Palate Pleasers

Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

Here is another great recipe from Cooking Light – this is so easy to make and can easily be used as a main dish or a side dish.  I added grilled chicken to this dish the second time I made it.  When I need something in a pinch, this is an easy, go-to meal.   When I started watching “Chopped” on Food Network, they were using cheeses such as Mascarpone which I’d never cooked with much less heard off.  Since then, I’ve bought it several times and added it to various dishes where I could use cheese – its something that can be used in savory and sweet dishes.    This recipe calls for Mascarpone and Parmesan which provides for nice balance and flavor.


  • 8 oz uncooked linguine
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup shaved (shredded) Parmesan Cheese, divided
  • 1-1/2 TBSP mascarpone cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain and keep warm.  While pasta cooks, combine milk, 2 tsp basil, salt and pepper in a bowl; stir milk mixture with whisk.

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add flour to pan, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Ad milk mixture; cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, and add 1-1/2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese and mascarpone cheese to milk mixture.

Add cheese mixture to pasta; toss to combine.  sprinkle with remaining 4 teaspoons basil and remaining 1/2 ounce parmesan.  Yield 4 servings.

COOKs NOTES:  I like a lot of sauce so I often double the recipe so that I have some extra sauce.  It’s definitely worth it.  I don’t really change too much but you can add whatever sounds good to the recipe including pork, bacon and chicken to name a few. It’s a good recipe and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Buon Appetito!


I’ve tried a few sauces over the years, but this is one of the best pasta sauces I’ve made.   It’s fresh, but savory at the same time.  And, it’s one of Giada’s recipes – I have 4 of her books and she has great sauces in all the books.  I should probably start using them more often.  This sauce is the bare-bones basic, flavored with fresh basil and dried oregano and then cooked briefly so it retains that fresh savory flavor.  I used this for another pasta dish and added  a couple spoonful’s of Ricotta to the sauce to lighten it up – it was just noodles with no meat, so the cheese added some good texture.  Once I finished dinner, I froze the rest of the sauce (minus the Ricotta) until I was ready to use it again.  Next time I make this, I’ll double it so that I have plenty on hand.  I’ll probably freeze 1-2 cups of sauce into Freezer bags and save it until I need it.  


  • 2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes in Juice
  • 1 bunch of Fresh Basil, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt & pepper

In a blender, puree’ the tomatoes with their juice and the basil until almost smooth.  Set the tomato puree’ aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute both until very tender – about 12 minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree’, oregano and sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead.  If storing for future use, cool then cover and refrigerate.  Rewarm over medium heat before using)

Makes about 1-1/2 quarts or 6 Cups.

COOKs NOTE:  I have to say I was amazed at the thought of taking 2 cans of whole tomatoes and blending them up.  Since there is so much juice, my blender could only handle one can at a time and then I poured it into the pot – I think a food processor would work just as well and allow me to put 2 cans in at a time.   Also, by the time I got around to making this, the basil I had bought turned bad.  So, I used dried herbs – Italian Seasonings, Oregano and seasoned with Salt and Pepper as well as the Onions and garlic.    And, I did use sugar.  I’ve never used sugar before, but I know that when Mike’s mom (Gigi as I affectionately call her) is 100% Italian and makes her sauce with sugar also.  So, when Giada asked for sugar – I figured it must be the right thing to do.  And I find that it takes away the acidity and makes it sweeter, but still savory.  I think next time I will do the basil bunch, hopefully from the herbs in my backyard.  Enjoy!


This is one of my all time favorite recipes and again, it’s one that is best made with a cast iron pan or dutch oven.   I’ve made this recipe on several occasions and if you were coming to my house for dinner (especially during the winter months) this would probably be a dish that I would prepare for you.  The nice thing about this dish is that you make it and then bake it for 90 minutes to 2 hours and while it’s baking, it leaves you time to clean up and work on your side dishes.  When your guests arrive, your house smells good with all the flavors that are melding together in the cast iron pan.  Once served, the meat is fork tender and melts in your mouth. 


Makes 6 servings.  position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 Degrees.

3 pounds country-style pork spareribs

Salt and pepper

Merlot Sauce:

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 can (14.5 ounces each) Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or regular crushed tomatoes (drain off excess liquid)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup Merlot or other full-bodied red wine

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

To prepare the ribs, rinse them, pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add the ribs, fat side down.  Cook, turning once until browned on all sides, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the ribs to a plate and drain reserving all but 2 Tablespoons fat from the skillet.

To prepare the sauce, turn down the heat to medium-low, add the onions to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally until they start to soften about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce to a boil.  Return the spareribs to the skillet pushing them down gently to submerge.  Protecting both hands with oven mitts, cover tightly with foil.  The liquid will reduce while cooking, leaving a rich, flavorful sauce.  With the oven mitts, carefully place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake until the meat breaks apart easily with a fork – about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

**COOKS NOTE:  The first couple times I made this I used my 12 inch cast iron pan.  The last time I made this I served 6 people and made it in my dutch oven which was just as round, but also higher on the sides.    I used a good balsamic that was over 10 years of age.  There is a difference in the balsamic  vinegars that you buy and use and depending on the age of the balsamic depends on if yours will be acidic or smooth.  The smooth flavors of a good balsamic from a specialty store or Italian Market make all the difference in how the flavors meld together.  I don’t always use a Merlot, since I don’t have too many on my wine rack.  I tend to use a full-bodied Cabernet or Zin.   

This dish can be served with Corn Casserole (which I’ll also post), corn on the cob, herbed polenta or mashed potatoes – whatever you like.  And, I also served a caprese salad, but a tossed one works just as well.   I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do and let me know if you’d like to join us for dinner!**

Bon Appetit!


Here is another recipe that I’ve had since the 1980’s and have never made.  This is a recipe that my grandmother, Elinor Hoole gave me.  I always thought it looked great, but just never made it until last week.  I have 2 great recipes for Country Style ribs and they will be posted one right after the other.  This recipe calls for vinegar to be added and for a minute I had to stop and ask myself, what type of vinegar my grandmother would have used – would she have used a white wine or red wine vinegar – or would she have used balsamic?  Did they even have Balsamic Vinegar back in her day?  Considering I got this recipe in the late 1970’s – early 1980’s – she probably would have made this in the 1950 – 1960’s and I don’t think that Balsamic Vinegar was on her list of staples in her pantry as it is with mine.  So, being the cook that I am now, I chose Balsamic for its rich flavors and it was a great choice.    Her recipe is more of a BBQ type vinegar sauce – something that would be on a good North Carolina pulled pork sandwich –  I could see myself using her recipe with white or red wine vinegar on Pork Shoulder to make pulled pork sandwiches – does anyone have a great coleslaw recipe?


1-/2 – 2 lbs of country style ribs (approximately 4-5 ribs)

1/2 cup sliced onions

1/2 cup catsup

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp vinegar

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp dry yellow mustard

Arrange ribs in shallow pan.  Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Drain and continue cooking 30 minutes longer. 

While ribs are cooking, add all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Have sauce warm and ready to use on the ribs once they’ve cooked 60 minutes. Baste the ribs with the sauce for the remaining 30 minutes.  Just before serving pour the remainder of sauce over the ribs. 

Serve with tater tots, french fries or hash browns, a green salad, chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies (I think my grandmother had a sweet tooth).

**COOKS NOTE:  I did bake the ribs for 90 minutes and then pulled the ribs out and poured the sauce in it’s entirety over the ribs.   I also doubled the batch of “sauce” as I found that if I did not double it I wouldn’t have enough of the sauce to cover the ribs.  What I think would have been even better is to have cooked the ribs WITH the sauce for 90 minutes so that it had a chance to soak up all the good flavors of the sauce.  I think that Sweet Potato fries would have gone really well with this recipe – but I could not find them anywhere.  I’m sure one of the grocery stores carries them and if not, I’ll have to find a recipe for them and make my own.**

Bon Appetit!

Bacon, Bacon … I have never eaten so much bacon in my life as I have since I’ve known my husband.  Anything pork and especially bacon is one of his all time favorite foods.  Lucky me when I came across Fettucine Alfredo with Bacon.   Yummo!  And, even better is that this is a recipe from Cooking Light January/February 2010 edition.  So, while it’s supposed to be healthy for you, it’s also really good for you too.  Truthfully, I’m not sure what is so light about bacon and keeping the bacon fat to make the alfredo sauce, but I can assure you it tasted amazing.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

BTW…I would like to dedicate this recipe to my first Italian brother-in-law, Mark, simply because he asked, but also because he thought it sounded really great!  I can assure you it is.


1 – 9 ounce package of fresh fettuccine (refrigerated)

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 Cup 1% milk

2/3 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain in colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for 4 minutes or until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings.  Add garlic to drippings in pan.  saute 1 minute stirring constantly.  Sprinkle flour over garlic, cook 30 seconds more continuing to stir.  Gradually add milk, cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick constantly stirring.  Reduce heat to low.  Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.  Stir in salt and 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid (starched water).  Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine.  Spring with bacon, parsley and pepper.

**COOK’s NOTE:  I doubled the recipe so that we could have leftovers during the week, plus I used 1 cup Parmesan cheese vs. 2/3 cup. Once you whisk together the milk and flour, add the cheese in.  The recipe made it sound as if that milk and flour mixture would thicken, but it didn’t until I added the cheese.  Otherwise it was really easy to make and I would definitely make it again.  I used thick bacon from the grocer’s deli case – it wasn’t “applewood”, but was a good thick cut.  If you wanted to omit the bacon, you could definitely use any other meat, such as chicken or shrimp.**

Buon Appetito!

My cousin Jackie made this recipe last week and posted it on her blog, “Jackie Writes” which can also be found on my web page (  When she posted  this recipe, I knew I had to try it right away – it sounded amazing.  I know that many of you are thinking “Beer? I’ve heard of cooking with wine – but Beer?”  Actually, you can cook with Beer in the same way that you would cook with wine and it adds so much flavor to the end result.  The addition of Beef Broth and cream in the end made the flavors even richer . We have a friend who loves beer in the same way that I love wine.  We called him up to find out what Belgian Beer would go best with this dish and he suggested “Chimay Ale Premier” with the reddish-brown label.  (Can be found at Trader Joes).  I loved making this dish and didn’t change a thing.  I would suggest doing the prep work ahead of time and have everything ready to put in the pan.  I used my All Clad Stainless steel Saute pan which had deep sides and was perfect for this recipe.  

If you go to the right side of Jackie’s link above she has beautiful photos of the end result.  I know that you will enjoy this dish.  I also served this dish with a nice green salad and baked Rosemary-garlic potatoes. 


1 fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skinned (I used 3 large chicken breasts and cut them in half)

1 bottle (12 oz.) of Belgian beer

15 pearl onions (whole), or 7 shallots (I used shallots and cut them in large chunks)

12 large white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and quartered

3 carrots, peeled and cut into carrot pennies

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup beef broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp butter (preferably unsalted)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp finely minced fresh parsley

a hearty pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


 Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and half of the butter over medium heat in a large, deep pan (ideally, an enameled dutch oven). Add the chicken pieces and sauté until brown on both sides (about 10 minutes). Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the pan, and then add the onions, carrots, and mushrooms, stirring frequently until they brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sprinkle with sugar, and cook for 1 – 2 more minutes.

 Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir well to make sure the flour blends well with the butter and coats the vegetables.

 Deglaze the pan by adding the beer and broth and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom. Add the chicken pieces, thyme, bay leaf, and half of the parsley. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf, and remove the chicken and set aside. Add cream and nutmeg to the sauce and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until nicely thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Return the chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce, sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve.

 (Serves 4.)

**COOK’s NOTE:  I loved all the vegetables and flavors that went into making this.  I’m not a big cooked carrot lover – comes from the days my parents made me eat mixed vegetables, so I only put 1 carrot in the dish.  Also, I didn’t have dried thyme, so I put 2 thyme sprigs in the sauce.  I also inadvertently left out the nutmeg and it tasted really great without – next time I’ll have to remember to put it in”.  Go ahead and buy that bottle of Belgian Beer and make this great recipe!  You’ll love it!**


Move over Julia Childs!  I took a cooking class from a local gourmet grocer in Long Beach and this is one of the recipes that we made.  It has become one of my favorite dishes to make.  I love the sauce – butter, cream, capers, lemon – what’s not to love?  For this recipe I needed a Stainless steel pan which I didn’t have.  I had non-stick and cast iron, but nothing like what was needed for this recipe.  So, I found an All-Clad Stainless Steel Saute’ Pan to add to my collection of pots & pans.  If you know anything about Stainless Steel, All-Clad or Williams Sonoma, you know that it was a small fortune to purchase the pan, but since we were moving into a new home, I considered it a house-warming gift to myself.  There are so many things that I can make with this pan – it was easily justifiable and Mike and I have continued to enjoy the delicious meals I have created with it.  It was worth every penny! 


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed, halved vertically and pounded to 1/4 inch thick.

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 shallot, sliced thinly

1 Tbsp flour

3/4 cup dry white wine**

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp chopped capers

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

3 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)

3 tbsp cold butter, diced.

Slice breast in half horizontally (thin out by cutting in half) Pat chicken dry with paper towels.  Season both sides of each cutlet with salt & pepper.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet over medium heat.  When oil is very hot, place 4 cutlets in skillet and cook without moving them until they are browned, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn cutlets and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Transfer cutlets to an over safe plate or platter, cover loosely and repeat procedure with remaining cutlets (if any).  Cover all cutlets to keep warm and make sauce.

SAUCE: If there is no oil in the pan after cooking the cutlets, add a drizzle up to 1 Tbsp.  In the same pan on medium heat, add shallots (or onion) and cook until softened, about 2-4 minutes.  Add flour and cook, stirring about 1 minute – do not burn.  Deglaze with wine, broth and add garlic.  Reduce by about half on high heat scrapping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any of the brown bits into the liquid.  Remove from heat and pour any extra juices that accumulated under the chicken.  Whisk in remaining ingredients, check seasonings of sauce with a spoon and serve chicken with sauce poured over the top.

**COOKs NOTE:  So, the reason for the Stainless Steel pan or something similar is for the scrapping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the brown bits into the liquid.  You can’t do this with a non-stick skillet.  In addition, I also prepare & pre-cut everything ahead of time and have it all ready to put into the sauce.  The process goes fairly quickly once you start it.   I also use fresh Italian Parsley and a fresh lemon and I definitely use the heavy cream.  It was suggested that Sauvignon Blanc is the best cooking wine since it has “neutral” flavors – I used a dry chardonnay and it was just as good.  Once it was ready, I put the chicken on a platter and then poured the sauce over it and added some parsley for the presentation.  It was amazing!**


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June 2018
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