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broccoli

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The Best Broccoli Mac and Cheese

The Best Broccoli Mac and Cheese // Karista's Kitchen

Well this has been an interesting day.

I tested a muffin recipe for the fourth time this morning and Horray! It worked. I was sweating this one. I burnt the first set of brown sugar bacon because I wasn’t paying attention and then I added way too much vodka to the bloody mary’s that I was supposed to shoot.  I had to run back to the market for more tomato juice, which of course is more than just a little hike from where I live.

I’m still in my yoga pants and ball cap (because Tank and I went on our run this morning) the kitchen looks like a meal exploded and my daughter has friends coming over in an hour. Hmm…  I will not be sipping bloody mary’s today. 🙁

What did happen was my absolute favorite Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipe.  

I’m out tonight with the youngest sassy gal and I thought I’d make it to leave in the fridge for the rest of my Bennett Crew.  It’s hands down one of the best Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipes I’ve tasted.  Not because I make it ALL the time, but because it’s the most delicious, creamy and lush sauce that will make you want to pour it in a pretty glass and sip.

The Best Broccoli Mac and Cheese // Karista's Kitchen

Laced with garlic, dry mustard and paprika, this cheese sauce is everything you expect in a macaroni and cheese sauce.

A silky texture that gently blankets the broccoli and macaroni with robust flavor that keeps one coming back for seconds.  Every type and brand of cheddar is a little different and will change the flavor profile a bit.  So be sure to use your favorite cheddar cheese or a quality local cheddar is always a good choice.

After posting this Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipe I’m off to clean up the disaster downstairs and apply a little make-up, so I won’t scare people. Hope your day is a happy one!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

Karista

The Best Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Serving Size: 4-6

The Best Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces to 1 lb macaroni pasta or gluten free macaroni
  • 1 lb fresh broccoli, cut into bite sized florets or one 10-12 ounce package frozen broccoli florets
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 cups warm half n half, depending on how thin or thick you like the sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of dry-yellow mustard
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded good quality cheddar cheese (I love an aged Irish cheddar)
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs or panko
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  • Butter 4-6 individual serving dishes or one 9x11 baking dish.
  • Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, however, 5-8 minutes prior to the pasta being done, add the broccoli florets to the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is done and broccoli is crisp tender.
  • While the pasta and broccoli are simmering, make the sauce.
  • Add the butter to a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the minced garlic and stir for one minute. Then whisk in the flour and let it cook another minute.
  • Next slowly whisk in 2 cups of the warm half n half. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add ¼ cup more milk at a time, as needed for the desired consistency
  • Stir the dry-yellow mustard and paprika into the cheese sauce. Then take the sauce off the heat and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Toss the drained pasta and broccoli with the cheese sauce and then place in the individual baking dishes or one larger baking dish.
  • Mix together the ¼ cup shredded cheddar, the panko or breadcrumbs and the olive oil. Sprinkle it over the Broccoli Mac and Cheese and pop it under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the topping is toasty.
  • Remove from the oven and serve.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Pesto Broccolini

    Pesto Broccolini // Karista's Kitchen

    Some recipes garner a surprising response.  This little platter of Pesto Broccolini got loads of love on my Instagram and Facebook page which honestly, sort of surprised me.

    So, I decided to post it here.  It’s just a simple side that I toss together when I’m in a hurry but I want something fresh and delicious to serve with my dinner entrée.

    I was preparing a stuffed trout dish Monday night and I happened to have several bunches of Broccolini, which I typically pair with pasta or Gnocchi.  But Monday night I decided to serve it a la carte tossed with some basil pesto I had made the day before.  Voila! Pesto Broccolini.

    This is something I also do with blanched broccoli or cauliflower, sautéed or grilled zucchini and on occasion, roasted baby red potatoes and carrots.  It allows me to serve a fresh seasonal side with minimal fuss – because minimal fuss is important when the day is long and dinner is late.

    And who doesn’t love a crisp tender veggie lightly bathed in a spicy and herb laced pesto?  Even my picky eater loves this gorgeous Pesto Broccolini side dish.  If you don’t have the time to knock out a homemade pesto,  just buy one.  There are many excellent, high quality pesto’s in the market these days – many without any preservatives and made exclusively with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

    Here’s to making dinner fresh, simple and delicious! Cheers!

    Karista

    Pesto Broccolini

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Pesto Broccolini

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Broccolini, trimmed and larger stalks halved
    • 1/2 - 1 cup Basil Pesto (prepared or homemade)
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
    • Squeeze of lemon juice

    Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and heat over high heat. Once the water has reached a boil, add about one tablespoon of salt. Then add the broccolini.
  • Let the broccolini cook for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes for crisp tender or 4 -5 minutes for tender. Drain in a colander and then place in a bowl and toss gently with 1/2 cup of pesto or more if needed. Drizzle with a squeeze of lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Place on a platter and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
  • Notes

    For this recipe, I don't place the broccolini in an ice bath once it's cooked as I'm usually serving this right away. If I were going to hold the dish for a few minutes, I'd prepare a bowl with ice and water and let the broccolini rest for a few minutes in the ice bath after cooking, before tossing it with pesto. If you do decide to let it rest in the ice bath, gently heat the pesto before tossing with the broccolini so the dish is warm when served.

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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake

    Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake // Karista's Kitchen

    Even when I was a little kid I adored broccoli and would have loved this Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.

    When most kids were sporting frowns and squishy faces at the sight of the green florets, I was beaming with giddiness.  I would eat it raw with ranch dressing until my belly was so full I couldn’t eat another bite.  I’d eat it steamed or boiled, and plain with salt and pepper or slathered in cheese sauce.  No one could possibly ruin broccoli for me.

    Today, I still love broccoli raw with ranch dressing, but I also like this hearty veggie in salads, slaws and fried.  Although, Roasted broccoli seems to be my favorite method of cooking, laced with a bit of truffle salt and pepper and maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Or gently steamed and then tossed in a garlic brown butter and sprinkled with shredded gruyere.  Oh, and then of course, there is the classic steamed broccoli with a rich and creamy cheddar cheese sauce.  What’s not to love?!

    I use broccoli not only as a side dish but also as an entree.  It makes such a fabulous addition to stir fry’s and pastas and I’ve even been known to puree it into a gorgeous filling with ricotta, garlic and lemon for ravioli.  Which led me to this recipe – Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.

    Orecchiette, meaning “little ears”,  is a little “ear” shaped pasta that is perfect for pasta recipes with rich or delicate sauces and other delicious ingredients.  It’s a smaller shaped pasta, and for me, it gives the perfect mouthful of ingredients to pasta.

    Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake // Karista's Kitchen

    Some pasta bakes feel heavy and the pasta seems to overwhelm the dish and can dry out if there isn’t enough liquid.  So when I prepare a pasta bake it’s usually with a smaller variety of pasta like orecchiette.

    Often I’ll use a béchamel in pasta bakes, but for this Broccoli Ricotta Pasta Bake I found the ricotta and lemon to be perfectly complimentary both in flavor and texture.  Keeping the over all dish a little lighter in texture and bright in flavor.  Perfect for the spring table.

    Although broccoli can now be found in the markets year round, it’s season is October through April making it a grand “go to” green veggie for winter and spring. We have several farms here in the valley harvesting broccoli right now, in fact, I pass one every time I drive into town.  They are the funniest looking plants right before harvest. Tall cabbage looking at first; and then at a closer view, it looks like the flower of a cabbage.  Which is what it means in Italian, Broccolo  “flowering top of a cabbage”.

    However you prepare broccoli it won’t disappoint. Especially when it’s prepared in this lovely and light dish of Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.  I’ve made this three times in the last few months, usually right before my oldest gal comes home for a visit.  We always have leftovers for her to take back; which now makes her beam with giddiness.

    Wishing you a most delicious week!

    Karista

    Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake

    Serving Size: 6-8

    Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake

    Ingredients

    • 12 ounces orecchiette
    • 1 pound broccoli, diced into bite size pieces
    • 14-15 ounces whole milk ricotta
    • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
    • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
    • 1 lemon zested
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 egg, whisked
    • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
    • Serve with pasta sauce on the side if desired

    Instructions

  • Lightly butter a 9x11 or 9x13 baking dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Whisk together the ricotta, dried herbs, Italian parsley, lemon zest, minced garlic, parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. Season the ricotta mixture with salt and pepper to taste. About 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
  • Then mix in the egg with the seasoned ricotta. Reserve.
  • Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and cook the pasta according to package directions. Five minutes prior to the pasta being done, add the broccoli to the pasta. When the pasta is done the broccoli should also be done. Drain the pasta and broccoli.
  • Gently toss the pasta and broccoli with the seasoned ricotta until it's well blended. Be sure to keep a light hand when tossing so the broccoli doesn't break up too much.
  • Pour the broccoli pasta mixture into the baking pan and then top with mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and let the pasta bake for another 10-15 minutes until the sides are a bit bubbly and the cheese is golden on top. If the cheese doesn't brown on top you can turn on the broiler and broil for a few minutes for the additional color.
  • Serve warm.
  • Notes

    Serve with a side of pasta sauce if desired.

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    Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Roasted Broccoli Parmesan

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    Roasted Broccoli Parmesan

    Sometimes I just can’t get enough broccoli.  I love it raw, steamed, stir fried and roasted.  I think roasted is my favorite.

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    Oven Roasted Broccoli

    Roasting veggies, especially broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, brings out the most unique and caramelized flavors.  Add a little garlic, Romano or parmesan and I’ve got the perfect side dish for a dinner meal.  Suzie Q, my youngest gal, likes to personalize her roasted broccoli with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar.  🙂

    I often roast a baking sheet of broccoli, cauliflower or Brussel sprouts while I’ve got a pork loin or chicken roasting in the oven.  Just pop the baking sheet of veggies into the oven on the rack below, about 15 minutes before the pork or chicken is done.  Then everything comes out of the oven at the same time and dinner is done.  Gotta love that!

    Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

    1-2 lbs fresh organic broccoli, washed, dried and cut into bite sized pieces

    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

    1/4- 1/2 cup fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

    Place the broccoli pieces in a large bowl and toss with a drizzle of oil and season with salt and pepper.

    Place the dressed broccoli on the baking sheet lined 10 minutes, or until the tops of the broccoli are toasted in color and crisp tender to the touch.

    When the broccoli is done, remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.  Transfer the broccoli to a platter and serve immediately.

    For a little variation add crushed cloves of garlic to the broccoli before roasting.  This will make a lovely garlic roasted broccoli.  You can also sub grated Asiago or Romano for the Parmesan… or of course, shredded cheddar. 🙂