Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grandma's Old World Pasta Fajioli and Coffeehouse Coffeecake

This is a continuation of our last cooking marathon. Too many recipes for one post, even for us.  We don't want to be responsible for any overeating mishaps.  Can there be too much of a good thing?

One of my 1 1/2 year olds ate 3 bowls of this.
I was worried his stomach would explode.
Grandma's Old World Pasta Fajioli
Everyone loves this traditional Italian stew, especially on a rainy day.  
Claire's grandparents ate this during the Great Depression when they couldn't get meatballs.  The sauce is like velvet, and freezes very well before you add the pasta. (Cooked pasta doesn't freeze well. Don't even try it.) Claire's been getting a lot of requests for this recipe. It's a hearty meal if you serve it with crusty bread and a crisp green salad.  It's also fast and can be made with ingredients probably already in your pantry- with the exception of the fresh basil (see tip below). My two cents: for a colorful extra nutrition boost, toss in 2 handfuls of fresh, chopped baby spinach leaves with the pasta before adding sauce. (I pretty much do this to everything.  We go through a lot of spinach.)  Make it vegetarian by substituting veggie broth for beef broth.

Dilatini pasta.  It's small pasta.
Use elbows or mini penne
if you can't find dilatini.
1/3 c olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T dried basil
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small can tomato paste
2 (28 oz) cans t
omato sauce
1 (14 oz) can beef broth
1 (14 oz) can kidney beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 T fresh basil, finely chopped

1 lb. box of Dilatini pasta (see photos)

In large pot saute onions until almost translucent.  Add garlic, basil, and oregano, and cook for about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. (Claire's grandma says this takes away the tin can flavor and adds a caramel quality.)  Add beef broth and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes covered, but with a crack to let the steam out. Add beans and simmer 30 more minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in basil. 

Boil water in large pot.  Add  1 lb Ditalini pasta.  Cook al dente- extra firm.  Drain all but 1/2 c pasta water, Add 4 cups sauce, let sit.  Serve in a bowl with an additional scoop of sauce and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread and Caesar salad with homemade croutons. 

Claire's tip for fresh basil:  Take 1 large bunch of basil and put it in the blender with enough olive oil to make a paste.  Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.  The next day, empty the basil cubes into a large freezer bag or container.  It's so handy the next time you want some fresh basil to add to your spaghetti sauce or soup, but don't want to spend $4 on the out-of-season organic stuff at the store. 

My two cents: You can also pre-freeze pesto in a similar fashion.  I line mini-loaf pans with plastic wrap and fill them about 1/2 to 1 inch deep with fresh homemade pesto, and then stick them in the freezer.  The next time you want pesto linguine, just get out a pesto brick and you're all set!

And, second dinner is served...

This was our dinner Thursday night, so technically, it was first dinner.  I served some steelhead I had in the freezer with the Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glaze. Kids inhaled it. Side dished included our family's fake caesar salad, spinach potato pancakes (Costco, super yummy), and stir-fried broccolini with garlic. I broiled the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side, and topped with the glaze.  

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glaze
This is what your life has been missing. It's super easy, and is the perfect topping to grilled meat or fish.  You could cook it briefly (just to melt the sugars) without the cornstarch to make a marinade. It's got kind of a teriyaki flavor to it, and is so yummy, brainless, and simple.

1/2 c brown sugar
1 T cornstarch
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c water
2 T soy sauce
1 pinch garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Heat and stir until thickened. Serve over grilled meat.
Same glaze with roasted pork, sliced and shredded.
Starbuck's Coffee Cake
I am on a mission to find or recreate the recipe for Starbuck's cinnamon crumb coffee cake. This is not it, but it's pretty good. I tried a second recipe, but this one is much more moist. I baked this for my daughter's playdate (10 children, 6 adults) and for some reason was surprised that there was only one piece left. Maybe it had something to do with serving it with ice cream.  If you want, you can add 1/2 c chopped pecans to the topping.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Make topping by combining 1 cup flour with brown sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Mixture should have the consistency of moist sand.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup light brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix well.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the moist ingredients a little at a time. Add milk and mix well. Spoon the batter into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been buttered and dusted with a light coating of flour. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter. Be sure the topping completely covers the batter. Bake 50 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Cool.

Please post a comment and let us know if you tried any of the recipes!


  1. Made this tonight, and yummm! I allways am cravin starbucks coffee cake with my morning coffee, but tried two other kinds that didn't seem quite right. So now have my new favorite, thank you!


  2. Finally made this coffee cake. Delicious! I will definitely be making it again.

  3. Awesome! Keep an eye out for Starbucks pumpkin scone recipe in the future.

  4. It was so awesome when you made it, I made it for the first time is phenomenal! My sister was visiting and is a Starbucks know-it-all, she was IN LOVE with it! Can't wait for the Pumpkin scone recipe, can you check out the Almond Toffee bar they used to have and discontinued, it was A-mazing! Thanks for sharing.