Celebrity Sauces!

Most of us keep a few convenience items in our pantry for those nights when we’re too busy or wiped out to cook from scratch. One such item that makes for an easy supper is a simple jar of spaghetti sauce. We’re seeing more and more of these sauces being put out by celebrity chefs.

Christine Cushing offers a cognac and roasted pepper version, a fresh basil infused sauce and a porcini and chianti sauce in her line.

While Jamie Oliver offers a red onion and rosemary, and a tomato and chili, among others. How many times have you made a spaghetti sauce from scratch and put cognac in it? Or porcini? Or rosemary for that matter?

These are exciting flavour combinations and when we don’t have time to simmer a sauce for hours, while wearing a kerchief and humming the overture from Bizet’s Carmen, they’ll do just fine.

These sauces make for an easy base to build your meal on. Try to stock a number of different pasta shapes and experiment with them.

campanelle pasta with spaghetti sauce cooked with crumbled sausage

Try campanelle pasta with pork sausage and a tomato and chili sauce from Jamie, or some tagliatelle with porcini and chianti from Christine. You can add chicken, veggies or pancetta to jazz up the final dish, shave some nice cheese over top and you’ve got a worthy meal to eat. You can even eat it in front of the television while you watch Jamie wax on about beets while weeding the garden at his country estate.

Here is a great recipe from Christine’s site, in it she makes the pasta, the sauce and the bechamel from scratch. That might be a fun way to spend a Sunday in the kitchen, but for dinner on a weeknight you might want to take a few shortcuts. All you have to do is sub in dried pasta, a bag of pre-grated cheese and a bottle of prepared sauce. While the sauce is simmering you can whip up a bechamel, or simplify the lasagna and don’t use a bechamel at all. I cut down on fat by using a mixture of baby spinach tossed with low fat cottage cheese, nutmeg and a beaten egg, it’s delicious.

Christine Cushing’s Lasagne

This lasagna is the perfect balance of creamy bechamel, cheese and rich meat sauce. You’ll need a pasta machine to make the pasta. It’s a fairly lengthy  recipe but you will love the end result. As a shortcut , you can use pre-made fresh lasagna sheets and /or my all natural tomato sauce over the meat  If you want to just pour the sauce over pasta, add some cream to the meat sauce after adding the wine.

Pasta

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (425 ml)

Pinch salt

3 eggs

Bolognese Sauce

3 tbsp. olive oil (45 ml)

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (675 grams)

1 small Italian spicy sausage, casing removed

1 Tbsp. butter (15 ml)

2 small onions, finely diced

2 small carrots, finely diced

Several sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried oregano ( 5 ml)

One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice, chopped (784 grams)

1/4 cup dry white wine ( 50 ml)

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Béchamel sauce

1/3 cup butter (75 ml)

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour (75 ml + 15 ml)

4 cups milk (1 l)

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano  cheese (50 ml)

Oil, for baking dish

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (75 ml)

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Pasta

In food processor with plastic dough attachment, combine flour and salt .  Pulse to blend. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Pulse until mixture is crumbly but starts to come together.  Remove dough from mixer and knead several time until smooth .  Cover and let rest for 1 hour.

Meat Sauce

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the beef and Italian sausage and cook for 20-25 minutes stirring often until browned and all water has evaporated.  Add the butter , onion and the carrots and sauté for 5-6 minutes just to soften.

Add the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, oregano, tomatoes , white wine and salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 55 to 60 minutes or until sauce is thickened and flavour has developed to your liking. Adjust seasoning.Sauce should be loose.

 

Béchamel Sauce

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, melt butter. Add the flour and stir with wooden spoon until a paste forms. Remove from heat and add the cold milk a little at a time while stirring well between each addition. Return to heat once all the milk is added and mixture is smooth.

Continue stirring over medium heat until sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmigiano  cheese and stir.

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Oil the bottom of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish.
  3. Cut dough into 12 pieces. Roll dough into thick sheets on the pasta machine, starting at the thickest setting, reducing pasta setting one mark each time you roll the dough through.
  4. Cook pasta in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes or until just al dente.  Drain and lay on baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.Reserve a quarter of the béchamel sauce for the top layer. Layer lasagna as desired starting with pasta and alternating bolognese sauce, grated cheese and béchamel. Season well between each layer. Finish with a layer pasta, the reserved béchamel sauce and extra cheese on the top layer to finish (you should have 6 layers of lasagna).
  5. Bake lasagna in middle of oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Serves: 6 to 8 servings

 

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