Wordless Wednesday: Mission: Im-Pasta-Bowl

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Mint-Basil Pesto & Chick’n Penne with Avocado

Scallop Drunken Noodles

Lentil Chili Hamburger Helper

Lasagna Bolognese Stew

Cacio e Pepe


Beefiest Stroganoff with a Hit Of Brandy

Recipe testing for Fake Meat by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The Whole Enchilada

Enchiladas, like so many brilliant culinary innovations, date back to the ancient Mayans. Corn was plentiful, which gave rise to the fundamental, unassailable corn tortilla. Of course, they were called tlaxcalli at the time, later changed by Spanish conquistadors who couldn’t pronounce the word and forever changed the course of history. While tacos might seem like the most obvious use, a strong argument could be made that enchiladas were the first tortilla-based delicacy written into the annals of history. Originally, the dish consisted of nothing more than empty corn tortillas, rolled for a compact bite, and dipped in chili sauce. Before they were ever fried or filled, people have found these edible vessels worthy within their own rights.

Thus, I present to you an entirely controversial proposal: Try taking the tortilla out of the enchilada.

I promise, that’s not a hypothetical request or an impossible riddle. It occurred to me early on in the pandemic, when grocery deliveries were more akin to a new episode of Chopped, bringing with it a new mystery basket each week. Pasta has always been essential, but the exact form it would take was a bit of a wild card. Not a problem if you’re swapping ziti for penne, but giant manicotti tubes instead of pastina? Something was lost in translation on that exchange. Having never made manicotti before, those jumbo cylinders sat in the pantry for quite some time.

While I may be old, I certainly wasn’t around when the Mayans were creating this ground-breaking food, so my association with enchiladas is more strongly linked to the sauce and filling. One day, craving something with Mexican flair but lacking the traditional nixtamalized base, I came across that Italian staple just waiting for a purpose, and had this wild idea. Why smother them in plain red sauce when we could spice things up a bit?

Thus, Enchilada Manicotti were born. Perfect for a fiesta, family dinner, or cozy night in, the chewy pasta casing is stuffed with high-protein soyrizo and drowned in piquant enchilada sauce. Arguably easier than the contemporary take on this dish, you don’t need to worry about finicky tortillas cracking or unrolling in the oven. After a bit of assembly, you can take the rest of the night off, since it pretty much cooks itself.

Try a few different twists to make this formula your own:

  • Tender cubes of buttery gold potatoes add more heft to the filling, but this could be a great opportunity to sneak in other veggies, like riced cauliflower, diced zucchini, corn kernels, diced bell peppers, or a combination of your favorites.
  • Add shredded vegan cheese to the filling and/or topping, if you want to increase the richness and crave-worthy goo-factor.
  • Go all-out and make everything from scratch, including your own soyrizo, enchilada sauce, and sour cream for a real show-stopper of an entree that will impress all your friends and relatives.
  • Swap the red enchilada sauce for mole or chile verde sauce when you want a flavorful change of pace.

What can you serve with Enchilada Manicotti?

Both enchiladas and manicotti are ideal complete meals in and of themselves, needing no additional flourishes to completely satisfy. However, there are still plenty of complementary accompaniments you can consider to round out your plate:

  • Green salad or cabbage slaw
  • Yellow rice or cilantro rice
  • Black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans
  • Pico de gallo or your favorite salsa
  • Sliced avocado or guacamole
  • Tortilla chips

Is it Ital-ican, or maybe Mex-alian? Honestly, neither really capture the free spirit and full flavor of this dish. I’m perfectly satisfied to call it “delicious” and leave it at that. No matter what, you’ll want to leave room for a second helping.

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Be Still My Beeting Heart

There’s a lot wrong with Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t take a serious heartbreak to see through the thinly veiled marketing ploys or pushy PR blast to see it for the Hallmark holiday that it is. Terminally single, I’ve railed against it, mocked it, and ignored it throughout the years, depending on my level of cynicism.

This time around, however, I’ve found a new perspective. Don’t worry, I’m no less of a pessimist, but there’s more than one way to go about this concept. Ultimately, Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of love, and I’m all for that. Love can take many forms, beyond classic romantic love. There’s platonic love for your friends, familial love for your parents; love is love. No one love is lesser than any others, and yes, you can absolutely celebrate self love, too.

Pasta is my love language. It sounds mundane, and for the most part, it is. Dried pasta is a cheap, ubiquitous, reliable staple that’s always on hand for a last-minute meal, haphazardly thrown together at the end of a long day. Homemade pasta, however, is a different story. It’s every bit as affordable, takes only a few extra minutes of labor, and a little more advance planning, but those tiny extra steps pay off in huge dividends. Exactly BECAUSE dried pasta is so easy and accessible, anyone that cares enough to start from scratch clearly cares. It’s a small gesture that says, “I want you to have the best. I want you to enjoy something that I enjoy. I want to make this exactly to your tastes.”

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. Even if the noodles are too thick or misshapen, these pretty pink strands could melt the iciest hearts with one bite. Roasted heart-shaped beets make the affection poured into this dish obvious, because life is too short for secret admirers. Don’t cover it up with heavy sauce, either; a touch of olive oil, a few dollops of dairy-free ricotta, garlic, basil, and lemon zest is enough.

There’s no wrong way to express your love. Let’s take back Valentine’s Day and celebrate what’s really important. Love is care, love is kindness, and sometimes, love is pasta.

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Black Magic

Halloween is not just a one day event for me. Decorations go up in early September, regardless of lingering summery weather or unspoken rules of neighborhood conduct. By this time, while everyone else is finally getting into the spirit, I’ve already been rocking my skeleton shirt in public for well over a month. Don’t forget the little pumpkin I’ve been walking, clad from paws to nose in bright orange jack-o-lantern attire.

Other people might celebrate the holiday with an enchantingly festive meal on the 31st, but why wait until the witching hour to create some magic in the kitchen? A good example is this ghoulish version of mac and cheese that’s become a daily staple around here during the past few weeks.

Black as night, homemade pasta takes on a ghastly ashen hue thanks to a touch of natural witchcraft… Also known as edible coconut charcoal. Just a touch is enough to tint a whole pound of pasta without leaving a trace of off-flavors, yielding a stunning visual impact without sacrificing taste. Plated atop rich cheese sauce bolstered by creamy pumpkin puree, the stark color contrast is bright and bold enough to get anyone into a mischievous mood.

What are you waiting for? The time is ripe to get down with your witches. Invite your besties over and treat them to a wickedly good meal.

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Of Siblings and Spaghetti

Repeatedly recalled for decades, certain family stories become the stuff of lore. So vividly told that they seem like my own memories, I can practically see, taste, and feel these moments that happened long before I was born. The funny thing is, most of these moments are completely inconsequential, with many of the main players unconsciously or selectively choosing to forget the specifics. Regardless of the plausible bias coming from just one source, there’s a particular bit of family lore shared by my dad that I just can’t shake.

The second eldest of four children, he grew up in a boisterous household with plenty of sibling rivalry. Everyone had their quirks and irritations, which each knew exactly how to provoke. Meal time could be particularly fraught, as hunger drained what little patience might remain for the usual shenanigans.

As the story goes, my uncle Jim was throwing a fit about his spaghetti. It was always exactly the same but completely at random, he would inexplicably decide that it didn’t taste as good. Well, as the story goes, my dad finally got fed up with this routine. When Jim abandoned the table for just a moment, my dad swooped in and made his move. Deftly pouring his glass of chocolate milk into the forsaken noodles, my aunts could barely manage to stifle their giggles. Much to everyone’s surprise, upon his return, Jim proclaimed the pasta… Suddenly, miraculously improved!

The secret remained a mystery for all of about two seconds before the jig was up, launching an equal and opposite reaction of chocolate milk being poured into my dad’s white rice. Such an ultimately trivial moment that could have easily become forgotten somehow became wrapped up in our larger family lore, a fundamental piece of my personal history, despite taking place many decades before I was born.

History is destined to repeat itself, manifesting in unexpected ways, and so here I am today, recreating my Uncle Jim’s chocolate milk spaghetti.

Yes, you read that right; looking beyond the dessert course, blending cocoa into cream sauce isn’t the craziest idea. My dad was onto something in this moment of reckless provocation, little did he know at the time. Deep, dark Dutch process cocoa has both sweet and savory notes, waiting for the right sidekick to coax either side out into the light. Though we typically focus on more sugary pairings, the subtly bitter edge inherent in raw cacao comes to the fore alongside garlic, nutritional yeast, and black truffles. Twirling stands of al dente noodles within that mysterious, tawny sauce, crunchy bites of toasted cacao nibs deliver a shock of texture, hammering in the duality and versatility of this single ingredient, found in many forms.

Who knew that such an innocuous event would stay with us for generations, and perhaps, many more to come? Truffles certainly weren’t on the menu on that fateful night, but there’s no reason why we can’t learn from our “mistakes” and improve upon them- If only we can be so fearless by taking that first step to pour chocolate milk into pasta.

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