Category Archives: Pasta

Greek Lamb with Orzo

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. No good excuse. Life happens, and sometimes the paying work has to come first. But never fear, I’m still around, and still cooking!  This recipe was just too good to keep to myself.

I had actually planned to make something else last night, but when I turned on my oven, the smoke and the smell and the burning happened. And the smoke detector went off and chaos ensued. And then I remembered. Scalloped potatoes happened on Easter. I made a delicious batch but filled the pan a tiny bit too much and it bubbled over and dripped everywhere, doing its best to adhere permanently to my oven. Did I feel like cleaning it right then? Of course not! I left it and promptly forgot it was there…until I tried to cook again.

So. Plan B. I had found this recipe on Food52 and was planning to make it later in the week. But it got moved up in the schedule since it can all be cooked on the stove top.

If you haven’t tried cooking with ground lamb, give this one a go. It’s easy to cook, with delicious, savory, wonderful flavor. And it’s got orzo! Who doesn’t love that? If you have olive and/or feta haters (who ARE those people?) among you, you can serve the olives and feta on the side if you prefer.

Greek Lamb & Orzo

Greek Lamb & Orzo

Greek Lamb with Orzo
(from Food52)

1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your hands (fun!)
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound orzo pasta
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

In a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Then, stir in the smooshed tomatoes.

Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you’ll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness).

While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes, usually. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.

The yummy orzo before it gets it's coating of lamb and other goodies.

The yummy orzo before it gets its coating of lamb and other goodies.

Spread the orzo out on a large serving platter or bowl. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives.  Serves 4-6.

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Creamy Orzo Pilaf

I like rice pilaf.  It goes with anything. I’ve always thought “pilaf” was just a fancy way of saying rice with stuff in it to make it more interesting. Some rice pilaf (particularly the kind you get in a box) comes with not-rice that looks like rice, but it’s actually a noodle! And that lovely stuff is orzo. It is always my favorite part.  So I figured I would make my rice pilaf with orzo instead. And to get really decadent, I finished it with a little cream just to make it a little more saucy.  The result? A cross between pilaf and alfredo, with some fresh veggies and herbs thrown in for brightness.

I threw this together as a quick side dish the other night, but we all liked it so much, next time I’m going to add some grilled chicken or shrimp to it and call it dinner!

Creamy Orzo

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

1 cup dry orzo
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of basil, chopped
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan

Cook orzo according to package directions (usually 8-10 minutes, until tender). Drain well and add to a bowl with all other ingredients (start with 1/4 cup of cream and add more if you want it more saucy).  Mix well and serve hot or cold.

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Asian Meatballs with Sesame Noodles

Like to cook once and eat twice? This is a perfect double duty recipe.  I made this meatball mixture originally for potsticker filling.  Rather than making a huge batch of those, I used half for the gyoza, and used the other half for these fabulous meatballs.  Some quickie sesame noodles while the meatballs cook and you have dinner on the table lickety split.  If you don’t want to use them all right away, just stick the cooked meatballs in a freezer bag and save for another day.

Asian Meatballs with Sesame Noodles

Asian Meatballs with Sesame Noodles

Asian Meatballs with Sesame Noodles

Meatballs:
1/2 – 1 pound ground pork (I used one pound, which will make a double batch or use half for gyoza filling)
1 shredded carrot
1 inch ginger, minced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 green onions, chopped

Noodles:
1 package thin spaghetti noodles
1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce (or more to taste)
1 tsp. lime juice
Salt (if needed – sometimes the soy sauce is salty enough on its own)
1-2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl, combine meatball ingredients.  Roll into meatballs and space evenly on a baking sheet.

Meatballs!

Meatballs!

Bake for 30-40 minutes until brown and cooked through.

While the meatballs are cooking, bring water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.  When noodles are ready to drain, throw the spinach into the water with them, then drain the whole thing.  Toss with the other ingredients and then gently toss with the meatballs.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot or cold.

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5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

I am an expert of the field of minimal effort cooking.  Mostly this happens on days when I’m just cooking for myself (or at the end of busy, crazy days, or lazy ones).  I threw together this light and tasty pasta in about 5 minutes the other night and man, it was good!

You could use any kind of olives in this, but I happened to have some Castelvetrano olives on hand so i used those.  I recently discovered these and it was love at first taste!  They are bright green and round, and very mild and a bit nutty in flavor.  If your grocery store has an olive bar, that will probably be your best bet if you’re interested in picking some up, but I do occasionally see a jar of them here and there as well.  If you can’t find them, feel free to sub the olive of your choice.

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

Capellini or angel hair pasta
3-4 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
Handful of olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced or minced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan or feta cheese (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil while you heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the skillet.  Toss in the pasta and keep an eye on it.  Capellini is very thin; it will only take about 4 minutes to cook.  While the pasta is cooking, saute the garlic in olive oil for about 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.  Add tomatoes and olives.  Turn heat down to low and give the mixture an occasional stir until the pasta is ready.  You really don’t need to cook the veggies much, mostly you are just heating them up and letting some of their juices release and combine to make it a little more saucy.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed (depending on the type of olives you use, you may not need much salt at all, if any).  Drain pasta (reserve a bit of the pasta water) and toss with tomato mixture.  If pasta seems dry you can add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water or drizzle with a touch of olive oil.  Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan or feta if desired.

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Roasted Beet Spaghetti

Today I have a bit of an unusual dish (at least for me, in my corner of the world).  Psychedelic, hot pink pasta.  I came across this recipe on Pinterest and just couldn’t resist giving it a try.  The recipe was in Polish, but with the help of a translator (thank you modern technology!) and a little creative wrangling and interpretation, I think I got the gist of it.

I am a big fan of roasted beets, particularly this time of year.  Beets are one of those things you either love or hate.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground here.  So if you are a beet-hater, just ignore this post.  You probably won’t like it.  I promise to post something sans beet later in the week.  My daughter, Claire, is a beet-hater.  I’ve been working on her, but so far I’ve met with no success in this area.  She didn’t care for this.  Her reason?  It tasted like beets.  Well, duh.  This is why my cupboard is always stocked with peanut butter.  Luke and I, on the other hand, loved it.  The roasted beets are mellowed with yogurt and the zing of goat cheese and lemon perfectly balances the earthy flavor of the beets.

One note:  some dishes are wonderful left over the next day.  In my opinion, this is not one of them.  I did not enjoy this nearly as much as leftovers as I did when it was freshly made.  I’m not sure why, but there you have it.  Enjoy it fresh if at all possible for best results!

Roasted Beet Spaghetti

Roasted Beet Spaghetti

Roasted Beet Spaghetti
(adapted from eintopf)

12 oz. spaghetti
4 medium beets
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup greek yogurt
Zest and juice from one lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
A few basil leaves, chopped
Salt & pepper
Goat cheese (optional)
Lemon wedges for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Poke beets a few times with a fork and lay on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly and peel.

While beets are cooling, cook spaghetti.  Drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

In a food processor combine beets, olive oil, lemon juice, onion and garlic.  Process until finely chopped, nearly smooth.  Add yogurt, lemon zest and basil leaves.  Process until smooth.  Toss mixture with hot pasta.  Add a couple tablespoons of the pasta water if needed to coat the noodles smoothly.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Top with crumbled goat cheese (if desired), fresh basil and serve with lemon wedges.

Roasted Beet Spaghetti, without goat cheese.

Roasted Beet Spaghetti, without goat cheese.

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BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

In one of my many flashes of brilliance, I decided to turn one of my favorite sandwiches into a pasta salad.  And I just have to say, it was incredible!

The greens make for a lighter than usual pasta dish and the bottled dressing make it quick to throw together (and your waistline will thank you for skipping the mayo!).  I used a Champagne Vinaigrette I found at Trader Joe’s that is one of my current favorites, but feel free to use a different brand or even a different vinaigrette if there’s one you love.

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

4-5 strips of bacon
12 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/2 cup feta
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Champagne Vinaigrette dressing
Salt & pepper

Heat water to boiling.  Boil pasta until it is tender.  Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp.  Remove from skillet and let drain and cool on paper towels while you assemble the salad.

In a large serving bowl combine tomatoes, greens, olives, green onions and feta.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Add pasta and bacon and toss to combine.  Add salad dressing, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more as needed to lightly dress the pasta.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can't find this one.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can’t find this one.

Taste and add salt & pepper or more dressing if needed.  Toss and serve immediately.

 

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Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Heirloom tomatoes are pretty cool.  All sorts of varieties that you never see in the store.  Normally I only find them at farmer’s markets and they are just about irresistible.  But this time I spied some heirloom cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe’s and just had to snatch them up.  What didn’t go directly into my mouth ended up in this delicious pasta dish.

I make about a million versions of this particular dish depending on what’s in season and what’s in my fridge at any given moment.  This version included a double bump of basil since I had leftover pesto I had made a day or two before and then I also threw in some freshly picked pesto leaves from my garden as well.  The veggies are barely cooked, just warmed really to release the juices and get warm.  It’s absolutely bursting with summer flavors.

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes (or the regular ones will do), halved
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup basil pesto (click here for my recipe or use your favorite)
2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or strips
Handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1 pound pasta (I really like some sort of corkscrew shape for this to catch all the little yummy bits)

Get everything chopped before you start cooking, because this all comes together very quickly.

All ready to meet their destiny!  Love the pretty colors.

All ready to meet their destiny! Love the pretty colors.

Boil pasta until tender.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook about a minute until fragrant but not browned.  Add onion and saute a bit until slightly tender.  When the pasta is just about done, add tomatoes, olives and pesto.  Cook and stir just a couple of minutes to heat through.  I prefer the veggies barely cooked so they still have that garden fresh flavor.  Toss in some fresh basil, mozzarella and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Drain pasta and add to pan with veggies and cheese.  Toss to combine and serve immediately.  Top with a sprinkle of parmesan if desired.
heirloomtompasta2

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Perfect Pesto

I’ve written entries that involve pesto before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done one JUST for pesto.  But I just made a fresh batch and thought it was blog-worthy all by its lonesome.

Maybe you’ve bought pesto at the store.  If you have you know it can be a little on the spendy side, and sometimes it’s not that wonderful either.  Much more economical to make it yourself, and you can’t beat the taste.

Welcome to my basil patch. I’m normally a pretty lousy gardner, but halfway through summer these are looking pretty great, huh?  Although I kill many plants, I usually do well with basil.  Here I have purple basil, Thai basil, and sweet Italian basil (probably your most common variety).

My basil patch.  Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

My basil patch. Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

I bought my basil plants for $2.50 each at farmer’s market, but you can find them all over the place this time of year. If you keep pinching the little flowers off the tops, they will keep growing for most of the summer, especially if you harvest fairly frequently.  I’m about ready to chop another bunch off of these.

I keep the other ingredients for pesto on hand most of the time, so whipping up a batch is super fast, which is good because I love this stuff.  Sandwich spread, pizza topping, tossed with pasta, spread over fish or chicken, mixed into salad dressing, beaten into scrambled eggs…it’s delicious just about any way you can think to eat it.

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves (remove any large stems)
2-3 tbsp. walnuts
2-3 tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper
Olive oil (around 1/2 cup)

Put all ingredients except oil into a food processor.

All ready to whirl up.

All ready to whirl up.

Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated.  (Pulsing instead of puréeing is better since it doesn’t mangle the basil as much, which will result in brighter pesto color!) Drizzle olive oil in a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency you like.  I prefer it to be spreadable, but not soupy.  Taste for seasoning, add salt & pepper if needed.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends.  That way you can really control the thickness.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends. That way you can really control the thickness.

Store in an airtight container with a lid.  After putting the pesto in the container, drizzle with a layer of olive oil or cover with plastic wrap (set right on top of the pesto).  This will help keep it from turning brown.  It will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  It also freezes well.  I usually store mine in smallish containers so I can have one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer to dole out as needed.

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Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Sometimes you have days where you don’t want to cook.  But you still want real food.  For those days, I have dishes like this.  This is a ten minute dinner, folks.  It only takes a couple of minutes longer than making a PBJ and you will not regret the tiny bit of effort.  Simple, healthy ingredients come together in minutes and burst with flavor.

I usually make this (or something like it) when I have produce that needs to be used and I’m not feeling terribly creative about it.  If your grape tomatoes are starting to wrinkle, don’t worry!  A little toss in the pan will plump them right up again.  In summertime, I sometimes don’t even cook the tomatoes and spinach for this, but just toss them with the hot pasta.  In winter, when I want it a little more saucy, I cook them just for a minute or two, so they are warm but still bright and juicy.

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1 package thin spaghetti (or any noodle you like)

Do your chopping and slicing first so everything is ready, as this dish comes together very quickly!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta until tender but not mushy.  While pasta cooks, drizzle a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute onion.  When onion is tender add garlic and cook one minute.  Add spinach, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Saute 1-2 minutes, and then turn heat off.

Sauteed veggies.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp.  For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Veggies in the pan for a quick sauté.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp. For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Drain pasta and toss with veggies and feta.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve by itself or with a protein or salad.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it's also great just by itself.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it’s also great just by itself.

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Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs and Bacon

My desk is somewhat of an archeological dig.  There are layers and layers of things that I have every intention of addressing at some point.  Last night a pile was dislodged and a page ripped from a magazine floated down to my feet.  As I picked it up, I realized I held the solution for dinner in my hands.  And there was the added bonus that I was sufficiently distracted by my discovery that I completely forgot whatever I was digging for in the first place.  Who says a messy desk is a bad thing?

At first I thought these ingredients sounded like a strange combination, but the flavors work together perfectly and it’s incredibly flavorful.  My daughter is still talking about how good it was!  For a vegetarian option, just eliminate the bacon.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs & Bacon
(adapted from Cooking Light)

8 ounces rigatoni pasta (or whatever shape you like)
4-5 strips bacon (optional, leave out for a vegetarian meal)
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup panko
12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 slices each
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 – 1 tsp. grated lemon rind
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 ounces fresh parmesan cheese, coarsely grated or shaved
2 tsp. pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta until tender.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.  Keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add panko to pan.  Cook  3 minutes until browned, stirring frequently.  Set aside.  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Discard bacon grease.  (I usually keep about a tablespoon in there to cook with but if you want to be a little healthier, or if you aren’t using the bacon, wipe out grease and use olive oil instead).

Add Brussels sprouts to pan.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yum! I love Brussels Sprouts.

Add onion and garlic and continue to cook 3 more minutes or until onion is tender. and the Brussels sprouts are lightly browned.  Add broth, lemon rind, lemon juice, thyme leaves, salt & pepper.  Cover and cook 2 minutes or until sprouts are crisp-tender.  Add mixture. to pasta and toss well.  Sprinkle with cheese, pine nuts, breadcrumbs and crumbled bacon.  Serve immediately.

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