Tag Archives: pasta

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.

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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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Amazing Spaghetti Sauce

Summer has officially come to an end, but tomatoes are still coming off the vines and making their way into my kitchen.  Thanks to gifts from my mom and my aunt, I had a huge pile of tomatoes that needed to be used right away.  I decided to take a cue from my friend Valerie and cook these babies down into spaghetti sauce.

I have no idea what kind of tomatoes these were; there were several different varieties.  I started with a huge bowl, I would guess at least three or four pounds of tomatoes total and was hoping to end up with enough sauce for a couple of dinners. Alas…it only made enough for one amazing batch because it was so good we all had to have another helping!  Turns out tomatoes reduce in volume quite a bit when you cook them for an hour or two.

Seriously some of the best spaghetti I have ever made.

Amazing Spaghetti Sauce

3-4 pounds garden tomatoes, mixed variety
1 onion, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 pound hot Italian sausage
Salt & pepper
1 pound spaghetti

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Score the bottom of each tomato with a knife.  Put the tomatoes in the pot of water (you may have to do this in two or three batches).  Cook for 1 minute until skin starts to peel.  Remove tomatoes and rinse with cool water, or submerge in a bowl of cool water.  When cool enough to handle, remove skin and stems.  Cut into large chunks and put in a large pot (I used the same one I used for blanching the tomatoes).

Tomatoes all ready to fulfill their destiny.

Add onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, olive oil and water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium or medium low.  Simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have reduced down and sauce has thickened to the consistency you like.  In a separate skillet, cook Italian sausage.  Add to sauce.  Let it cook and mingle with the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add salt & pepper as needed.  I added about two teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper to mine.  Do not add salt until after you add the sausage and taste the sauce, since most sausage has some salt in it already.

Amazing Spaghetti Sauce. Ready to mingle with some pasta.  You can see on the sides of the pan how much the sauce has cooked down.  Yummy concentrated flavor.

Cook pasta until tender.  Drain and smother with sauce.  Prepare yourself for many yummy noises.

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Twisted Tomato Corkscrews

Tomato season is upon us!  If you are a more successful gardener than I am, you very well may be covered up in tomatoes coming off the vines about now.  Unfortunately my measly handful of tomatoes will not suffice for this recipe but my friendly neighborhood farmer’s market helped me out this time.  I am also available to take any and all unwanted excess produce that my gardening friends don’t know what to do with.

You could probably use canned tomatoes to make this, but honestly, I’ve never tried it.  Why would you? This is one recipe that I hold in reserve for summertime only.  And it is worth every minute of the wait.  The taste of fresh garden tomatoes simply can’t be matched.  Prepping the tomatoes is a little bit of work, but it’s not difficult and well worth the effort, I promise!

Mouthwatering Tomato Corkscrews

Twisted Tomato Corkscrews

2-3 pounds Roma tomatoes (or other small, firm tomato, like Early Girl)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
2-3 tsp. chili powder
12 oz. rotini or fusilli pasta
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Set aside a large bowl of ice water.  Slice a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato.

Cut a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato. This will make the peeling part really easy!

Drop tomatoes into boiling water in two or three batches.  Let them cook about one minute, until skin starts to peel.  Remove with tongs and put directly into the bowl of ice water to cool.  The peels should then slide right off easily.  Peel, cut in half and squeeze out the seeds.  Coarsely chop tomatoes.  Stir in salt and set aside.

Oh now isn’t that lovely.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet or sauce pan.  Add onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, until fragrant.  Pour over tomatoes.  Add cilantro, lime juice, tomato paste and chili powder and mix well to combine.

Where’s my spoon?

Add pasta to boiling water (I use the same water I used to blanch the tomatoes) and cook 8-10 minutes until tender.  Rinse with cool water and let drain.  Add to tomato mixture.  Add cheese and toss well to combine.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Time to dive in! Yum!

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Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

I always think it’s neat when I see people who have a little “Friends”-like gang of people they’ve known forever, and who know them.  A group that no matter what happens in their lives are there for each other.  I was never really a part of a group like that, unless you count my motley group of very cool cousins.

I’ve noticed in cooking there are groups of ingredients that are like groups of old friends.  Always there for each other, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  In my book, if you take fettuccine, shrimp, cream, basil and lemon, you have the Fab Five of tastiness.  Any of them on their own is pretty good, but together…absolutely fabulous.

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

8 oz. fettuccine
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook fettuccine 8-10 minutes, until just tender.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook and stir a minute or so.  Add shrimp and saute until no longer translucent, but don’t overcook.  Turn down heat to medium low and add cream, lemon juice and basil.  Simmer until noodles are done.

Drain pasta and add to pan with shrimp and cream.  Add parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste.  Toss well to combine.  Serve with lemon wedges and if you’re feeling healthy, a little salad on the side.

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine. You need to eat this.

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Pasta with Roasted Beets, Spinach & Goat Cheese

Beets are one of those things about which nobody has a mild opinion.  You either love them or you hate them.  Me? I love them.  They are actually one of the few vegetables I will buy in a can.  I like them pickled and not pickled. But the best way to eat them is of course to buy them fresh when they are in season and roast them in the oven.

In case you’re wondering, beets are terrific for cardiovascular health, contain significant levels of Vitamin C, potassium and B vitamins, among other vitamins and minerals.  Some people even believe they are an aphrodisiac.  The greens are also very nutritious.  And incidentally, if you have small children, this is a great veggie to introduce while the kiddos are young because it’s sweet and they love it.  At least, my daughter used to love it.  Now not so much.  But Luke and I are big fans.

One of the most fun (and sometimes annoying) things about beets is that they turn everything pink.  Never cook beets while wearing white.  Of course, I don’t cook anything while wearing white.  But especially not these.  In this pasta, the more you stir it up, the more pink the sauce gets.  I just barely tossed it so it was more of a pink swirl.  And I chose campanelle pasta because it looks like a flower so it would be pretty when it’s pink. :)

Pasta with Roasted Beets, Spinach and Goat Cheese

Pasta with Roasted Beets, Spinach & Goat Cheese

8 oz. Campanelle (or other smallish-shaped pasta)
1 cup sliced roasted beets
3-4 cups fresh baby spinach
5 oz. goat cheese (1 small package)
Salt & pepper

To roast beets, I leave them whole, with the skin on (less juice everywhere when you do it this way).  Trim the greens (some people eat those too), drizzle with a little olive oil and roast in the oven at 400˚ for about 30 minutes until tender when stabbed with a fork.  Let cool, peel and slice.

Cook pasta until tender but not overcooked.  In a large serving bowl (or you can do individual servings if you have some beet haters) place spinach.  Scatter sliced beets over the top along with dollops of goat cheese scattered about.  Drain pasta (reserving a bit of the pasta water).  Add pasta to serving bowl along with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Toss lightly to combine.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

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Broiled Red Snapper

I arrived at Farmer’s Market Saturday just in time to snatch up the very last piece of fresh Red Snapper from the fish vendor.  It pays to go a little early!  Caught the day before, this was as fresh as you can get without going out and catching it yourself.  Absolutely beautiful.  I always like red snapper because it’s so mild, and easy to cook.  A simple sprinkle of a few ingredients and a short stay under my broiler yielded a delicious dinner in about 10 minutes.  Perfect for a sunny spring day.

Since I also scored some fresh goat cheese at the goat farmer’s booth, I paired Mr. Snapper with Pasta with Spinach and Goat Cheese.  It was a match made in heaven.

Broiled Red Snapper

Broiled Red Snapper

1-2 Red Snapper filets
Bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese
Lemon zest
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
Lemon juice & wedges

Preheat your broiler.  Lay out the fish on a cookie sheet.  Top with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, parmesan, some zest from the lemon, and salt & pepper.  I didn’t measure these ingredients, just did a light sprinkle to cover the surface of the fish.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and squeeze a wedge or two of lemon on top.  Place under the broiler for about 8-10 minutes until brown on top.  When you stick a fork in the middle the fish should separate easily when done.

Pasta with Spinach & Goat Cheese. Perfect side dish with the fish or by itself!

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Lemon Tomato Spaghetti

I had a friend once who had a lemon tree in her living room.  That tree smelled so good I could hardly stand it.  I’ve wanted one ever since, but I know the chances of me killing it are, well, close to 100%, so I’ve resisted buying one of my very own.  I’m hoping Claire will grow up to be one of those people who can keep plants alive and thriving.  She’s showing great promise so far in that area!  In the meantime, I still love lemons, and use them in cooking just about every chance I get. Alas, I have to get them at the store instead of my living room.

This pasta takes about 10 minutes to make from start to finish, and is light, fresh and just plain tasty.  Perfect for springtime.

Lemon Tomato Spaghetti

Lemon Tomato Spaghetti

1 small package spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced in ribbons
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Cook spaghetti until tender, but still firm to the bite.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper, cook 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, cook one minute.  Transfer mixture to a large serving bowl.  Add zest and juice from the lemon.  Drain pasta and add to bowl.  Add basil, parmesan, salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Taste and add more salt & pepper if needed.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan and lemon wedges.

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Linguine with Clams

As a little girl, Claire did not care much for seafood, but in spite of that, the one thing she always loved was clams.  She would eat them cooked any way, any place.  Her favorite way to eat them was steamed fresh in the shell.  Of course, this is the best way to eat a clam, preferably at the beach!  Her second favorite way to eat them is in pasta.  She told me yesterday that out of all the pasta dishes I make this one is her favorite.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it’s made mostly with pantry items.  I like to make sure I have a few cans of clams and anchovies on hand for emergency clam pasta situations.  You never know when one will occur!  And for those of you who are cringing at the anchovy reference here, I will say that I used to be scared of them too.  They sound nasty.  They smell fishy.  They could very possibly be disgusting.  And maybe if you ate them straight from the can they would be.  But when you cook with them, they sort of dissolve into the sauce, adding a subtle, salty, nutty flavor that is not fishy at all.  It’s a miracle!  And they add a wonderful depth of flavor that you do not get without them.  So trust me, and put them in there!

Linguine with Clams

Linguine with Clams

Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 can anchovies, oil drained
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1 tbsp. fresh basil)
2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 can chopped clams, with juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan
Lemon wedges
1 small pkg. linguine

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, anchovies, crushed red pepper & shallots.  Saute until shallots are soft and anchovies have pretty much dissolved.  Add tomatoes, wine, clams, Italian seasoning.  Let this simmer a bit while pasta cooks.  Just before pasta is done, add lemon juice, salt & pepper and fresh parsley.  Drain noodles and add to pan.  Add parmesan and toss together to combine.  Serve hot with parsley sprigs and lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings (363 calories per serving).

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Pesto Spaghetti

If you’ve eaten dinner at my house a few times, chances are good you’ve been fed Pesto Spaghetti.  It’s one of my favorite recipes and I’ve been making it for years and years.  A friend taught me her version of this during my college days, back before I knew what pesto was, and it’s evolved ever since.  I love making it for company because it’s quick to throw together and requires very little time in the kitchen so I actually get to visit with my guests instead of cooking the whole time.  It’s also mindless enough that I can visit while I’m cooking and not risk screwing it up.

This is one of the most versatile pasta dishes I make.  You can use any kind of pesto, fresh or packaged, you can use any fresh veggies, or substitute frozen veggies if that’s more convenient.  You can make it with meat or no meat.  You can use any kind of noodle.  And it is wonderful left over the next day.  I’ve even used the leftovers as a base for a frittata the next morning.

A big bunch of fresh asparagus and some baby sweet peppers worked beautifully in this.  I still had Hazelnut Pesto left from a recipe I made last week so I used that as well and it was absolutely lovely.

Pesto Spaghetti

Pesto Spaghetti

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional – leave out if you don’t like the extra heat)
1 bunch of fresh asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped red or orange bell peppers
1/2 cup or more of basil pesto
1 can (15 oz.) of diced tomatoes with juice
1 package of thin spaghetti (or any other pasta)
Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup to mix in and more for sprinkling on top)
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about a minute.  Add chopped veggies.  Stir and cook for about a minute.  Add pesto and tomatoes and stir to combine.  Turn down heat a bit and cook until pasta is done, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta and add to pan.  Add 1/2 cup parmesan and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with additional parmesan to sprinkle on top.

Close up of Noodle-icious Pesto Spaghetti


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