Calgary·Recipe

Spice up Halloween with these spooky dishes

A lot of the dishes you see at this time of year are more gory than gratifying, but here are some Halloween-inspired meals that will get you in the spirit of things, and keep you well-fed however you’re spending the evening.

Try some Halloween rigatoni, ghoul-ash with biscuit tombstones or gnocchi grubs

Try Julie van Rosendaal's ghoul-ash with biscuit tombstones, left, or a Halloween rigatoni. (Julie van Rosendaal/Twitter)

In late October, our appetites tend to turn toward candy and all things spiked with pumpkin spice — but we need some real food, too, especially for those burning energy between school and trick-or-treating time.

A lot of the dishes you see this time of year are more gory than gratifying, but here are some Halloween-inspired meals that will get you in the spirit of things, and keep you well-fed however you're spending the evening.

Halloween rigatoni

This is one of those pasta dishes that looks impressive but is really a snap to make.

It's fun to stand each noodle upright in a springform pan — and it gives little people something to do as they anxiously await trick-or-treating time.

If you like, whisk an egg into a container of soft ricotta and spread it over the rigatoni, pressing it into the holes, before topping with tomato sauce and cheese.

  • 1 lb dry rigatoni olive or canola oil, for drizzling
  • 3-4 cups tomato sauce or saucy Bolognese
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • ¼-½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pimento-stuffed green olives (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Boil the rigatoni according to the package directions, or until al dente.

Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive or canola oil, then stand them upright in an oiled 9-inch springform pan (this is fun and not as finicky as it sounds).

Pour the tomato sauce overtop and top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and press olives into some of the holes in the top, making them look like eyes peeking out (add as many as you like).

Return to the oven, uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden (if you like, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to speed things along).

Serves: Six.

Ghoul-ash with biscuit tombstones

Hungarian goulash is a fairly simple beef stew, seasoned with paprika and sometimes caraway. It's meant to be a bit of a fridge cleaner, though, so feel free to add whatever you like to the pot.

The buttery biscuits are rolled or patted thinner than usual, so they make crunchy tombstones that will stand upright in the thick goulash grave-y.

Ghoul-ash:

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb stewing beef
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • A few garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced or whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 5-6 new potatoes, halved or quartered, or 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced

Biscuits:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • ¾ cup milk or cream

Preparation:

In a large ovenproof pot, set over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour off most of the bacon fat (if there is a lot) and brown the beef in batches, and then the onion. Return the beef to the pot and add the paprika, garlic, thyme, caraway seeds (if using) and cook for another minute or two.

Add the stock, tomatoes and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook at 300 F for 2½-3 hours, until the beef is very tender.

After about two hours, add the carrot, parsnip and potatoes. Remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning before serving.

When the ghoulash comes out of the oven, increase the temperature to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Grate or cut in the butter and rub it into the flour until it's well combined, with some chunks of butter the size of a pea.

Add the milk and stir just until the dough comes together. Roll or pat the dough out into a ½-inch thick rectangle on a parchment-lined sheet.

Cut into eight rectangles and round the corners on one end of each piece, to resemble a tombstone. Brush with a little extra milk or cream and mark RIP on each with a bamboo skewer, moving it up and down like a tattoo needle.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Pour the ghoulash into a serving dish and top with the bacon and biscuit tombstones.

Serves: Four to six.

Green Grubs (Gnocchi with Carrot Top Pesto)

Little round gnocchi could pass for grubs to the uninitiated, and they make for a super quick dinner. You could streamline things even further by using store-bought basil pesto, but if you have surplus carrot tops, baby kale, spinach or basil, this is a great way to use it.

  • 1 pkg fresh gnocchi

Carrot top pesto:

  • ¼ cup cashews, pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 loosely packed cup carrot greens
  • A small handful of basil leaves, if you like
  • ¼-½ cup grated Parmesan
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup(ish) olive oil salt extra olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Boil the gnocchi for four to five minutes, or according to package directions, until they float to the surface (and then add another minute). Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.

To make the pesto, pulse the nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor until well blended and coarsely ground. Add the leafy carrot tops, basil, Parmesan and lemon juice and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until well blended.

With the motor running, pour the oil in through the feed tube until the pesto is the texture you like, scraping down the side of the bowl and adding a pinch of salt if needed (the Parmesan is salty, too).

Toss as much of it as you like with the gnocchi.​

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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