real life test kitchen: roman style spaghetti

I have a small repetoire of pasta dishes I create again and again. Most of those I love because they come close to recreating a pile of perfection I consumed in Italy on a trip long ago.

Well, I am trilled to share with you my new go-to pasta sauce: It’s called Roman Style Spaghetti, but it is basically an Amatriciana — tomato sauce with onion and pancetta (bacon). It’s so insanely simple, and it really does taste as good as the stuff I have had in Piazza Navona. My only tip would be to buy the best ingredients you can: imported tomatoes, real pancetta, and a good white wine. Here’s my take on this iVillage recipe.

Roman Style Spaghetti or Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

What you need:
1/4 cup of olive oil
a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
yellow onion, finely chopped
half a pound of pancetta, cut into small bits
1/2 a cup (or slightly more if needed) of a dry white wine
1/2 cup + of romano cheese
a generous toss of red pepper flakes
a pound of spaghetti

How to make:
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan until it is really hot. Toss in chopped onion and cook until translucent, about three or four minutes. Add pancetta and cook until slightly browned, about five minutes. Add white wine and allow it to bubble until the wine boils down, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes. While that is happening, boil water with salt for spaghetti, which you should cook al dente. After the onion-pancetta-wine sauce has thickened a bit, add the can of tomatoes. Flavor with red pepper flakes an salt and let it cook for at least fifteen minutes. If it cooks a little longer than that, it only gets better.

Once the pasta is cooked, return it to the pot and mix in with sauce until well coated. Don’t drown the pasta in the sauce — save what’s extra for the table. Add in the romano cheese. Serve with extra sauce, cheese and red pepper. If you have leftovers, you’re very lucky. It tastes better the next day.

A few of my other favorite pasta recipes:

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce

Pasta with zucchini and pistachios

Pasta with broccoli rabe

One pan pasta with garlic and oil

From our partners

real life test kitchen: jamie oliver’s killer macaroni & cheese

It’s been a while since we cooked up a bubbling dish of cheesey yumminess. The last time I healthed it up a bit by using whole wheat noodles and cauliflower. I’ve always wanted to try this Jamie Oliver recipe — his “killer” — but the tomatoes have held me back. In my world, there’s tomato sauce or there’s macaroni and cheese, and never the twain shall meet. I finally brushed aside my restrictions and gave this a try. The results, I must say, were pretty killer!

What makes this dish so good is the extra dashes of flavor added to the base. You start with a lot of garlic — ten cloves. Also you’ll need some fresh herbs — Jamie calls for bay leaves and thyme. I didn’t have either so used some oregano and rosemary. A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a sprinkle of nutmeg complete the appeal.

I also made this recipe in a cast iron skillet and it worked out quite nicely.

Click here to get Jamie Oliver’s Killer Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

If that doesn’t float your boat, try these from our archives:

Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese

Beef and Cheese Noodle Bake

Rachael Ray’s Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

From our partners

real life test kitchen: vegan black bean brownies

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Black bean brownies? How good can that be? Let me tell you: Very good! I spotted these brown beauties on Pinterest via Tracey Tee (who always has the best pins!) from Farmgirl Gourmet and immediately had to give it a go. As some of you know, I’ve been trying to eat a little more healthily this year (I’ve already lost 14 pounds on Weight Watchers since February!) but I love to bake. These brownies are completely vegan — no eggs, butter or milk. There are two secret ingredients that make these brownies super moist: pureed black beans (one can’s worth a bit a water) and a bottle of dark beer. The other, not so secret ingredients — sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips — ensure that they are completely satisfying.

Here’s my take on Farmgirl Gourmet’s recipe:

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled to brim with fresh water
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of stout beer, such as Guinness (you can use water here if you like)
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan
2. Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly. Return the black beans back to the can and fill to the top with water. Puree the beans and water together. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, coffee power, salt and baking powder. Add the black bean puree, vanilla and beer and stir just until incorporated. Don’t over mix.
4. Fold in a cup or so of chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through. They should be almost firm in the center.
6. Let brownies cool completely before cutting. They will still be a bit gooey in the middle even after they’ve cooled.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: almost dell’anima brussels sprouts

The other night I met a friend for dinner at Dell’Anima, a well-regarded Italian restaurant in the West Village. Everything that passed our lips – fluke crudo, tajarin alla carbonara — was delicious, but it was an innocuous side dish that blew our minds: Brussels sprouts with dried cherries, red onions and smoked pumpkin seeds. Honestly, we could have eaten an entire plate of these and left happy. After hearing our raves, our gregarious waiter told us to look them up on YouTube. Two of the restaurant’s chefs, Andrew and Francis, put up a video that demonstrates how they make their signature side. The first thing I noticed when watching these two at work: They are cooking for a crowd! They use about a quart of honey. Eegads. They also did some magic with a “smoker” to prepare the pumpkin seeds. I decided to improvise with what I had on hand and used roasted walnuts instead.

Here’s my interpretation of Brussels Sprouts Dell’Anima:

1/4 cup of honey
3 tbs of white wine vinegar
1 tsp of peppercorns (pink if you have them)
a couple of twigs of fresh rosemary
4 cups of Brussels sprouts — quartered, with leaves pulled and reserved separately
1/2 a large red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of dried cherries
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
2 tbs olive oil

First, mix honey, vinegar, peppercorns and rosemary in a small saucepan. Simmer on a very low burner for at least 15 minutes until all ingredients are incorporated and sauce is fragrant. Meanwhile, chop Brussels sprouts and onions.

Next, toast the walnuts slightly in a large, dry pan on the stove. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, add oil and when hot, begin cooking Brussels sprout quarters. Stir frequently for about five minutes. Then add in red onions and continue to cook another five to ten minutes. Once they are tender, add in outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and cook a little longer. It’s okay if some them brown slightly and crisp. Once they are a texture you like (tender but crispy), toss in cherries and walnuts, and cook for a few more minutes. Finally, stir in sauce and heat through for another minute. Serve and enjoy!

From our partners

real life test kitchen: slow cooker beef and tomato stew

Maybe it’s all the Irish beef stew recipes I’m seeing as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, but I have had a serious hankering for some slow cooked red meat. The problem is that I have been trying to eat healthy these days. As badly as I want to cook me some Ina Garten Beef Bourguignon, I know that a tub of butter and a bottle of wine is not what I need. Luckily, Everyday Food featured this recipe for slow cooker beef and tomato stew. There’s nothing in it that is bad for you — it’s just beef and a bunch of veggies — onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, garlic — and chicken broth. After cooking for six hours in the slow cooker, it turned into a smooth, tender delight. I served it over brown rice with a little Greek yogurt (which I always use instead of sour cream these days, and it’s amazing) and everyone wanted seconds. It was hearty and guilt-free. What could be better than that?

Click through to for the full the recipe.

Wanna have a great St. Patrick’s Day party? Serve this stew with some rainbow cupcakes for dessert!

From our partners