Homemade Italian – Pasta & Garlic Bread

I’ve already written other blog posts on a homemade pasta with infused tomato puree and one about my first experience making (french) bread. This time, I experimented with a couple of new recipes I found on Pinterest. Since I’m new to the pasta and bread making game, I think I’ll have to keep trying and tweaking recipes before I get those “signature” dishes!

The French Bread

I tried a french bread recipe that only requires one rise instead of two. Since I had decided to make it last minute and I happened to have rapid rising yeast on hand, I thought it was worth a try. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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The recipe was for two loaves, but I only wanted one, so I cut all the ingredient amounts in half. This was easy to do because a lot of the amounts look like they had probably originally been doubled. For example, it calls for two packages of fast rising yeast, so instead, I simply used one.

This was way better than the last french bread I made. The outside got crustier and the inside was fluffier and less dense. Plus, it took a fraction of the time to prepare. I actually used bread flour instead of regular all purpose flour and let the mixer knead the dough a little longer than the last time. These things may have contributed to the better bread. However, although the inside of the bread was fluffier, I felt it still had a tiny bit of toughness to it when pulling it apart. I don’t think this has anything to do with the recipe. Just some alterations I need to make to what I’m doing.

So, I prepared the dough, let is rest covered for 10 minutes. I then made it into a loaf shape, only sort of using the jelly roll method. I did it roughly because I didn’t want that spirally inside that I got last time. I let the loaf sit covered on a oiled baking sheet for about 35 minutes. I took this opportunity to prep a couple other things and take a shower! I also timed it so that the pasta noodles were drying at this time.

Also, I decided to bake it half way without a wash or butter brushed over it. Then once it was a little bit browned, I took it out, brushed some butter over the top and let it cook the rest of the way. This helped give it that nice golden brown. Similar to last time, I also only cooked the loaf part-way through before I took it directly off the baking sheet and put it on a baking rack because the bottom browned before the rest of the loaf.

I let the bread cool a little. I used half of it to make garlic bread. The garlic bread was just melted butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper, dried basil, freeze-dried chives, and parmesan sprinkled on top. I let those pieces broil in the oven just so they got brown on top and little toasty. This was just a quick solution for making garlic bread. If I hadn’t already been making a bunch of other stuff and had fresh herbs, I’d make this delicious herb garlic bread recipe I found years ago. (I’ll save that for another time :))

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Bonus, I sliced up a couple of pieces of leftover bread this morning to make toast. I topped them with some smashed avocado, tomato, and sprinkled with pink Hawaiian salt. YUM!

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The Pasta

The pasta recipe was a very basic one and had 5 stars with 46 reviews at the time. I spiced it up a little but sprinkling in a little dried parsley and dried basil. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

The verdict: The pasta was fine and is probably a good traditional recipe if that’s what you want. My noodles ended up being too thick, so they were a bit dense and chewy. I think it’s because I didn’t spend enough time rolling the pasta out before using the fettucine cutter. I’d like to give this recipe another try because I really think this was my own fault and I’d like an easy go-to pasta recipe.

The Sauce

I had a can of san marzano tomatoes in the pantry, so I dumped the contents into a large pot and used my mashed potato smasher to break up the tomatoes. I added quite a few seasonings, but I was just experimenting with the flavor. If you’re looking for a simple sauce, you don’t even need to add anything. Here’s what I used to add some depth to the sauce flavor:

  • sliced garlic
  • dashes of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper
  • one bay leaf
  • a little bit of chopped onion
  • a little water and chicken bouillon powder
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • dash of parmesan
  • tomato cooking wine
    • We had just gone on a winery tour last week and purchased this tomato cooking wine. It has a subtle flavor and perhaps it drowned in the sauce. I think this would be really nice to use in other dishes, perhaps to deglaze a pan of mushrooms or something!

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I also wanted to add some protein to the dish, so I pressure cooked some chicken we had in the freezer and shredded it. (Since I didn’t season it, the other chicken breast was cut up and saved for the pups!) I put the shredded chicken directly into the sauce. I also air fried some frozen shrimp and peas and put those into the sauce last minute, just before serving.


I won’t lie; this was overall a lot of work. But since I like cooking and it was a leisurely Saturday night, I enjoyed it. This would also be great for a date night if you and your significant other ever like to cook together.

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I hope you give some of those recipes a try and share some of your lessons learned, as well!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

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Oui Oui, French Bread & Shrimp Scampi

Jake’s dad makes a lot of really scrumptious seafood dishes. One of those dishes is his famous shrimp scampi that I have only heard whispers about, but had not actually witnessed or tried myself. Last night put an end to all those rumors! Jake’s parents came over and not only made that famous shrimp scampi for us, but also taught us how to make it. Warning: I’m not at liberty to divulge all the details, but I will talk about some of its ingredients and leave you drooling with some photos. In honor of the shrimp scampi, I also put my new stand mixer to use again and made a fresh loaf of french bread.

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The surprising and not-so-surprising thing about the shrimp scampi recipe is that it is very simple – not a lot of ingredients. It is primarily comprised of clam juice, butter, clams, and garlic. Seasonings and other flavorings seem like they could be up to you. You could even add a little at a time, taste test, adjust, and repeat until you’re happy with the flavors. In my opinion, any of the following could add some nice flavors: salt, pepper, scallions, shallots, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, a squirt of lemon, or splash of white wine or white cooking wine. You’ll obviously need shrimp to make it shrimp scampi, but you can feel free to add whatever other seafood you like. In this case, we had shrimp, scallops, and lobster – the trifecta. A flaky white fish or muscles would also complement this dish well.

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Lobster is prepped and ready to add into the sauce
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Sauce being cooked on the stove

We enjoyed the sauce with some linguini. I almost offered to make fresh pasta with my new stand mixer pasta attachments. But since I’m still a novice at that, I didn’t want to mess up the dish or the cooking lesson. Next time, it will definitely be worth a try.

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Whenever you have a pasta dish in front of you, it is a requirement that you have some bread to sop up that extra sauce. So, here comes the french bread. As usual, I used handy dandy Pinterest to find an easy recipe. (Here’s the link to the recipe.) The actual work to make the bread isn’t difficult, but I had no idea how time consuming the entire process is. If I ever make bread again, I would not make a single loaf. If I’m going to spend an entire day waiting for the dough to rise, I would probably make a few loaves.

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In this recipe (and I think most bread recipes like this), you need to let the dough rise for an hour, then punch it down, let it rise for another 30 min, then shape the loaf, and let it rise for another 30-60 minutes. I chose to brush the loaf with an egg white wash before baking. However, it seemed a bit dry, so I decided to additionally brush it with butter and some dried rosemary near the end of the baking time and after it was done and out of the oven. Wow, the aroma from the butter and rosemary was SO good. Also, about halfway through the baking, the bottom of the bread was browning a lot faster than the rest. Since the bread was firm enough at that time, I put it on a baking rack, which sat on top of the baking sheet.

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The bread had a nice flavor, but it was a bit dense. I had to do a little research afterward to see what it would take to get a fluffier inside. I suspect I didn’t knead the dough for long enough. Also, I might experiment with the different flours that I use. Also, the “jelly roll” method that was used to make the loaf left noticeable spirals inside when slicing the bread. I wonder if I just need to either roll it tighter or maybe next time I’ll just shape the loaf without flattening first and rolling.

To finish it off, Jake’s mom had brought cupcakes for us to enjoy for dessert. We were already so full from the pasta that having an individual-sized dessert hit the spot.

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All in all, it was a great dish to mark the end of summer. Even Whiskey and Brody (our pups) wanted to try some. I can’t wait to try the recipe and hopefully perfect it!

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Sincerely
Fu’d