creamy roasted tomato basil pasta

I apologize for not posting for a while, but I have a legitimate excuse this time, so please hear me out.  See I have this medical condition…

It’s called spring fever.

Let me elaborate.  It’s something between a head cold and a rash.  Just like a head cold, I feel lazy as ever.  Book report? Heck no.  Clean my desk? Yeah right. Like a rash, I can’t stop itching.  Itching to go outside.

In the winter time, I have nothing better to do than make fifty blueberry muffins and photograph them from different angles.   Now that it’s 80-degrees, with sunbeams and clear skies, it’s been a real struggle to get my butt in the kitchen.  (Let alone whip out my DSLR).  It’s nothing personal, I swear, my history book feels neglected as well, my elliptical machine could use some love, and my hair could really use some deep conditioning.

Alas, all I want to do is slip on my shorts, run out the door with nothing but my house key, and go exploring.  That being said, at this time of year there’s nothing less appealing than slaving over the stove for hours preparing dinner.  I’ve officially kissed all of my roux, stews, and marinades good-bye until the October boredom sets in. 

Lately, I’ve been coming home late, opening the windows, turning on some breezy music, and whipping up some sinfully easy (and delicious dinners).  The goal is for me to be in and out of the kitchen before the sun sets.  There’s really nothing quite like flopping over in the sun after eating a gigantic bowl of cheesy pasta.

This pasta is on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Using roasted tomatoes adds an extra smoky touch (that just gets me even more psyched for BBQ season).  Cheese. Ease. A gentle summer breeze… Talk about instant gratification.  Who said a girl can’t have it all.

This is classic, good, old comfort food, that doesn’t require arugula.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup basil, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 ounces fusilli pasta (or any good pasta shape for holding this rich sauce)
Directions
  1. Bring large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, start the sauce.
  3. In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
  5. Add flour to onion mixture and stir to combine. Let cook another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Slowly add half and half and then the milk, stirring continuously.
  7. Add tomatoes then cook another 7-10, stirring often, to let sauce thicken.
  8. While the sauce cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
  9. With
    an immersion blender, puree sauce until your desired consistency. I
    left a few chunks, but wanted my sauce pretty smooth.
  10. Add basil and Parmesan and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to your liking
  11. If sauce is too thick, add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water to thin it out, if you feel that is needed.
  12. Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine.
  13. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Greens N’ Chocolate

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

grilled guacamole with parmesan and basil

Looks can be deceiving.

When I was little, I avoided guacamole like the plague. My reasons for hating guac?  It was mushy, and it was green.  One day, when I was feeling a tad bit adventurous, I dipped my chip into the creamy, dip and I’ve been seriously obssessed ever since.

I must confess that I feel guilty about my former hatred of the wonderful dip, especailly since my two reasons for avoiding it (green and mushy) were not good reasons at all to miss out on all of guacamole’s magic for the first decade of my life.  To make up for this, I came up with three very good reasons to love guacamole.

avocados chillin’ on the grill
1.  Guacamole gets you friends.  Eating guacamole is a communal event.  Nothing says “be my friend” like a big bowl of chips and an even bigger bowl of guacamole.  Whip some of this out and you’ll be one of the most popular kids in town. 

Add caption
2. Guacamole is like nature’s form of butter.  It’s creamy, spreadable, and buttery.  And we all know how awesome butter is…

3. Guacamole is healthy.  It’s full of healthy fats, omega-threes, fiber and all that jazz. Did you know avocados are the most nutritionally complete food? Humans could theoretically survive on avocados alone. Pass the chips.  

Still skeptical?  This “guacamole” isn’t traditional at all.  First, it’s full of garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese instead of cilantro, lime and red onions — adding an Italian twist to the Mexican favorite.  Second, I grilled my avocados on the panini press, adding a whole new warm, crispy flavor to them (it’s proven that everything tastes better with grill marks…).  Third, I threw in some super savory ingredients like white truffle salt and a robust (somewhat pricey) extra virgin olive oil — these luxurious ingredients sure paid off.   It’s warm, herby, and cheesy — and it’ll make you look at this delicious dip in a whole new light.  Looks can be deceiving, but taste speaks for itself. 

Did you ever hate a food because of the way it looked?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
3
firm-ripe avocados

3
tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grilling (the fruiter and richer, the better)

juice and zest of 1 lemon

salt and freshly ground pepper  (I used truffle salt for extra savory flavor)

1
large clove garlic, minced

1/4
cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/2
cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to taste

Heat your panini press to the highest setting (alternatively, you could use a gas or charcoal grill).  Halve and pit the avocados.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

 
Place the avocado halves cut side down on the grill.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or until you can see crispy, golden-brown grill marks on them (check frequently to make sure they’re not burning).  Scoop the flesh out of the avocados and mash gently with a fork (I like to leave mine quite chunky). Stir in the rest of the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, basil and
Parmesan.  Serve immediately.
Adapted from Food 52

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

rosemary chicken

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at ones most solitary, a cook in
the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and
menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.”

My dad just got home from Newport and brought me a little tin box full of family recipes.  They’re all written out by hand and spattered with pasta water and melted chocolate. Although I have never met any of the women behind these recipes, each one gives me a glimpse into the lives they led.

I know that Ms. E. M. Langley felt very strongly about adding extra cheddar to her stuffed peppers, and that Mrs. Pierce liked to dip her doughnuts not once, but three times in powdered sugar.  Even though I don’t even know their first names, I think Ms. Langley, Mrs. Pierce are pretty cool, and I think we would all be very good friends.  (I don’t joke around when it comes to powdered sugar)

This got me thinking — what recipes define my immediate family?

We don’t have many heirloom recipes.  I don’t have a Greek grandmother who taught me how to roll a phyllo dough.  I don’t come from a long line of bread-makers.  We don’t even have a family recipe for lasagna.

Then realized that there are so many tastes that remind me of my family.

This rosemary chicken is one of them.  It’s a recipe that’s always been there.  It was simmering in the background when I learned how to ride a bike, when I broke my arm, when I thought bangs would be a good idea, when I went on my first date and when I got my first cavity.  It will still be simmering on the back burner when I learn to drive, when I go off to college, and when I get my first job.  It’s that good.  

It’s a simple recipe — chicken breasts covered in a luscious rosemary cream sauce that fill the entire house with the warm, comforting smell of rosemary and caramelized onions.
 
Someday, I want to be the lady behind a family recipe.  I’ll always add extra cheddar, and hopefully an aspiring cook someday will look at my recipes and think that I sounded like a pretty cool lady.

Do you have any family recipes?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped garlic clove
1 chopped onion
4 pieces of boneless chicken breast
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onions in olive oil.
Add chicken and brown.

Place browned chicken in a baking dish, leaving the browned onions and garlic in the pan.
Add cream to the skillet and mix with the onions and garlic. Add the cider vinegar.
Cook over medium heat, scraping up the brown bits, onions, and garlic from the pan. Add chopped rosemary. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce to about half.
Pour sauce over chicken in baking dish. 
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

instarecipe: quinoa fried rice

I have a confession.
Sometimes, I throw together amazing recipes… and I gobble them up before I can grab my big old DSLR.  I’m sorry, I can’t help it.  When I go back and try to recreate them for you all, I can’t remember what I did, and I end up not sharing my new culinary discovery. 🙁
Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I am Instagramming 24/7 — updating you all on  my socks, my dog, and my new nail color.  From now on, I’m also going to Instagram my spontaneous culinary creations so that I can share them with you all before I forget.
Lets start with lunch.
We just got back from vacation a few days ago, and the kitchen is still quite sparse.  We had egg whites, quinoa, and a bunch of frozen veggies.
Fried rice brings back elementary school memories for me. My mom would make it for me at least twice a week with salami and egg.  That flavor combination will always have a special place in my heart.
Today, I made a healthier and more grown-up version of this childhood favorite of mine.  I replaced the white rice with quinoa and replaced the salami and egg with vegetarian sausage patties, egg whites, and a ton of green veggies.
This lunch packs a ton of protein from the quinoa, egg, sausage and edamame, and a ton of vitamins from all of those green veggies — so it’ll keep you feeling strong all afternoon!
With love,
Erica

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quinoa (dry)
  • 1/2 +1/8 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sliced baby carrots
  • 2 frozen sausage patties (I used Morningstar farms)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder

Add the quinoa and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 12 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, put the sesame oil into a large frying pan and cook the egg whites.  Once set, add the saugsage patties and all of the frozen vegetables.  Cook until everything is defrosted.  Add the cooked quinoa and stir. Season with the soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, and curry.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5-10 more minutes.  Enjoy!

apple cornbread stuffing

 Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’ve been busy planning my menu for a while now.  I’ve already found the perfect cornbread, we’ve ordered a turkey, I have six pie crusts in my fridge… the only thing left is the stuffing! Stuffing has always been my favorite Thanksgiving dish, so this year, it better be good.  We usually make stuffing from a mix, but  I want to make homemade stuffing this year.  I was getting frustrated finding a recipe that measured up to Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing Mix.  The recipes that I tried all have either too much chicken broth, are to mushy, or are too oily.

Luckily, this one is different.  It’s not a traditional stuffing (i.e. you can’t actually stuff a turkey with it), but boy is it good. It’s technically a bread pudding, but when served in a casserole dish, it can totally pass for stuffing. It is a wonderful medley of sweet and savory flavors.  Apples, fluffy bread, and whipping cream complement sage, cornbread and onions.

This recipe is from the restaurant Ris in Washington D.C.. The Washingtonian has a series called “recipe sleuth” where they track down awesome recipes from famous restaurants in Washington D.C.. I love knowing that I can save time and money making real, restaurant food at home.  It makes me feel like I’m beating the system.

When I tested the recipe, I used a loaf of brioche from Whole Foods. However, there was a sale on panettone at the grocery store this weekend, so I am planning on replacing the brioche with panettone for our Thanksgiving feast.  I use homemade cornbread in this recipe (bake up a double batch, use half in this recipe, and serve half as a side dish); however, store bought cornbread would work just fine as well.

With love,
Erica

NOTE: The panettone makes this recipe absolutely delicious! Brioche and challah are good, but panettone makes this casserole absolutely legendary. If you can get your hands on one, by all means use panettone.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing ramekins
1 cup peeled, ¾-inch diced Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples
1 cup finely julienned onions
2 cups ¾-inch diced cornbread, from a favorite recipe or storebought
2 cups ¾-inch diced brioche or challah (I use Panettone which is DELICIOUS)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (blanch the leaves before chopping)
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 ounces apple butter (see recipe below)
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 cups heavy cream

Butter
the bottom and sides of eight 8-ounce ramekins and set aside. Preheat
the oven to 300 degrees for a convection oven or 325 for a conventional
oven.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a pan over medium-high heat.
Add the cut apples, letting them sit briefly to gain color. Stir and
allow them to cook a few minutes more until they’re lightly brown but
still firm. Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt the other
tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring
occasionally until they’re soft and lightly colored, about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.

In a large
bowl, combine the cornbread, brioche, herbs, salt, white pepper, apple
butter, and the caramelized apples and onions once they’ve cooled. In a
separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, Tabasco, and cream.
Add the egg mixture to the cornbread mixture and let soak for 10
minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Divide the mixture into each of the buttered ramekins, filling
each to ¼ inch from the top. Place the ramekins in a water bath and bake
for about 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
(This recipe can be prepared in a larger casserole form, which bakes for
a longer time, roughly 45 minutes. Again, test the doneness with a
toothpick.)


Apple Butter

2 Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples, peeled and sliced (roughly ¼-inch thick)
1 tablespoon butter

Melt
the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced apples, letting
them rest a minute or two to get color. Stir and cook a few minutes
longer so the apples are lightly brown and soft. Purée in a blender, and
let cool before mixing with other ingredients.

From the Washingtonian

recipe showdown: baked mac and cheese

Most of the trees in my neighborhood have lost their leaves.  I have to wear a coat to school everyday.  I’ve swapped my iced chai teas with pumpkin spice lattes.
What does this all mean?  It’s time to whip out comfort food recipes!
Nothing hugs the soul on a chilly day like buttery, cheesy goodness.

I can’t think of anything more “comforting” than a bowl of buttery noodles, swaddled in gooey cheese and topped with toasty bread crumbs.
I have a bunch of comfort recipes up my sleeve (mainly because they all look oh-so enticing when they pop up on my Pinterest board).  However, mac-and-cheese is the ULTIMATE comfort food, so I had to get this recipe out to you before Thanksgiving rolls around!

I tried recipes from some of my favorite blogs: The Cooking Actress, Martha Stewart, Brown Eyed Baker, and A Cup of Jo.
The winner of this Showdown was the Cooking Actress’ Brown Butter Mac and Cheese. It won me over with that lovely, nutty aroma of brown butter.  I got nervous when my dad said that it was “interesting” (he is quite the traditionalist, and “interesting” isn’t always great); however, he said that it was diffrerent in a good way.  The only change that I made to the Cooking Actress’ recipe was I used Honey Wheat Ritz crackers as opposed to regular Ritz.  The Honey Wheat crackers added a nice sweetness to the dish, which complemented the sharp cheddar and parmesan.

If you’ve got a family full of kids (or adults), this will be much appreciated at your Thanksgiving table.  As always, feel free to challenge my recipe!
What is your favorite comfort food?
With love,
Erica

oh-so cheesy


Description
It bakes up thick, cheesy and bubbly with a Ritz cracker crust. Completely irresistible, I tell you.
A baked mac and cheese with a Panko bread crumb crust.  (I omitted the pancetta for consistency)
Famously comforting with real bread crumbs and a dash of nutmeg.
Traditional, baked macaroni and cheese with nutty brown butter and a Ritz cracker crust.
Tasters’ notes
Too much pepper!

Funny taste
Good
Crunchy
Too many bread crumbs
Enjoyable
More traditional
Love the nutmeg!
Cheesy crust
Less cheese
Interesting
Different
Brown butter = yum!
Love that you used honey wheat Ritz, it adds sweetness!
Rating (best = 1)
4
3
2
1
I'm ready for my close-up
Ingredients:
  • 12 oz. pasta (I used a combination of elbow macaroni and egg noodles)
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • heaping 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • heaping 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttery crackers, crushed (I used Honey Wheat Ritz)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain.
In a medium saucepan, melt 6 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Whisk constantly as it foams and then small brown flecks form. Immediately whisk in flour.
Add milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until smooth and thickened.
Whisk in cheeses until smooth and not clumpy.
Turn off heat. Pour cheese over cooked macaroni.
Prepare a large casserole/baking dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Pour macaroni and cheese in.
Stir 2 tbsp. butter with the crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the mac'n'cheese.
Bake on middle rack of your oven on broil for 5-8 minutes (watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn!).
From the Cooking Actress