One of the things that I have enjoyed doing most is cooking. Luckily I have two great guys to test out my recipes on. Men who truly appreciate my time and effort and creativity. Rob comes from a family that eats fine food regularly. My Daddy and I are more down home cooking kind of people. We’ve got pretty good palates and demolish burgers and other things that, well, just aren’t so fancy. That’s not to say we don’t love lobster and fine steaks. That we do and very, very much :)
It’s pretty awesome to cook for either Rob or Daddy because they will both give me their honest feedback about my dishes and give me high praise that makes me feel like a million bucks when it’s due. And that isn’t all of the time. If you’ve ever worked out the kinks in your own recipes you know exactly what I’m talking about…
Right now I’m trying to work out a couple of recipes that are quick and use store bought staples like Ragu Pasta sauce. My goal is to have a few go to meals that taste super fancy but don’t take me ages and ages to make. I have recipes that I have made or inherited where I have to stew my own tomatoes. And that’s great and all when there is time for it but these days it seems I never have quite that much time on my hands :)
Today’s recipe I made for my Rob and I tried to bring in some more refined items to cater to his much more well rounded tastes. I also wanted to work from the contest ingredients for the Ready Set. Cook! challenge I’m also entering in. Those ingredients center around a Ragu pasta sauce which in and of itself starts with great ingredients. Ragu is an authentic Italian sauce that is made in the same traditional way since 1937 that lets you see, smell and savor the longstanding fresh tradition. There are no artificial flavors, colors and no high fructose corn syrup. Just slow-simmered vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic and fragrant herbs. In addition to Ragu the list also includes:
- Italian Sausage
- Black Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Feta Cheese
- Goat Cheese
- Pine Nuts
- Corn Tortillas
- Spaghetti Squash
You can see the items I chose in red in the list above.
And this is how this little contest works. During the 4 weeks between 11/2 – 11/30/2015 you can enter your own recipe that uses Ragu pasta sauce and 4 of the ingredients from the contest list above. Recipes will be rated, reviewed and judged leading to a winner and a people’s choice award for best recipe! And the prizes are nothing to sneeze at with the grand prize winner taking home $3,000, a runner-up prize of $1,250 and a People’s Choice award worth $750.
Let’s get this party started, shall we? Grab your favorite Ragu tomato sauce and take a peek at this ingredient list. Since this was for a little meal for Rob and myself, this recipe feeds 2. Feel free to increase for the size of your crowd!
- Ragu Sauce of your choice (I went with Hearty Traditional)
- 8 ounces Italian Sausage
- Precooked Polenta (available at grocery stores in a tube)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2-4 basil leaves, shredded
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
- fresh arugula
- pine nuts
Brown your Italian sausage and add approximately 1/4 of your jar of sauce to your skillet. Set to simmer on the back burner.
In a small bowl, or a measuring cup, mix together 1/2 cup of your Ragu sauce, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt and a pinch of shredded basil for a little extra color.
Take your softened cream cheese and add the rest of your shredded basil plus your Italian seasoning and incorporate well.
Remove your polenta from the tube and slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Pan fry in butter until both sides have begun to brown.
Place a dollop of cream cheese mix onto 2 polenta cakes.
Top with a third polenta cake and a hearty portion of your meaty Ragu sauce.
Garnish with fresh arugula leaves and pine nuts. Dress with a drizzle of your homemade tomato vinaigrette dressing.
Get ready to tuck in and bask in the praise of your impressed and well fed fellow diners!
Now I have to tell you that I cannot stand arugula or pine nuts on their own. They gross me out. Arugula has a very strong flavor that I normally can’t get behind and there is something in the texture of a pine nut that makes me say thanks, but no thanks. BUT the flavors complement the polenta cakes, cream cheese and Ragu sauce perfectly! Even if you’re not the biggest fan of these distinct tastes, please, please, please give them a try! You won’t be sorry :)
Rob and I sat at the kitchen table and I watched as he gave my new dish it’s first taste test. And I could tell the very moment he decided he liked it. Each time he took a bit and told me how great dinner was I could feel myself beaming from the inside out. A job well done and a man full and well satisfied and singing my praises… I don’t know if I’m going to win a big money prize but right now I feel like life doesn’t get a whole lot better than that! :)
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Ragu. The opinions and text are all mine.