Category Archives: Pasta

Mock Risotto with Shrimp and Roasted Asparagus

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Mock Risotto with Shrimp and Roasted Asparagus (serves 4)

printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. orzo pasta
  • 16 asparagus stalks, cut into 1” pieces and roasted
  • 12 shrimp, thawed, deveined (and salt/peppered)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 oz. soft cheese (Neufchatel, cream cheese, or The Laughing Cow Swiss cheese)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated for topping
  • Parsley flakes, optional
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: 

1) Heat oven at 400 degrees. Trim asparagus stalks (around 2 inches off the base), then cut into 1-2” pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and roast for 10 minutes. Set aside.

2) In a pot, add orzo, onion, garlic, and 2 tsp. olive oil. Pour enough chicken broth to fully immerse all the ingredients, PLUS one inch. Cook on high until boiling, then lower heat to simmer, stirring intermittently.

3) Keep adding chicken broth as the orzo soaks in the liquid, while stirring, for approx. 15 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Add soft cheese, lemon and 2 tsp. olive oil, stirring until cheese has melted, and orzo is creamy. Add shrimp and stir for 2-3 minutes until cooked.

4) Take off heat, stir in asparagus pieces. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle parsley flakes (optional).

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When we were on our honeymoon in Croatia, I ate 3 things during a course of 2 weeks: Pizza, Gelato, and Risotto with Shrimp & Asparagus.

Sounds like we were in Italy, does it not? That’s because Croatia is right across the Mediterranean from Italy. They share a lot of culture. When we told people we were going to Croatia for our honeymoon, we got a lot weird looks. For some reason, nobody knew where it was. I’m one to talk, I suck at geography. But nobody knew how similar the food was between the two countries.

- Side story -

I was at a party full of some really ignorant people once. A conversation I overheard and eventually intercepted went something like this:

Person #1: ….I would never go to Tahiti. Did you see all the riots they have on TV? That place is scary!

Person #2: Oh yea, I saw that! Tahiti is a really violent place. I can’t believe people would actually want to travel there.

Me: Actually, I think you guys are talking about Haiti.

- End side story -

People have unsubstantiated fears of places they don’t know anything about. There always seems to be a reason NOT to travel somewhere, and unfortunately no substantial reason TO travel.

My point is that I like to travel off the beaten path. And while Croatia is very much ON the beaten path according to many Europeans, it is not in the case for Americans.

I really don’t like to speak for all Americans, but I can say that MOST do not have the urge to travel and learn about other cultures. Somewhere far and exotic would be, say, Canada. Maybe Hawaii. They just aren’t that interested. Propaganda tells them all that is out there is war, famine, violence, riots, and – now all the new rage to be terrified of, thanks to Dateline NBC – sex-trade. 

When I first went to Europe back in 2001, I had a lot of people tell me not to go. That it was dangerous. A waste of money. Why travel when you can watch the Travel channel?

When we told people we were going to Croatia last year, it was almost the same reaction. So most of the time I didn’t want to argue and just told them, we’re spending our vacation in Italy.

Then people responded, “OOOH, that sounds WONDERFUL (as they picture a Venetian canal with guy in striped shirt singing, probably)”.

Sigh.

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Back to the Croatian food. Since pizza was on the menu in most of the restaurants (even restaurants the locals went to) we had lots of it, and it was wonderful. When I wanted to take a break from all the pizza, I got seafood instead (we are on the Mediterranean). A dish that came up on every menu along the coast was Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus.

Risotto – Italian influence

Shrimp – I imagine it’s because we’re right by the sea

Asparagus – grows wild all over Croatia

I probably added another 3 pounds to my frame from eating this. I’m not a crazy carboholic, but if I had to choose any pasta dish I’d choose orzo. Then lasagna.

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I roasted the asparagus for 10 minutes, but you can roast it longer if you wish.

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You would think that we would’ve tried some more extraordinary foods in Europe. We did. We had tour guides (my husband’s uncle by marriage, who is Croatian, and an aunt).

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This is a mock risotto because I’m using pasta rather than rice. Don’t tell anyone.

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The longer I cook it, the more gooey creamy it gets.

I actually have yet to try Arborio rice for risotto.

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After the pot starts boiling, lower heat to simmer and stir intermittently because the pasta WILL stick to the bottom, especially towards the end of the cooking process.

Stir and add broth for 15 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Test it by taking a bite. I’m not sure flinging it onto a wall will work, since it’s not spaghetti. Plus you’ll have to clean it up and that’s a hassle.

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Add juice of a lemon with 2 tsp. olive oil.

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I cheated by using The Laughing Cow Swiss cheese spread. Don’t tell anyone.

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Stir in the cheese until melted and creamy.

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Add shrimp, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp is fully cooked.

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Remove from heat and add roasted asparagus slices.

Add salt and pepper to each serving NOW.

I didn’t add salt and pepper during the cooking process, because it would evaporate along with the broth and the pasta would’ve never gotten fully flavored.

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Serve topped with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with parsley (optional).

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Enjoy!

Spinach and Bacon Pasta.

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Don’t you just love playing around with things you have in the fridge and come out with something totally unique AND delicious?  At least, I believe this is unique. I haven’t seen it around.

It’s a cross between a Bacon & Spinach Salad / Pasta Carbonara. But instead of the egg tempered into the Carbonara sauce, it’s a fried egg on top, with hot bacon dressing. Did I really, really dare? I did.

I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese for this, but I had Feta. Plus, Feta goes well with spinach leaves. So everything works out once again.

It’s one of those things you whip up when you have a craving for: bacon, eggs and pasta. Put it all together and mix it up, just like a 4 year old would.

Spinach & Bacon Pasta – with sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, fried egg and hot bacon dressing drizzled on top (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. of cooked pasta
  • 6 cups spinach leaves, blanched and drained
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 to 4 eggs, fried sunny side up
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped and cooked (save the fat)
  • feta or parmesan cheese
  • chopped parsley (optional)

Dressing:

  • bacon fat, reserved
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. water

* number of eggs dependent on how many plates you’re serving

Directions:

Cook the pasta ahead of time, and fried eggs ahead of time.

Blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes, then take out and drain.  Mine weren’t blanched and released too much water later in the dish. Learn from my mistakes.

Whisk sugar, vinegar, water and salt together in a bowl. Set aside for dressing later.

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After you cook the chopped bacon, transfer it onto a plate with a slotted spoon.

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Reserving the bacon fat in the skillet, add the ingredients for dressing and stir together on Medium heat.

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In a large bowl, add pasta, spinach, tomatoes and bacon.

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Pour bacon dressing over everything. Mix together with tongs.

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Top with fried egg, feta cheese. Sprinkle parsley bits (optional).

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It sure looks like a giant mess. But I LOVED IT. It tasted so delicious. This is what happens when you stop yourself from buying REAL bacon for years and finally have the real thing. You want to savor it.

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