“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”

I have three go-to tomato sauce recipes that I use. The first, for when I have done a bit of forward planning, is the tomato sauce from Polpo and requires 90 minutes cooking. The second, from Food52’s Genius Recipes, requires 60 minutes cooking. The third, a recipe of my own design, requires maybe 10 minutes (if that) to make. So I feel as though we’ve got tomato sauce covered over here.

But now I’ve got a fourth recipe to add to my repertoire. What Alison Roman wants you to do is to roast bog-standard tomatoes for 3 or 4 hours. Following that you do the usual routine: sweat an onion, add some spices and then add some anchovies for saltiness. Then you tumble in the now sweetened, softened tomatoes. You have to gently break them down and then you have the most glorious thick tomato sauce. You can thin it to your heart’s desire using some of the pasta water you’re making alongside it.

While, yes, this method does require more forward planning than I usually deploy, the result is absolutely worth it. Delicious and highly recommended.

(The picture doesn’t do it it justice, but trust me. Yum.)

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“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”

“Quick Puttanesca Spaghetti” from “Bosh!”

Maureen: Meat free Monday! This is from the new cookbook.

Andrew (18): What’s the new cookbook all about?

Maureen (cautiously): It’s by two guys with beards. They’re obviously hipsters.

Nicholas (14, Suspiciously): But what’s it ABOUT? That doesn’t tell us anything.

Maureen: It’s all about healthy eating.

Andrew: And?

Maureen: OK. It’s vegetarian. [The table erupts with displeasure.]

Nicholas: A whole month of eating vegetarian? NO WAY.

Tim: I’m predicting this right now: you’re going to make maybe two things, we’re not going to like them, and then this book is going to the charity shop.

Maureen: We don’t know that. Maybe there will be lots of good things in there. This looks nice. Hang on, I have to take a picture before I put some parmesan cheese on it.

Tim: That’s not very vegan of you.

Nicholas: Wait a minute. Not only is it vegetarian, but it’s VEGAN? This gets worse and worse.

Maureen: How very open minded of all of you. Come on, we have to give it at try. It’s the whole point of the blog. This spaghetti is nice.

Andrew: Sure, it’s fine, but it’s better with cheese on it.

Maureen: I forgot how much chopping is involved with vegetarian meals. I’m definitely going to have to factor that into my prep schedule.

Tim: Sure, this spaghetti is good, but I’m still sure this cookbook will be off to the charity shop by the end of the month.

Maureen: We’ll see.

“Quick Puttanesca Spaghetti” from “Bosh!”

“Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Yorkshire Pudding” from “Comfort”

March is such a funny month. Not quite winter anymore, but not quite spring. You get fooled into thinking that spring will be arriving when you’re greeted with a sunny morning, only to abandon that notion by dinner time when the temperature has dropped to single digits (celsius).

The recipe is firmly in my favourite food wheelhouse: copious cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and a cheese delivery mechanism, which in this case is a Yorkshire pudding. Yum. Just the sort of thing to warm your belly on a cold March night.

As soon as I surmised that Nicholas, Hater of Spinach, would not be joining us for dinner, I decided to make this. However, what I forgot to account for is that his brother, Andrew, is not a huge fan of mushrooms (it’s the texture, he says). So just after I asked, “Doesn’t this look delicious?” he replied, “Are there mushrooms in this?”

Curses.

Needless to say, Andrew was not a fan. But that’s his loss because the adults at the table loved this. In fact, anyone who didn’t have an aversion to spinach or mushrooms would probably enthusiastically eat this, like we did.

John Whaite’s genius idea is to make a Yorkshire pudding, take it out when it’s done, slather it with loads of cheese, spinach and mushrooms (with the latter two ingredients fried when the yorkshire pudding is baking) and then bake it again. Honestly, it was sublime.

Highly recommended for people who don’t have food aversions.

“Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Yorkshire Pudding” from “Comfort”

“Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Andrew (18): Is there meat in this?

Maureen [Sarcastically, but above all, loving]: I dunno. What day is it? Is the clue in the name.

{Editor’s note: The day, in fact, is Monday. And Andrew will know that means Meat Free Monday.}

Andrew: It’s Monday. So, no.

Maureen: What do you think?

Andrew: It would be better with some bacon in it.

Maureen: Nearly everything could be improved with the addition of bacon. But that would defeat the purpose of a meat-free dish on a meat-free Monday.

Nicholas (14): I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the mushrooms.

Tim: I think it’s nice.

Maureen: I agree.

Andrew: Can you even call it Shepherd’s Pie if there’s no meat in it?

Maureen: I refuse to get my phone out at the table to answer that question. I will find out later.

[Editor’s Note: According to Wikipedia, Andrew is right. It’s not a Shepherd’s Pie if there’s no meat in it. It is called, in fact, a “Shepherdess Pie.” There’s no explanation as to why a meatless pie would be feminine, but there we are.]

Maureen: Would you like me to make it again?

Tim: Sure, I liked it.

Andrew and Nicholas: No thanks. A regular Shepherd’s Pie is fine, but we’d rather have some meat.

“Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”


Meat Free Monday!

Tomato soup is one of my favourites, so I was happy to give this one a go. In fact, five years ago on this very blog, I shared my easy you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep tomato soup recipe, which I’ve copied and pasted below. I still make it all the time, and love it.

The trick to this one, like the Gwyneth Paltrow recipe I reviewed five years ago, is to roast the tomatoes ahead of time. However, Gwynnie had us roasting the tomatoes for five hours (FIVE HOURS! Not a typo), whereas with this one, you only roast them for half an hour, which is far more reasonable. Consequently, the roasted tomatoes take on much more flavour than just using chopped tomatoes. Even Tim, who is not a fan of tomato soup, said he liked this one. So in the future, I definitely will roast some tomatoes if I have the time.

The other thing that I cheated on for this recipe was you were supposed to pour the soup into mugs, and then broil a grilled-cheese lid. I’m very wary of doing this, as I once had a bowl shatter that I thought could take the heat of the broiler but could not. So what I ended up doing was making the grilled cheese toasts under the broiler, and then popping them on the top of the soup once they were done. I also threw some extra cheddar cheese on to the top of the soup, just for good measure. I mean, what can’t be improved by the addition of more cheese?

As far as I was concerned, this was a winner.

Quick Tomato Soup, for when you’re starving and time is of the essence: Chop up one small red onion, either by hand or if you’re really hungry and want to eat ASAP, in your food processor. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil, add onion. Once the onion is soft and fragrant, add one can of chopped tomatoes. Depending on how thick you like your soup, add either 1/2 can or 1 can of water, vegetable stock or milk. (I went milk. Yum.) Add one teaspoon each of oregano and basil. Boil until thick. You can either puree soup or keep it chunky, depending on your preference. Done. Time taken? (including set up) 7 minutes. Even Jamie Oliver would approve. 

“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Everyone should have liked this. It’s pretty much a risotto-adjacent dish, though you use farro instead of arborio rice. However, please note the use of the term, “should” because while I thought everyone would and should like this, not everyone did. And when I say, “not everyone” what I really mean is the teenagers.

I’m not really sure why they didn’t like it. It really was sort of like a risotto, and they love risotto, both traditional and Nigella’s fake (which is on permanent rotation in this house). But for whatever reason, the teens weren’t buying it. They didn’t like it and didn’t eat it. And anyone who’s met a hungry teenager will know that not eating when hungry is a very rare occurrence indeed.

The adults liked it, though. But I’m hardly going to make something again if half the house didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat it, so I don’t see this making a return to our dinner table any time soon.

You win some. You lose some.

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Creamy Macaroni and Cheese” from “Dinner in an Instant”

Sometimes, you really ought to follow your instincts.

In this case, when I first saw this recipe, I thought, “Why in the world would you want to make macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker.” Quickly followed by the second thought, “How does it work? I’m so intrigued I want to try it.”

Melissa Clark even says in the introduction, “Why make macaroni and cheese in an electric pressure cooker when it’s so easy to do on the stove? You’re not necessarily going to save any time with this method, but cooking it all in one pot does make things more convenient.”

Having now made this recipe, I respectfully disagree. This was a disaster.

We definitely are experts when it comes to judging macaroni and cheese in this house. By my count, we’ve tried at least six via this blog. Our favourite, perhaps even a Desert Island Dish, would be this version from the New York Times. Delivers every time. For when we have less time, I’ve also made this version from Melissa Clark’s previous cookbook, “Dinner.” It’s also a winner. (It’s also very quick. It only takes about 15 minutes to make.)

Honestly, I should have just stopped considering it when my initial thought was that you couldn’t really cook macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker. I mean, technically, you CAN, because we did end up with a dinner of macaroni and cheese. But I won’t bother to do it this way again.

The reason, quite simply, is that clean up requires a monumental effort. Not surprisingly, no matter how much butter you put on the bottom of the pot, it’s still going to burn when it’s cooking on a high heat for six minutes. Once the macaroni and cheese was taken out, we found a pot that was completely black at the bottom, which required a huge multi-day cleanup effort. It’s funny how the picture above does not accurately reflect the level of burning that went on, but trust me, it was significant. At least there was enough non-burnt macaroni and cheese to feed everyone.

The burning had a secondary effect as well: the macaroni and cheese ended up with a distinct smoky taste. Smokiness can be excellent in a variety of dishes, but not in macaroni and cheese, which should deliver the creamy goodness we know and love.

Would I make this again? I think you all already know the answer to this question.

Macaroni and cheese in a pressure cooker? Just don’t do it.

“Creamy Macaroni and Cheese” from “Dinner in an Instant”