Olive Sauce

It’s no secret that I love those dear Housewives of New Jersey. When my favorite matriarch of the Manzo family, Caroline, talked about an olive tomato sauce that her family always had on Christmas Eve – I immediately put that on my “to-do” list in the kitchen. Her recipe is top-secret of course, but in the scene it showed her slicing up fennel so I knew that went into the mix. So, I started there and just kind of winged it.

I added some sliced up Italian sausage, two kinds of olives, and fennel – as well as all the other standard tomato sauce fare. The brininess of the olives add such a different twist from a standard tomato sauce. Also, a greater depth of flavor. And, as most pasta dishes go, it didn’t take long to throw together. If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, it would be just as delicious without the sausage.

If you’re like me, and find yourself in a rut when it comes to new pasta dishes – give this one a try!

Pan PizzaPan pizza is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. But, so often when it comes from a chain in a pizza box – it’s a grease festival. I first made this recipe years ago, when I saw it on Alex Guarnaschelli’s show (love her!) and it was an immediate hit with our family.

The crust is thick and chewy, as well as crispy. Can hold up to any toppings you throw on it. And, isn’t effusively greasy. The crust just absorbs the olive oil to create a wonderfully flavored crust. I went all out fake out take-out style here, creating our own meat lover’s pizza at home. Bacon, ham, and pepperoni – we’ve dubbed it “Porkapalooza”.

Our family never gets tired of pizza night, and this is something different to throw into the rotation. A little more heartier of a pizza for these cold winter months we have ahead of us!

Perfect Pizza Dough

Who doesn’t love pizza? I know we do. Once a week in our house, usually Friday nights, is pizza night. I make the dough in the afternoon while the boys are napping, enjoy a cup of tea while the dough rises (or maybe try to catch a little catnap myself!), and then I let the boys help to top the pizza before we put it in the oven.

Turning out a pizza as good (if not better) than your local pizza joint’s requires a few things: #1 – a hot oven. #2 – a pizza stone. And, #3 – practice. When I first started making pizzas at home, I had a really hard time rolling out the dough. They’d tasted great, but were severely mishapen. I think that was my problem; I was rolling, not stretching with my hands and letting the dough do all the work.

After a couple of attempts I was producing perfectly round pizza doughs, and all was right with the world. It’s a rarity for us to order a pizza out anymore; partly because there aren’t any decent pizzerias in our small town, and also because they’re just so dag-gone fun to make at home!

If you haven’t found the perfect pizza dough recipe yet, look no further. Using bread flour is the key to a crispy, chewey crust. And, it’s a dream to work with! Let the pizza delivery guy pass your house by next time you’re craving pizza, and make it at home. I’m sharing my recipe for homemade pan pizza next week, so make sure to check in then!

We’ve been enjoying the final days of blue crab season here in Maryland, as it will be coming to a close in the next month or so. It’s actually the best time of year for them, as crabs are at their fattest and heaviest late in the year, right before they burrow into the mud for a long winter’s nap. While  my favorite thing to do with them is steam them, and eat them as is – often we’re left with a plethora of meat that we’ve picked to use up. I usually go with our standard favorites – crab cakes or crab dip (which reminds me, I was featured on our local news recently making the crab dip – check it out here!) but I wanted to do something a little fancier.

I’d been wanting to try my hand at homemade ravioli, so I thought why not stuff it with crab? I just took my basic ricotta pasta filling and gently folded the crab meat into it. The sauce takes only a few minutes to throw together. I more or less did an alfredo sauce, adding in some saffron and a bit of tomato paste at the last minute, to give it a gorgeous pink hue. It was insanely good, and definitely a cut above our standard weekly fare. I think I may have to treat us to a pound of crabmeat come December to make these for New Year’s Eve dinner. A special dinner, indeed!