Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Pepper and Asiago Chicken Sausage

It was a dull day today.  Sun has not peeked through the clouds for the last couple of days.  The weather has changed drastically.  I had never seen rain and Thunder storms in January...and it is not expected especially after one week of harsh cold.  On my drive back home, I saw a herd of deer grazing in someone's front yard and they seemed least bothered by the passing by vehicles.  These sights sometimes put you in deep thoughts.  'Well they have to find their own food even if it snows or rains, so nature had made them tough enough to get adapted to this weather.  On the other hand, we humans complain for everything that is granted for us.  Look at them, they seemed to be enjoying the feast with their family in harmony even in the cold'.  My thought process was perturbed by the question "What are we having for dinner?" by my little one who was anxiously waiting to get home after his extended day care after school.  Oh yeah, I have to think about dinner too.  I told him 'let me see what we have at home'.

Any version of pasta is welcomed by my kids.  It is an easy dinner fix for me.  After the whole day of school and extended day, my little kindergartner gets exhausted and goes to sleep early, so I rely on pasta dishes for quick dinner.  Here is the recipe for the baked pasta with chicken sausage that I made for dinner.

Serves - 8


1 - 1 lb box Rigatoni pasta
1 - package of Al fresco Roasted pepper & Asiago Chicken sausage
1 - medium onion thinly sliced
5 cloves - chopped garlic
1 cup - broccoli florets
1 cup - button mushrooms sliced
1 sprig - fresh basil chopped
1 1/2 cup - homemade pasta sauce or any pasta sauce
1/4 cup - white cooking wine (optional)
1 tbsp - extra virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup - Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup - mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • Cook pasta according to the package direction and reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
  • Cook the sausage according to the package direction.  Since this is already cooked sausage, you can just pan fry it for couple minutes and keep it aside.
  • In a non-stick pan cook the chopped garlic in olive oil till golden brown.
  • Add sliced Onions and wait till it caramelizes by increasing the heat and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add mushroom followed by broccoli and sausage and cook for 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove one cup of vegetable mix from the pan and keep it aside.
  • Add 1/4 cup pasta water, tomato sauce, wine and basil to the left over vegetable mix in the pan and bring to boil.
  • Turn off the stove and pour the sauce mix over the cooked pasta. Add 1/2 cup of parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese to the pasta and mix well.
  • Take a bakeware and drizzle some olive oil at the bottom of the baking dish and transfer all the pasta-vegetable-sausage mix to it.
  • Spread 1 cup of the reserved roasted vegetables over the pasta and sprinkle the rest of (1 cup ) mozzarella cheese on top of it.
  • Cover with an aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and broil it for 5 minutes till the cheese starts to get a golden brown color.
  • Serve them while they are hot.
  • Use any tubular pasta like Penne, Ziti etc.
  • Substitute the vegetables with veggies of your choice.
  • There are different flavors of Al Fresco Chicken sausages available; feel free to use the one you prefer.
  • Pasta bakes are good only when they are piping hot, so serve immediately once taken from oven.
  • You can make the pasta, vegetable and sauce mix ahead and keep it refrigerated.  Don't mix the sauce with pasta till ready to bake. Mix the pasta and sauce and layer the cheese just before baking. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kerala Style Fish Curry with Drumsticks/ PachaThenga Aracha Meen Curry

Hello Readers, did you notice my absence in my blog for the last 3 weeks?  If so, thank you for stopping by and checking.  As many of you know I went to India for a short 3 weeks vacation trip.  We had a fun filled vacation with all of our relatives around.  Kids were pampered so much and they are totally spoiled now :).  The drastic change in the weather made kids sleepy and tired for the first one week when we got there.  But they coped well later.  They were amused with the mosquito zapper and managed to escape with few mosquito bites.  We are still getting adjusted to the time difference and I would say our schedule is still not normal yet.  Jet lag takes at least 4 -5 days to settle down.  Besides all when you come back, you really don't feel like cooking.  3 weeks is good enough for people like me to get lazy when you don't have to get into the kitchen to make anything.  So it was a lazy start for me when I got back.  Everything in my kitchen looked strange to me.  We were so hooked to homemade fresh food; we didn't even want to get something from outside the day we got here.  So I hesitantly got into the kitchen the next morning to start my adventures in kitchen and kick started the cooking with a Keralite breakfast.  I am slowly getting back into my regular schedule now.

I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that everyone in my family loves fish.  So I decided to make some fish curry that my Mom makes for lunch that day.  Trivandrum style fish curry in coconut gravy is something I love since I had it from my College days.  My Mom makes similar fish curry.  It looks little reddish orange in color opposed to the regular yellowish 'Thenga Aracha Meen curry'.  I had some frozen 'Muringicka' aka 'Drum sticks' that I added to the curry and it came out really yummy.  It goes very well with plain rice. 


20 - cleaned fish pieces
1/4 cup - chopped red onion
8 - shallots / pearl onions thinly sliced
10 - garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 inches - chopped fresh ginger
8 - green chili split (adjust the chili per your spice level)
1 - tomato cut into lengthwise pieces
10 - pieces of cleaned drum sticks/Muringacka
2 tsp - coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp - chili powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder
3 - pieces of medium size fish tamarind/Thottu pulli/Kudum pulli
2 - sprigs of curry leaves
2 tbsp - oil
2 cups - water
Salt to taste

To grind
1/2 cup - fresh grated coconut
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
2 - shallots
1/2 cup - water

3 - shallots thinly sliced
1/2 tsp - mustard seeds
2 - dried red chili
1 - sprig curry leaves
2 tsp - oil

  • Clean fish pieces with lemon juice and water and keep it aside.
  • Wash tamarind pieces and soak them in 1/2 cup water and keep it aside.
  • Grind all the ingredients like coconut, turmeric, shallots and water into a smooth paste.
  • Take a medium size wide heavy bottom pan and add 2 tbsp of oil and warm.  Add the chopped ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the chopped red onions, green chili and salt and cook it covered till the onions become translucent.
  • Add coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric and fenugreek to it and saute till the raw smell is gone.
  • Add cut tomatoes and drum stick and cook for 2 minutes and adjust the salt.
  • Add the tamarind pieces with water followed by coconut paste and 2 cups of water.  Use a wooden spoon to mix well.
  • Gently arrange the fish pieces in 1 or 2 layers in the pan.
  • Add the 2 sprigs of curry leaves to the fish and cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes or till the gravy thickens and slightly covers the fish pieces.
  • In a small non-stick pan heat the 2 tsp of oil and add mustard seeds.  As the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the sliced shallots, red chili and cook till it becomes light golden brown. 
  • Turn off the flame and carefully add the curry leaves.  Be careful with this step as the curry leaves splutters vigorously.  I usually close the pan with a lid after I add the curry leaves.
  • Garnish the fish curry with the mustard seeds, onions and curry leaves or the tadka.
  • Serve it with plain rice.
  • You can roast the coriander and chili powder separately and grind with  coconut to get a smooth gravy.  The taste will also be different.  Since this is a 'Pacha Thenga curry' I usually don't roast the powders and grind.
  • Instead of drumsticks you can add green mango pieces.
  • Fishes like King Fish, Mahi Mahi, Salmon etc that has more flesh can be used in this curry.
  • Use wide pans or earthenware pans like 'Chatti' to make fish curry.  Crowded pan tends to crumble the fish pieces as you try to stir.
  • If the gravy seems to be too sour, remove the tamarind pieces from the curry. 
  • The fish tastes better after 2 hrs when all the flavors are absorbed by the fish pieces.

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