At Paolo’s

Actually this is Mamma Mia’s in Salaya but the place owes a lot to Paolo’s personality. He’s a great host. For a month, Andy and I noshed on the Antipasto Italiano but today we decided to move on. We ordered the Mamma Mia Salad with Italian Dressing, Salmon Spaghetti, and Mushroom Risotto–with our usual glass of house red. DSC04117

green skillet pizza


I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

vegetarian lasagna with thai spinach and chinese chives

Well, this is the reason why I made my own ricotta cheese.

I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.

Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)

Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.

Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot,  chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.

Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.

Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



spaghetti alla carbonara


We were expecting company for dinner, but  the guest list suddenly expanded from two to five. Which is okay because there was enough chicken to go around–the Lemon-Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes. I had also planned on making spaghetti alla carbonara, and two vegetable dishes. This carbonara does not have a cream sauce, for which I was grateful. Sometimes a cream sauce can be just too heavy for this dish. It should be light and salty. I do like the salty flavors from that bacon and ham generously crumbled and chopped and tossed in the pasta. I doubled this recipe for 8, so halve it for four.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (adapted from food network)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


1 pound dry spaghetti  (preferably whole wheat)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 strips bacon, crisped in the microwave then crumbled
1/2 cup Canadian bacon or ham, chopped (about 6 slices)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, shredded, or use Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped coarsely (optional)


Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian “al dente.”) Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Microwave the bacon to minimize spatter. Do not discard the fat. When the bacon is crisp set aside to cool. Pour the rendered fat into a large skillet. Add the Canadian bacon. When it is slightly browned, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Return the cooked bacon to the pot. Combine. Turn off the heat.

Coat cooked spaghetti in bacon fat. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Use a pair of silicone tipped tongs to toss the pasta. You may need to add a bit of olive oil. To add the sauce in the next step, do NOT turn on the heat.

Make the sauce. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Pour the egg/cheese mixture onto the pasta. This is done off the heat to ensure the eggs don’t scramble. That would be a tragedy! The heat from the pasta cooks the egg. Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Cook’s Note: I did not get much sauce, probably because I doubled this recipe.

Add seasoning. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt.

Serve. Mound the spaghetti alla carbonara into a large serving plate. Garnish with basil or parsley, if desired. Add more cheese if desired. This carbonara was zesty from the Parmesan cheese, chewy because of the aal dente pasta, and a bit salty and crunchy from the ham and bacon. The egg sauce binds to the pasta so that the Parmesan flavor came through with every mouthful.


italian sausage with peppers and onions over cheese grits

Italian sausage with peppers and onions over cheese grits

We’ll be going back to Thailand in two weeks’ time, interviewing movers, and I’m on a rampage to clean out the kitchen cupboards. Cross off corn grits! This dish is hearty and salty, crunchy and onion-y. I’m adding it to my list of comfort foods, along with macaroni and cheese, Chinese barbecued spare ribs, and banana bread.

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Cheese Grits

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 2-4

For the grits:
2 teaspoons chicken broth base
4 cups water
3/4 cup yellow corn grits
1/2 cup nonfat milk, optional
1-2 teaspoons unsalted butter to flavor, optional
1 cup part-skim grated mozzarella cheese

For the sausage
1 package sweet Italian sausage
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 sweet green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 onion, sliced

Make the grits: Put chicken broth base and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the grits and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it is thickened, if desired, thin the grits with milk, up to 1/2 cup. If desired, add 1-2 teaspoons butter for flavor. Add the mozzarella cheese and stir. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

About 20 minutes before the grits cook, brown the sausages in a skillet with three tablespoons water, over medium heat. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Turn frequently until browned. Remove the cover and continue cooking an additional 10 minutes. Remove the sausages and slice on the bias. Don’t discard the oil in the pan.

Add peppers and onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the peppers are crisp tender and the onions are wilted, about 10-15 minutes.

Spoon the grits onto a plate. Top with sausage and peppers and onions.

no-fuss risotto with chicken and herbs

no fuss risotto with chicken and herbs

Since the Fourth, I have been prepping for the oral defense of my dissertation, and on Friday, I passed! So that’s why I’ve been absent from blogging, but I’m ready to come back now. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about cooking so I bought The Science of Good Cooking by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. Usually I try out a cookbook by borrowing it at the library first, but I was sure this would be a good one so I splurged on a copy from In ATK’s inimical style, there’s a lot of text and sidebars explaining the cooking process for the recipes which have been grouped by “concepts” or cooking methods. Though the Test Kitchen recommends rinsing for some  varieties of rice, arborio rice, which is used in risottos,  is actually better without rinsing. The one thing that is daunting about making a really creamy risotto is standing at the stove and patiently stirring the pot. This recipe eliminates that step and still comes out creamy and flavorful. I adapted this recipe slightly by using boneless skinless chicken breasts.

5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced (I used scallions)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (I used lime juice)


I saved time by using 2 teaspoons chicken broth paste to make the broth. Boil paste and 7 cups water in a large pot over high heat. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, sear the chicken breasts on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken breasts and put them in the pot with the simmering broth and cook until the chicken registers 160˚F on an instant read thermometer, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Don’t discard the oil.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the oil remaining in the pot. Over medium heat, cook the onions with a teaspoon salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the rice and cook until the grains turn translucent around the edges. In the Dutch pot, this took about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 5 cups hot broth into the rice. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just al dente, 16-19 minutes. I stirred the rice after 8 minutes, then 16 minutes. It needed an extra 3 minutes for all the water to be absorbed.

I added 3/4 cup of the remaining broth to the rice to make it creamy, turning the rice gently until the rice became cream and soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken breast into thin slices. Add the chicken to the pot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parsley, chives or scallions, and lemon or lime juice. Stir gently. If desired, add more broth mixture to loosen the texture of the risotto. Taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. I added a third cup more of the Parmesan cheese for flavor. Serve at once.

italian egg strata with turkey sausage and vegetables


Italian Egg Strata with Turkey Sausage and Vegetables (adapted from Dash)
It’s so nice not to have to rush to get dinner on the table. How I love the weekends! The nice thing about this dish is that it can be prepared ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator, then baked for a weeknight dinner. For a Sunday night dinner, it is the best. According to the original recipe, each serving is 380 calories, but since I made substitutions like nonfat milk instead of 2% and whole wheat bread instead of white, that lessens the calorie count. To reduce calories further, substitute part-skim mozzarella cheese for the Monterey Jack cheese.

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes plus  20 minutes resting time
Cook Time: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 40 min (includes resting time)

1⁄2 cup sliced scallion
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, chopped
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1 lb sweet turkey sausage, casings removed, broken into bite-size chunks
7 eggs
3 cups nonfat milk
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1 half loaf whole wheat baguette (about 5 cups), cut into large chunks
1 cup grated reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and a large skillet with cooking spray. If using a glass dish or a pan with a dark nonstick finish, reduce heat to 325˚F and bake for 55 minutes.

2. Sauté scallion, red pepper, and zucchini in the skillet for 4 minutes. Add sausage and continue cooking until sausage is browned. When the meat is almost cooked through, add the spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Turn off the heat. The meat and vegetable mixture will spring water, so drain it well and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk, Parmesan-Romano, and black pepper.

4. In the prepared baking dish, layer half the bread, half the egg mixture, and half the drained sausage-vegetable mixture.  Repeat layers.

5. Press down the top to make sure the bread is completely submerged. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and if desired, with crushed red pepper flakes too.  Let the strata rest for 20 minutes. At this point, you can prepare the strata up to a day ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

6. Just before baking, sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and puffy.

pappardelle with spicy sausage, green beans, and mushrooms

Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage, Green Beans, and Mushrooms (adapted from Savory Simple)

This is a deliciously simple weeknight meal and it only takes less than half an hour. This is truly “quick and easy” in my book! The mushrooms have a nice smoky flavor that contrasts nicely with the spiciness of the sausage. I added the green beans–we all could use more fiber anyway–and their bright green color was a lovely contrast with the golden noodles.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 8 -8.8 ounces pappardelle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-6 links hot Italian sausage, casing removed (can use sweet Italian sausage)
  • 7 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (can use shiitake)
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced into 2 inch lengths
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime (lemon in the original recipe)
  • 6 ounces homemade chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
  • salt to taste
  • fresh grated Parmesan for garnish, optional


  1. Cook pappardelle according to the instructions on the box.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up the oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When the pasta has cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water. Drain the noodles and set aside.
  3. Remove the sausage casings and discard.  Crumble the sausage stuffing into the hot oil.  Reduce heat to medium and brown the sausage.
  4. If the sausage sticks to the pan, add a tablespoon of water and scrape up the brown bits called fond, tossing them with the sausage. Fond adds flavor.
  5. Once the sausage is cooked and (mostly) browned, add the sliced mushrooms and chopped green beans.  Sauté for two minutes, then lower the heat and add the garlic.
  6. After the garlic has cooked, about 60 seconds, sprinkle sausage mixture with the red pepper flakes and squeeze on half the lime or lemon juice. Remove the sausage mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Add the chicken stock to the skillet to deglaze it, scraping up any  fond from the bottom of the pan. Allow the stock to reduce slightly, a minute or two.
  8. Stir in the cream, if using. Add a 1/4 cup of reserved cooking water to the pasta. Toss to separate the noodles. Add more water, 1/4 cup at a time, if needed.
  9. Return the sausage and mushroom to the pot with the pappardelle. Toss. Taste, and add salt if needed.
  10. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan, if desired.

Italian meatball soup with orzo, spinach, and carrots

I went the extra mile for this recipe I adapted from!  I had the time this afternoon so I made a vegetable soup stock from scratch, using leeks, celery, garlic, and carrots, seasoned with bay leaf, fresh tarragon, and thyme. For additional flavor, I added a teaspoon of organic Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base. If not for that detour, this recipe would be quick and easy. Of course, to save time, I used the carrots from the stock in the meatball soup, and saved the rest of the vegetables for puréeing later. I will add the purée to the remaining stock for flavor.  I recommend serving this soup with a simple salad or hot crusty bread for a light supper.

Italian Meatball Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Carrots

1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 1/2 cups light chicken broth (reduced-sodium, fat-free)
2 cups fresh spinach (no stems)
3⁄4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup chopped carrot
Salt and pepper to taste


1. In small bowl, combine ground sirloin, egg, Panko, cheese, basil, and onion powder. Using a teaspoon, shape into 1-inch balls.

2. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and cook 10 minutes on simmer. Stir in the orzo and carrot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the meatballs are done. About a minute before the meatballs are done, add the spinach. Serve topped with additional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

pasta al pomodoro crudo


I found this recipe on a blog but for the life of me, I can’t remember whose. I usually make a note but I forgot to do it this time. It’s real simple; the tomatoes and seasonings aren’t cooked at all. They get warmed up by the pasta. I’ve changed it a bit because I like my pasta dry unless the pasta sauce is thick.  However, I found that with the addition of salt, the tomatoes “spring water” as we say in Jamaica. So, to keep the tomatoes from making juice, I would salt the tomatoes before mixing them with the seasoning to leach out the water. Draining them on paper towels afterwards helps too. And I added the mozzarella cheese. It melts so beautifully in the heat of the pasta into delicious stringy bits that cling to the pasta. This is definitely quick and easy, and it’s going to be part of my week-night dinner menus from now on!

Pasta al Pomodoro Crudo

  • 4 medium to large tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and put through a garlic press (use more or less according to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pasta, such as angel  hair, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, or other thin types of pasta
  • 1/4-1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese, grated  (I used Parmesan and Romano, and I recommend it)

In a large bowl sprinkle salt on tomato pieces and toss. Put tomatoes on paper-towel lined tray and let it drain 15 minutes.

Put drained tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, and oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. The mixture should be chunky.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.

Cook 1 lb  pasta in salted water. Cook according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well and divide pasta into four bowls. Put mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of sauce over each bowl of pasta and toss thoroughly.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cook’s note: Add chopped turkey pastrami or prosciutto to the pasta, if desired.

P.S. Robin Jean Marie wrote to say that her recipe is the basis for this one! See Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce at Bringing Europe Home. Thanks, Robin!