Tag Archives: pasta recipes

Tips for Making Perfect, Top Chef Canada-Worthy Fresh Pasta

Perfecting pro-level pasta at home may seem like a daunting feat, but we’ve got you covered with these tips from Top Chef Canada’s recent pasta-making elimination challenge, plus a few recipes to get you started in your own kitchen. From soft and supple gnocchi to tender ravioli, this advice from professional kitchens will get you rolling in no time.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Homemade Fettucine

The Best Flour For Homemade Pasta

The lucky cheftestants got to work with freshly milled flour from urban mill Brodflour, but chances are, you’ll have to settle for supermarket flour. Nonetheless, a few wise choices will help your success rate when making pasta. The specialty flour known as 00 or tipo 00 is the traditional pick when it comes to making pasta, due to its fine grind (this attribute also make it a good option for pizza dough). Depending on the kind of pasta, which dictates other factors such as the amount of eggs added, coarsely ground semolina or all-purpose flour can also be used in forming pasta dough.

Related: This Week on Top Chef Canada…

Eggs in Fresh Pasta

For some types of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, the golden yolks lend a sunny hue to the finished product. Recipes vary in terms of the number but it is generally around a 1:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour. Some kinds of pasta dough, such as tagliatelle, use a combination of two whole eggs and four egg yolks per four cups of flour for added richness.

Eggs also play a crucial role in the elasticity and texture of fresh pasta, although dried pasta is often made with no more than flour and water.

Related: Get Funky With 10 Fermented Foods

Methods For Making Homemade Pasta

Although the tried-and-true method of making a well in the flour and adding the wet ingredients in the centre, then drawing the flour slowly inwards, works well to combine the ingredients gradually, this process can be automated using a stand mixer or other equipment (Alton Brown has an easy food processor method for his ravioli dough, for example). The dough is then kneaded, shaped into a disk and rested before rolling through a pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin for flat types of pasta such as fettuccini, or shaping using molds or one’s hands with smaller shapes, such as pici.

Related: Get the Recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Homemade Pici Pasta With Carbonara Sauce

Homemade Pasta Shapes and Tips

There’s still more choices awaiting you: pasta shape dictates cooking method, time and even which type of sauce you should use. In a stressful double-elimination, the remaining five chefs had to choose their pasta types, make their own dough and create their best dish for guest judge Danny Smiles (a former Top Chef Canada contestant himself and now owner of three restaurants including Osteria Fortuna, planned to open in June 2020). Adding to the pressure was the freshly milled flour, which will cause pasta dough to oxidize (changing colour and flavour) if made too far in advance. As a result, chefs couldn’t use the one hour prep time the day before to make their dough, instead needing to make it the day of the Eliminate Challenge.

At home, however, you have the advantage of all the time you need to tackle a fresh pasta project. Take some inspiration from each of the Top Chef Canada contestants and their dishes to create your own prize-worthy creation.

How to Make Homemade Orecchiette

Orecchiette is made by hand, with the pasta maker’s thumb forming the distinct indents that give each piece its distinctive “little ears” shape (Francis used a non-traditional method of forming it on a paddle, giving the pasta small ridges). Although he had never made orecchiette before, Francis’ precautions in making a test batch to experiment with the fresh flour and his technique paid off. The judges raved about his version with broccoli sauce, crunchy broccoli stems, fried spelt grains and an Asiago emulsion. Judge Danny Smiles observed that the dish adhered to its roots from Puglia, where orecchiette and broccoli are frequently used together.

Pro tip: Francis put his pasta dough in a vacuum bag to take the air out and speed up the resting process. If you have a vacuum sealer at home and are in a hurry, you can try this technique as well.

Get the recipe for Orecchiette With Homemade Ricotta And Cherry Tomatoes

How to Make Homemade Gnocchi

Due to the time constraints, Stephanie didn’t have time to make the traditional potato-based version of gnocchi, which requires cooking and cooling potatoes before putting them through a food mill, combining with flour and eggs and shaping into individual pieces. Instead, she opted for Parisian-style gnocchi, beginning with a choux paste (similar to eclairs) where butter and water are cooked, then combined with flour before putting it in a stand mixer to beat in the eggs. The mixture is piped into a pot of boiling water to cook. The judges liked the softness of Stephanie’s gnocchi, although they felt that they were a bit lost amidst the cornucopia of other ingredients in her Parisian gnocchi with pattypan squash, white asparagus, wild rose harissa and white asparagus sauce with ricotta.

Pro tip: When combining the eggs in the stand mixer, add them slowly one by one to ensure a soft and tender, eggier dumpling.

If you’d like to try a potato-free version of gnocchi, take a look at these Ricotta Gnocchi from head judge Mark McEwan.

How to Make Homemade Ravioli

Lucy’s first job on her first day as a chef at Terre Rouge was making pasta, so it’s no wonder that her cashew, caramelized onion and Gruyère ravioli won favour with the judges for its texture, winning her a place in the finale. Ravioli is made by running pasta dough through a pasta roller to achieve a thin, smooth sheet, then dolloping spoonfuls of filling in a single row across the bottom half. After folding over the top and pressing gently between sections of filling to remove excess air and seal each ravioli, a pasta cutter is used to trim each piece.

Pro tip: Listen to sound of the dough in the stand mixer — it will tell you when the dough is reaching the right consistency (you are looking for a stiffness similar to play dough).

Want to tackle your own ravioli? Try this Short Rib Ravioli and Creamy Mushroom Sauce, or Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli.

Related: How to Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch

How to Make Homemade Agnolotti

This pocket-sized filled pasta (or “little cute pillows with a beautiful pocket of filling on the inside”, as Imrun described it) starts out the same way as ravioli. The dough is rolled and dots of filling are piped onto the sheet of pasta, but before the final cuts are made, imprints are pushed into the sides of the filling to create a pillowy dent. Although Imrun’s use of nutritional yeast to top his kabocha squash and mascarpone agnolotti mystified the judges, they loved the thinness and execution of his pasta.

Pro tip: Using a piping bag to fill the agnolotti ensures even distribution and neatly centred dots.

Try one of these tasty ravioli recipes and adjust the method and filling size as described above to try them with agnolotti.

How to Make Homemade Tagliatelle

Rich with added egg yolks, tagliatelle’s long, flat ribbons make it a tender and versatile pasta. Adrian discovered the perils of deviating from the traditional recipe when he attempted to substitute squash purée for eggs, resulting in a soggy dough that stuck and broke in the roller during his first attempt. His second try was also too wet, forcing him to roll out the dough by hand, which ended up with tagliatelle that “looked more like spaetzle”, according to head judge Mark McEwan. Overall, although the judges liked the flavour of his butternut squash tagliatelle with butternut béchamel and scotch bonnet cremini mushrooms, the errors in executing the pasta itself sent Adrian home.

Pro tip: Be careful when substituting ingredients or adjusting your recipe, especially when using wet ingredients such as butternut squash that add moisture to the dough and can disrupt the water to flour ratio. Try making it yourself with this recipe for Homemade Tagliatelle.

Once you’ve made your fresh pasta, try one of these 50 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners. Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Comforting Three-Cheese Cacio e Pepe in Spaghetti Squash Form

Cacio e Pepe translates to “cheese and pepper”, and is the ultimate no-nonsense pantry pasta consisting of freshly ground pepper, noodles, and good quality cheese. Spaghetti squash presents much like spaghetti noodles and is generally available all year-round, making for an excellent alternative for gluten-intolerants (more gluten-free dinner inspiration here) or those looking for a healthy low-carb twist on the classic. So grab your cheese grater, and start prepping tonight’s dinner.

Three-Cheese Cacio e Pepe Baked Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes (includes squash roasting time)
Servings: 4 (raw veg = 5 cups before mixing in cheese)

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 ½  tsp coarsely ground black pepper, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup mascarpone cheese or smooth ricotta (optional)
Chopped parsley or basil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and strands with a spoon. Brush inside with 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the prepared pan.

Tip: Don’t forget to save the squash seeds and roast them as a snack. Here’s how to roast tamari and sea salt pumpkin seeds (follow the same instructions).

3. Roast until a paring knife is easily inserted in the centre, about 45 minutes. Let cool.

4. Using a large spoon, spoon out and shred into long strands. Spread on a double layer of paper towel or clean kitchen towel to absorb any liquid.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and then the squash, remaining ¼ tsp salt and remaining 1 ¼ tsp pepper and toss. Stir in mascarpone (if using), stirring until just melted and combined. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, tossing to combine.

Tip: Like its namesake, this dish is all about pepper and cheese. For the best pepper flavour, toast whole black peppercorns in a skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, shaking the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool and crush with the bottom of a heavy bottom pot or skillet.

6. Divide among plates and sprinkle with parsley and more cheese, if desired.

Another cheesy pasta recipe with a twist: this winter greens mac & cheese will make you feel healthy. You’ll also devour this vegetarian spaghetti puttanesca with cauliflower. Lastly, test out these weeknight dinners where veggies replace carbs.

This Winter Greens Mac & Cheese Recipe Will Make You Feel Healthy

When the cold weather strikes, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort dish. This version takes advantage of the best winter greens the season has to offer. Any variety of nutrient-packed greens will work, such as chard, collards, rapini or kale. So go ahead and indulge in this cheesy, creamy pasta for dinner, while sneaking in a healthy serving of vegetables, too!

Winter Greens Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

1 lb macaroni noodles, cooked to al dente
2 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
6 oz chopped winter greens, stems removed
Salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
3 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 large egg, whisked
2 cups grated extra-old white cheddar, plus more for topping
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for topping
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions: 

1. In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic and onion. Cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the greens, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens begin to wilt and cook down, about 5 minutes. Transfer the greens to a bowl and set-aside until ready to use.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. In the same pot over medium heat, melt together the butter and flour. Whisking constantly, cook until a smooth roux forms, about 5 minutes.

4. Whisk in the mustard, followed by the milk and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Discard bay leaf, temper in the egg and remove pot from heat. Let cool slightly before stirring in the cheeses.

6. Add the macaroni noodles and mix until evenly coated. If the pot is not oven safe, transfer mixture to a 9 by 12 baking dish.

7. In a small mixing bowl, toss together the remaining olive oil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

8. Top macaroni with additional cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Get in your cozies and enjoy more comforting recipes with a good-for-you twist, from Georgian cheese bread with kale to spaghetti puttanesca (starring cauliflower) to a decadent butternut squash tartiflette.

Spaghetti Puttanesca with Cauliflower is the Vegetarian Pasta to Beat

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a classic Italian pasta dish that’s packed with the salty, umami flavours of capers, olives, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. For this spin on a staple, we add dimension with golden, lightly crispy roasted cauliflower and the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, making for a filling, delicious vegetarian main that’s simple, hearty and healthy. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Puttanesca

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 cups (2 pints) halved cherry tomatoes
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper, divided
450g long pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini or linguini
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup torn basil
½ cup shaved Parmesan

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Place tomatoes on one half of a rimmed baking sheet, and the cauliflower on the other.
3. Whisk together 3 Tbsp oil, vinegar, salt and ¼ tsp pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over vegetables; stir to coat (keeping the veggies separate will allow the cauliflower to crisp up when cooking despite the juicy tomatoes). Roast until cauliflower is golden and tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of generously salted water. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain and set aside.
5. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.
6. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add cauliflower, tomatoes (and any juice), olives, capers, parsley, remaining pepper, pasta and pasta water; toss to coat.
7. Serve sprinkled with fresh basil and parmesan.

Craving more veg-friendly dinner ideas?  We’ve culled our 50 all-time best vegetarian recipes and 20 satisfying vegetarian casseroles.

Easy 20-Minute Leftover Pasta Frittata With Radicchio Salad

Often, we end up cooking more pasta that we can chew on a giving evening, which means: extra helpings for the week ahead! But before you lather those leftover spaghetti noodles in tomato sauce and call it a meal, think outside the pan. This creative 20-minute dish gives leftover pasta a delicious makeover, resulting in a comforting, cheesy frittata. Top with fresh basil and tomatoes, and serve alongside prosciutto and a simple salad for a complete bacon and egg Italian mash-up!

Leftover Pasta Frittata with Quick Radicchio Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Frittata
2 slices prosciutto or thick sliced bacon
5 eggs
⅓ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups leftover cooked spaghetti or other long pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
⅔ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Basil leaves

Radicchio Salad
1 head radicchio, torn
1 Tbsp olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Cook prosciutto or bacon in a 10-inch heatproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat, turning once, until crisp. Set aside. Wipe pan clean.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with sour cream, and salt and pepper until blended. Toss in pasta and 1/3 cup of the cheese.

4. In same pan, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium, add pasta mixture and cook without stirring, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Transfer to oven.
5. Cook until puffed and slightly jiggly, about 5 minutes. For a crispy browned top, broil 2-3 minutes. Top with tomatoes and basil, and serve with bacon/prosciutto (or chop in pieces to scatter on top).

6. Tear radicchio and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (if desired), garnish with shaved Parmesan.

Tip: Radicchio lettuce is slightly bitter and lends itself easily to a good olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese for the quickest and elegant weeknight salad.

Tip: The centre will look slightly loose, puffed and jiggly, the hot pan will continue to cook the frittata with residual heat called carryover cooking.

How long do leftovers last in the fridge? We break it down. Plus, 30+ meals that taste better as leftovers, and tasty ways to use leftover rice.

30-Minute Pasta with Green Garlic Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

It’s always exciting when the farmers’ market stands start to show signs of spring and summer. Often, though, this produce doesn’t stick around for very long, so you need to take advantage when it’s available. One way of making spring last a little longer is to make pesto from some of the best seasonal offerings – in this case, green garlic (also known as young garlic that boasts a milder, more delicate flavour) but you can easily substitute for garlic scapes or ramps – then freeze to relish the flavours even when they’ve disappeared from the market.

The best thing about this recipe? Even though it features a few different components, if you multitask, it’s ready in about 30 minutes – leaving you more time to enjoy those lovely longer daylight hours we’re all so grateful for this time of year.

Spring Pasta with Green Garlic Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients: 

Pasta
250g dried bucatini pasta

Roasted Tomatoes
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pesto
6-8 green garlic shoots
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (approx.)
⅓ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
½ – ¾ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt

Assembly
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves

Directions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F.
2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lay the tomatoes in a single layer on the tray.
3. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast the tomatoes for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.
5. While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
6. Make the pesto: Clean and trim the green garlic, and roughly chop.
7. Place the green garlic in a food processor with the Parmesan and the pumpkin seeds.
8. Start processing the mixture, slowly pouring in the oil until you reach your preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt.
9. Add approximately ½ cup of pesto to the pasta, using tongs to toss so the pasta is completely coated. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
10. Divide the pasta between four bowls, and top with the roasted tomatoes. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.

Notes:
● This makes approximately 1 cup of pesto, which is more than you’ll need for this recipe.
● If you won’t use the pesto immediately, place it in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap touching the surface. You can also freeze the pesto for up to 2 months (in ice cube trays for convenient portioning!)

Looking for more easy and ultra-satisfying pasta recipes for spring? This 15-minute three-cheese pasta with peas is a seasonal must-make. We’ve also rounded up 25 spring dinners ready in 30 minutes or less.

15-Minute Cheesy One-Pot Pasta to Reclaim Your Weeknights

The weather may be warming, but we’re still all about indulging in comfort food with a fresh, seasonal upgrade. This dish is a twist on mac ‘n’ cheese that literally takes the same (or less!) amount of time to cook as the boxed variety. Bonus: Though it features three different types of cheese, it also contains peas, which lighten the dish and really make it pop (in colour and flavour). This one-pot recipe is a great choice make on those nights when there’s “nothing to eat” in the house – all the ingredients are fridge and pantry staples!

15 Minute Three-Cheese Pasta with Peas

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
225g (1/2 box) medium shell dry pasta
2 cups vegetable broth, warm but not boiling
1/2 cup spreadable cream cheese
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients except peas, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large pot.

2. Mix gently to start melting the cream cheese.
3. Place the pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
4. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly for 7 minutes.
5. After 7 minutes, add the peas and Parmesan, stir well and cook, continuing to stir, a further 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce will thicken as the pasta sits, so if you prefer it more thick and creamy as opposed to saucy, let it sit for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.

For more one-pot wonders, browse these 55 Quick and Easy One-Pot Recipes and 15 One-Pot Chicken Dinners Ready in 30 Minutes or Less.

Vegan Grain-Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi with High-Protein Pesto

Gnocchi is one of those dishes that seems too intimidating to make at home; yet, it’s actually quite simple. What makes this gnocchi particularly special is that it’s high in protein, vegan, grain-free and seriously delicious. You won’t find 00 flour or white potatoes here, instead a blend of sweet potato, chickpea flour and almond flour is the base of this gnocchi.  Regardless if you subscribe to a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle, this recipe is satisfying, tasty, filling and will leave you feeling like an accomplished home cook. It’s paired with a fibre-rich and high-protein pesto, that seamlessly incorporates cannellini beans, along with basil, walnuts and olive oil, for a creamy, smooth consistency.

Vegan Gluten-Free Chickpea Flour Gnocchi with High-Protein Pesto


Prep Time:
 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:

Gnocchi:
2 sweet potatoes (1 ½ lbs)
1 ½ cups chickpea flour + dusting
½ cup almond flour
¼ cup brown rice flour
¾ tsp sea salt

Pesto:
2 cups basil
½ cup cannellini or navy beans
¼ cup toasted walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Water to thin out

Directions:

Gnocchi:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Puncture around the skin of the sweet potatoes with a fork, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
3. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly, then discard the skin and scoop the inside of the sweet potatoes into a bowl.  Add 2 cups of chickpea flour, almond four, brown rice flour and sea salt and start to combine all ingredients together with your hands into a ball.
4. Flour your working surface and place the ball on top, begin to knead it well for about 3 minutes, form it back into a ball and cut it into 4 even pieces.


5. Roll each quarter of dough into a long log, then cut it into 1 inch pieces. Repeat with each piece of dough.
6. If you like, you can roll the gnocchi on the back tines of a fork to create those grooves (optional).
7. Place a large pot of water on the stove, salt it and allow it to come to a boil.
8. Once boiling, add a few pieces of gnocchi with a slotted spoon, careful not to overcrowd. Once they float to the top, take them out with a slotted spoon and place on a plate or in a colander.  If the gnocchis stick together in the water, stir the water (we prefer to use chopsticks when stirring).

Pesto:
1. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Blitz until you have a creamy consistency.

Assembly:
1. Once all the gnocchi is cooked, heat a skillet over medium heat and add a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Toss the gnocchi in the oil so they lightly brown.  Once browned, place in a large bowl with the protein-packed pesto.
3. Scoop out a serving, and enjoy.

For more hearty, good-for-you dinner ideas that still taste indulgent, we know you’ll love these 15 Dairy-Free Pasta Recipes That Are Extra Creamy and these Satisfying Weeknight Recipes Where Vegetables Replace Carbs.

The Creamy Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Gnocchi You’ll Crave This Fall

Gnocchi always sounds like one of those challenging homemade meals, when in reality it’s pretty simple to make, and you will certainly feel like an accomplished home-chef once you prepare it! What’s so special about this particular gnocchi is it uses nutrient-rich Japanese kabocha squash instead of the typical white potato, adding gorgeous colour, bold flavour and a natural sweetness you often don’t find in the traditional version of this dish. This recipe is also completely gluten-free, there is no white flour here; rather a delightful mix of brown rice flour and buckwheat flour. Pairing it with a garlic sage cream sauce makes this meal complete!

Creamy Gluten-Free Kabocha Squash Gnocchi

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Gnocchi:
3 cups kabocha squash, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup brown rice flour + extra for rolling
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp sea salt

Cream Sauce:
3 tsp tapioca starch
3/4 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk or dairy milk
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

Gnocchi:
1. Peel the kabocha squash (you can use a sharp knife, as a peeler mostly likely won’t do the trick). Once peeled, cut into large pieces, steam it until it’s soft and a fork can easily puncture through the squash pieces.
2. Mash it by hand or in the food processor and allow it to cool.
3. Once cooled, mixed the squash mash with brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, an egg, cheese and salt. Use your hands to combine and form a dough.
4. Flour a clean surface with extra brown rice flour and divide the dough into 3 separate balls.
5. Roll each ball out into long, thin logs and add extra flour if the dough becomes too sticky.

6. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes and then roll the gnocchi down the fork tines to make indentations.
7. When the gnocchi is ready, boil a large pot of water and salt it.
8. Add the gnocchi to the water. When it floats to the surface, it’s cooked. Remove it with a slotted spoon. Don’t overcrowd the gnocchi in the pot, work in batches if you need to.

Cream Sauce:
1. Whisk together the tapioca and the milk until it’s smooth.
2. Place a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, then drop in the garlic for a few seconds before adding the sage. Once the sage crackles slightly in the butter, add the milk and tapioca mixture.
3. Take this down to a simmer to allow ingredients to infuse together and for the sauce to thicken.
4. Once thicker, add the lemon juice.
5. Take off the heat and drizzle the sauce over the gnocchi. Top with extra cheese, if you please!

For more heavenly gluten-free recipes, check out these 30 Delicious Gluten-Free Dinners and 18 Great Gluten-Free Party Appetizers.

How to Make Italian Meatballs with Veal and Ricotta

Serve up an Italian classic that pleases a crowd, with the best recipe ever for spaghetti and meatballs. In this episode of Food Network Canada Chef School, Mark McEwan delivers tried and true tips for making the time-honoured comfort food speciality, including the requisite marinara tomato sauce, with ease. And, if you’re wondering how to make real-deal meatballs on a weeknight, Mark has the answers, guiding you through an Italian meatballs and spaghetti dinner, complete with salad and baguette, by utilizing your pantry and freezer.

 

How to Make Classic Italian Meatballs for Spaghetti

In Mark’s meatball recipe, you’ll see there’s more to meatballs than meat. Ricotta makes them tender, while Parmesan acts in lieu of breadcrumbs, elevating the mix and keeping everything neat and tidy when rolling. Onions, cooked and cooled, are added for depth, while a good bit of salt and pepper season the mix.

Mark favours a medium-sized meatball, which gets rolled in flour before being seared, creating a flavourful brown crust – at this step, he notes, it’s important to not overcrowd the pan so the crust can form.

Of course, the perfect meatball needs the perfect marinara sauce, the heartbeat of the Italian kitchen.

 

A Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe for Your Meatballs

Canned San Marzano tomatoes are preferred by Mark because their sugar content is dialled-in for pasta sauce perfection, picked and canned within 24 hours. For this ultimate spaghetti and meatballs recipe, they’re worth seeking out. A bit of butter in the tomato sauce enriches the dish and creates a glossy, restaurant-quality look and taste.

For the pasta, keep your noodles al dente, with a touch of bite in the centre. The starch from the pasta binds the sauce, bringing everything together. The three components briefly cook in one pan, melding to create something super-special and ultra-delicious.

How to Freeze Meatballs

For those who want to get ahead of the game, freezing meatballs is essential for making a cozy, gourmet weeknight meal, in a flash. And Mark knows the perfect way to prepare meatballs for the freezer.

“I would cook them and then freeze them [in] plastic sealed containers. My wife does this all the time, she’ll make 300 meatballs and she’ll make a big batch of San Marzano tomato sauce. And then she puts eight meatballs in each container and then she covers them in sauce, lets them cool, pops them in the freezer and we eat perfect meatballs all month long. It’s the greatest fast dinner.”

To defrost the frozen meatballs, he recommends bringing them out the day before or slowly defrosting in the microwave (on a low setting) before finishing heating on the stovetop.

“They’re just the most amazing thing to have in your freezer,” Mark adds.

Batch-Cook Your Way to Dinner

Batch cooking helps this Chef create homemade meals that feed and please a crowd, any night of the week. It’s all about planning ahead, creating a pantry, refrigerator and freezer that works in your favour.

“We keep actually we keep Bolognese in the freezer, meatballs in sauce, and we keep straight sauce in plastic containers so that we can do a quick little meal,” says Mark. “One Saturday you do a bunch of stock, one Saturday you do your meatballs, the next Saturday you do your Bolognese and then you do your San Marzano [sauce], or you can do those together. You create this great inventory of products and you can always make a wonderful meal.”

An Italian Feast, Thanks to the Freezer

Continuing with a well-stocked freezer, Mark likes to keep baguettes in there, which would also pair nicely with meatballs and tomato sauce, with or without the pasta.

“I always have a baguette that gets cut in half, wrapped in foil and then [put in zip-top] bags,” he says. “I have them in the freezer so I can always take a baguette out, thaw it in the microwave throw it in the oven, crisp up the crust on it and I have a fresh baguette.”

And no pasta dinner is complete without a bright, fresh salad.

To make this happen, Mark keeps a well-stocked pantry, filled with such things as, “Good vinegars and good oils for throwing together a simple vinaigrette. A little bit of mustard, a little bit of anchovy paste, tiny bit of garlic. Boom. Fresh greens tossed. So healthy, so simple and it escapes a lot of people because…they overthink it.”

With spaghetti and meatballs on the table, an effortless salad ready to go and a baguette at hand to tear up and soak up that glossy San Marzano tomato sauce, dinner is served. Of course, a bottle of wine to complement the meal is a nice touch, if you have one handy.

All that’s left to do is twirl, slurp and dig in.

Make your own Italian feast tonight. Get Chef Mark McEwan’s recipes for Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Classic Marinara with San Marzano Tomatoes.

Top 10 Tips for Making Homemade Pasta Like an All-Star

Pasta can be simple and rustic, or decadent and elegant. It can be dished up on a massive platter and passed around a boisterous table, or perfectly, artistically plated and served with pristine silverware and white linen.

TCC-All-Stars-Nicole-Pasta-Finale
Nicole’s Goat Cheese Tortellini

For Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes – as revealed in the finale last night – it was a key part of her five-course menu. The judges fell in love with her Goat Cheese Tortellini with Preserved Lemon, Ricotta Salata, Peas and Pancetta in a Butter Sauce (not to mention the other components of her Italian-themed dinner).


Nicole channeling her inner Italian nonna while prepping her tortellini.

Head judge Chef Mark McEwan highlighted Nicole’s pasta as the best part of her finale menu. “Just her finesse on that meal was really extraordinary,” he said.

Top-Chef-Canada-Finale-Nicole-Andrea-Making-Pasta
Nicole preps the filling while Andrea uses a stand mixer attachement to roll out the dough.

Whether it’s to impress a panel of Top Chef Canada judges or to feed the family at home – who, no doubt, can also be tough critics – pasta fits the bill. At its heart, no matter who’s being served, it’s the same basic dough; rolled, stuffed or cut in many ways and topped with sauce. The trick is having a good recipe (see our list below) and remembering these 10 essential tips and tricks:

1. Trust Your Gut
Making pasta from scratch is really more about a feeling, rather than measurements. Depending on the humidity, the flour, the size of the eggs, you may need more or less flour going along, so getting a feel for the dough is essential.

2. Traditional Is Best
The traditional way of making dough from scratch – with a well of flour, and the eggs and salt in the middle and using a fork to draw the flour slowly in to the liquid – ensures the perfect amount of flour gets added before kneading into a nice ball of golden dough.

3. But If You Don’t Have Time… 
However, for those of us who prefer to use our stand mixers, simply hold back a bit of the flour and only add it when necessary, or add a spoonful or two of water if the dough is too dry.

4. Remember This Basic Ratio for Ingredients
As a general rule, the ratio is three parts flour to two parts eggs by weight. There are tons of variations on this, many depending on if you also want to add water, the type of flour (all-purpose versus durum semolina versus the finely-milled 00) and if you want to add a couple of additional yolks to the mix for a richer dough. (Water-only dough is also common.)  However, this basic ratio will serve you well.

5. Pasta Dough Needs To Be Kneaded
Once your dough is mixed, it’s all about the kneading. It will take up to 10 minutes to transform the shaggy mix into a smooth and elastic ball.

6. Take A Rest
After kneading  it will be time for a rest – for both you and the dough! A little forethought here is key because you’ll want to let the dough relax for at least an hour before proceeding. This will make it smoother and easier to deal with when rolling it out.

7. Salt Cooking Water Generously
Pasta water should be salted to taste like the ocean (or the Mediterranean!) – because that is going to flavour the noodles.

8. Never Rinse Your Pasta
Don’t ever do this! If you rinse pasta after cooking, you rinse off the starch adhering to the noodles. That starch helps the sauce cling to the noodle.

9. Store It If You’re Not Cooking It Right Away 
If waiting, divide the pasta into portions, dust with a little bit of flour to keep the noodles from sticking together and then make nest-like bundles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until ready.

10. Fresh Pasta Freezes Well
Fresh pasta can also be frozen for future meals. Just put the baking sheet of noodles into the freezer for about 15 minutes – to keep the pasta bundles from sticking together – and then transfer to a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Frozen pasta should be cooked directly from the freezer. Add about 30 seconds to 1 minute to the cooking time.

Anna-Olson-Mushroom-Ravioli
Anna Olson’s Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus and Tarragon

Want to try making fresh pasta at home?  

Here are great pasta recipes from our chefs:
Michael Smith’s Homemade Pasta Recipe
Ricardo’s Fresh Pasta
David Rocco’s Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe
David Rocco’s Fresh Tortellini (Use His Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe for this)
Anna Olson’s Homemade Pasta with Garden Vegetables and Parmesan
Anna Olson’s Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus and Tarragon

Have the pasta ready and need some inspiration for sauces?

Try these delicious sauce recipes from our chefs:
Chuck’s Bolognese
Tomato Sauce
Giada’s Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce