baking time: 40 min Cooling time: 1 hrs
Yield: 15 servings

1 cup butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, undrained
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 medium (2 cups) carrots, grated


3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
chopped pecans, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Combine 1 cup butter, brown sugar, sugar and eggs in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add mandarin oranges, 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and orange zest. Continue beating until well mixed.

2. Reduce speed to low; add flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in coconut, 1/2 cup pecans and carrots.

3. Pour into greased and floured 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, combine all frosting ingredients except chopped pecans in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth. Frost cooled cake. Sprinkle with pecans, if desired.

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