The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake


Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake

Tis the season for the rich, comforting pasta bake. It’s cold and gray, but not so much frigid winter as that doleful in between. I still want the warmth and comfort of cozy, hearty food, but I am growing tired of winter greens and roots and the spring bounty hasn’t sprung yet. I’ve souped and stewed, and I have depleted my stock of frozen-in-summer vegetables. So it’s time to get creative with the comfort food.

This is ingenious take on macaroni and cheese – an all-in-one supper with a twist. Ribbons and flavorful pastrami and cheese enrobed in a creamy, mustardy sauce with the added hit of flavor in toasty rye breadcrumbs. I like to stir the grated cheese through the pasta, rather than adding it to the sauce so you get nice melty, gooey pockets of cheese throughout. Look out for a good, well seasoned pastrami at your favorite deli counter.

Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces campanelle pasta, or other frilly shape like bow ties or fusilli
  2. 4 ounces thin sliced deli pastrami
  3. 3 green onions, white and light green parts only
  4. 8 ounces gouda cheese
  5. 8 ounces swiss cheese
  6. 2 cups milk
  7. 1 cup chicken broth
  8. 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  9. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  10. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. 1 Tablespoon stone-ground grainy mustard
  12. ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  13. 3 slices rye bread
  14. 1 Tablespoon butter
  15. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a Dutch oven full of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package recommends. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, briefly rinse under cold water and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the butter to prevent sticking.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, dice the pastrami in to small pieces. Shuffle through the pieces so the don’t stick together. Dice the green onions finely. Grate the gouda and swiss cheeses and toss together in a bowl. Measure out 1 cup of the cheeses and set aside.
  3. Combine the milk and the chicken broth in a 4-cup measuring jug and heat in the microwave for 1 ½ minutes until it is just warm. (You can also do this in a saucepan) This will help keep the sauce smooth and lump-free. Wipe out the pasta pot and return it to medium high heat. Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter, then whisk in the flour until you have a smooth, pale paste. Gradually add the milk mixture, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the mustards and mustard powder until smooth and incorporated. Take the pot of the heat and stir in the pasta, pastrami and green onions. Stir well to make sure the pastrami is evenly distributed and not sticking together in clumps. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed (this will depend on the pastrami you are using, so make sure to get some in your tasting bite). Leave the pasta to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. While the pasta sits, put the rye bread into a food processor (a mini is fine) and pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until combined.
  5. Stir the bulk of the cheese into the slightly cooled pasta to distribute it evenly. Spread the pasta in a well-greased 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cup of cheese over the top, spreading out evenly. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cheese, spreading to make and even layer and lightly pressing it into the top of the dish.
  6. At this point, the casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to a day. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until hot through, bubbly around the edges and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a great summer picnic dish. And it is a classic of the Southern table, from church suppers to days outdoors. I have been served a lot of macaroni salad and read a lot of traditional recipes in Southern community cookbooks that include, like many a southern dish, pickle relish. I am not a fan of pickle relish so I haven’t always been a fan of macaroni salad. So I set out to create a tasty macaroni salad that met my particular tastes, but would appeal to the family and friends I was sure to serve it to. I want tangy and creamy with interesting flavor contrasts and textures, but nothing too out there.

Adding vinegar to the cooking water and tossing it with the cooked pasta helps to season the salad without adding buckets of salt. A touch of bacon grease keeps the pasta from sticking together. I like to keep this pretty simple, with the herby ranch style dressing creamy with buttermilk, tossed with sharp cheese and crispy bacon. This salad will appeal to all ages and leave no picky eaters passing it by because they are concerned about all the bits and pieces in the dish. If you’d like, you can add to it. A little finely chopped celery or bell pepper or onion could add texture and flavor.

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon
  2. 2 cups elbow macaroni
  3. 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
  4. 4 green onions, white and light green parts only
  5. 3 Tablespoons chopped chives
  6. 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  9. ¾ cup buttermilk
  10. ¾ cup sour cream
  11. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until very crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain and reserve 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease.
  2. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon vinegar according to the package instructions until cooked through. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water and drain well again. Return the pasta to the pot and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar and the tablespoon of bacon grease. Stir to coat the pasta well and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Place 3 of the green onions, the herbs, salt, pepper, buttermilk and sour cream in a food processor or blender (I like the mini-food processor for this) and blend until smooth and combined. Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir gently to coat. Add the grated cheese and bacon and stir to distribute. Finely chop the remaining green onion and add to the salad, stirring to combine. The dressing will absorb and thicken as it chills, so don’t worry if it looks a little loose. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover the salad and refrigerate until chilled. The salad will keep for 3 days covered and refrigerated. You can stir in a little more buttermilk to loosen the salad up before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

I love a good honey-glazed, spiral sliced ham, but I rarely get to enjoy one, because they are just so darn big. But my parents received a whole ham as a gift, and as my mother defines eternity as two people and a ham, we served it for Thanksgiving. I managed to get away with most of the still-copious leftovers and went to work on recipe ideas (and enjoyed a number of ham-sandwich combinations). I enjoyed the leftovers so much, I ordered a ham for Easter.

I took the idea of a simple noodle casserole up a notch with a mustardy sauce and the depth of smoked cheddar cheese (or can use plain if you prefer). A little crunchy bite of pecan adds and extra dimension as well. This casserole is a great way to use leftovers from a holiday ham, but also makes an easy week night meal if you use cooked ham from the deli counter, sliced thick then diced. Serve this as a whole meal with a salad or as a side dish.

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups uncooked pasta, such as shells or elbows
  2. 3 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 small white onion, chopped
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 2 ½ cups milk
  7. 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. 8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese (unsmoked if you prefer)
  14. 6 ounces cooked ham, finely diced
  15. ½ cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but subtracting one minute from the recommended time. Drain and rinse well.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 10 – 12 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of water and cook until the water is evaporated and the onions are a nice light bourbon color. Stir in the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the flour has disappeared into the onions and butter. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the grated cheese, then stir the rest in a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Stir in the yellow mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, ground mustard and nutmeg and stir until the everything is well combined.
  3. Add the diced ham and pecans and stir to coat in the sauce. Add the pasta and stir gently to coat each noodle in sauce. Season with more salt if needed. Scrape the pasta into a 3-quart casserole and smooth the top. Spread the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole.
  4. At this point, you can cool and cover the casserole and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, or bake it right away.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.
  6. Serve warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

I always get impatient for Fall.  It is slow to come here and doesn’t last long.  We have teasing days of cool temperatures scattered around October, but those are few between the warm, summery ones.  So when I finally start to feel that little nip in the morning air, and the light fades earlier, I turn my mind to comforting autumn cooking.

Nothing is more comforting in fall than a cheesy pasta casserole and this one has some extra, hearty twists.  In the tradition of Oktoberfest, this year I offer a hearty classic jazzed up with the refined taste of rich amber ale. I love it on its own, or as a side for grilled bratwurst or smoked sausage.

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

You could add diced, sautéed kielbasa or bratwurst to this, or some cooked bacon.

16 ounces pasta (fusilli, elbows, penne)

5 Tablespoons butter, divided

¼ cup flour

1 Tablespoon ground mustard powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

dash of cayenne

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup amber ale (I used John Courage)

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

dash of hot sauce to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces gouda cheese, grated

3 slices rye bread

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Cook the pasta in a large Dutch oven of salted water for 1 minute less than the package instructions.   Drain the pasta thoroughly in a colander then return it to the pot.  Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and toss until it melts and coats the pasta.  This will prevent sticking.  Return the pasta to the colander while you make the sauce.

Use a fork to mix the flour, mustard, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper together in a small bowl until evenly distributed. Measure the milk, beer, cream, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce into a large measuring jug and mix.

Wipe out the Dutch oven.  Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter (4 Tablespoons) in the pot over medium heat, then add the garlic and sauté for about a minute until fragrant.  Add the flour mixture and stir until a smooth paste forms, then slowly add the milk mixture, stirring until the sauce is thick.  Whisk the cheeses in a handful at a time, stirring to melt each addition completely before adding the next.  When all the cheese is melted, stir in the cooked pasta.  Taste and add salt if desired, then scrape into a greased 3-quart baking dish.

At this point, you can cool cover and refrigerate the mac and cheese overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Tear the bread into chunks and place in a small food processor.  Pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs, then add the melted butter and pulse until combined.  Sprinkle over the mac and cheese.  Bake until the casserole is warmed through, bubbling at the edges and the breadcrumbs are crispy.

Serves 4 – 6

Blistered Tomato Sauce

Blistered Tomato Sauce

Quick, simple and delicious. What more could you want in a summer meal?  The trick here is that blistering the tomatoes gives them a rich, almost slow-roasted taste.  I love this with the Italianate taste of oregano, but basil or thyme work wonderfully well too.  I generally serve this over pasta, but it makes a great topping for bruschetta or a pizza.

Blistered Tomato Sauce

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over high heat until it is blisteringly hot. Flick a drop of water on it and it should dance and bounce around.  Tumble the tomatoes into the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cover the skillet.  Cook the tomatoes for 4 – 5 minutes, shaking the covered pan several times.

Remove the lid from the skillet and pour in the olive oil. The tomatoes will be slightly blackened and charred. Sprinkle over the garlic, oregano and sugar and stir. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or so, crushing the tomatoes with a spatula or the back of the spoon until you have a nice, chunky sauce.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serves 2

White Bolognese Sauce

White Bolognese Sauce

It is that time.  My stock of frozen sauce made from summer’s freshest tomatoes is dwindling, and I am hoarding those last little bags.  Hey, I do like a sauce made from quality canned tomatoes as well (my standard Bolognese uses them), but after a steady diet of the fresh stuff, it’s heard to switch over.  That’s where this comes in.  A bridge Bolognese if you like, between the deep cold of the winter and the tomatoes of summer.  This sauce is hearty and warming, but somehow brighter than a rich, deep red Bolognese.

And this recipe represents what I think home cooking is all about.  Blending and creating and combining until you find the taste that suits you.  I first saw white Bolognese on a menu at an Italian restaurant, but I couldn’t picture what that meant, so I didn’t order it.  But a friend at the table did, and ate every bite.  That made me curious.  So I researched and read a lot of recipes and figured out this version that features the flavors I like.  The combination of veal and fennel-laced Italian sausage, mild leeks and the punch of fresh fennel.  White wine instead of red gives the characteristic zing.  I shy away from traditional Bolognese ingredients; this doesn’t need onion or garlic or carrots, basil or oregano.  This is not some kind of substitute for red sauce, but a creation all to itself. What this lacks in looks, it more than makes up for with punchy, bright flavors.

White Bolognese Sauce

1 pound ground veal (or pork)

1 pound Italian sausage meat

1 medium fennel bulb

2 stalks celery

1 leek, white and light green part only

¼ cup olive oil

1 bottle (750-ml) dry white wine

4 cups chicken broth

6 large fresh sage leaves

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

1 cup milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup heavy cream

Crumble the veal and sausage meat into a large Dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until cooked through, but not deep brown.  Break up the pieces into small bits as you cook.  Pour the meat into a colander and drain off the fat and juices.  Wipe any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

While the meat is cooking, cut the vegetables.  Cut stalks of the fennel and set aside, then cut the fennel bulb in half and cut out the hard core.  Dice into very small pieces.  String the celery and cut into very small pieces.  Cut the leeks into quarters, rinse thoroughly and cut into small pieces.  The key here is that no bite is overwhelmed with a huge piece of any one flavor.

Put the oil into the pan, add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and wilted and translucent.  Add 1 cup of the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is evaporated.  Put the meat back in the pot with the vegetables and stir to combine.  Add the remaining wine and cook until it has all evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Finely chop the sage leaves and a small handful of the feathery fronds from the fennel. Add the chicken broth, sage and fennel fronds to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken broth has evaporated, a good 20 minutes.  Give it a good stir a few times.  When the broth is almost all gone, stir in the fennel seeds.

When the broth is evaporated, stir in 1 cup of milk and the nutmeg and bring to a nice bubble.  Cook until the milk has reduced slightly and just coats the meat.

The sauce can be made several hours ahead and kept covered in the fridge.  Reheat gently over medium-low heat.

Before serving (after keeping or if serving immediately), stir in the heavy cream until heated through.  Spoon over pasta.

Serves 4

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

It’s winter.  Generally, it’s cold and grey, though here in Memphis, the months are punctuated with weirdly frustrating days of seventy degree weather.  I love winter food, but I have souped and stewed and braised myself silly and I’m ready for something lighter and fresher.  This recipe started as just that.  A quick whip-up with the last citrus at the bottom of the fruit bowl and some shrimp from the freezer.  But this good enough to share, and could not be a quicker family meal or company dish.

Big juicy shrimp remind me of summer, and citrus is sometimes the one spot of sunshine in the winter foodscape.  Add a little garlic and fresh, leafy parsley and this is a bright, sunny dish.  A touch of cream adds some body, but mostly this sauce just glazes the pasta and shrimp with zest.  Use a high-quality olive oil to make sure the citrus really shines.

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

12 ounces linguine

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

3 garlic cloves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup heavy cream

small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, plus more for sprinkling

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

salt and pepper

Cook the linguine in a pot of well-salted water according to the package instructions.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Grate the zest the orange, lemon and lime into the carafe of a blender.  Juice the citrus to produce ¾ cup juice combined.  Add the juice to the blender with the garlic, parsley, olive oil, cream, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a large skillet or pot that will hold the pasta.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until cooked through. They will be pink and firm and curled tightly.  Immediately add the pasta to the pot and a couple of Tablespoons of cooking water.  Use tongs to toss everything together, coating all the pasta with the sauce.

Serve immediately sprinkled with a little chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 4

Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

This recipe was born from my love for chestnuts, and my overzealous purchase of them before Thanksgiving. I include chestnuts in my dressing, and when I see them on the shelves, I go a little nuts and always buy more than I need.  So after that holiday madness dies down, I find ways to use them in other recipes.  And by that point I have heard “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” on the radio at least once.  This dish doesn’t take long to prepare, but makes an elegant, unique meal break during this crazy season.  Time to take breath and enjoy time together.

Chestnuts are nutty and slightly sweet and pair beautifully with woodsy sage and salty pancetta.  I readily find packages of pre-diced pancetta at markets, but if you don’t, go to the deli counter and ask them to give you a couple of thick slices and dice those into bits.  Thin sliced pancetta does not work as well.  In the photos, I used a short, twisted pasta labeled “torcetti”, but any short, thick pasta will work, like fusilli or casarecce. Orecchiette would work as well.  The chunks of pancetta and chestnut get lost in long pastas.  And I will admit, this is enough pasta to serve 4 people with a salad and some nice bread, but for big eaters, it may only serve 2!

Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

10 ounces dried pasta

4 ounces diced pancetta

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus several large leaves

4 ounces roasted chestnuts, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the pancetta in a sauté pan, large enough to hold the pasta, over medium heat until it is cooked through and crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Drop a few sage leaves into the hot drippings and fry until deep green then remove to the paper towels. (This helps flavor the sauce, and the fried leaves are a wonderful garnish).  Drop the chopped chestnuts into the drippings and sauté until they are a deep tan color, smell nice and nutty and start to crisp up, about 5 minutes.  Remove with the slotted spoon to the paper towels. Turn the heat off under the pan and let the drippings cool for a minute.  Drop the garlic in the pan for just a minute (don’t let it burn or turn dark), then pour in the wine.  Turn the heat on high and bring the wine to a boil. Sprinkle in about ¾ of the Tablespoon of the chopped sage.  Cook until the wine is reduced by half and is thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes.   Add the cream, lower the heat to medium and simmer until heated through and slightly thickened.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss to coat, stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and remaining chopped fresh sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese grated over the top.

Serves 4 (or two if you are really hungry)

Creamy Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Manicotti

As I remember it, trick or treating is hard work.  Lots of walking, in what is invariably an uncomfortable costume, that heavy bag of candy and keeping your best manners on under all that stress.  But the promise of a seemingly endless supply of fun-size candy bars made it all worthwhile.  I even liked the stripey, crunchy peanut butter Mary Janes and the peanut taffy in the orange and black wrappers.  Then there was the dentist down the street, who gave the “special” neighborhood kids a toothbrush, while any other kids got granola bars.

So after a hard slog of candy hunting, it’s nice to come home to warm, comforting seasonal dinner.  And what could be more perfect on Halloween than pumpkin?  This creamy, cheesy casserole can be made ahead, and popped in the oven to cook while you’re out and about.  The meaty sausage and melty cheese are perfect, with a subtle pumpkin flavor that will satisfy little tummies (and grown-up appetites) before the sugar rush sets in.

Creamy Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Manicotti

For the Manicotti:

1 (8-ounce) package manicotti pasta shells

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, bulk or casings removed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

7 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1 cup pumpkin puree, from a 15-ounce can

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

For the Pumpkin Sage Béchamel Sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

10 fresh sage leaves, very finely chopped

¾ cup pumpkin puree (the remainder from the manicotti recipe)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Manicotti:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manicotti according to the package instructions.  Cook the manicotti about 2 minute less than the recommended cooking time.  Drain the manicotti and rinse thoroughly with cold water to prevent sticking.

While the water is boiling and the manicotti is cooking, crumble the sausage into a large skillet and cook over medium high heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until it begins to brown.  Add the onion and ½ cup of water and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink and the water has evaporated.  Stir in the garlic and chopped sage and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add the ricotta and pumpkin and stir until the filling is creamy and smooth.  Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted.  Leave the filling to cool to room temperature while you make the sauce.

For the Pumpkin Béchamel:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour until you have a loose, smooth paste.  Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium until the sauce is creamy and thickened.  Whisk in the nutmeg and chopped sage.  Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined and cook until lightly bubbling.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:

Spread about ½ cup of béchamel sauce over the bottom of a greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan, to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Stuff the manicotti shells with the filling and lay them over the sauce in the pan.  I admit, I am a bit of a manicotti cheat – I cut the shells open with a pair of scissors, place a line of filling down the center, roll it up, and place it seam side down in the pan.  If you have some leftover filling, tuck it in around the noodles.

Spoon the béchamel sauce over the noodles and gently spread it out to a thin layer covering the noodles.  Sprinkle the 2 cups of shredded mozzarella over the top of the manicotti.

The manicotti can be covered and refrigerated several hours or overnight at this point.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake the manicotti for 40 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.  If the cheese begins to brown, loosely cover the pan with foil.

Serves 6- 8

You might also like Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili, Pumpkin Cornbread, Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce, or Candy Corn Mousse.

Kielbasa Pasta with Honey Mustard Sauce

We are in the transitional season.  Not quite full on fall, but summer vacation is definitely over. This is a nice, hearty pasta with flavors that bridge that gap between summer and fall.  Stone ground mustard provides a nice tang and texture, but the hit of the bright yellow version deepens the mustard flavor.  The honey adds a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the meaty kielbasa.  And I love the little scoops of orecchiette because they cradle the sauce, sweet onions and chunky sausage in their hollows, creating perfectly balanced bites, but you could certainly use ziti or fusilli or a pasta of your choice.

Kielbasa Pasta with Honey Mustard Sauce

1 pound kielbasa

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

¾ pound orecchiette pasta

3 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons stone ground mustard

1 Tablespoon yellow mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the kielbasa into bite sized cubes.  Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the kielbasa until browned and cooked through. I like to use a large pan that will fit the pasta when it is cooked.  Transfer the kielbasa to paper towels to drain.

Cook the orecchiette in a large pot of well-salted water according to package instructions until al dente.  Drain and toss with one Tablespoon of the butter to prevent sticking.

Add the chopped onions to the oil and fat in the pan and stir to coat.  When the onions begin to soften, add 1 cup of water, cover the pan and simmer until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Stir often to prevent sticking and add more water as needed.  When the onions are a nice toffee brown, uncover the pot and simmer until the liquid is evaporated.  Stir the onions into the cooked pasta.

Melt the remaining two Tablespoons butter in the sauté pan.  Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Slowly add the broth and milk, whisking constantly until thick and creamy.  Stir in the mustards and honey and season well with salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes until thick and hot through.

Stir the pasta, onions and kielbasa together and add to the sauce.  Stir to coat thoroughly and cook over medium low until heated through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4 – 6