If you haven’t noticed, Cooking for Keeps had a major transformation over the weekend! For the last three or four months I’ve been behind the scenes working with the talented Melissa and Erin from Wooden Spoons Kitchen (they did ALL of the work), trying to put together a simple, gorgeous and functional site. Beyond the obvious aesthetic changes, there are also a bunch of new, exciting features that I think will make the site much more organized and functional – and hopefully a bit more user friendly.
So let’s talk about what you first see when you pull the site up. We now have a ‘Pin it’ button that will pop up on each picture, making it a cinch to pin your favorite pictures from each post. Also, if you look to the right you can not only subscribe to get email updates from Cooking for Keeps, but you can also add our site to your favorite blog readers; I know this is how I keep up-to-date on all my favorite websites, so if you haven’t already signed up for our email list or added us to your Bloglovin’ or Feedly reader, please do!
The search function was always something that’s been a part of the site, but now it’s in a much more visible location; before you kind of had to search around for it, and I had many people telling me they couldn’t find it all, so hopefully the new spot will eliminate some confusion.
Next, we have possibly my favorite new function of the site – the level of difficulty. You can now search through all of our recipes by difficulty – I’ll dive into this in a bit more detail below, but the first two posts will always show if the recipe is easy, medium or hard to cook – something I think will be tremendously helpful for you guys.
Lastly, we have some new features added to the sidebar. The first – a popular post section – is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t really delve too much into it, but the second category section will change on a regular basis. Right now, we have a few healthy recipes featured, but it will change depending on what season we’re in or what holiday is coming up.
Like I mentioned above, you can now peruse through all of our recipes by difficulty. In the beginning stages of the design process, I had to fill out a questionnaire to help Erin and Melissa better custom design the site and make sure it was going to be a great fit for all of you guys. Because I don’t focus on all easy and quick recipes, or all advanced recipes, I get quite a few people saying that my recipes are too hard or too complex, or, on the flip side, they’d like too see even more advanced recipes. I mentioned this conundrum to Erin and Melissa, and they suggested trying out a new feature they’ve been playing around with – to categorize everything by difficulty. Brilliant!
There’s a couple of places you can do this, first in the sidebar, and second within the recipe index. I’m still in the midst of organizing all the old posts, but within the next week or two, everything should be correctly categorized. The recipe index is also alphabetically organized by category with nice little thumbnails showing a glimpse of each subject, but if you want to go straight to the category, just click on the little drop down box in the right hand corner on the recipe index page.
I think that’s about it. Welcome to the new site, and a big thanks to Melissa and Erin for making it everything I pictured and more.
Now, on to the recipe…
I can’t think of anything better than a giant baking dish full of bubbling hot pasta intertwined with copious amounts of cheese and a creamy sauce at this very moment. Because at this very moment I’ve just come in from the bitter cold, and tried to warm myself up by putting on my coziest flannels, burrowing under a blanket and hiding all my extremities, but none of it has worked.
I know everyone on this earth is complaining about the cold, and you’ve probably already read/hear/listened to it five other times today, but this is the very first time I’ve complained about it (on here) all winter long, so I think I’m due for a rant. The winter weather is really starting to get to me at this point; I keep telling myself that spring is only four weeks away, but in Kansas that means absolutely nothing. Winter could still easily go on for another two months, and I just might be a popsicle by then.
But alas, it’s here, so I just need to get over it, or at least try to make it a little more pleasant to deal with.
The way I do that? With lots of layers. Plenty of hot lemon water. Ridiculously steamy showers. And comfort food.
This Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato, Mozzarella and Turkey Italian Sausage is exactly what I need on a cold winter’s night, and what I like to call a “Kevin” meal.
While Kevin isn’t a picky guy, at heart, he definitely gravitates towards the “meat and potatoes” mantra. Although with the laid-back, go-with-the-flow personality he has, he’ll pretty much eat whatever I put in front of him, no complaints, no questions asked. Most weeks when I probe him for meal cravings, his response is minimal at best and barely offers up any requests, leaving me the freedom to cook whatever crazy concoction I’ve had brewing in my head. But every once in a while he’ll surprise me and ask for one of three things; a meat-heavy dinner, stir-fry or a hearty baked pasta – and I am always happy to appease him.
I make a variation of this pretty often in the winter time; sometimes I’ll do a 100% tomato sauce, sometimes I’ll throw in a splash of vodka for a little spiciness, or even a jar of pesto to shake things up a bit, but this time, I had a bag of sun-dried tomatoes wasting away in my pantry and thought it would be the perfect addition to our monotonous pasta bake.
The sauce starts as most of my red sauces do, with plenty of sautéed onion and garlic. Typically at this point I’ll add in a 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, some sugar, salt and Italian seasoning, but this time before I added all the usual suspects, I threw in half a bag of sun-dried tomatoes and generous splash of a good-ish quality red wine.
I say “good-ish” because it doesn’t need to be an expensive bottle of wine, just something that you would enjoy drinking, but doesn’t rhyme with anzia.
In most cases, I’ll leave the sauce pretty chunky, but I really wanted the onion, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes to be intertwined into the sauce and smooth, so I threw everything into the food processor until it was all pureed.
So so good. This would even work great as a dip for bread, sauce for pizza or would even be perfect smothered over some sliced warm goat cheese and served with crostini or pita chips.
The sauce is poured back into the pan and then the rest of the sun-dried tomatoes are thrown in, along with a couple links of cooked, crumbled turkey Italian sausage. The sauce is tossed with about ½ pint of heavy cream and a pound or so of fat, just under aldente rigatoni noodles and then layered in between slices of fresh mozzarella and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Pop it in the oven, wait for the cheese to melt, and you’ve got a creamy, hearty, comforting and perfect pasta meal.
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta
- 3 links turkey italian sausage removed from casings
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped and divided
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ pint of heavy cream
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with kosher salt It should taste as salty as the sea. Grease a rectangle baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Cook pasta until just under aldente.
- Heat a large skillet to a medium heat. Add oil. Brown sausage, remove sausage from pan and set aside.
- Add onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add half of the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook another minute.
- Add wine, deglaze pan, scaling up brown bites in the bottom, reduce for 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and basil. Simmer 20 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer back to the pan and add remaining sun-dried tomatoes and turkey italian sausage. Season sauce with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Place half of the pasta in the bottom of the pan. Dot with fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with half of shredded cheese. Top with remaining pasta. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, continue to bake util slightly brown, bubbly and cheese is melted.