Tag Archives: pasta

Roasted Garlic Mac & Cheese

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Who doesn’t love a good macaroni and cheese? I know it is a favorite dish in our household. But to keep things interesting I’m always looking for new takes on this classic dish. This version, adapted from Cooking Light adds the mild yet distinctive taste of roasted garlic to two types of cheese and noodles. While raw garlic can be harsh and is definitely an acquired taste, roasted garlic is mild and mellow and frankly, delicious.

There is more than one way to roast garlic. The traditional way involves your oven and more time. If time is an issue simply “roast” your garlic in the microwave. Both methods yield the same mild and flavorful results.

GARLIC ROASTED MAC & CHEESE

2 whole garlic heads
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces dry pasta
3 cups milk, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 cup Emmental cheese, shredded
To roast the garlic:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Remove the papery skin from the garlic heads and place both garlic heads on a large piece of aluminum foil.
  • Drizzle with the olive oil then wrap the foil around the garlic to from a sealed packet.
  • Place the garlic in an ovenproof dish and roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the garlic is very soft and fragrant.

OR

  • Remove the papery skin from the garlic heads.
  • Place the garlic heads in a microwave-safe bowl and drizzle with the olive oil.
  • Pour 3 tablespoons of water in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH for 4 to 5 minutes or until the garlic is very soft.

To make the pasta:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions; drain and set aside.
  • Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft pulp of each clove into a medium sized bowl. Pour in two cups of the milk and use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Set aside.
  • Place the remaining 1 cup of milk and the flour in a large saucepan. Stirring continually with a whisk, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  • Add in the milk and garlic mixture, stirring well to combine. Continue cooking for an additional minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Stir in the salt, pepper, dried mustard, the cheddar cheese and half of the Emmental cheese. Mix until smooth.
  • Stir the reserved pasta into the cheese mixture.
  • Lightly coat a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Pour the pasta into the dish, then top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
  • Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Caprese Mac ‘n Cheese

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If you love homemade macaroni and cheese but not the time it takes to make it, this is the dish for you. I think of it as middle of the week comfort food. The recipe is from Cooking Light so it is a healthier version of an old standby but it is so flavorful that you would never know that it is good for you. A combination of cheese, in this case mozzarella and parmesan makes the sauce taste rich while the roasted tomatoes add a deeper flavor than expected. And because the tomatoes are mixed right in, your kids will be so busy scooping up the pasta and sauce that they won’t even realize they are eating tomatoes. (At least that is the case in my house). Serve it with a salad—a Caprese salad would continue with the theme–and dinner is good to go.

CAPRESE MAC ‘n CHEESE

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces uncooked penne, or other small tubular shaped pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons panko crumbs
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Preheat the broiler to high.
  • Combine the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Leave the broiler on.
  • Cook the pasta in a large saucepan according to package instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the flour then add in the milk, salt and pepper, stirring continually with a wire whisk.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer then good for 1 minute or  until the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheeses until blended.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and toss well.
  • Add the tomatoes and torn basil to the pasta and fold well to combine.
  • Spoon the pasta mixture into 4 6-ounce gratin dishes which have been coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle the top of each dish with the panko crumbs and the crushed red pepper.
  • Broil for 2 minute or until the panko is browned.
  • Garnish with additional basil leaves if desired.
Serves 4

Pumpkin & Sausage Chili Mac

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Here’s an easy dinner dinner adapted from The Yankee Kitchen Ninja that is sure to please everyone.  I’ve swapped out pumpkin for the butternut squash called for in the original recipe and, catering to the tastes of the youngest family member, used mild Italian sausage instead of the hot version.  Pumpkin and kale are two of my favorite autumn ingredients and when combined with the sausage they create the perfect “sauce” to serve over freshly cooked pasta. And I personally love the use of the pumpkin in this recipe since it creates a creamy and mild tasting sauce that coats the rest of the ingredients making an otherwise simple meal taste quite luxurious.

PUMPKIN & SAUSAGE CHILI MAC

12 ounces fresh pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 ounces loose mild Italian sausage

2 cups pumpkin, cubed

1 small red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

4 cups coarsely chopped kale

  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage and cook, stirring to crumble, until the sausage is browned. Remove from the skillet.
  • Add the pumpkin, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste, flour, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring continually.
  • Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, cooking until the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork.
  • Add the kale and cook until it just begins to wilt.
  • Return the sausage to the skillet and stir to heat through.
  • Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve the sausage and pumpkin mixture over the prepared pasta.

Serves 6

Minestrone Soup

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Nothing satisfies on a cold day more than soup. Most weekends I will make a big pot of whatever strikes my fancy. I allow it to simmer on low all afternoon then we enjoy it with crusty bread for a Sunday night dinner. There are always leftovers which is perfect since soup tastes better the next day. I have yet to find a soup that I didn’t like but this minestrone is a soup that I absolutely love.

It is more of a method rather than an exact recipe; I will use whatever vegetables I have on hand or whatever looked good at the market that morning. I like to be heavy handed with the vegetables and go lighter on the pasta and beans but you could easily add more of the later if that is to your liking. Not only is this soup vegetarian but it is also low in sodium. Rather than using a pre-made broth, I simply add water as the soup base and allow the cooking vegetables to flavor the broth. The results? A rich, tasty and satisfying soup that everyone will love. Serve it with crusty French bread and dinner is served.

MINESTRONE SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 leek, quartered and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 small zucchini, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 26-ounce can tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 cup small pasta (shells or elbow macaroni works well)

1 large handful fresh basil, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese, to serve

  • Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and stirring occasionally, cook until soft but not brown, 4-5 minutes.
  • Add in the zucchini, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, beans and canned tomatoes. Stir well.
  • Add enough water to the pot to cover the vegetables by 1 inch.
  • Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, 35-45 minutes.
  • Add in the oregano and thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  • At this point you can proceed to the next step or cover the pot, turn the temperature to the lowest setting and allow to sit until you are ready to proceed.
  • Return the temperature to medium-high.
  • Once the soup is boiling again, add the pasta, stir well and cook until the pasta is al dente, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  • Stir in the basil, adjust the seasonings and serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

 

 

 

Pappardelle w/ Sausages, Fennel & Ricotta

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love this pasta dish from Williams Sonoma. Their version has you making homemade pasta which while not difficult, is too time consuming for a Fast Friday dish. I used fresh pasta from my local grocery store which when combined with ricotta cheese, fennel sausage and fresh sauteed fennel, produces a wonderfully satisfying dinner in a matter of minutes. I did, however, use my own fresh ricotta cheese (which I already had on hand). Not only is making your own ricotta easy, but when I use the wonderful fresh raw milk that I can buy from local Belgian farms, it simply tastes so good.

PAPPARDELLE w/ SAUSAGES, FENNEL & RICOTTA CHEESE

10 ounces fresh pappardelle or other long pasta

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound loose fennel sausage

2 fennel bulbs, cored and julienned

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup diced shallots

1/4 cup chopped garlic

2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium high heat.

When the oil shimmers, add the sausage and fennel to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage into small pieces.

Saute, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the wine, shallots, garlic and thyme and cook until the the wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth to the pan and continue to cook until the sauce is further reduced by three-quarters, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cooked pappardelle to the pan along with the reserved cooking liquid. Toss well to coat.

Transfer the pasta to warmed serving dishes, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and top with dollops of the ricotta cheese. Diners can stir the warmed ricotta into their pasta making their own creamy sauce.

Serves 4

Garlicky Zucchini & Tomato Spaghetti

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This pasta is a regular part of my dinner menu rotation; I substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and in season.  This version uses the last of the local zucchini from my neighborhood market along with a healthy dose of fresh grape tomatoes. The pancetta adds saltiness and additional flavor to the dish but you can omit it and turn this into a vegetarian entrée. Alternatively, for a lighter and healthier dish, you can reduce the amount of pasta and substitute additional vegetables. I do this often and my family is none the wiser.

GARLICKY ZUCCHINI & TOMATO SPAGHETTI

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions with 1 cup of cooking liquid reserved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced pancetta

1 small red onion, minced

6 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2 medium zucchini squashes, cut into cubes

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups mixed grape tomatoes, halved

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid, return to the cooking pot and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the pancetta and stirring occasionally, cook until crispy and browned.
  • Add the onion and garlic and saute for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is browned and is slightly softened.
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up any browned bits.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the vegetable mixture into the cooked spaghetti and using tongs, toss until the vegetables are evenly distributed. Add up to 1 cup of the reserved cooking water if the mixture seems dry. (I usually use about 1/2 cup).
  • Divide the pasta among warmed shallow bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Serves 6

Oriental Chicken Noodles

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I love Asian noodle dishes but the ones I find in restaurants are often covered in heavy, too sweet sauces with overcooked vegetables. Maybe I am just choosing the wrong restaurants but I usually leave feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. This dish is different and once again has convinced me that the best Asian food are the dishes I make at home.

Because the vegetables are stir fried in sesame oil over high heat, they emerge crispy and not mushy. The sauce is light with just a touch of sweetness. And the noodles….they absorb all of the yummy sauciness. If you don’t feel like using chicken you can easily substitute shrimp or pork. The result is a light dish that cooks up quickly. Enjoy!

ORIENTAL CHICKEN NOODLES

9 ounces tagliatelle pasta

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 small chili pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced

5 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced

  • Place a large pot filled with salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the tagliatelle and cook for 9-11 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat a large steel wok over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sesame seeds and toast until fragrant. Remove from the pan.
  • Add the sesame and vegetable oil to the skillet. When the skillet is hot, add the chili pepper, ginger and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the chicken to the wok and cook for 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally until it is browned on all sides.
  • Add the carrots, pepper and mushrooms and continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-high.
  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce with the chicken broth. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables and stir well.
  • Add the cooked tagliatelle to the wok and cook for an additional minute.
  • Divide the pasta between four warmed pasta bowls. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and cilantro and serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Zucchini, Corn & Pancetta Pasta

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If you have a garden, chances are that you are being overrun by zucchini right about now. If you don’t grow them yourself, they are probably showing up in your CSA share or filling the shelves at your local farmer’s market. So how do you use up your zucchini in a new way? Why not pair it with fresh corn (which is also plentiful right about now), crispy pancetta and pasta?

This dish was inspired by the fabulous Maine cooking blog From AwayWith the zucchini, corn and a healthy amount of fresh basil, this is the quintessential summer dish. Serve it hot or even at room temperature with a glass of white wine and you have the perfect dinner for a summer evening.

ZUCCHINI, CORN & PANCETTA PASTA

1 large zucchini, grated

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob

1 cup roughly chopped basil

8 ounces pancetta, diced

1 shallot, minced

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 pound small pasta, cooked according to package instructions and kept warm

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Juice of 1 lemon

  • Sprinkle the salt onto the zucchini and toss. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes in a strainer then squeeze out the excess liquid.
  • Cook the pancetta, shallot, and garlic in a large skillet set over medium-high heat, until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp.
  • Add the corn to the pancetta mixture and saute for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the pancetta, corn and zucchini mixture. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and toss well.
  • Serve topped with the grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

 

Mexican Stuffed Shells

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Craving Italian? Or Mexican? How about both? These easy baked shells bring together the best of both cuisines; the spices of Mexican food stuffed into pasta shells that are reminiscent of baked Italian pastas. The recipe is adapted from Center Cut Cook is easy and guaranteed to fulfill your food cravings. So bake up a dish of these shells tonight. They are delicious as is but make even better leftovers the next day. Its like getting two meals for the price of one.

MEXICAN STUFFED SHELLS

1 pound lean ground beef

3 tablespoons taco seasoning (I like Penzeys Bold Taco Seasoning)

20 jumbo shells, cooked according to package instructions

2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

2 1/2 cups salsa, divided

Crushed corn chips, for garnish

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Evenly distribute 2 cups of the salsa into the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch casserole dish. Set aside.
  • Cook the shells in boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
  • Brown the ground beef in a large non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to break up larger chunks of meat. When the meat is no longer pink, drain off any excess fat.
  • Add the taco seasoning and 2/3 cup of water to the meat. Stir well and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the water has reduced and the sauce has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Stir in the cream cheese, 1 cup of the shredded cheese and the black beans. Stir to combine.
  • Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the meat and bean mixture and place in the prepared casserole dish. Continue in this manner until you have used all of the shells.
  • Drizzle the remaining salsa over the top of the shells then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the shells are bubbling.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the crushed corn chips over the top of the casserole and serve.

Serves 8

 

Creamy Gorgonzola Pasta

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here is a simple pasta dish that has been adapted from Bake Your Day. Whole wheat pasta makes the dish more nutritious and I’ve switched out the asagio cheese for a milder goat cheese. The goat cheese melts really well making for a creamy sauce. And the surprise addition? Dates. They add a hidden sweetness to the dish which counters the sharpness of the gorgonzola. The results? A surprisingly tasty dish that everyone in the family will love. And best of all it can go from pantry to table in about twenty minutes. Now has is that for fast?

CREAMY GORGONZOLA PASTA

12 ounces whole wheat rotini or other small pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot

4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

3 ounces gorgonzola cheese

2 ounces soft goat cheese

1/2 cup diced dates

  • Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and season with the red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the shallots are very soft.
  • Add the white wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the wine is slightly reduced.
  • Add the chicken broth, gorgonzola and goat cheeses and dates and stir to combine. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is well blended.
  • Add the cooked pasta and enough of the reserved cooking water until the sauce has a consistency that coats all of the pasta. Stir well.

Serves 4

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