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Pasta and beans (pronounced pasta fazh-e-ohl-eh, and sometimes referred to as pasta fazool) is a classic Italian dish that couldn’t be much faster, easier or more inexpensive; it can also be made without precision, and you can take liberties with the ingredients: a bit of sausage with the onion, carrot and celery is delicious, you could add some thyme, rosemary or Italian seasoning to the pot, and though small pasta shapes are traditional, a diced potato or even some rice or other grain would be tasty as well. With more stock, tomato juice or other liquid, it’s more like minestrone; with less it’s a thicker, stewier pasta dish. If you happen to save your Parmesan rinds, this is a good use for it.

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I recently came across food writer Julia Turshen’s simple lasagna — what she calls “a nice lasagna”, and was instantly drawn to its simplicity—there’s no meat, no layers of roasted veg or ricotta, just a rosé tomato sauce and fresh basil, and plenty of cheese. Best of all, it utilizes fresh pasta sheets, which you can mix up and roll with a rolling pin—no pasta machine required! (Though they are a lot of fun.) And then you just go ahead and layer the rolled-out pasta dough directly in the pan with the sauce and cheese, no need to boil it first, which is ridiculously satisfying. You could, of course, add all manner of meat and veg sauce, or ricotta, or anything else you like, but I love that this is not at all over the top- a big spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream turns the sauce into a rosé that takes care of my craving for tomato and cheese that ricotta usually satisfies.

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There are plenty of theories about the name of this Thai dish, which is slick with spicy oil, studded with crispy bits of pork, and spiked with garlic and chilies: a) you need a cold beer to tame the spice, b) it’s a very social/late-night meal, c) it’s the ultimate hangover food. I’ve heard from so many people over on Instagram that they’ve been making the drunken noodles from Dirty Food, I thought I’d share the recipe here too. It’s exactly the kind of thing I like to eat – a big plate of noodles you can totally tweak to suit you: use rice or wheat noodles, fresh or dried, and top them with crispy ground pork, or tofu, or shrimp, or plant-based crumbles, or just more veg. It’s all tied together with a sweet-salty-spicy-tangy-garlicky sauce that you could quickly shake up and have waiting in the fridge, and topped with crunchy peanuts (or cashews!), green onions and fresh basil, if you’re so inclined.

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So back in February, when my friend Jan’s new cookbook came out, I was so diligent in making sure I made one of the recipes in a timely manner to post on the day of her official launch. I made a pot of beefaroni on a Sunday night when everyone was over for dinner – I’m making an effort to do more big family Sunday suppers these days – and it was a total hit. I mean, perfect for everyone, from the new generation of littles to my Dad, who took some home for lunch the next day. I’ve made it twice since – it’s a good meal to send someone who needs it, or to have in the fridge to dip into for quick dinners and Thermos lunches, and it freezes well. And I just realized I never managed to post it here.

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Occasionally it occurs to me that I don’t make Toad in the Hole often enough. Ever, really. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s essentially a pan of baked sausages into which you’ve poured a Dutch baby or Yorkshire pudding-like batter in the middle of cooking, when the pan gets really hot and the sausages are half done. It’s about as easy as dinner gets, and as you can imagine, it would be as well suited to breakfast or brunch… you could, in fact, top it with fried eggs and splatter it with hollandaise and bring the whole pan to the table to feed everyone.

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If you’re not familiar with papdi chaat, I’d like to put it forth as the ideal snack food, and one of my hands-down favourite things to eat. Chaat is a blanket term used to describe a wide range of snacky, savoury Indian street foods, and papdi (or papri) are the crisp fried crackers used as a base for (or served alongside) diced potatoes and chickpeas tossed with chaat masala (a spice blend customized specifically for this purpose, which you can make yourself or buy pre-mixed), minced onion, fresh mint-cilantro chutney, and a drizzle of sweet-tart tamarind chutney and cool spiced yogurt. Papdi chaat is everything you want in a snack—salty, sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, spicy and soft. Layers of interesting colours, flavours and textures. It’s all served in one bowl, and you can eat it with your fingers. It’s typically something I order at a restaurant, or have had friends make for me, but I’ve been meaning to give it a go myself for years,Continue reading

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We all need emergency meals some days. I’ve been eyeing this – a soupy sort of one pot pasta that’s a staple in Rome, and the sort of humble home-cooked meal that intrigues me most about visiting such a place. (Although yes, I would also make the trip just for the pizza.) As with most staples of this kind, there are as many variations as there are people who make it. This particular version is cooked quickly on the stovetop, pasta and all, which allows the starch from the pasta to thicken the sauce. It works-truly. I brought it in to CBC this morning as an example of the sort of last-minute I-don’t-know-what’s-for-dinner emergency meal you can rummage through your pantry for and eat in 20 minutes rather than give in to take out.

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It’s the most eating-est time of year, but not just because of all the shortbread and turkey dinners and Turtles—some of our favourite December things are the weekend morning we gather around my mom’s dining room table to make crackers for Christmas dinner, the afternoon Christmas carol jam, and the night we invite everyone over to watch Elf and Christmas Vacation, and plunk down a big pot of meatballs, or my grandma’s beef carbonnade, or something easy we can all dig into, in the middle of the table. I love that there are just more people around for dinner more often these days, which means those one-pot meals that are so comforting (and genuinely satisfying to make) are pulled into service for home entertaining of the more casual sort—the ones where everyone brings their own slipper socks. Smothered chicken is an old, classic recipe. I love the idea of it. You can make it with a whole spatchcocked chicken, like Craig Claiborne wrote about inContinue reading

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I’m all about pie these days. It’s the fall food, isn’t it? Although it’s time for stone fruit pies, like peach and plum and apricot and cherry and rhubarb (still) and yes, it’s almost time for apple, but while it’s still late summer, with all the ripe tomatoes and the last of the corn, this pie is it. It comes somewhat indirectly from one of my favourite food writers, and it’s really a pie unlike any other – layers of ripe tomatoes, corn, aged cheddar, fresh basil and chives, doused in lemony, garlicky mayo, wrapped up in a buttery biscuit crust, which is brilliant in itself. You roll the biscuit dough as thin as you would pastry, but it bakes up like a biscuit, only thinner. It’s all crunchy top and craggly edges – the more rustic and haphazardly you throw it together, the better. I don’t bother crimping, just tuck and fold the edge over any old way. There are no eggs or anythingContinue reading

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