Whole Eggplant Parm

Many moons ago, my girlfriend Dana introduced me to the magical restaurant that is Via Carota. And on special that day was their eggplant parmesan. Crafted from an entire eggplant, almost like an eggplant gratin, and so soft and sumptuous you could eat it with a spoon. I set out on a mission to reverse engineer this dish, and in time, realized that because it’s so delicious, one eggplant just wouldn’t cut it. So I started making this eggplant parm in a giant casserole with 4 eggplants and I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to share a recipe more, so for the last time, here you go:

SHOPPING LIST: 4 large eggplants, 2 jars tomato sauce, 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, onion powder

Like most good things, this recipe takes TIME. It’s great to do on Saturday or Sunday when you’re hanging at home because you need about 4 hours to do this properly.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash your eggplants, and then slice each eggplant horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices BUT ONLY SLICING 90% of the way through each eggplant. That means your eggplants will still be in tack on the bottom but almost accordion-like on the top. Once this is completed, coat all 4 eggplants in olive oil, making sure to get in between the slices, and then generously sprinkle the eggplants, INSIDE THE SLICES AS WELL, with the garlic salt, pepper and onion powder. Salting your eggplant is a very important step because it will draw the moisture out of the eggplant so you don’t get a watery eggplant parm. Roast the oiled eggplants in the 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. As mentioned previously, when you remove the eggplants from the oven, there will be liquid in the bottom of the pan. STRAIN the liquid, I usually just use my oven its and tilt the casserole dish over my sink to get rid of the excess juices.

Next up is the tomato sauce, which I didn’t specify by brand, because, per usual, everyone has a favorite. I started making this recipe exclusively using Rao’s Arrabiata. Sometimes I go wild and do it with a vodka sauce! How outrageous! So whatever sauce you use, you want to completely cover the eggplants with the entire jar and then roast again for another 50 minutes. After the 50 minutes, a majority of your tomato sauce is going to be evaporated, so we repeat this step. I only end up using about 3/4 of the second jar of tomato sauce to coat the eggplants, and then they go back in the oven for 50 more minutes.

Now for the piece de resistance – HA! – also known as, THE CHEESE! I like to use your basic shredded mozzarella. You can get fancy and do a mix of mozzarella and parmesan or fontina. I like the top of this dish to be super cheesy, so whichever direction you choose, COAT YOUR EGGPLANTS LIBERALLY. Just go for it. Once you’ve got all your cheese on there, cover with another quick seasoning of garlic salt and pepper and finish in the oven for the final 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and blistered and perfect!

If you want to give your eggplant parm a bit of a “pizza” finish – one awesome way to spice up this dish is by topping your cheese layer with garlic powder, oregano and PEPPERONI!!!!!!!!! This was my brother-in-laws idea this summer and it was simply brilliant. Pizza toppings or not, I love serving this eggplant parm with HOT HONEY (a la my favorite chicken parm served at Quality Italian). Since the texture of this eggplant parm, aside from the blistered bits of cheese, is relatively soft, I love serving this alongside SUPER crispy, buttery garlic bread. You can almost spoon the eggplant parm on top for the absolute perfect bite. If you didn’t have weekend plans yet, now you do!

Parsley Salad on Repeat

SHOPPING LIST: 2 bunches parsley, 1 bunch dill, pine nuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese, stone ground mustard, apple cider vinegar, olive oil

Have you ever tasted something and became instantly addicted? This is the story of me and this salad. And hopefully this will be your story too. The brightness of the herbs, the acidity of the dressing, the sweetness of the berries and the crunch of the nuts — this simple herb salad has IT ALL. I know the concept of THIS MANY herbs can sound overwhelming — but I also went out to lunch with a man in Baku, Azerbaijan who picked up an entire bunch of dill, folded it in half, and ate it like a cucumber — so relatively speaking, these herbs have a tangy dressing and plenty of accoutrements to make this a composed, well-rounded dish.

The most annoying part of this dish is pulling all of the parsley leaves off the stalks. If you have children, this is the perfect way to get them involved in the cooking process! The parsley and dill leaves get a quick chop and go into your serving bowl. The rest of the ingredients are equal in their amounts 1/3 cup of each. For the pine nuts, I prefer to give them a quick toast in a pan over medium heat, making sure they are only golden brown and not burnt (they will cook quickly). Let the pine nuts cool before adding them to the salad so they do not wilt your greens. Then 1/3 cup of your feta crumbles and 1/3 cup of your dried cranberries. Everything goes on top of the greens and then it’s dressing time.

MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE: 2 tB. stone ground mustard, 1 tB. apple cider vinegar, 1 tB. + 1 tsp. olive oil, pinch of salt + pepper. Quick mix with a fork and then thoroughly mix with your herbs and toppings.

While this dish has Mediterranean inspiration, almost like a tabouleh without the grains, it really pairs beautifully with so many different cuisines. Fish, chicken, meat — it’s really more of a side dish than a salad for me, something I enjoy eating WITH the main dish of the night. I also have to note that aside from the herb base, the rest of the ingredients are completely interchangeable. Last night I made this salad again using dried cherries, pistachios and goat cheese. Use what is in your pantry, or most importantly, WHAT YOU LIKE!!!

Lastly, this recipe feeds about 4 people. You will be surprised HOW QUICKLY this goes. If you are cooking for more people, I would highly recommend doubling it. This has quickly become a staple at all our table, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Foolproof Ribs

Cooking ribs can be intimidating. It’s a huge hunk of meat. I get it. But this technique, quite similar to the Chicken Thighs 1 Million Ways recipe, is very simple; it just requires TIME. It’s also such an easy way to create an impressive and generous protein when catering for a dinner party or larger group.

SHOPPING LIST: 2 racks baby back or St. Louis ribs, pork rub, salt, 1 jar BBQ sauce

If you’ve been following along – one thing I am really trying to communicate with this blog or my cooking style is that everything doesn’t have to be exactly as I prepare it. For this particular recipe, you could just use salt + pepper on your ribs if you like a simpler flavor profile — I used Stubb’s Spice Pork Rub with a mixture of salt, sugar, paprika and other spices because the sugar helps the ribs get that caramelization. Once your ribs are THOROUGHLY rubbed with your seasoning of choice, I like to give the tops of each rack an extra sprinkle of salt and they go on a sheet pan and under the broiler for 10 minutes on each side, or until each side has beautiful, dark sear marks. *** Broilers can be temperamental, so just peak on your ribs 5 minutes into the cooking process to make sure they aren’t burning – there is a BIG difference between a slight char and being burnt!!! And in the warmer months, this step can be done on an outdoor grill!

Once the ribs are seared, slather the tops of each rack with your favorite BBQ sauce and lower your oven to 225 degrees. For Saturday night’s ribs I used the Dinosaur BBQ Roasted Garlic Honey BBQ Sauce. I have realized that I do not like my ribs too saucy so I don’t go overboard here, especially since you can always add extra sauce when the ribs are done. You can also do this WITHOUT sauce. If you go that route, just make sure to add a 1/3 a cup of liquid – either beef stock or beer or orange juice – to the bottom of your sheet pan so there is some moisture or else the ribs will stick to the pan. Once your ribs are sauced (or not), cover them with tin foil and in the oven they go for 5 HOURS!!!! Low and slow, baby.

OTHER FAVORITE RIB SAUCES:

  • Bone Suckin’ Sauce (the classic)
  • Lillie’s Q Carolina Gold Sauce (vinegar-based mustard sauce)
  • Stubb’s Spicy BBQ Sauce (bringing the heat!)
  • Soy Vey Very Teriyaki (for an Asian twist) ** when I go Asian with the ribs, I love using a basic Chinese 5-spice and salt mixture for the rub

Let the ribs cool while still covered for a good 30 minutes before slicing. I like to use the remnant juices from the base of the sheet pan as a glaze for the ribs. As for the rest of the meal, I prefer serving the ribs with BRIGHT and FRESH accoutrements – like the Dill-icious Cucumber Salad or a classic coleslaw. Obviously a classically stewed green like kale or collards is always a welcome addition as well. My husband loves when the ribs are served with potato pancakes – so thank you Streit’s for making that so simple. No shame in my Streit’s game.

Lastly, the best part of the ribs are the leftovers. We are always getting creative with the leftover “pulled pork.” I always starts with frying the pulled rib meat with oil and tons of garlic so the pork gets crispy like carnitas. In the past I have mixed the meat in with with macaroni and cheese which is totally over the top but mega delish, or you just mix the meat with a little extra sauce and pile it on a fresh potato roll for an amazing sandwich. Last Sunday the leftover ribs became the base of this epic BBQ meets Mexican huevos rancheros. Yellow corn arepas for the win!

Dill-icious Cucumber Salad

I am writing this recipe in honor of my 96-year-old Great Grandmother, “Nanny G,” who always stocks her fridge with old school cucumber salad upon my arrival in Florida. She likes to “zhuzh” up the deli-bought version, but, as always, I was convinced I could make it even better from scratch. That is all I’m going to say about the backstory today because I saw this meme yesterday that made me crack up:

SHOPPING LIST: 3 cucumbers, 1 onion, 1 lemon, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes

Not only is this dish super simple to make, but it gets better as it sits! To start, in a small pot, combine 2 cups of water with 2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of sugar and bring the pot to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved and then turn off the heat. Add one cup of apple cider vinegar and reserve.

Trim the edges off your cucumbers, slice them in half lengthwise, then remove the seeds from each half so you have a cavernous U-shaped cucumber. Slice all your cucumbers in 1/2″ thick slices — the thickness of your sliced cucumbers is also a matter of preference; I prefer them thicker so they have a big crunch but you could also slice your cucumbers on a mandolin if you like them paper-thin. Peel your onion (red or white, up to you!), slice in half, and then thinly slice the onion along the grain.

Combine your sliced onions and cucumber in a mixing bowl and top with 1/2 tsp of black pepper, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (more if you want it extra spicy) and 3 slices of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind). On a cutting board, dice a handful of dill and add on top of the cucumbers as well. Cover the entire mixture with the reserved “pickling” liquid and mix well. Refrigerate 6-8 hours before serving. ***When I serve this, I use a slotted spoon so the cucumber salad is not served with it’s juices, but whatever is leftover or unused, I keep in the liquid until serving!

This dish is so bright and refreshing. On Saturday night I served it alongside ribs (recipe forthcoming). The briny, crunchy salad was the perfect accoutrement to the unctuous slow-cooked pork meat. I love making this dish when hosting a brunch alongside your typical egg/tuna/chicken salads, lox + bagel situation. Sable’s does a great version of this if you’re not interested in making it yourself, it’s a bit sweeter than my recipe, but so are most of their “salads.” You can also give this simple salad a second life by making it creamy with 2 tB. of tzatziki and a handful of feta crumbles – taking the dill-iciousness to the next level. Back to the story-telling 🙂

Just Wing it

I know what you’re thinking. It was super Super Bowl Sunday and WTF am I doing making chicken wings just a few days later? First off, our friend’s Super Bowl spread consisted of sushi and caviar (which I was super into but it didn’t scratch the itch) and secondly, I am a chicken wing fanatic. In my neighborhood, TriBeCa, I particularly like them from Mudville 9, Blue Smoke or Mighty Quinn’s. Out east, the smoked chicken wings at Maple Tree are incredible and you can select from a variety of sauces. I guess the trend here, for me, is that none of these chicken wings are BREADED. A chicken wing is a small vessel for the meat, overwhelming this vessel with a breading or tempura batter just ruins it for me (unless it’s a perfect Korean-fried wing like at Bon Chon which is bananas delish and I’ll make an exception for) . And like most “unhealthy” things I enjoy, I always try ways to make them in my own kitchen to control the preparation and ingredients.

My 4-year-old and 6-year-old now love chicken wings as well, so it’s not uncommon that I’ll make a few dozen for dinner on a given night. I used to only do this on the barbecue in the summertime, and believe it or not, I have yet to try an air fryer, so broiling these babies on a sheet tray with a rack has been my tried-and-true indoor cooking method for years. The key? The wings needs to be SUPER dry. Once they are dry, toss the wings in olive oil, then I either season all sides in either a pre-bought seasoning salt or make my own mixture of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, paprika, smoked paprika and tiny bit of cumin and cayenne pepper. The wings are then BROILED (broilers are an amazing tool) about 10 minutes on each side until the skin is blistered — like below 🙂

What is awesome about using the rack is that it allows the chicken skin to get crispy because the air can circulate 360-degrees around the wings and all of the fat that is rendered through the cooking process can drip down into the pan! Once the wings are out of the oven, I pour about 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of my serving bowl (depending how saucy I want them) and then toss the wings thoroughly before serving. This the part of the recipe that is entirely up to YOU! Although the aforementioned Blue Smoke wings now have a Carolina White Sauce which is insanely good, I love a traditional buffalo wing sauce. I guess that’s not completely accurate, traditional buffalo wing sauce to me would be Frank’s Red Hot mixed with equal parts melted butter, but thanks to some amazing manufacturers, here is a list of my preferred ready-to-go wing sauces:

  1. WANTED Jake’s Grillin Buffalo Wing Sauce (my absolute favorite, it’s very peppery)
  2. Noble Made Medium Buffalo (delicious and clean ingredients)
  3. Moore’s Blue Cheese Buffalo Wing Sauce (the best when you don’t want to dip)
  4. Wing Time Garlic Buffalo Wing Sauce (extra garlic just because)

I should also note here, that because these wings are generously seasoned before cooking, THEY DO NOT NEED SAUCE. For example, a jerk rub would be incredible if you’re going to go sauceless. So do you and just wing it!

An Ode to Cabbage

This really should have been my inaugural post considering that cabbage, without exaggerating, is one of my favorite foods; but the truth is – it normally doesn’t look this GORGEOUS!!! A close friend of mine got me into cabbage a long time ago as part of a vegetable stir-fry that she often made, and through the years I have found many ways to prepare my favorite vegetable so I never grow tired of it. The simple fact is that cabbage provides a BLANK and NUTRITIOUS canvas for which you can go in many directions. I have recently seen on many food blogs and Instagram that cabbage is about to become a “thing” so welcome to the bandwagon my friends 🙂

This particular preparation is more like “Cabbage Steaks.” I took an entire head of green cabbage and cut through the entire cabbage creating about 3/4 inch-thick slabs of cabbage. I arranged the cabbage slices in a single layer on a large sheet pan. I first drizzled the cabbage with olive oil, and then I gave it a second drizzle of sesame oil. Combining different oils is just a natural and easy way to add extra flavor. Then it was time for seasoning. The cabbage slices had a sprinkle of garlic salt, Everything Seasoning and ginger powder. The cabbage roasted in a 400 degree oven for 50 minutes until the rims were just blistered. As you can see from the photo, this simple cabbage preparation turned out beautifully, and even my husband, who typically refuses to even try my cabbage, acknowledged how tasty it was!!!!

Often times I use this preparation because it really takes a matter of minutes to get it into the oven and then like those old Ron Popeil informercials you just “Set It! And Forget It.” If I am preparing Spaghetti + Meatballs for my family I may use some pesto sauce and parmesan cheese over the cabbage steaks. When you cut cabbage in these large rounds, the cabbage ends up having a linear, noodle-like quality, and for me, becomes the perfect vegetable accoutrement for the meatballs.

Sometimes I cook the cabbage super simply with just salt and pepper and then toss it afterwards in my favorite Siete Cashew Queso that I’ve mentioned before. If I’m making an Indian-style chicken I’ll use Chinese Five Spice on the cabbage. OH – or my favorite go-to cabbage recipe, I love cooking half a package of bacon on the rack in the oven, collecting the juices below, and using the bacon grease as the “oil” for this dish (always with salt + pepper), and then of course serving the finished cabbage with the reserved chopped bacon bits.

You get the point. Like all of the recipes I’ve shared, the point is always to find a way to make something enjoyable and delicious to you. So if you think you don’t love cabbage, try marrying this incredible, super adaptable vegetable with flavors that you know make you happy. Maybe you won’t become obsessed like I have, but never say never.

The No Plan Chicken

Many nights I don’t have a plan. When I do my big shop on Mondays at Whole Foods I obviously come with some sort of a list, but I’m always persuaded to buy new products with no idea how I am going to utilize them – and by persuaded I mean they usually have a sale sign that draws my attention. This is how I found these Jalapeño Monterey Jack Chicken Sausages (they were BOGO). I use a lot of sausage in my cooking because I find it adds a great depth of flavor to simple dishes and I particularly love using chicken sausages because they are “healthier” (my favorite ones are from Sonny’s in East Quogue). This Whole Foods brand had a variety of flavors, but I went with the Jalapeño Monterey option for obvious reason – I’m a fan of all things spicy and cheesy and I make food that is pleasing to me 🙂

My original thought was to make a sausage and peppers type thing but my Whole Foods doesn’t sell those mini bell peppers so I figured I would figure something else out. This is why I find cooking so fun. The best plans are often no plans (unless your traveling, in which case, make a plan AND a back-up plan). So last night I looked in my fridge, saw the sausages sitting there and now was the time to make the magic happen. I had a package of 3 organic boneless/skinless chicken breasts, the remaining garlic-marinated Castelvetrano olives from Shabbat dinner and a new jar of pesto sauce.

First, I sliced the sausages on a bias (diagonal) into 1/4 inch rounds. In my sauté pan, I heated up olive oil over high heat and seared the sausage slices until they were golden brown and crispy on each side. I reserved the sausages in the bottom of my serving bowl. Next up, the 3 chicken breasts were given a rough chop and generous sprinkle of Adobo seasoning. In the same pan the sausages were seared, I heated up more olive oil with a heaping tB. of chopped garlic, this time over medium-heat, so the garlic wouldn’t burn. Again, I seared the chicken in the oil for a good 4 minutes before mixing. It’s so important when trying to sear proteins and vegetables to NOT MIX TOO OFTEN. After the chicken had a nice brown on one side, the pan got a quick toss, and they had another 4 minutes to sear on another other side. During this time, I sliced the olives in half and put them over the sausage in the bottom of the bowl. To finish the chicken, I added a heaping tB. of the pesto and sautéed the chicken with the pesto for another minute, mixing well. Once the chicken was fully cooked through, the pesto chicken went on top of the sausage and olives and the entire dish was incorporated.

I served this dinner with a very simple lemon pasta (pasta with 1 tB. butter, the zest and juice of entire lemon, salt, pepper and a drizzle of truffle oil). The spice of the jalapeño sausages and the saltiness of the olives was married with the herbaceous pesto transforming your typical boring lame chicken breasts into something wonderfully flavorful and satisfying. You know what else is satisfying? Using what you have, being creative and surprising yourself!

Sheet Pan Dinners for Beginners

I follow a lot of cooking sites and if you asked me what some home-cooking trends are as of late, Sheet Pan Dinners would be at the top of the list. And something I’ve really been wanting to try. The idea of cooking an entire dinner on one pan with minimal clean-up sounds wonderful.

The set-up. As I have mentioned, cabbage is my number one favorite vegetable. Recently, fennel has become a close second, so it made sense to combine the two for the base of my sheet pan dinner. I sliced the cabbage and fennel, created a flat bed of vegetables on the base of the sheet pan, and then drizzled said base with olive oil, salt and pepper. A friend of mine recently introduced me to the garlicky marinated tomatoes on the olive bar at Whole Foods (more on this later), and I had leftover Castelvetrano olives from a previous dinner, so I added the tomatoes and olives (with all the garlicky marinade) as well for extra flavor.

Because I was nervous about the vegetables not getting roasted enough, I first roasted the vegetable base by itself for 40 minus at 400 degrees. While the vegetables were open, I trimmed the extra skin off the 12 bone-in chicken thighs using kitchen scissors. I cooked 12 chicken thighs for 5 adults and there were 4 leftover, but mind you this sheet pan dinner was served with freshly toasted olive bread topped with lemon whipped ricotta and truffle honey. Running out of food when hosting people for dinner is my actual nightmare so I always try to shoot for more than I need. The chicken thighs were then tossed in olive oil and the skin was rubbed with Peanut Chutney Powder and sprinkled with salt and pepper to finish. Other seasoning ideas would be Chinese Five Spice, Israeli za’atar, adobo or even a simple Lemon Pepper blend.

The chicken thighs were laid on top of the semi-roasted vegetables and the sheet pan went back into the oven for 35 more minutes. The last 5 minutes I turned on the broiler, hence the darker spots, and the dish was served just as it was prepared – on the sheet pan.

It was a success!!! And the truth is that if my flavor combinations don’t speak to you, this post isn’t so much about MY recipe as it about encouraging you to give this EASY cooking technique a try. It is popular for a reason and super adaptable to whatever you are in the mood to make. Whatever vegetables you chose to use underneath, or whatever protein you chose to place on top (I have seen this done A LOT with fish), the way in which the chicken juices seeped into the bed of vegetables made my typical roast vegetables exceptionally more delicious. I actually could have served the olive loaf simply sliced and people could have used it to sop up the savory sheet pan juices. But then again, whipped ricotta toasts are always a good idea.

The Secret Sauce.

If you can’t tell by now – I am a sauce person – or else this is the first post you’re reading. Either way, welcome 🙂 and let me tell you about one of my favorite sauces as of late – Siete Spicy Queso. This cashew queso is vegan (are you sensing a theme?) and while it’s perfectly delicious as a dip, that’s how I first enjoyed it, it really has a magnitude of possibilities. Sometimes I bake simple turkey meatballs and mix them with the spicy queso instead of marinara sauce – almost like a Mexican version of Swedish meatballs. I’ve made nachos with the spicy queso and fried bits of chorizo — totally NOT vegan, ha! But one of my favorite uses of this queso is as a simple dressing for roasted vegetables.

I have yet to delve into my deep appreciation for cabbage, so for this “recipe” I roasted two heads of cauliflower and two bags of halved Brussels sprouts in two separate batches. Each batch of vegetables got a dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder before a quick toss and into the 400 degree oven they went. The vegetables cooked for 45 minutes each and then (SHOCKER!) I gave each tray 3-5 minutes under the broiler to get some char on the veggies and add a little crunch to the dish. Once the vegetables were out of the oven, I put about 4 tB. (or half the jar) of the queso in my serving bowl and then poured the vegetables on top. It’s important to stir this really well so the queso really gives your typical roast vegetables that creamy extra kick! And that, my friends, is the secret sauce (for today, anyways).

The Devil’s Shrimp

Saturday afternoon it started snowing and I immediately knew I wanted to make some sort of pasta for dinner. If there is one thing that is the absolute best in Hampton Bays – like better than anywhere else in the Hamptons or New York City even – it’s Cor-J Seafood. It’s simply the most honest, well-stocked seafood merchant and the people know what they are talking about and the fish is insanely fresh and going here, for me, is seriously one of my favorite activities. So I had these gorgeous U-15 shrimp and needed a plan. Snowy weather, red wine…red sauce. Seemed obvious.

Growing up, my Dad was always weird about shrimp. His shrimp had to be de-vained. So naturally, I always de-vain my shrimp and it’s a pain in the butt and I don’t even mind it not being done but I still do it anyways because I always have. So once the shrimp were de-shelled and de-vained, I put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta and dinner was around the corner.

In a hot pan, I heated about 1 tB. of olive oil and added another heaping 1 tB. of chopped garlic. As you can see from the photo, I always buy the giant tubs of pre-chopped garlic because I use so much garlic in my cooking and I like to save time. I think sliced garlic would have looked better in this situation – for example, I would ONLY make Linguine with Oil and Garlic with fresh, sliced garlic – but the point here is, one way or another, the dish is heavy on the garlic. Once the garlic is browned a bit (make sure NOT to BURN it, yuck), I add the shrimp one-by-one using tongs. I like using tongs when cooking shrimp so I can methodically turn them over. Once the shrimp were in the pan, I seasoned them with a Lemon Pepper mix (also from Whole Foods) and red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t want this EXTRA spicy) and let the undersides turn a golden orange for about 90 seconds. After I flipped each shrimp, I let them sear for one more minute before de-glazing the pan with a bit of my red wine. Once all the bits of caramelized garlic were off the bottom of the pan, I added about 1 cup of fra-daviolo sauce and let it come to a simmer.

In the boiling water, I cooked 1.5 cups of penne pasta to an al dente texture. Once strained, I immediately put the pasta in with the simmering sauce and shrimp and mixed well. I find this is the key to making delicious pasta. You have to let the pasta finish cooking in whatever sauce you are serving it in so the pasta can actually soak up some of the sauce in the cooking process.

Soup to nuts this dish probably took 30 minutes to make – and that’s accounting for the annoying de-vaining process. The truth is, when it came time to eat, I finished mine with parmesan cheese. I would have LOVED to have ricotta salata but just as I am typing this am I realizing how perfect that would have been. About 15 years ago, Daniel and I went to Pierluigi in Rome – a restaurant to this day I would highly recommend. I ordered Mussels Fra Diavolo and it came with ricotta salata on top and I was SHOCKED and it was divine (similar to how the Greek put feta on their mussels). It was the first time I had felt like cheese on seafood could not only be OK, but outstanding. It’s like growing up I always thought you couldn’t wear blue and black together because it clashed but now I realize that navy and black is actually a super cool combo. End note: “Rules” were meant to be broken.