Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut Toffee Crunch

Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut Toffee Crunch
Photo: BonAppetit
Thanksgiving was only a few days away but I'm still in a pumpkin mood. I understand that pumpkin, in all its forms, can be polarizing. My mom, for example, can't handle the "mealy" texture of pumpkin pie but loves the rich flavor of velvety, pumpkin soup. I'm not sure how it happened, but I fell far, far away from the anti-pumpkin tree. On the contrary, pumpkin season is my favorite time of the year. From the moment Starbucks announces their Spiced Pumpkin Latte in September to when that last slice of pumpkin pie has been devoured after Thanksgiving dinner, I'm in.

That said, whenever I'm making a pumpkin recipe I try to find one that will be appetizing to everyone at my dinner table. Which is exactly why I love this Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut Toffee Crunch*. I mean, just the name alone sounds incredible, doesn't it? Forget the fact that when you make it, your house will start to smell like toasted walnuts bubbling away in warm, salted toffee. Who wouldn't want that?

*A word to the wise: This perfect fall parfait requires some patience. Make it a day ahead or serving to give it time to really set up in the refrigerator. Your guests will thank you.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Walnut Toffee Crunch:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup walnut pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup toffee bits (such as Skor; about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Frozen Pumpkin Mousse:
  • 2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups canned pure pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks

For the Crunch: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush generously with vegetable oil. Toss nuts, toffee bits, sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and toss to coat. Place mixture in center of prepared sheet; pat to single layer. Bake until toffee bits are soft (but retain shape), about 15 minutes. Cool crunch completely on sheet. Transfer to work surface; chop coarsely.

For the Mousse: Whisk 3/4 cup whipping cream, sugar, and egg yolks in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Stir over medium-low heat until thickened to pudding consistency, about 10 minutes (do not boil). Transfer mixture to large bowl. Mix in pumpkin, rum, vanilla, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and allspice. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream in another large bowl until cream holds peaks. Transfer 1/2 cup whipped cream to medium bowl for garnish; cover and chill. Fold remaining whipped cream into pumpkin mixture. Cover and refrigerate mousse at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

In each of 4 medium (10-ounce) goblets, layer 1/3 cup mousse and generous tablespoon crunch. Repeat 2 more times (some crunch may be left). If necessary, whisk reserved 1/2 cup whipped cream to soft peaks. Pipe or drop dollop of cream onto mousse in each goblet. Cover; freeze overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep frozen. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.


Top 5 Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes!

What's Your Thanksgiving Leftover Recipe?
Photo: Bon Appetit
Two words: Thanksgiving leftovers. To some people, getting through Thanksgiving Day is a necessary evil in the way of getting of their leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. It's tradition. Ritual, even. My family is no exception and everyone has a very personal take on how their leftover sandwich should be made. Here's mine: I lightly toast two pieces of fresh sourdough bread and load it up with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes. No mustard, mayonnaise or lettuce for me. No, sir.

Bryan, on the other hand, alternates between two styles: 1) Traditional deli-style (i.e. cold) sandwich with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickle, etc., and 2) A hot sandwich that he calls, "Thanksgiving between bread." He shmears sweet potato on one piece of bread and gravy on the other, then loads it with turkey (white meat only) and cranberry sauce. No stuffing or potato involved. He reserves them for the sides.

Black Friday Turkey + Poached Eggs
Photo: Daily Candy
Need some inspiration to make your perfect sandwich? Here are five fantastic recipes that will help you get the most our of your leftovers. Just add bread.

1. Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sammys with Sausage Stuffing and Gravy, Smashed Potatoes with Bacon, Warm Apple Cranberry Sauce
I'll admit: I'm not a huge Rachel Ray fan. That said, this recipe encompasses everything that I know and love about a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich.

2. Turkey Banh Mi Sandwich
This Thanksgiving-inspired version of the traditional Vietnamese baguette sandwich is made with leftover turkey and dressed with mayonnaise, Asian chile sauce, cucumber, carrot, and fresh cilantro. Increase the heat with sliced fresh jalapenos, if you like some extra spice.

Turkey Banh Mi Sandwich
Photo: Martha Stewart
3. Fried Turkey with Stuffing Waffles, Sweet Potato Hash, Maple Foam, and Cranberry Glaze
Longman & Eagle’s Thanksgiving menu is the stuff food fantasies are made of. So when the editors Daily Candy asked chef Jared Wentworth what they could do with our leftovers, he concocted a recipe so tempting that they’re considering starving on Turkey Day itself in order to save room for the ultimate leftover feast.

4. Black Friday Turkey and Poached Eggs
Technically, this turkey-meets-eggs Benedict isn't a sandwich, but that won't stop me from putting it between two toasted pieces of zucchini walnut bread. The recipe comes courtesy of Nathan Beauchamp head chef of popular D.C. restaurant 1789.

5. Turkey, Cranberry + Gruyere Sandwich
This recipe, from 'Food Blogga' Susan Russo, had me at Gruyere. Load the sandwich filling with my Buttermilk Ham + Gruyere Biscuits and you've got the ultimate Thanksgiving sammy.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING + Leftover Recipes!

The 10 days of Thanksgiving recipes might be over but there are two things left to say:


2. Check back tomorrow for my five best Thanksgiving leftover recipes. Because there's nothing better than having Thanksgiving dinner all over again... just shoved between two pieces of bread.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Breads + Rolls

Buttermilk Ham + Cheese Biscuits
Photo: FoodandWine.com
Between the mashed potatoesstuffings, rich gratins, gravy and desserts, breads can easily go forgotten as a Thanksgiving side dish. But there's something wonderful about a warm, steaming crescent roll, a flaky biscuit topped with melting butter, or a slice of slightly sweet zucchini bread studded with walnuts.

Make no mistake, bread is a means to an end on Thanksgiving. It's a vehicle to sop up gravy, cranberry sauce and, perhaps most importantly, serve as the bookends for an incredible next-day leftover sandwich (arguably the best part about Thanksgiving). Personally, I'm making the Buttermilk Ham + Cheese Biscuits (recipe below), filled with tiny bits of diced ham and nutty Gruyere cheese. If the photo to the right is any evidence, the day-after obligatory sandwich will be just as good as the day-of fixin's.

1. Cornbread with Bacon Crust
Crumbled bacon makes an irresistible top crust on this slightly sweet cornbread.

2. Buttermilk Ham + Cheese Biscuits
Food and Wine recipe writer Lee Hefter gets so caught up in cooking Thanksgiving dinner that he hardly has time to eat it. He has a turkey-and-stuffing sandwich on these biscuits while he's cleaning up.

3. Spiced Zucchini + Walnut Bread
Sabrina Henderson of Gardena, California, writes: "After 17 years of making dinner for my family, I don't cook as much as I used to. These days what I really enjoy doing is baking. Not only is it more leisurely, but people enjoy the results so much. About twice a month my husband takes some of my homemade cookies to his colleagues who always ask when I'm going to send something their way. The staff in the doctor's office where I work will often ask me the same thing. My zucchini bread is a special favorite. I joke with people and tell them I'll bring it in, but only if they behave."- Bon Appetit

Raised Pumpkin Bread with
 Pumpkin-Pecan-Cranberry Swirl

Photo: FoodandWine.com
4. Mom's Crescent Rolls
These rolls have been a staple at blogger Tasty Kitchen's family Thanksgiving table for years. They're promised to be light and delicious.

5. Raised Pumpkin Bread with a Pumpkin-Pecan-Cranberry Swirl
The festive twist on cinnamon-swirl bread makes this loaf special enough for a holiday brunch, but don't limit yourself. A toasted, buttered slice can warm up any chilly morning.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Eat Dessert First!

Puff Pastry Pear Tartlets
Photo: Food and Wine
A few days ago I wrote that pumpkin, apple and pecan pies are the most popular Thanksgiving pie flavors. They're popular but they're also predictable so I'd like to share two twists on Thanksgiving dessert: 1) Creative alternatives to the typical fanfare, and; 2) A list of the BEST traditional recipes one can find. No matter which route you go, your guests will find room for dessert!

1. Puff Pastry Pear Tartlets
“I had the honor of cooking for Julia Child’s 80th birthday party at the home of a former F&W editor in chief,” says Grace Parisi. “At the end of the evening, Child graciously asked, ‘Who made that looovely dessert?’ I managed to croak out, ‘I did.’ These tartlets are a variation on that recipe.” - Grace Parisi of Food and Wine

2. Banana-Chocolate Chip with Peanut Butter Frosting
This cake is perfect for beginners—it's moist, forgiving, and easy. Jif creamy peanut butter is our favorite for the decadent frosting. - BonAppetit

This extraordinarily rich and sweet pecan pie was the winner at the 1996 State Fair of Texas State pie competition, which Dean Fearing helped judge. "Out of 140 pies, this one was it," he says. "Her name was Bobby Lee; she never told me her last name." - Food and Wine

Banana-Chocolate Chip with Peanut Butter Frosting
Photo: Bon Appetit
This tart was inspired by a pumpkin mousse with mashed banana and orange zest that Ina's mother made for years for Thanksgiving. It's lighter and much more flavorful than that cloying old pumpkin pie, and people really do go nuts for it. - Oprah

A tried-and-true pumpkin pie recipe from the 'Butter Queen', Paula Deen herself.

"Apple pie" conjures warmth, aroma, taste, and togetherness. This one is filled with Granny Smith apples and is tucked into a buttery crust. - Martha Stewart


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Green Beans

Green Beans with Crispy Onions
Ahhh, the good ole' green bean casserole. A dish whose original Campbell's soup recipe has spanned generations and Thanksgiving tables the country over. It's very simple: Combine Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup with French-cut green beans, milk, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bake and top with French's French fried onions. Couldn't be simpler, right?

Modern spins on the 50's classic might be a smidge more involved but arguably result in a more flavorful and health-conscious dish. That's the route we're taking this Thanksgiving, looking at dishes like green beans and walnuts with lemon vinaigrette, green beans with Cremini mushroom sauce, and Haricot Verts (fancy green beans) with roasted fennel and shallots. Want to modernize your green bean casserole? Check out five recipe ideas below to help get you started.

Martha Stewart has made the quintessential Thanksgiving casserole better than ever by combining fresh green beans, homemade mushroom sauce, and savory fried shallots.

This Thanksgiving side is as simple as it is delicious.

Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Pearl Onions
Photo: MyRecipes.com




10 Days of Thanksgiving: Grateful for Gratins

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin
Photo: Southern Living
Mention the word "gratin" and the first response is often, "What exactly IS a gratin anyway?" According to Wikipedia, a gratin is "a widespread culinary technique in food preparation in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter." Sounds good to me!

Think of a gratin like a fancy casserole. The best part about a gratin is the fillings are nearly endless. You can go the decadent route with ingredients like mushrooms and goat cheese or Brussels Sprouts, Beemster cheese and bacon. Or, take the healthy road and opt for swiss chard and leeks, or broccoli and cauliflower. Whatever direction you decide, here are five recipes to get you started.

The handmade pastry in this decadent gratin takes some time but the result is well worth the effort.

This gratin combines blanched chard and sautéed leeks, cooked until just tender in a creamy two-cheese sauce made with both Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Not your mother's lima beans. This deliciously rich gratin balances lima beans with leeks, Cremini mushrooms and a grated Parmesan and bread crumb topping.

Swiss Chard and Leek Gratin
Photo: FoodandWine
A quick and creamy Dijon-mustard sauce, laced with Parmesan and Cheddar cheese, turns a simple dish of broccoli and cauliflower into company fare.

Beemster is a Gouda-style cheese similar to butterscotchy aged goudas with little bits of crunch from crystallization that occurs during the cheese-making process. The savory flavor profile is a terrific match for brussels sprouts and Canadian bacon in this creamy gratin. Serve it with pierogies and a salad dressed in a tart vinaigrette to cut through the richness.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Relishes & Chutneys

Cherry-Pear Mostarda
Photo: LA Times
Fresh or canned? When it comes to cranberry sauce, I've never heard of a more polarizing Thanksgiving issue. Just the mere presence of the "wrong" type of sauce can send people into a tailspin. My family has always opted for the canned stuff while Bryan's family asks that he be in charge of making fresh cranberry sauce. I like both kinds while Bryan likes neither. Isn't it time we stopped the madness?

From chutney to relish to mostarda, there are so many ways to dress up classic cranberry sauce and keep the peace. I've collected five fabulous versions -- think cranberry ginger chutney and cherry-pear mostarda -- from Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart and Hatfield's restaurant in L.A. Make any one of these and the only debate at your table will be who gets the last serving.

This chutney has added piquancy from fresh ginger and a pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more versatility than the average cranberry sauce: It dazzles on turkey sandwiches and alongside roast duck.

Sweet-and-Spicy Cranberry Sauce
The pineapple may be unexpected, but it brings the cranberry, chili and cilantro flavors together and makes them shine.

Recipe (pictured above, right) adapted from Chefs Quinn and Karen Hatfield, co-owners of their eponymous restaurant. Dried pears can be found in most well-stocked and gourmet markets, as well as online. Pickled mustard seeds are available at select gourmet markets and online.

Guests will bite into this unassuming cranberry sauce only to encounter a "whang!" from lime zest and cayenne pepper.

This cranberry sauce with dried Calimyrna figs has a chutney like texture. A little red wine makes the sauce rich in flavor and ruby red in color.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Stuffings & Dressings

Cornbread, Sausage and Pecan Stuffing
Photo: BonAppetit
I've got a confession to make. On Thanksgiving, I'm not a fan of turkey. To me, it's a necessary evil; a vehicle best used for making rich, moist, carb-o-liscious stuffing. For over twenty years, my mom has been stuffing our turkey with the simplest of stuffing mixes: Original Stove Top Stuffing. It's not gourmet, it's not complicated and, let's be honest, isn't hugely appealing straight out of the box.

That said, something magical happens when you bake said Stove Top inside a turkey cavity. It becomes moist, fluffy and heavenly; which is exactly why I've asked my mom to make it and bring it to the first Thanksgiving Bryan and I are hosting at our home. But new hosts mean new traditions and I'm going gourmet with "my" stuffing. It might be sourdough and sweet Italian sausage, cornbread with roasted fall vegetables or an oldie but a goodie recipe from Gourmet circa 1975. Whatever we choose, we'll certainly give thanks for recipes old and the new.

Use store-bought or homemade cornbread; Bon Appetit recommends Jiffy mix (you'll need two boxes).

Roasted carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas add great depth of flavor.

Toasty sourdough, earthy wild mushrooms and bacon. Can it get any better? Actually yes; add some bacon drippings for extra moisture and flavor.

Lemony Mushroom and Pine Nut
Stuffing Muffins

Photo: FoodandWine
A mix of sautéed wild mushrooms adds lots of texture to this stuffing; lemon juice and zest make it tangy (pictured, left). The mushroom stuffing can be made vegetarian-friendly simply by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

A mixture of white bread and cornbread crumbs soak up butter, cream and a variety of herbs. Add in chicken livers and this is the closest to "mom's" original stuffing recipe you'll ever find. 


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Eat Your Vegetables!

Creamy Mustard Greens with Fried Shallots
Photo: FoodandWineVege
Vegetables might be the red-headed stepchild of Thanksgiving, but I'm here to stick up for good ole' greens. Sure, they're overlooked during the holiday but it's not they're fault. How do they stand a chance on a day dedicated to stuffing yourself with as many carbs as you shoved into that 12-lb turkey?

If vegetables have any chance of holiday redemption, these five recipes will do the trick. From spicy Brussels sprouts with fried capers to baked acorn squash with chestnuts, apples and leeks, these dishes run the gamut from healthy to indulgent. The one thing they all have in common? You can bet your guests will be begging for seconds.

Crisp fried shallots are a terrific contrast to creamy greens, especially when they're stirred in and sprinkled on top.

This quick recipe for piquant brussels will save precious time this Thanksgiving, without sacrificing on taste.

Halved acorn squash make perfect single-serving bowls. These make a great vegetarian main course for any winter holiday, but they're also a festive accompaniment to turkey, ham or roast goose.

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Shallots
Photo: MarthaStewart
Boiling the broccoli rabe beforehand reduces its bitterness. Toss in the pan with sauteed garlic and almonds to reheat.

Carrots, parsnips, and shallots become rich and sweet when roasted in a hot oven. Here, the vegetables are served with a tart relish of green olives, parsley, mint, and white-wine vinegar.


10 Days of Thanksgiving Recipes: All Things Mashed

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Photos: Food Network
Everyone's family seems to have a special mashed potato recipe. Some would-be potato mashers keep it simple, relying on a traditional hand mixer to mash butter and milk into steamy Russets. Some get technical, using a potato ricer to ensure their mash is silky smooth and lump-free. Finally, some get gourmet, opting for out-of-the-box (or burlap bag?) bases and combinations. No longer is the Russet the norm; sweet potatoes, parsnips, apples, and even cauliflower are often masquerading as the mash of choice, filled with every spice and creative topping combo known to man. However your family prepares them, here are five recipes to make sure whatever you mash holds it weight.

The perfect mashed potatoes aren't actually mashed. The key is using a potato ricer (which looks like a giant garlic press). This gadget gently breaks the potatoes into tiny, flaky pieces (rather than smashing them into a gluey mass), creating just the right texture. Your left with light, fluffy, perfect potatoes.

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash
Photo: BonAppetit
Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and maple syrup set the base for this autumnal mash. A splash or bourbon and chopped, toasted walnuts make it complete.

An Italian twist on classic mashed potatoes, this baked mash gets its a savory, crisp topping from the combination of Parmesan cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

The potatoes are cooked along with a whole head of garlic, adding a rich, savory dimension to this essential Thanksgiving side dish. To make your mashed potatoes even more luxurious, substitute half-and-half for the milk in this recipe.

Blue Cheese-Walnut Mashed Potatoes
Part of Food Network's 50 Mashed Potato Recipes
Photo: FoodNetwork
Transform humble parsnips into a luxurious alternative to mashed potatoes. When pureed, simmered apples and parsnips take on a dense, silky texture. This recipe can be prepared up to two days in advance of Thanksgiving and reheated before serving.

Choose from 50 simple additions to a traditional mashed potato base including cheddar bacon, pancetta rosemary, Tex-Mex, crispy garlic, golden saffron and many more.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: The Gravy Train

Take Your Thanksgiving Gravy From Good to Great
Photo: Arbiter.com
In my opinion, nothing makes or breaks a Thanksgiving meal faster than the quality of the gravy. Think about it: you've just finished piling your Thanksgiving plate high with moist turkey, hearty stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes and creamy green bean casserole when you get to the gravy boat. Without thinking, you liberally douse everything on said plate with gravy, expecting it to be the veritable cherry on top of your Thanksgiving sundae.

If that gravy is bad -- tasteless, chalky and lukewarm -- you've just tainted your once-a-year Thanksgiving meal. But, if that gravy is great, it boosts the flavor of everything on your plate. A good gravy base should be rich, velvety smooth and slightly salty with flavors reminiscent of drippings left behind from a perfectly-cooked turkey. Dress it up or down creatively; throw in crispy pancetta, liven it up with fresh herbs or keep it simple with white pepper and plenty of stock. Here are five recipes to make sure your gravy makes the grade.

Salty Italian bacon flavors both the turkey and the gravy. Does it get any better?

A touch of tawny Port wine adds some elegance to a classic gravy. Keep it simple by sticking to pan juices, turkey stock, flour, butter and 1/2 cup of tawny Port. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Gravy doesn't get more classic than this. Take the time to make the perfect gravy base by making your own turkey giblet stock. Cook down the turkey neck and backbone with vegetables and herbs, then thicken it up with potato starch and flour. Fresh rosemary, sage and thyme add the final touches.

Porcini mushrooms, rosemary, thyme and Italian parsley give this gravy an earthy flavor and hearty texture. And that added hint of flavor your guests just can't put their finger on? A hint of fresh mint.

This sweet-meets-salty gravy is the perfect accompaniment to a Maple-glazed turkey. A cup of Riesling wine gives adds a slight sweetness to the turkey-based stock, while red and green grapes cook down for texture.


10 Days of Thanksgiving: Let's Talk Turkey

This Thanksgiving, Bird is the Word.
Photo: LA Times
No matter how much menu planning you do, a successful Thanksgiving meal really comes down to one thing: The Turkey. No, I'm not talking about the uncle who drinks too much Wild Turkey and acts like one. I'm talking about the pièce de résistance, the show-stopper, the whole enchilada: The BIRD. 

Whether your turkey is fresh, free-range, frozen, brined, smoked, grilled, fried or roasted, here are five ways to make sure your bird gets your guests' ultimate seal of approval: an empty plate.


1. SMOKE AND BRINED (pictured above, right)
Los Angeles Chef Quinn Hatfield told the Los Angeles Times he brines his turkey for 36 hours in a mixture of water, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, crushed garlic cloves, rosemary and thyme. After the allotted 36 hours, the turkey air dries for at least an hour before being smoked in Hatfield's Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Smoke the turkey at 300-325 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (about one hour for every four pounds of turkey).

Grilled Turkey with Toasted Fennel and Coriander
Photo: BonAppetit.com
This bird gets rubbed down in a mixture of toasted fennel seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns and coarse salt before being grilled on a bed of carrots, celery, parsnips, onion and thyme.

Jose Garces contributed this turkey recipe to Food and Wine, preparing it in the same style as a traditional Yucatán dish called cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus and annatto paste (made from achiote seeds, the condiment adds an orange hue to foods). Brining and marinating the bird make it especially succulent.

Turkey Alla Porchetta
Photo: MarthaStewart.com
This Italian-style turkey (pictured, right) gets its inspiration from Porchetta, a tightly-rolled deboned pork roast and stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel and other wild herbs. This turkey version is rolled in paper-thin slices of prosciutto, giving it extra moisture and decadence.

The Top Chef host's extra-moist turkey gets a flavor boost from herbed butter applied in copious amounts under the turkey's skin. While the turkey oven roasts and the butter melts, your house will be filled with the amazing aroma of thyme, tarragon, rosemary and sage.


Starting Tomorrow: 10 Days of Thanksgiving Recipes

Starting Tomorrow: 10 Days of Thanksgiving Recipes!
Photo: BonAppetit
Thanksgiving -- the veritable Super Bowl of foodie holidays -- is right around the corner. If you haven't started planning your Turkey Day menu, it's time to get serious. Think about it: In only 10 days (yikes!!) a flock of friends and family who put the "fun" in dysfunctional will descend upon your home. Worse yet, they'll be jet-lagged. Not to mention very, very hungry. You need to be prepared.

Luckily, I've done some legwork for you. You see, I have a small family -- we cap out at nine people total -- but it's my dream to cook and feed an army on Thanksgiving. Hence why I've spent the last few weeks researching some of the best Thanksgiving recipes from cookbooks and cooking sites the world over. If I could make all of them, I would. But I can't. That's where you come in. Over the next 10 days, I'll share a dish-by-dish Thanksgiving recipe guide including stuffing, sides, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, dessert and the show-stopper itself: The Turkey. 

Put on your elastic-waisted pants and get ready for a Thanksgiving recipe rumble. See you tomorrow.


Give Thanks: Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, a wonderfully gluttonous day during which Americans will consume nearly three times their recommended daily calorie count. Sure, plates will be piled high with the usual suspects -- slices of roasted turkey, heaping mounds of stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes swimming in gravy -- but what about dessert? While pumpkin, apple and pecan pies are the most popular Thanksgiving pie flavors, who says you can't kick dessert up a notch?

Dress up that classic apple pie with a generous drizzle of caramel. Add a shot of bourbon to your tried-and-true pecan pie to give it an adult twist. Or better yet, serve guests this Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. Rich, creamy and altogether dreamy, it's a Thanksgiving dessert guaranteed to disappear.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 24 cookies)
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate pieces or white baking pieces (about 1/3 cup), melted (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. In a medium bowl toss together butter and crushed chocolate wafer cookies. Spread into pie plate; press evenly onto bottom and up sides. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

2. In a large bowl beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Pour pumpkin mixture into baked crust.

3. Bake about 40 minutes more or until mixture is slightly puffed around edges and just set in center. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

4. In a small microwave-safe bowl combine dark chocolate and cream. Microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 30 seconds to 1 minute; stir until smooth. Let stand for 15 minutes. Pour chocolate mixture over the cooled pie, spreading evenly. Chill, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours more. If desired, drizzle with milk chocolate.


Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Photo: BHG.com
I've got two words for you: pumpkin porn. I mean, just look at the photo to the right. Can't you just imagine taking a sinful bite of one of those pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars? They smell like autumn, look like they have a prominent place on TasteSpotting, and taste like heaven.

Heaven, then, must be located in the Test Kitchen of Better Homes and Gardens, where this incredible recipe came from. And a part of the magazine's "41 Pumpkin Recipes" feature, there's 40 more where this came from. Think pumpkin praline muffins, holiday pumpkin soup, spiced pumpkin butter and pumpkin latte coffee cake. It's really the whole enchilada... assuming said enchilada is filled with roasted pumpkin and topped with cumin pepitas.

I simply couldn't resist sharing and hopefully, neither can you. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Recipe adapted from BHG.com
Makes: 24 to 36 servings
Yield: 24 to 36 bars
Timing: Prep 25 mins | Bake 325°F 55 mins | Cool 30 mins | Chill 3 hrs

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut up, or 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Grated fresh nutmeg
  • Milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate curls
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in the 1/3 cup melted butter. Press mixture evenly into bottom of the prepared baking pan; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and the 1-3/4 cups sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat in pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt on low speed just until combined. Remove 1-1/4 cups of the mixture.

3. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the 6 ounces chocolate and the 2 tablespoons butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Whisk chocolate mixture into the 1-1/4 cups pumpkin mixture. Pour over crust, spreading evenly. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. Carefully pour the remaining pumpkin mixture over baked chocolate layer, spreading evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes more or until filling is puffed and center is set. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and 1/4 cup sugar. Gently spread over cookies. Cool completely. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into bars. Before serving, sprinkle with nutmeg and/or chocolate curls.

Storing leftovers: Place in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.


Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Apple Sauce
and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

Photo: Food Network
Some people wait all year long for summer BBQs, hearty winter stews or spring salads. Not me. I’ve been waiting the last 10 months for a certain portly squash to make its annual reappearance: the pumpkin. It’s called “The Great Pumpkin” for a reason; just ask Charlie Brown.

While pumpkin can be polarizing, it’s also perhaps the most versatile recipe ingredient around. Pumpkin is a flawless fit in dishes both savory and sweet, handles high roasting temps like a champ, and turns any soup silky smooth.

But if you want one can’t-miss pumpkin recipe this season, this is it: Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise. Imagine this: Hunks of moist pumpkin bread baked in a rich pumpkin custard, drizzled with a spicy caramel apple sauce and sitting atop a pool of vanilla bean creme anglaise. It’s pure heaven for any pumpkin lover and just might convert anyone who’s not.

Helpful hint: If you’ve got the time, make this recipe the night before you need to serve it. It’s got a lot of components so you don’t want to feel rushed; but more importantly, the flavors really come together overnight.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • Pumpkin Bread, toasted and cubed, recipe follows
  • Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
  • Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
  • Freshly whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise into a shallow bowl, top with some of the bread pudding and drizzle with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream. Bread pudding is best served warm.

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces (scant 1 cup) canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 tablespoons softened butter, sugar, and oil at high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and water and mix until just combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Once the bread is cool, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven until lightly toasted, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup pure cane sugar

Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half. Return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 star anise
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apple schnapps

Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it’s a deep amber color, about 8 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the apple schnapps and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.


Gluttony at 40,000ft: Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Experience

Virgin's In-Flight Walk-Up Bar 
A few months ago I had the incredible pleasure of taking a business trip to London. It was a trip of "firsts:" the first time I had been in a city during the Olympic Games, the first time I'd been working for a UK-based company, and the first time I had the privilege of flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. Sure, there are lie-flat seats, free pajamas and a full, backlit bar complete with bartender and barstools, but more importantly there was great food both in-flight and post-flight at Virgin's Upper Class Lounge. Check it out below.

Boarding the Upper Deck, the first thing you hit is the walk-up bar, where a bartender is pouring pre-flight glasses of champagne and Mimosas. I opted out and went to my seat to settle in. Sadly, I had intentions of heading back to the bar but never made it. Maybe next time. Regardless it was a total #InFlightFAIL.

Upper Class Menu
Once I got to my seat, the first thing I noticed was the menu. It was huge. After nearly a decade of business travel on American Airlines, on whose planes you're lucky if you get a seat that stays put (let alone an edible meal), I was just floored to see the passion and creativity that Virgin Atlantic had put into the menu. As a professional strategic planner by day and personal dinner party "thrower" (technical term?) by night, I was even more excited to see how integrated the whole experience was. Heading to London? Why not have an afternoon tea service complete with miniature cake stands for each guest? For the night owls, it makes perfect sense to offer a full dining experience but about passengers who sleep through dinner? That's where the "Graze" menu comes in, offering off-hour guests mini beef burgers, a "Coronation" chicken salad, and vegetarian sushi selection. Pure genius and truly consumer-centric, something that Virgin clearly prioritizes. But enough geeking out at the experiential marketing; let's get back to the food.

Amuse Bouche: Pesto Puree with Breadsticks

Sit down at your seat and you better hope you're hungry. Granted, service is spread out over about 8 hours, but there's a lot of pomp and circumstance before you even take your first bite. Flight attendants first need to set your table by pulling a hidden slot out of your cubby's wall, sliding it over your lap and adorning it with a cloth placemat, flatware, silver salt and pepper shakers, and cloth napkin. Need to get up during the amuse bouche, appetizer, dinner or dessert service? No problem. Just slide your table down towards your feet and you've got plenty of room to stand up. Very ergonomically correct, if I may say so.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup
Thai Chicken Curry

Once you're all set up, Virgin's service seemingly goes on forever. First, there's an amuse bouche -- ours was a pesto puree with breadsticks (above) -- followed by your choice of Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup (left) or Smoked Salmon for starters.

Need a cocktail with your food? Choose from a full bar of high-end liquors and spirits. then a main course selection of Grilled Filet of Beef, Thai Chicken Curry or English Pea and Mint Tortellini with assorted breads. Our flight had Rosemary Focaccia and Pumpernickel. One of each, please.

Don't forget wine pairings! Flight attendants come around with a four-pack wine carrier, offering up varietals like a Spanish Rioja, Italian Barbera, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Argentinian Malbec. How did I choose? Well, the last time I flew to London it was en route to Italy with Bryan, so I opted for the Italian varietal. Maybe it was the in-cabin pressure but it was delightful.

My Barbera was perfect with dessert, a warm chocolate and salted caramel pudding. It was eithe that or an apricot raspberry almond tart with creme anglaise.

About 30 minutes after dessert you start to think everything's calming down and you can turn in for a six-hour snooze, but the flight attendant's haven't had the last laugh. They literally roll through the cabin with a wine, cheese and Port cart. No joke. It's hard to stomach (pun intended) the thought of more food at that point, but I decided to take one for the team. I could only imagine Bryan's disappointment to hear I passed up cheese and Port at 40,000 feet. I couldn't let him down. Yup. That's my rationale and I'm sticking to it.

Finally, it's time for bed. Your flight attendant makes that for you, too. There's a full-on mattress pad, sheet, fluffy duvet and pillow. You can adjust your personal TV screen to sit right in front of your face, providing in-flight entertainment until you lull yourself into dreamland. Better yet, if you wake up to use the restroom, your return to find your "bed" has been remade. I was a little surprised they didn't  offer to tuck each passenger in.

When it's time to wake up, at least on the way back to LA, it's mid-day. That means no breakfast at 2pm. So what does Virgin Atlantic dream up instead? A full afternoon tea service. Flight attendants bring a cart to each passenger's pod and offer fresh tea as well as a overflowing selection of tea sandwiches and pastries. Better yet, the attendant arranges said goodies on individual tiered cake stands for each passenger. Our flight's sandwiches included ham and chutney, tuna and sweet corn, and cucumber with dill mayonnaise. A warm sultana scone came with refreshing clotted cream and strawberry jam while the "cake stand" included miniature chocolate eclairs, black currant and almond sponge cake as well as a selection of macarons. It was heavenly; in-flight gluttony at its best. Shortly after your afternoon tea service, your flight lands and you're wheeled off the plane about 20 pounds heavier. Not true, but I can say I was especially grateful for a long walk through Heathrow Airport to customs.

Traditional English Breakfast at Heathrow's VA Upper Class Lounge
That's all the in-flight experience but there's one more perk: Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Lounge at Heathrow. If you ever find yourself with a ticket to this lounge, get there early. Like five hours early. Not because there are lines but because you're never going to want to leave. Better yet, call ahead and book a massage, a facial or a body wrap. Men can relax and refresh in the barber shop; other guests either lingered over cocktails at one of two glowing bars or collapsed onto huge personal leather sectionals, each offering a pair of Bose headphones to listen to music or watch a 20' TV. I couldn't leave London without trying a traditional English breakfast, so I perused the menu found at everyone's seat and gave my order to a passing waiter. The same waiter who was offering every guest champagne and Bellinis. Once you're settled, you don't have to move. I nearly fell asleep and missed my flight to LA, but I knew better. Eleven more hours of gluttony was about to begin.


How To Make An Amazing Chinese Chicken Salad

World's Best Chinese Chicken Salad? 
Photo: LA Times
I have a a love-hate relationship with Chinese Chicken Salad. When it's done right, it's incredible: You can't beat refreshing, crisp iceberg lettuce, juicy slices of chicken breast, the subtle crunch of delicately fried rice noodles, crushed bit of peanuts, and a hint of umami from an equally-balanced soy and ginger dressing. It's savory and satisfying, especially on a hot day with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. However, Chinese Chicken Salad gone wrong is unbearable. Suffice to say sickly-sweet dressing and limp lettuce leaves do not a fabulous salad make.

Chi Dynasty in Studio City might make the world's best Chinese Chicken Salad, meeting all of the aforementioned requirements and better yet, ready from start-to-finish in under an hour. They recently shared their recipe with the LA Times and I've included it below for your salad-eating pleasure. Enjoy!

  • 8 cups chopped iceberg lettuce

  • 3 cups crispy rice noodles

  • 1 pound boiled chicken breast, cut into strips

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped peanuts, more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons minced preserved ginger, more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon roasted black sesame seeds, more to taste

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, more to taste

  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, more to taste


  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons sesame oil

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Make the Dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Taste and adjust seasoning and flavoring as desired. This makes a generous one-half cup of dressing.

 Set aside.

Assemble the Salad: In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, noodles, chicken, peanuts, ginger, sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro leaves. Add half the dressing, tossing to lightly coat. Taste, and toss in additional dressing as desired. Serve immediately.


Wedding Favors: S'mores Snack Packs

My super-creative mother-in-law, Nancy, made these incredible little s'mores packages and I just had to share. Not only did she make them but she took this fabulous photo as well (someone's getting pretty darned good at food photography)! The occasion? A weekend in Truckee, CA (a stone's throw north of Lake Tahoe) to celebrate the wedding of her childhood-best-friend's-son. The wedding was absolutely incredible but these s'mores were the veritable icing on the cake during a welcome BBQ hosted by the bride and groom. Nancy filled each decadent mini package with graham crackers, Hershey's chocolate and jumbo jet-puffed marshmallows, tied them with rafia bows and personalized them with perhaps the cutest message ever: "Sending you s'more love." At the end of the BBQ, the bride-to-be carried a large rustic basket heaping with the s'mores around to each of the guests, who just happened to be gathered around fire pits. Coincidence? I think not. :)


'Barefoot Contessa' Ina Garten Speaks at Wilshire Ebell Nov. 15

I am so so so excited. The Barefoot Contessa HERSELF is coming to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Nov. 15. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you might as well stop reading now. But, if you do, I hope you have just as big a culinary crush on Ina Garten as I do. My love for Ina goes way back. My grandma and I used to sit and watch her cooking shows together, and one-by-one, we'd collect her cookbooks as they came out. 

Slowly but surely, recipes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Family Style became my go-to's for dinner parties and last-minute meals. A few years later, during a period when I was slammed at work and looking for no-fuss meals, How Easy Is That? became my recipe bible. Pappa al Pomodoro — a Tuscan bread and tomato soup -- is comforting on a chilly winter night. Scallops Provençal helped me get over my fear of overcooking delicate (and expensive) scallops. And her Brownie Pudding had my chocolate-lover friends licking their plates. No joke.

All of this is why I can barely wait for an evening with Ina on Nov. 15, when Garten will chat with host Jennifer Garner about her new book, The Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. Tickets are $42 plus tax and include an autographed copy of Foolproof. Make reservations via the event sponsor, Vroman's Bookstore, by visiting Vroman's will call department (695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena) or calling (626) 449-5320.


"Unavoidable Bacon Shortage?" Say It Ain't So!

Whoever said "Everything's better with bacon" may want to find a substitute next year. According to The Los Angeles Times, a British Trade Group is predicting that a "world shortage of pork and bacon is now unavoidable," as a result of this year's drought effects on corn and soybean crops. Better stock up now! Check out the full report below:


Kitchen Creativity 101: No Recipe Needed!

I interpret the word "recipe" very loosely. To make a great meal, many times there's no need for official ingredient lists or step-by-step instructions; I'll just grab a bunch of things I like and throw them together. Boom, there's dinner. That's exactly what I did for today's lunch, which happens to be leftovers from last night's mish-mash dinner.

I went to the grocery store and pretty much laid waste to the produce section. Mixed greens, asparagus, red bell pepper, kale, sweet onion, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic all ended up in my cart. As did 1/3 pound of freshly ground turkey. When I got home, I finely diced some onion, garlic and a bit of red bell pepper and threw it in a bowl with the ground turkey. A few grinds of salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil of and hot sauce and I had myself a delicious turkey burger patty. The rest was easy: grill the burger and veggies. Chop them up. Add a few mixed greens and toss in your favorite dressing. I happened to make two servings, so I brought the leftovers for lunch. It was even better today.

The point? Be spontaneous. Make what you like, even if there's no "official" recipe. :)


Spicy Pasta Bolognese...Ready in 30 Minutes!

Spicy Veal Bolognese
I'm in New Jersey for work and I'm inspired. I know, inspiration and New Jersey don't typically go hand-in-hand (relax, I'm mostly kidding), but after spending the day with an Italian colleague who talked about her mother's amazing homemade pasta, gravy (sauce), meatballs and cannoli, I'm hungry.

If I could make anything right now, it would be my best attempt at spicy bolognese... in other words, pasta shells tossed in a rich veal tomato sauce. It's made from a mix of ground sirloin and veal, San Marzano tomatoes, a hint of nutmeg, a touch of cream and topped with basil and freshly grated Parmesiano Reggiano. The recipe might not come from my
Italian Nona but it's still pretty delicious. Even better, it's ready in 30 minutes. Enjoy!

30-Minute Pasta Bolognese
Adapted from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
  • 1/2 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Sea salt, for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus extra as for serving
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Directions: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and veal and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of olive oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. Al dente typically takes 8-10 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with basil and Parmesan on the side.
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