Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ricotta pesto pizza - weeknight friendly meal

My basil plants are growing like crazy. What am I to do with all of this pesto? Well, I recently had something of a "pizza week" and the first pizza on the menu was ricotta, pesto and tomato. This would fall into the "white pizza" category. If you're not familiar, that means it doesn't have any tomato sauce on it but ricotta cheese serves as the sauce, which is not particularly low calorie but tasty none-the-less.

This is a very simple pizza combination and perfect for a weeknight meal and another use of fresh pesto you might have (directions here) from a basil explosion. I used a pre-made Pillsbury crust but if I were doing this on a weekend I would try to make my own dough because I found the pre-made crust to be adequate but not delicious.


1 ½ cups of ricotta

2 Tb of thyme

½ cup of Parmesan cheese

1 Pillsbury thin pizza crust *or other, note that Pillsbury crusts must be pre-baked for 5 minutes

1 medium tomato, sliced

Rough directions:

Mix thyme with ricotta and spread on prepared pizza crust and sprinkle with Parmesan. Place small spoonfuls of pesto on top of ricotta and finish by spreading sliced tomatoes on top. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees or according to the directions for the pizza crust.

Looks good doesn't it? While one full-sized pizza is a too much for even two meals, this was quick and easy to make, making a single person friendly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Homemade mac & cheese

Cheese. Pasta. Yum.

My friend Abby was having a dinner party for her birthday, she is a serious gourmet. She has made her own ricotta cheese and despite my reservations about eating a homemade dairy product, it was pretty good (I'm told it's actually pretty easy to make ricotta). So what do I take to the party of a fellow experimental chef? For some reason, in the middle of DC summer heat, mac and cheese was the first idea I had. I had never made mac and cheese from scratch, it was a 97 degrees outside with 90% humidity but for whatever reason a casserole dish full of comfort food seemed entirely logical. As I write this, it's starting to sound delicious all over again.

So, how does one make mac and cheese with out a box from Kraft? Good question! Actually, I was surprised how easy it was! The recipe below is something I concocted after spending 30 minutes or so browsing different mac and cheese recipes. It's a little bit Martha, a little bit allrecipes.com and a little bit Lacey.

I read one recipe that called for 'pasteurized cheese product food' - not cheese but cheese product food. Ew. You might as well just buy a box if you aren't going to use actual cheese. There is nothing from that recipe in my version.

Homemade Mac & Cheese
8-10 oz whole grain macaroni - cooked according to package directions and drained
4 oz shredded extra sharp white cheedar
4 oz shredded Gruyere
1 oz grated Romano cheese
1/4 butter
2 cups 1% milk
3 Tb flour

*Note measurements are approximate, I did not measure when I made this but it seems pretty hard to mess it up, so you can play by ear a little bit. Also if you don't want to shred the cheese, or don't own a cheese grater (but really why wouldn't you?), you can cut it up into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in small sauce pan, when it's completely melted mixed in flour. Add milk and stirring frequently, allow to simmer until it begins to thicken. Add cheese one handful at a time, reserving about 1/2 cup total of the cheeses. Mix pasta into cheese mixture and pour into a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheeses and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes.

Aside from possibly needing some paprika and garlic (you know me and my garlic), this was tasty and in spite of inhospitable summer weather, a huge hit at the dinner party, considering all the tasty items Abby served up, I consider that a major accomplishment.