cold pesto pasta with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes

cold pesto pasta with chicken and sundried tomatoes_

cold pesto pasta with chicken and sundried tomatoes_So I have this friend who is as obsessed with sun-dried tomatoes as I am with kale, and we all know how obsessed I am with kale, so you can only imagine. He puts sun-dried tomatoes in anything and everything, scrambled eggs, pasta, chicken dishes, cookies and brownies, you name it (just kidding on the last two, but I wouldn’t be surprised)!  Sun-dried tomatoes haven’t been in my pantry for the past couple of years, not because I’m not a fan, but I guess I sort of forgot about them.  Since I’ve been reintroduced to them, I’ve fallen in love with them once again.  They really add that extra punch of flavor to any dish, and I love their chewy texture.  I especially love them packed in olive oil, they’re so good that I could literally eat them out of the jar (and I have).  I think I’m becoming as obsessed with them as my friend, and who knows, I may be adding them to my next kale salad or topping them on my next pizza.

My friend’s obsession reminded me of one my favorite cold summer pastas, which yes, include sun-dried tomatoes.  I’ve seriously been making this pasta since 1994, and it’s still a pasta that I look forward to each summer.  The combination of pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives is amazing!  It’s the perfect pasta to bring to a picnic or potluck, and an easy weeknight dinner as it can be made ahead of time. I love it when I can come home after a busy day, open the fridge and have dinner all ready to go. All you have to do is pair this pasta with a salad and a baguette, and you have yourself the perfect meal for a hot summer night.

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Barefoot’s weeknight bolognese

Barefoot's weeknight bolognese

Barefoot's weeknight bologneseOk, so maybe this isn’t the best recipe to post the week after Thanksgiving since we’re all pretty much fooded out, but I’m posting it now because I know there are a lot of you who love and need easy family approved weeknight dinners. December is all about indulgence to me, so let’s go ahead and indulge, celebrate and eat to our hearts content!  Doesn’t that sound fun?  This is the perfect bolognese for those busy weeknights, as it only takes 45 minutes to pull together, and the sauce tastes like a sauce that’s been cooking on your stove top all day, not for just 30 minutes.  The orecchiette pasta is perfect because it really holds the sauce in those little pockets.  I’ve tried this sauce with regular spaghetti and it was good, but we prefer it the orecchiette pasta.

This is a great pasta to serve up if you’re entertaining friends because it feeds a crowd, especially if you pair the pasta with some crispy garlic bread and a caesar salad.  When I make this pasta up for just the 4 of us, we have pasta for 2 nights, which is great because you all know how I love two-nighter meals.  I just re-heat the leftover pasta in my cast iron skillet, and it tastes amazing!  It’s actually a bit better the next night as all the flavors really have a chance to gel.  You do want to make sure to use a robust wine for this recipe, as the wine really brings out the flavors in the sauce. Also, make sure you add that last 1/4 cup of wine at the end because it truly makes the sauce.

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pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnutsToday I’m giving you all a tasty, healthy, easy, family approved and under 30 minute weeknight pasta two ways (whew, that was a lot in one sentence).  I mean who doesn’t love that?  It’s actually the same recipe, but I’m using two different types of pastas as well as cheeses.  The family approved and kid friendly version uses regular spaghetti and grated parmesan.  The “mommy” and teenage (I say teenage because Zoe loves this version as well) version uses whole-wheat spaghetti and Pecorino Romano cheese.  Both ways are tasty, it’s just an individual preference.  I love both versions, but prefer the whole-wheat version because the pasta has a great nutty flavor and is a bit chewy, but chewy in a good way, and the Pecorino Romano cheese adds a bit of salty flavor to the whole-wheat pasta.

whole-wheat pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts… 

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Israeli couscous salad

israeli couscous salad (1 of 1)

Israeli couscous salad I love it when I find new salads or summer side dishes that can be made ahead to marinate all day or made on the fly to eat up right then and there. This salad is one of those salads that tastes great either way. This is the perfect salad to bring to a potluck, picnic or to serve up in your own backyard. It’s full of summer flavor from the fresh mint, parsley and cherry tomatoes. We love pairing this salad with chicken drumsticks and one of my kale salads for a family backyard dinner. You can really make this a year round salad by adding seasonal ingredients to the mixture, like asparagus in the spring, cauliflower or broccoli in the winter.

I made this salad up last night to bring to my friend Yvonne’s house for a girls dinner. I paired it with my grilled bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and my kid friendly caesar salad. It was the perfect throw together summer dinner because I made everything ahead of time. I made up the couscous salad earlier in the day, made the croutons and salad dressing for the caesar salad the night before and then threw everything together at Yvonne’s house come dinner.  If you get a bunch of great side dishes, you can make a meal out of them. Here’s a photo of our backyard picnic dinner.

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one-pan pasta

one-pan pasta

DSC_0027Isn’t this above picture just beautiful and doesn’t it make you want to try a batch of this pasta tonight?  I mean look at all of those fresh ingredients and all that color. I saw a photo similar to this in the most recent edition of Martha Stewart living and it looked so cool and challenging to me. I mean a one-pan pasta, who had ever heard of that (not me)? I seriously wondered how it was all going to work, and I have to say that I was a bit skeptical. I will also admit that the first time I made this pasta up, it didn’t turn out so great, as the pasta was overcooked. I was under the assumption that ALL of the water had to evaporate, so I cooked the pasta way too long and it was a bit over-done. We all really loved the flavors in this pasta though, so I vowed to try it again. Well, the second time around proved to be the charm. The pasta came out perfectly al dente and it created this thick creamy sauce that coated every strand of pasta.

This is the perfect weeknight throw together at the last minute sort of pasta. Literally, you throw all of the ingredients into one pan and cook away. Can it get any simpler than that?  I don’t think so. This pasta is fresh, healthy, full of flavor and a great meatless Monday pasta to add to your recipe box. It’s got the family seal approval in our house. There’s a bit of a kick in the pasta due to the red pepper flakes, so if you’re super sensitive to spicy things, then you might want to cut the 1/2 teaspoon down to a 1/4 teaspoon.  Eli could handle the spice though, so that should tell you something. Ok, let’s do what the Italians do and make up this one-pan pasta.

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turkey meatballs

DSC_0081

DSC_0081Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs! I know, not the most exciting or creative recipe out there, but it’s a classic! These are not your typical heavy, sit in your stomach meatballs. They’re a lighter and simpler meatball, as they are just made with ground turkey.  Yep, no pork sausage is needed for these puppies. Turkey is rich in vitamin B and zinc, and is a full flavored and lower-fat alternative to ground beef. My brother Brandt, who doesn’t like meatballs, LOVED these. I served these up for dinner and he was actually just going to eat the spaghetti, but he wanted to be nice so he said I could throw a couple of meatballs in his dish. He politely tried one and then asked for 3 more. He LOVED these and was quite surprised that he did.  He wanted me to be sure to tell all of you that he loved these, because he is not typically a fan of meatballs. Of course, my kids loved these, I mean they’re meatballs right?

I paired them with my new favorite basic tomato sauce and linguine, and it was a winner dinner. These meatballs do not fall into the quick and easy weeknight category, unless of course you make them up over the weekend and just re-heat them during the week.  I like to make these on a day where I know I have some time (which is usually a Sunday).  I typically make the sauce up ahead of time (remember my basic tomato sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks) just to save time when it comes to making the meatballs, but I have made both on the same day. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to throw together.  The only step that takes a bit of time is browning the meatballs, but other than that, it’s pretty simple and pretty calming rolling out meatball after meatball.  I usually throw on some tunes and get into a rhythm.

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how to cook spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce

spaghetti squash with tomato sauceToday’s post is sort of a recipe, but really more of a “how to” post. I’m going to show you all how to cook spaghetti squash.  I figured if I didn’t have a clue the first time I cooked one up, then there are those of you that are in the same boat. Spaghetti squash is a delicious and nutritious alternative to pasta.  It’s loaded with fiber, nutrients, vitamins and is high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, plus its fun to eat. When cooked, the inside of the squash shreds into long, thin noodle-like strands resembling spaghetti pasta.  I didn’t believe it until I actually made it and saw the transformation.

The squash is pretty mild in flavor and really tastes like pasta.  I have to admit that my kids and hubby were not entirely satisfied with the squash as they would be with a traditional spaghetti pasta.  To make it more of a satisfying meal, I either have to top the squash with some meatballs or if I’m keeping it vegetarian, then I need to add a side of garlic bread for my carb loving kids.

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basic tomato sauce

DSC_0004-3

DSC_0004-3

Here’s an easy, family friendly, homemade and vegeterian tomato sauce that will feed a crowd, or at least feed your family for a number of meals. This sauce is really simple, but tastes hearty like a tomato sauce should.  It’s the perfect sauce to top a pizza, use in a lasagna, pair with meatballs, (turkey meatball recipe coming soon) top over gnocchi, spaghetti squash or your favorite pasta. I mean it’s so simple that you can really use it as a base for just about anything. This sauce is basically a pantry sauce, you may have to run out and grab a carrot or onion, but if you have a well stocked pantry, then you should have everything you need. Another great thing about this sauce is that it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I used it to top this spaghetti squash below.

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce

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pasta bake with pancetta, tomato sauce and mozzarella

pasta bake with pancetta, tomato sauce and mozzarella

Come on, take a good look at that pasta, the cheese is all melted and browned on top, the sauce is clinging to each pasta shell.  I just want to take a bite right now, though I don’t think it would taste to good at 6:00 in the morning.  I’m sure there are many of you that aren’t cheese fans or think a dish like this might not be too good for the old waistline, I get it, but I also believe life is about moderation and if you have balance, then you can eat just about anything (real food that is).  For the rest of you that are licking your choppers, this dish is pure comfort bliss, especially on a cool fall or winter night.

Yes, there’s a lot of cheese in this recipe, but I love cheese, so that made me happy.  If you’re not a cheese fan than this might not be the pasta for you. I balance this rich meal by serving up a large vegetable portion on the side, so I don’t fill up on just pasta. I either serve it with a nice big kale salad or kid friendly caesar salad, or some sort of dark green vegetable, like broccolini. You could also whip up some garlic bread to serve on the side.  This is definitely a two-nighter meal or the perfect meal to serve a crowd.  I baked it in these cute individual caserrole dishes, but it’s truly the perfect pasta to be baked in a large casserole dish.

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orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beansDon’t judge this pasta by the above photo.  This pasta tastes much better than it looks. Trust me!  I have made it 3 times so far, and it’s been a hit each time.  Eli’s words the other night, “mmmmm, this is just so good.”  That’s all I needed to hear.

This pasta is one of those super easy, weeknight throw together pastas. I prepared it and had it on the table in under 30 minutes. It’s also a one-bowl meal, which makes it even better. Another thing I love about this pasta is that the green beans cook with the pasta.  You just throw them in for the last 3 minutes with the pasta and drain them both together.  LOVE IT!  If green beans aren’t in season, I use broccolini or broccoli rabe in place of the green beans.  I just cook the broccoli rabe for the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time!  I also love using rigatoni pasta!

pesto pasta with broccoli rabeI went easy on myself and bought the pesto. Yes, even Marin mama cuts corners on dinner.  Paradise Foods has the best pesto, and sometimes (a lot of the time) I don’t feel like making my own, so I just buy theirs.  I do have some great pesto recipes that would work well with this pasta. If you’re up for making your own, you could try my basil pesto and even my walnut pesto. Both of them would be great additions, but I’m assuming that most of you will go the store bought route for your pesto, so go for it!  We can’t be Martha all the time, right?  Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons.  Do I want to make some brownies or pesto, hmmm, difficult choice there, mmmm, not really.

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans:

recipe adapted from Real Simple
  • 1 box of orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
  • large bunch of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces –  I never measure out my vegetables.  I go vegetable heavy, as we could all use more veggies in our diet. Just grab yourself a big handful or two, and call it a day.  I use baby broccoli or broccoli rabe if green beans are not in season.
  • 4 Italian, turkey or chicken sausage links or 3/4 pound of ground sausage – I used classic Italian style sausages 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto - I used 1/2 cup as we love pesto.
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • splash of olive oil
Wash and trim your green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  While the pasta water is cooking, cook up your sausages.  You can either grill them or sauté them in a pan. The grill master was not home, so I cooked mine in the skillet.  Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, (if your pan seems dry, add more oil) add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Let the sausages cool a bit and then slice them into thin slices.Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking time.  If you’re using broccolini or broccoli rabe then add them in for the last minute of cooking time.  

I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time!  How efficient!  Reserve a cup of the pasta water.

I put this part in, but I tend not to use to much pasta water as it makes my sauce to watery.  I also don’t shake my pasta out when I drain it.  I drain it and then immediately return it to the pot, so there is always some extra water there anyway.

Drain the pasta and green beans together and return them to the pot.  Add the sausage, pesto, parmesan and some of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, and toss to combine.  Add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry.Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top them with some fresh parmesan.

I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of green beans. This is a pantry pasta, so you could really just throw in just about any vegetable.  Frozen green peas, broccolini, broccoli, asparagus and spinach are some good choices.

pesto pasta with broccoli rabe

 

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

Rating: 51

Serving Size: 4-6

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

Ingredients

  • 1 box of orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
  • large bunch of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces - I never measure out my vegetables. I go vegetable heavy, as we could all use more veggies in our diet. Just grab yourself a big handful or two, and call it a day. I use baby broccoli or broccoli rabe if green beans are not in season.
  • 4 Italian, turkey or chicken sausage links or 3/4 pound of ground sausage - I used classic Italian style sausages.
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto - I used 1/2 cup as we love pesto.
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • splash of olive oil

Instructions

Wash and trim your green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

While the pasta water is cooking, cook up your sausages. You can either grill them or sauté them in a pan. The grill master was not home, so I cooked mine in the skillet.

Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, (if your pan seems dry, add more oil) add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Let the sausages cool a bit and then slice them into thin slices.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. If you're using broccolini or broccoli rabe then add them in for the last minute of cooking time.

I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time! How efficient!

Reserve a cup of the pasta water. I put this part in, but I tend not to use to much pasta water as it makes my sauce to watery. I also don't shake my pasta out when I drain it. I drain it and then immediately return it to the pot, so there is always some extra water there anyway.

Drain the pasta and green beans together and return them to the pot. Add the sausage, pesto, parmesan and some of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, and toss to combine. Add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry.

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top them with some fresh parmesan.

I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of green beans. This is a pantry pasta, so you could really just throw in just about any vegetable. Frozen green peas, broccolini, broccoli, asparagus and spinach are some good choices.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/09/orecchiette-pasta-with-pesto-sausage-and-green-beans/

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basilHere’s an easy weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy, and the best part is that you can have it on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Yes, you heard me right, dinner in under 30 minutes. What mom or dad doesn’t like that?  Another great thing about this pasta is that it’s made with fresh and whole ingredients, so you can feel good about feeding your family a quick and easy dinner.

The heirloom tomatoes topped with parmesan and mozzarella taste like mini pizzas, but without the crust.  My kids even begged for thirds on the tomatoes.  I used heirloom tomatoes, but you can also use beefsteak, roma or vine-ripe tomatoes, whatever tomato strikes your fancy.

These tomatoes would also make a great side dish or appetizer.  I think they would even taste great topped on a pizza crust with some pesto or olive oil as the base sauce.  OK, I think I just created a new recipe for pizza Friday.  I love when that happens!

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil:

recipe adapted from real simple
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2-3 large heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - If your kids are not fans of spicy things, than I would go with the 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or julienned, plus more for serving
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
While your pasta is cooking, turn on your broiler and slice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the tomato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle each tomato slice with the following ingredients in the following order:
  • salt 
  • pepper -you don’t have to add this to the kid’s tomato slices
  • grated parmesan 
  • mozzarella cheese

I would top each one with an even amount of both cheeses.  
Why not get the kids involved and have them top their tomatoes with the cheese, its like topping a pizza.  Its fun and gets them excited to eat tomatoes.

Broil the tomatoes until the cheese is bubbly and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t these tomatoes look insanely good?

In a small saucepan or sauté pan, heat the 3 tablespoons oil with the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.Add the garlic oil, 1/4 cup torn or julienned basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper to the cooked pasta and toss to combine.  Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top each bowl of pasta with the cheesy tomatoes, some fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

The tomatoes are filling, so 2 tomato slices per bowl is plenty, but you may want a third, and that’s ok.That’s it folks.  How easy was that to throw together?  If you’re making this into a two-nighter meal, then you will want to make up some fresh cheesy tomatoes the next night.  I served this pasta up two nights in a row. It was super simple, as I just had to throw the tomatoes together while the pasta was re-heating. 

If your kids love pizza and pasta, then they will love this recipe.  

easy tomato sauce

easytomato
These past few weeks have not felt like summer at all.  I know the rest of the country is going through a heat wave, but here in Northern CA we are having some fall-like weather.  It’s foggy, cool and windy.  When the weather turns cool, I start looking for warm comforting meals.  I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner the other night, as they were huddled under the blanket, (we’re wimps here in Cali) and they both said pasta.  Pasta is our comfort food and we eat a lot of it in the fall and winter.


I decided to check out my friend, Denise’s site for a recipe.  Denise is the one who taught my photography workshop.  Her site is of course, GORGEOUS, and I’m trying hard not to compare my photos to her photo of this dish.  She is of course, a professional, and I must keep that in mind.  She is also an amazing cook, and I can’t wait to try more of her recipes.

This pasta sauce was a hit with the kids, (kid rated 10) and such an easy and simple recipe to make that it’s now going to be bookmarked as a family favorite.  It’s also a two-nighter meal, and what mom doesn’t love that.  I see this recipe being made a lot come fall when were back to crazy schedules (I’m so not ready for summer to end in that sense).  This sauce is also a great make-ahead sauce.  You can make it up one day or on the weekend and refrigerate or freeze it, and then just re-heat it with some fresh pasta.
  
I would recommend using a different type of pasta rather than the one I used.  You will want to use a pasta with some texture or ridges to it.  We used Ziti, and it was a bit glossy so the sauce fell off of it.  

easy tomato sauce:

recipe from Chez us
serves 4-6

printer friendly version

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4oz package (1/ 4 pound) pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into small chunks 
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 28oz can peeled tomatoes, very good quality, do not drain
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red chili (red pepper) flakes, or more or less depending on how spicy you like it – I used 1 teaspoon plus a small pinch
  • kosher salt to taste
  • box of your favorite pasta

First things first, chop up the pancetta, and peel and chop up the vegetables.

  Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat.  
Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.   

While the pancetta is cooking, get out your food processor. Throw in the chopped onion, garlic and carrot and mince away.  
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, then you will want to mince the garlic and cut the onion and carrot up into very small pieces.

Once the pancetta is cooked, add the minced carrot, onion and garlic mixture along with 1 teaspoon or more of the red chili flakes.  Cook over low heat, until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  

Add in the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, to break up the tomato pieces.  

Cook over low heat until thick, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add your pasta and cook according to package directions.  Drain your pasta and put it back in the pan that you cooked it in.  Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.  

Serve the pasta up in individual bowls and top with some fresh Parmesan cheese.  

How easy was that recipe?
Like I said before, this pasta was a hit with the whole family and was a two-nighter meal.  

It’s definitely a recipe that I will be making come fall because of its ease, simplicity and taste.    We served this up with a side salad and some crunchy garlic bread.

cold soba noodles with miso tofu and summer vegetables

cold soba noodles with miso roasted tofu and summer vegetables
cold soba noodles with miso roasted tofu and summer vegetables

Welcome to marinmamacooks.com!  I finally have my own domain, yeah!  I’m a real blog now, (just kidding, kind of) but it’s a big step for me and I do feel a bit grown up.  I lost a couple of things in the transition like my pin counters, but these things happen and it’s pretty minor in my opinion.

One of my favorite sources for new recipes are magazines.  I love opening one up and looking at all the gorgeous pictures and tempting recipes.  I use to love reading In Style, Oprah and magazines like that, but now I love to ready cooking magazines (I guess I’m getting older).  I currently have a subscription to bon appetit and Martha Stewart Living.  I’m like a kid in the candy store each time one of them arrives.  There’s just something about getting a magazine in the mail.  Cooking magazines are great because they usually focus on seasonal recipes and ingredients.  I hate when I look at a cookbook and crave a recipe only to find that the ingredients are not in season. 

I saw this recipe in the July issue, and it spoke to me.  It looked so fresh and simple, the perfect summer meal.  The recipe did not call for the miso tofu, I added that in to give it some protein and keep it a vegetarian recipe.  You can make this without the tofu and it tastes wonderful.  The cutting of the vegetables was a bit labor intensive, but that was the only thing that took time.  I’m sure there is an easier way to dice up the veggies, and if you have any, send them my way.  I do sometimes find it a bit therapeutic to cut up a bunch of fresh vegetables, it just depends on my day.  Feel free to use any vegetable in the below recipe. This dish is a great make-ahead meal for those busy summer nights.  
Here are my leftovers the next day at lunch!  Yum!

cold soba noodles with miso tofu and summer vegetables:

recipe adapted from bon appetitmiso tofu recipe from Eating Well
serves 4-6

for the miso tofu: 

  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, miso
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

for the soba noodles:

  • 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar – I used brown rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil – make sure you get toasted sesame oil 
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 2-3 radishes, sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper – sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 8 oz buckwheat soba noodles (Japanese-style noodles)
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems – these add amazing flavor to the dish, so this is a must
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  

Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or brush on some olive oil. Make sure that you coat it well, because if you don’t, then the tofu will stick to the baking sheet. I used my olive oil cooking spray.  

Drain the tofu and wrap it in some paper towels and gently press out the excess moisture.  Cut the block of tofu into square cubes like the picture below.  I cut the block of tofu into 8 slices and then cut those in half to get these squares. It really doesn’t matter how you cut up your tofu, just make sure they are cut into even pieces.

cubed tofuCombine the 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons miso and the 2 cloves minced garlic in a large bowl, and use a spatula to mix it together. It will resemble a thick paste.

miso paste with lemon and garlic_Add the tofu squares to the mixture and gently toss to coat. It may not look like there is enough mixture to cover all of the tofu, but there is.

Spread the marinated tofu in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
miso roasted tofu
Bake the tofu on the middle rack, turning two or three times during baking, until browned. About 18-20 minutes, or until the tofu is browned on all sides.
Tip: You can make this tofu up ahead of time, (like the day before) and just re-heat it for a few minutes in a 250-degree oven.
miso roasted tofu
While the miso is baking, wash and slice up the vegetables and set aside.In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, sriracha and toasted sesame oil.Throw the matchstick sliced vegetables into a large bowl, top with the dressing and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain.  Run noodles under cold water to cool them; drain well and add them to the bowl with the vegetables.  Add in the scallions and toss them with noodles.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve up the noodles into individual bowls and top them with the sesame seeds, cilantro stems and warm tofu.  
Tip:  Store the tofu separate from the noodles, so they don’t get soggy.
cold soba noodles with miso roasted tofu and summer vegetables
Like I said earlier, you can make this with or without the tofu or even add chicken if you like.  We all loved this dish and will definitely make it again. It was so simple to throw together and gave us great leftovers.  
cold soba noodles with miso tofu and summer vegetables

Serving Size: serves 4-6

cold soba noodles with miso tofu and summer vegetables

Ingredients

    miso tofu:
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, miso
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Soba noodles:
  • 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar - I used brown rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil - make sure you get toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 2-3 radishes, sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper - sliced into matchstick sized pieces
  • 8 oz buckwheat soba noodles (Japanese-style noodles)
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems - these add amazing flavor to the dish, so this is a must.
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or brush on some olive oil. Make sure that you coat it well, because if you don’t, then the tofu will stick to the baking sheet. I used my olive oil cooking spray.

Drain the tofu and wrap it in some paper towels and gently press out the excess moisture. I cut the block of tofu into 8 slices and then cut those in half to get these squares. It really doesn’t matter how you cut up your tofu, just make sure they are cut into even pieces.

Combine the 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons miso and the 2 cloves minced garlic in a large bowl, and use a spatula to mix it together. It will resemble a thick paste.

Add the tofu squares to the mixture and gently toss to coat. It may not look like there is enough mixture to cover all of the tofu, but there is.

Spread the marinated tofu in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the tofu on the middle rack, turning two or three times during baking, until browned. About 18-20 minutes, or until the tofu is browned on all sides.

Tip: You can make this tofu up ahead of time, (like the day before) and just re-heat it for a few minutes in a 250-degree oven.

While the miso is baking, wash and slice up the vegetables and set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, sriracha and toasted sesame oil.

Throw the matchstick sliced vegetables into a large bowl, top with the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain.

Run noodles under cold water to cool them; drain well and add them to the bowl with the vegetables. Add in the scallions and toss them with noodles.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve up the noodles into individual bowls and top them with the sesame seeds, cilantro stems and warm tofu.

Tip: Store the tofu separate from the noodles, so they don't get soggy.

Like I said earlier, you can make this with or without the tofu or even add chicken if you like. John and I loved this dish and will definitely make it again. It was so simple to throw together and gave us great leftovers.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/07/cold-soba-noodles-with-miso-tofu-and-summer-vegetables/

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-3
Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-3
Ok, here is my first attempt at a “homemade” cooking video.  When I say first attempt, I mean first attempt.  Zoe and I pulled this together yesterday afternoon, and there weren’t any re-takes, we shot and edited with what we had.  I’m proud to say that this video was filmed and edited by my 12 year old daughter, Zoe. Yay Zoe!  Zoe is always shooting videos with her friends, and editing up a storm, so I asked her if she might want to earn a few bucks by filming some videos for the blog this summer. I think she did a wonderful job, and all in all, for our first video, I think it turned out pretty good.  Making your first video is like putting together your first blog post or posting your first photograph.  It can be a bit intimidating, but you have to start somewhere, so here you go.  The video has a cute ending, so stick with it.

I hope you enjoyed the video portion of this recipe (geez, I sound like a stewardess on an airline). For those of you that want the classic recipe post, I have added that as well below.

I seriously love Ina Garten, and have quite a few of her recipes on this blog. Her recipes are easy to follow and perfect for the “everyday” cook. This pasta one of my favorite summer pastas, as the ingredients are simple and fresh and the flavors are amazing. This pasta is the perfect make-ahead meal. The tomato marinade take literally 5 minutes to assemble and it can sit out anywhere from 4-10 hours at room temperature. The longer it sits the better. It’s also the perfect meal to serve up at a dinner party, because it’s virtually a one-bowl meal (less dishes to clean up) and so easy to prepare because all you have to do is throw in the capellini right before serving (the capellini only takes 3  minutes to cook). Instead of slaving over the stove, you can spend quality time relaxing with your friends. Now, that sounds great to me!

Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-4

Ina’s summer garden pasta:

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves 6

NOTE: I cut the tomato portion of the original recipe in half, as 4 pints of tomatoes were a bit too much for us, and my kids really don’t want a bowl full of tomatoes. 
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 large or 6 medium cloves) 
  • 10-12 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving 
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta or capellini
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Below are the ingredients that you will need for the tomato marinade.
Wash up the cherry tomatoes and basil.  Cut the tomatoes in half.  
Slice up the basil into thin strips.
 Combine the cherry tomatoes,1/2-cup olive oil, minced garlic, chopped basil,1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1-teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine.  
Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours.  
Just before you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the capellini and cook according to the directions on the package (be careful, as it only takes 2 to 3 minutes to cook capellini pasta).  

Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes.  Give the pasta a toss and then add in the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese and mix together.  
Serve up the pasta in large bowls and top with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-3
Another thing I love about this pasta is that you can usually get two nights out of it (at least in my family).  Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and you have the perfect simple summer meal.  

 I chose not to speak in the video because honestly, I’m not ready to do that yet.  Every time I hear myself on video I cringe.  I say the words “you know” and “like” too much, so I have to work up the confidence to do a talking cooking video! 

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 6

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

NOTE: I cut the tomato portion of the original recipe in half, as 4 pints of tomatoes were a bit too much for us, and my kids really don't want a bowl full of tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 large or 6 medium cloves)
  • 10-12 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta or capellini
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Instructions

Wash up the cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cut the tomatoes in half.

Slice up the basil into thin strips.

Combine the cherry tomatoes,1/2-cup olive oil, minced garlic, chopped basil,1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1-teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours.

Just before you're ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the capellini and cook according to the directions on the package (be careful, as it only takes 2 to 3 minutes to cook capellini pasta).

Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Give the pasta a toss and then add in the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese and mix together.

Serve up the pasta in large bowls and top with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/07/inas-summer-garden-pasta-with-video-tutorial/

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini (1 of 1)-4

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini (1 of 1)-4Here’s another easy-peasy one-bowl pasta dish that is kid and hubby approved! Who doesn’t like that? This was showcased on Oprah’s site as a super foods meal. I think it was showcased as a super foods meal due to the walnut pesto and broccolini. I don’t think the sausage was contributing factor to that title, but that’s ok, because the sausage was the contributing factor to my kids rating this dish a 10. Hey, you have to throw something kid friendly in a dish that has walnuts in it, at least in my house. This pasta is similar to my broccolini, sausage and orecchiette pasta, but a bit different with the walnut pesto serving as the base sauce. I loved the addition of the walnut pesto and the toasted chopped walnuts. The pesto clings to the pasta and the chopped walnuts add a healthy & nutty crunch to the dish!

The walnut pesto can be made ahead of time. I made mine earlier in the day so when it was time to cook up dinner, I had one step completed. I also made another batch to store in the freezer for another last minute dinner idea. This pesto freezes well because there is no added cheese. You really don’t miss the cheese in this pesto either. To freeze the pesto, just brush small glass container with some olive oil, pour the pesto in, seal it up and throw it in your freezer.

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini (1 of 1)-2

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage and broccolini:

Recipe adapted from Oprah
serves 4 to 6

for the pasta:

  • 1 pound rigatoni or your favorite pasta- you can also use a whole-wheat or whole grain pasta to boost up the nutritional value
  • 4 sweet italian sausages (about 1 pound), casings removed
  • 1-2 bunches broccolini or baby broccoli, tough ends trimmed
  • shredded pecorino romano cheese for topping the pasta
  • 1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts for topping the pasta
  • walnut pesto (see recipe below)

for the walnut pesto:

  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

DSC_0022Let’s first prep all of the ingredients. Peel your garlic clove, wash and dry your basil leaves, wash and trim your broccolini and toast up the 1/2 cup walnuts. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, 1/4 cup for the pesto and 1/4 cup to top the pasta. My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a frying pan. Some people like to toast them in the oven, but the frying pan seems to work better for me.  Heat a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. Add walnuts to the hot, dry pan and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts start to brown and smell toasted, about 5 minutes. Let the walnuts cool. Reserve 1/4 cup of walnuts for the pesto and chop the rest of the walnuts, and then set aside. You will use these to top the pasta.

Remove the sausages from their casing. All you have to do to remove the sausage from it’s casing is to cut a slit down the length of the sausage and then peel it open and remove the sausage. You’re going to literally push and tear it out of it’s casing. You might have some casing left on the sausage, but it doesn’t matter.  You can always remove the sausages from their casings ahead of time and reserve the sausage in a sealed glass container. I tend to do this earlier in the day, so when it comes time to make dinner, I have one less thing to do.

Now its time to make the walnut pesto.  Like I said earlier, you can make this pesto earlier in the day or even the day before.

DSC_0003Combine the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, 2 cups basil, peeled garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor.

DSC_0008Process and while the motor is running, drizzle in the 1/2 cup olive oil to form the pesto; set aside. Note: If you don’t have a large food processor and only have a mini prep, then you can put all of the ingredients plus the 1/2 cup olive oil into the mini prep and whiz away. Pour the pesto into a ramekin or small glass dish.

DSC_0698Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, while the water is heating up, you want to cook up your sausages. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned. Remove the browned sausage with a slotted spoon and place the sausage onto a paper towel lined plate.

DSC_0029Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccolini during the last minute of cooking time. Basically if your pasta says it will be done in 13 minutes, then set a timer for 12 minutes and then add the broccolini for the last minute of cooking time (making it a total of 13 minutes). I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time!  How efficient!  Drain both the pasta and broccolini  together.

DSC_0032Put the pasta and broccolini back into the pot and add in the cooked sausage and the pesto.

DSC_0043Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top with some freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and chopped walnuts.

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini (1 of 1)-4

This pasta tastes great leftover as all of the flavor combinations have had a change to mingle. My kids were not complaining when I served this up again the next night.

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini

pasta with walnut pesto, sausage, and broccolini

Ingredients

    for the pasta:
  • 1 pound rigatoni or your favorite pasta- you can also use a whole-wheat or whole grain pasta to boost up the nutritional value
  • 4 sweet italian sausages (about 1 pound), casings removed
  • 1-2 bunches broccolini or baby broccoli, tough ends trimmed
  • shredded pecorino romano cheese for topping the pasta
  • 1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts for topping the pasta
  • walnut pesto (see recipe below)
  • for the walnut pesto:
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Let's first prep all of the ingredients. Peel your garlic clove, wash and dry your basil leaves, wash and trim your broccolini and toast up the 1/2 cup walnuts. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, 1/4 cup for the pesto and 1/4 cup to top the pasta. My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a frying pan. Some people like to toast them in the oven, but the frying pan seems to work better for me. Heat a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. Add walnuts to the hot, dry pan and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts start to brown and smell toasted, about 5 minutes. Let the walnuts cool. Reserve 1/4 cup of walnuts for the pesto and chop the rest of the walnuts, and then set aside. You will use these to top the pasta.

Remove the sausages from their casing. All you have to do to remove the sausage from it’s casing is to cut a slit down the length of the sausage and then peel it open and remove the sausage. You're going to literally push and tear it out of it’s casing. You might have some casing left on the sausage, but it doesn’t matter. You can always remove the sausages from their casings ahead of time and reserve the sausage in a sealed glass container. I tend to do this earlier in the day, so when it comes time to make dinner, I have one less thing to do.

Now its time to make the walnut pesto. Like I said earlier, you can make this pesto earlier in the day or even the day before.

Combine the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, 2 cups basil, peeled garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor.

Process and while the motor is running, drizzle in the 1/2 cup olive oil to form the pesto; set aside. Note: If you don't have a large food processor and only have a mini prep, then you can put all of the ingredients plus the 1/2 cup olive oil into the mini prep and whiz away. Pour the pesto into a ramekin or small glass dish.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, while the water is heating up, you want to cook up your sausages. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned. Remove the browned sausage with a slotted spoon and place the sausage onto a paper towel lined plate.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccolini during the last minute of cooking time. Basically if your pasta says it will be done in 13 minutes, then set a timer for 12 minutes and then add the broccolini for the last minute of cooking time (making it a total of 13 minutes). I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time! How efficient! Drain both the pasta and broccolini together.

Put the pasta and broccolini back into the pot and add in the cooked sausage and the pesto.

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top with some freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and chopped walnuts.

This pasta tastes great leftover as all of the flavor combinations have had a change to mingle. My kids were not complaining when I served this up again the next night.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/pasta-with-walnut-pesto-sausage-and-broccolini/

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauceWant an easy-peasy weeknight meal your whole family will enjoy?  I bet you’re saying yes, yes, yes!  Well, read on, because my whole family loves this pasta and I love it because it’s tasty of course, but so quick (under 45 minutes) and easy to make. This is definitely a family and kid friendly meal.  It’s cheesy, hence the title, cheesy baked tortellini. This pasta is rated a 10+ in my house and has quickly become a family favorite.

Life is getting busy around our house, and during this busy time I have to prepare my weekly dinner menu in advance. Zoe now has lacrosse, dance and cotillion 4 nights during the week so goodbye (for now) to sit-down family dinners, and hello make ahead and easy meals.

On Sundays, I put together a list of potential weeknight dinners and I also try to cook a two-nighter meal as well.  When life is busy, I don’t want to compromise on eating nutritionally, nor do I want us eating takeout every night. I want to offer my kids their veggies and a fairly balanced and nutritious meal.  To accomplish this, I try and find recipes that I can either make ahead, that will provide dinner for 2 nights or ones that can be put together in a flash.  This tortellini pasta matches all three of that criteria. You can throw it together in less than 45 minutes. You can also make it earlier in the day, cover it with foil, refrigerate it and then re-heat later that evening.  Oh yeah!!!  I’ll be honest with you all and let you know that we end up using a jared sauce the majority of the time.  I don’t always make the homemade marinara sauce, and that’s ok!  My favorite jarred sauce to use for this pasta is Rao’s homemade Marinara.

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce:

Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Pasta
Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 cups marinara sauce – store bought or homemade – I made a homemade version from Giada the day before- recipe to follow below.  I have also made this recipe a number of times with different store bought sauces and my basic tomato sauce.
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound cheese tortellini
  • shredded mozzarella or smoked mozzarella cheese, - The recipe called for 2 ounces, but really, who measures out their cheese?  Just top your dish with the amount of cheese you want.  
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese - I also did not measure this.  I just topped each casserole with some parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the tortellini.  Lightly oil an 8x8x2-inch baking dish or 4 individual gratin dishes.Below is what mascarpone cheese looks like.  It resembles a soft cream cheese.In a large bowl, whisk together the marinara sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme.Stir all the ingredients together. Its best to mix everything with a spatula because you’re going to have to press the mascarpone cheese against the sides of the bowl to get it to soften up. Once you mix all the ingredients together, it goes from this beautiful red color above, to this not so pleasant orange color.  I’m not even going to go there and tell you what it reminds me of.Cook the tortellini until just tender or al dente, about 2 minutes.  I used frozen tortellini and the 2 minute cooking time was perfect.  Drain.  Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat.

Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish or dishes.  Not a great photo, but you get the step involved.
  Top with the grated parmesan cheese and smoked mozzarella or regular mozzarella cheese.
Cover the dish or dishes with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses melt on top, about 10 minutes longer.
Note: The cheese will be melted, but will be white in color.  If you want your cheese to be browned and crispy like these photos, then turn on your broiler and place the pasta under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese browns up.
cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce
 That is it folks!  How easy was that dish to prepare?
I paired this up with a salad for John and I, and some broccoli for the kids.
This dish was a two-night meal for my kids and I (not the hungry hubby).  I just covered their leftovers in their gratin dishes, and re-heated them in the oven the next day.
I’m actually re-heating up their leftovers as I write this post.
Here they are eating their leftovers!  Happy as clams!
If you want to make your own marinara sauce then you can follow along with me below!
This sauce is great because it can be made day ahead of time, and it’s fairly easy to whip up.  The only thing that really takes time is chopping up all the veggies.  This is a wonderful marina sauce that you can use as a base for just about any Italian meal.

Basic Marinara Sauce:

Makes about 2 quarts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped – I used yellow onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
Prep your ingredients.  Chop up your onions, garlic, carrots and celery.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce cool, and then refrigerate or freeze it.  This sauce freezes very well so I saved 2 cups for the above recipe, and froze the remaining amount for a later date.
The sauce may be stored frozen for up to 3 months.

If you don’t want to make your own sauce, use your favorite store bought brand.  I’ve done that on many occasions and the tortellini tastes just as amazing.

lentil “meatballs” with lemon pesto

lentils

Here is another wonderful “mommy” meal that I made this past week. It’s also a great “meatless Monday” meal.  I saw this recipe a few weeks back on Sprouted Kitchen and I have been dying to make it for some time.  I loved my chickpeas burgers so much that I wanted to try another meatless dish that is usually made with meat.  When you hear the word meatball you think of meat, right?  Well, these are lentil meatballs so there is no meat in them.  Maybe lentil balls would be a more fitting name for these.  It just sounds weird, so I think I will keep the name meatballs.

I loved these lentil meatballs and I wasn’t even missing the meat. They were flavorful and dense like meatballs and they really satisfied my craving for a meatless meatball.  Combine them with the lemon pesto and you have yourself a wonderful & healthy vegetarian lunch or dinner.  I promise you, you will not miss the meatballs here.

This dish was not to popular with my kids, but I wasn’t expecting it to be either.  I was really just creating this recipe for myself.  My kids liked the pesto, but did not care to much for the meatballs.  I ate the meatballs and fed them some quinoa pasta with the pesto sauce.  I believe in cooking one meal for the family so I accomplished my goal here.    

lentil “meatballs”:

Recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
makes about 13 medium sized meatballs
printer friendly recipe

  • 2 cups cooked black lentils – 1 cup dry lentils equals 2 cup cooked 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup freslhy grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed – I used my coffee grinder here
  • 2 tablespoons, finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Heafty pinch of dried or fresh thyme – I used fresh thyme here
  • 1 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably) – I used whole wheat panko breadcrumbs from Ians
Here are the ingredients you will need to make the meatballs.
You will need 1 cup of dry lentils to equal 2 cooked cups of lentils here.
Once you measure out your lentils give them a rinse.
Cook up your lentils according the directions on the package.  When your lentils are finished cooking, drain them and set them aside to cool a bit.

Once your lentils have cooled down for a bit, measure out 2 cups and put them in a food processor.Pulverize the lentils into mush and then put them in a large mixing bowl.  Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well.Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.While the lentil mix is resting, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and proceed to make up your lemon pesto (see recipe below).

After 20 minutes or so, check the lentil mix by rolling a round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well.  If it seems pretty wet and it’s falling apart, stir in another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs until the ball stays together.
My mix was perfect the way it was.  I think using the Panko breadcrumbs made a difference as they are hearty breadcrumbs.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into “meatballs sized” balls and line them up on a baking sheet.
Note: they don’t need lots of space between them as they won’t spread. If you want them to be crusty, then brush the meatballs with olive oil.  I wanted them to be brown and crusty so I brushed the entire meatball with olive oil. Here is a photo of the meatballs after they have been brushed in olive oil.  See how nice and shiny they are!
Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Make sure you turn the meatballs halfway through the baking time.  Remove and cool slightly.
These lentil meatballs are wonderful on their own with the below lemon pesto or you can pair them up with your favorite pasta, like quinoa to make a healthy and vegeterian spaghetti and meatballs.
 I served these up the next day for lunch on some leftover quinoa spaghetti.

lemon pesto sauce:

Recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
printer friendly recipe
Note: Lentil meatballs can be a bit on the dryer side so you will want to moisten them up with this pesto. 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  •  2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons water to thin sauce
Prep all of your ingredients.  Wash and dry your basil leaves, zest and juice your lemon, peel your garlic, measure out your pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
Put the garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth.
 Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency.
 Add 2 tablespoons of water to thin as desired. I used 2 tablespoons, as I like my pesto be a bit thinner.  This is optional of course. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.
Note:  Sometimes my pesto comes out green as shown in the picture above, and sometimes it comes out a bit more yellow-green.  It really depends on how big the meyer lemons are.  Don’t fret on the color, as it tastes amazing no matter what the color is.  If you feel you want more green, then just add some more basil to taste and then process again.
My favorite way to enjoy these is topped with lots of the pesto and thrown on some quinoa spaghetti.
Have you ever tried a meatless meatball?
If so, did you like it

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccolini

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccolini

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccoliniSo I must admit, we are a pasta loving family.  Pasta is a wonderful base because you add so much to it.  It’s almost like a blank canvas.  Throw in some veggies, a little meat and a yummy sauce and you have the perfect one-bowl meal.

Since we eat a lot of pasta, I have been looking for some alternative and healthier versions rather than the typical white pasta.  We eat quinoa spaghetti quite often and the kids like it especially if it’s topped with pesto or my bolognaise sauce.  I have always wanted to try whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta but was worried how the kids would react.  I aim to make one meal (no short order cook here) for dinner and I want us all to enjoy it so I have to always think about what the kids will really eat.  Luckily my kids are not super picky eaters. They eat a variety of foods because we serve them a variety.  You have to set an example as a parent and if you’re not eating veggies or trying new things then your kids will not do it.  


I found this recipe at Cooks Illustrated and was excited to try it as it incorporated 2 things that I have never used before, whole-wheat pasta and fennel.  I have eaten fennel before, but have never cooked with it.  
We have a veggie every day so I wanted to add some blanched broccolini to our pasta.  You don’t have to add broccolini to this dish, but it really is the perfect vegetable to serve with this type of pasta and makes it a one-bowl meal, and who doesn’t love that.  

This pasta is a wonderful combination of flavors.  The sausage adds a certain spiciness (not to spicy though) to the dish and the pine nuts add a nice crunch and buttery flavor. The whole-wheat pasta has a great nutty and salty flavor and it’s chewy, but in a good way.  It doesn’t taste grainy at all.  I have had this for leftovers the past week and it gets even better with age as all the flavors have a chance to mesh together. 
This is a photo of the leftovers that I had for lunch.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Fennel and broccolini:

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Serves 4-6
printer friendly version

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, mince and pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 8-12 ounces sweet italian sausage, removed from casing -  I actually just buy up a 12oz package of my favorite sausage links. 
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored, and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped – I always toast these up ahead of time.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (see note below)
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti – Cooks Illustrated recommended Bionaturae Organic 100 percent whole-wheat spaghetti because of it’s nutty flavor and chewy texture.  We really loved this pasta.
  • 1 to 2 bunches of broccolini
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese to top your pasta
 
It always makes cooking easier when you get all of your ingredients out and prepared ahead of time. You will need to have everything prepped for this pasta as things move fast.  
Slice up your fennel (see how-to instructions below), toast and coarsely chop your pine-nuts, (I do this earlier in the day or even the day before) juice your lemon, mince your garlic, remove the sausages from their casings (I usually do this the day before or earlier in the day) and rinse up your broccolini.  
Note: Wash and dry your basil but do not chop it yet.  Chop the basil at the last possible moment to prevent it from discoloring.
Bring a medium pot of well-salted water (you want it to taste like salt water) to a boil for the pasta and the broccolini.
Wash up your fennel, cut a little slice off of the bottom of the bulb and then cut off the fronds right next to the bulb.  If the bulb has some dark marks on it then take a vegetable peeler and peel off those marks.
Cut your fennel bulb in half.
 Cut out the inner core.
Lie the fennel bulb down on its flat side and just slice the fennel crossways.  
Don’t know how to toast pine nuts?  To toast them, just put some raw pine nuts in a dry skillet and swirl them around in the pan (over medium heat) for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color.  
 Remove them from the pan and set aside.  Coarsely chop them when they have cooled a bit. 
Combine oil, minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1/2-teaspoon salt in a small bowl: set aside.
Once the water has come to a rapid boil, throw in your broccolini and cook until just tender, 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your broccolini.

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable.  There is only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.Transfer broccolini to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon or mesh one like I have.  Drain and dry the broccolini; set aside.  Bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the pasta until al dente.  Reserve 3/4-cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Heat sausage in a 12-inch skillet or large skillet of your choice over medium-high heat; cook stirring to break up sausage into 1/2-inch pieces, until browned and crisp, 5-7 minutes.   Cooks Illustrated recommended a non-stick skillet.  I used my cast iron skillet which is virtually non-stick and I have also used a regular skillet before and it worked great.
Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to towel-lined plate, leaving rendered fat in the skillet.
Return skillet to medium-high heat; add fennel and 1/4-teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until fennel is tender, about 5 minutes.Push fennel to sides of skillet so you have a 3-inch clearing in the middle of the pan.
 Add the oil-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir to combine garlic mixture with fennel and cook for 1 minute longer.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in sausage, pine nuts, basil and lemon juice.
Add in the broccolini.
Add the fennel sausage mixture and the reserved cooking water to pasta, toss to coat.
Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and top with some fresh pecorino romano cheese.  The pecorino cheese was recommend over parmesan as it adds a bit of a salty tang to the pasta. It really is the perfect compliment.
 I am hooked on this combination and look forward to trying other sauces with whole-wheat spaghetti or other whole-wheat pastas.
BTW, you probably want to know the kids rating on this dish right?  Zoe rated it a 9 and Eli rated it a 10.  John and I rated it a 10 plus.
Have you ever tried whole-wheat pasta?  If so, what was your take on it?

orecchiette pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe

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DSC_0003-3First off, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you that are viewing my blog and making some of my recipes.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when a close friend, stranger or mom at school comes up to me and tells me that they are making one of the recipes from my blog that night. I love hearing their comments on how much their family enjoyed the recipe or how easy it was to make.  

The biggest request I keep getting from people is to keep posting more yummy & easy weeknight dinners.  Dinner is the one meal that people struggle with. I get it, we’re all busy running around all day and to have that nagging “what to make for dinner” question hanging over our heads is not fun!  

Well, I’ve got you covered for dinner tonight. I have whipped up an easy, family approved one-bowl pasta dish.  This pasta is one of those pantry pastas that I cook quite often because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand expect for the fresh broccoli rabe. 

Below are the 6 ingredients you will need in addition to some fresh olive oil.

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orecchiette pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe:

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 to 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems trimmed – You can also use baby broccoli or broccolini 
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 italian sausage links, casings removed or 3/4 pound of ground sausage – I used classic italian style sausages
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes – I used a bit more than a pinch of red pepper and it was spicy in a good way, but not too spicy for the kids
  • freshly shedded Parmesan cheese

Let’s prep the ingredients.  Wash and trim up the broccoli rabe, remove the sausage from it’s casings and mince up your garlic cloves.  

DSC_0009Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccoli rabe during the last minute of cooking time.  I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time!  How efficient!  Drain both the pasta and broccoli rabe together.

DSC_0016Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and then add the sausage.  DSC_0001-2Cook the sausage breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form.

DSC_0006-2Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

DSC_0008-2Add the drained pasta and broccoli rabe to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. 

DSC_0034Serve up the pasta into individual bowls.  Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.  Top each bowl with a nice heaping of fresh Parmesan and some fresh ground pepper for the adults! 

My kids and hubby loved this dish. They all rated it a 10!  I hope that your family enjoys this easy weeknight pantry pasta!

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioliI saw this recipe in the November issue of Whole Living Magazine and I knew I had to make it.  I mean I was literally salivating over this recipe and 5 others.  These recipes were shown as Thanksgiving side dishes for vegans and vegetarians.  I thought to myself as I was staring longingly at the photos, when did I start getting excited over vegetable dishes?  Who is this girl?  I use to get excited over a juicy burger, fries or any sort of sweet, (well, I still get excited over sweets) but vegetables?  This is all recent and very strange for me.  I’m honestly considering becoming a vegetarian.  I would prefer a beautiful homemade (not those frozen things) veggie burger to a beef or turkey burger any day. I’m more excited to eat the veggies that I am going to prepare for Thanksgiving than the actual turkey.  My taste buds are definitely changing, maybe its California and that fact that the produce here is so unbelievably fresh and delicious.One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s another easy pantry pasta.  All I had to purchase was the green beans, as I had some shallots, almonds and ravioli at home and I grabbed a fresh lemon from our lemon tree.  I’m finding that if you keep a well stocked pantry, all you need to do is run out for the fresh vegetables. Onions, shallots, nuts, squashes and pastas keep for some time, so stock your pantry with them and you will always have them on hand when your inspired to create a yummy last minute recipe. If green beans aren’t in season, no worries, you can substitute broccoli rabe instead.DSC_0018Eli and Zoe rated this dish a 10+++.  John and I literally devoured it, so it ranked high with us as well. This is definitely a recipe that is going to be made again and again in our house. Moms, this is an easy throw together pasta for those busy weeknights.green bean and shallot ravioli

 green bean and shallot ravioli:

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren’t in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe/baby broccoli
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it’s just $2.99 a bag, what a steal!
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted – I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
First toast up the sliced almonds. To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.
toasting almondsNext wash up and trim those green beans. Aren’t they just beautiful?  They’re so vibrant and green.  I tell you, mother nature makes the most beautiful food.Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.  Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you’re basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect!   If you’re using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.  

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable.  There is only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.Transfer the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans.Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.  

  Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions.  Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit. Turn off the heat, take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.  Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan.  Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.  

green bean and shallot ravioliThis is a wonderful one-bowl meal your whole family will enjoy! 

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Rating: 51

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren't in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe.
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it's just $2.99 a bag.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted - I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

First toast up the sliced almonds. To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.

Next wash up and trim those green beans.

Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you're basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect! If you're using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable. There's only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.

Transfer the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans. Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.

Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit.

Turn off the heat,take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.

Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan. Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/green-bean-and-shallot-ravioli/

Penne a la Vodka

penne a la vodka
penne a la vodka

OK, we turned back the clocks yesterday and we had our first California rain on Saturday.  In my book that means it’s officially fall and time to start breaking out our favorite comfort foods. Here’s a pasta staple at our house, Penne a la Vodka!  This dish is a classic in my book and it’s SO delicious. The best part about this recipe is that I usually have everything on hand to make it, which makes it an easy dinner fill in.  Make sure you serve this up with some warm crusty bread to soak up all that yummy sauce.  This pasta tastes even better the next day as the penne soaks up all the sauce overnight.  

Penne a la Vodka:

serves 4-6
recipe from from Rachel Ray

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

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 Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. 

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Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot’s sweetness.

DSC_0012-2Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

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Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer.  Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced.  Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away.  So please make sure you reduce it by half.  

TIP:  To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

DSC_0029-2Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.  Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

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While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it).  Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.  

 After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream. 

DSC_0041-2Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.  It’s not the prettiest looking sauce, but it tastes great!

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Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. 

DSC_0049-2Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.  Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy! 

DSC_0060-2-2I hope this pasta becomes a staple in your house!

Penne a la Vodka

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4-6

Penne a la Vodka

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn

Instructions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat.

Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot's sweetness.

Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer. Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced. Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away. So please make sure you reduce it by half.

TIP: To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.

Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.

After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream.

Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.

Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.

Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.

Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/penne-a-la-vodka/

leaner spaghetti bolognese

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leaner spaghetti bologneseSpaghetti bolognese is such a classic dish and the perfect comfort food.  I have changed up the classic and made it a bit healthier by substituting buffalo meat for the 1/2 pd each of ground beef and pork.  My family uses buffalo meat in place of ground beef in everything from burgers to tacos, you name it.

Buffalo has 70% to 90% less fat compared to beef and 50% less cholesterol; it’s also leaner than both pork and chicken and has fewer calories than all three.  On top of that, buffalo is higher in protein, iron and all the omega and amino acids. There are also no growth hormones, steroids, or sub-therapeutic antibiotics used.  You can research more on the health benefits of buffalo if you want.  I think for all of its nutritional benefits, buffalo meat is worth a try, wouldn’t you say?  You can pick up buffalo pretty much at any grocery store or Whole Foods.  If I know that I’m going to use the buffalo that night for dinner, then I will pick up some fresh ground meat.  Most of the time though, I pick up the pre-packaged variety because it does not have to be used right away, and I can have it handy in the fridge till I need it.

Note:  If you want to even make this dish healthier and carb free, you can substitute regular spaghetti pasta for quinoa pasta.  We tend to do that when we are all carbed out.  My kids love it and so do I because I feel like I am eating an extremely healthy meal.  

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leaner spaghetti bolognese:

serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped - see my tip below
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground buffalo meat –  if you want a traditional bolognese, you can use 1/2 pd ground beef and 1/2 pd ground pork
  • 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine - Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes in puree- I can never find a 14oz can so I get a 28 ounce and use 1/2 the can
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk (1% or 2% milk)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

I usually prep all of my ingredients ahead of time, as it makes it easier when cooking the sauce to have it all ingredients handy and ready to go.  First chop up your onion and mince your garlic.  I find it really tedious to chop up carrots, so I peel and cut them into large chunks and throw them in my mini prep or food processor.
Easy peasy! In a dutch oven or large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat.  Once the oil is heated, add in the carrots, onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the buffalo, cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Isn’t the buffalo so pretty?  You will not find any fat coming off of this meat.Once the buffalo meat is browned, stir in the tomato paste; cook 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add in the wine and the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.

Bring sauce to a simmer; cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Add in the 1/2 cup milk; simmer until completely absorbed, about 15 minutes more.

When the sauce is almost done, (I usually put the pasta in after I add the milk to the sauce) cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package directions; drain.  Put pasta back in the pot; add the meat sauce and combine.Now its time to serve up your pasta!  Top the pasta with some shredded parmesan and pair it with a salad, garlic bread or a vegetable of choice!

leaner spaghetti bolognese

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10Looking for an easy, family friendly, one-bowl pasta dish?  Look no further because this pasta fits the bill.  This is my weekly go-to pasta because it’s super easy to make (I could literally make this blindfolded) and it’s a one-bowl meal. It’s one of those pastas that my kids request often and I happily make.  It’s our family’s favorite comfort food.

Zoe often brings the leftovers to school for lunch and I now have to pack a huge container as all her friends all want a forkful.  This pasta is the dinner of choice at all sleepovers.  You have to believe this is good if a bunch of 12 year olds are preferring a bowl of broccoli pasta to pizza!

Broccoli Lemon Pasta:

recipe from Barefoot Contessa
serves 6

  • 4 broccoli heads or 3 bunches of baby broccoli – use as much broccoli as you want here, the more the merrier
  • 1 box of your favorite twisty pasta – we like to use cellentani
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper (for the grown ups)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts or toasted walnuts

 

I love to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so they are ready to go when needed.  Wash and chop up the broccoli into small florets, zest the lemon, mince the garlic and squeeze your 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside in small bowls.  I put the lemon zest and minced garlic into the same bowl because they both get used together later.  Get out a small glass measuring cup and add the 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta. Below are two ways to cook the broccoli.  Pick the one that works best for you.

Put your broccoli in a steamer over about and inch of water (or however you steam your broccoli). Put the lid on and steam away.  I like to steam my broccoli while the pasta water is cooking so I get it out of the way.  We like our broccoli to be a bit underdone so it has a bit of a crunch.  You want to make sure not to overcook or undercook it.  Once my broccoli is cooked, I pour it in a bowl and put it aside.

Here’s my new favorite way to cook up the broccoli or baby broccoli. I throw the broccoli in for the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time. So, if the pasta cooks for 8 minutes, I throw the broccoli in at 7 minutes and then drain the pasta and broccoli together.  NOTE:  If one minute seems too short then throw it in for the last two minutes.  One minute definitely works for baby broccoli and broccolini.  Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat.   Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute.  Pour this mixture into the glass measuring cup (the one the salt is in) and then add in the tablespoon of lemon juice, mix the ingredients together.Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl that the broccoli is in.  Add the lemon mixture (see above) and mix everything up together really well so all the pasta and broccoli is coated with the lemon mixture.  Serve the pasta up into individual bowls.  I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of broccoli and then I add the pasta.  I top the kids pasta off with some freshly shredded parmesan and I add freshly ground pepper and toasted pine nuts to John’s & my bowl.  The pepper just adds a bit of flavor and the pine nuts add a nice nutty almost meaty sort of crunch.

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10The kids rate this dish a 10!  The broccoli tastes amazing as the lemon gives it such a nice flavor and takes away the bitterness.  I can honestly say that I’m not the biggest broccoli fan when it’s just steamed, but I can eat a whole bowl of broccoli when its made this way.  You might even want to make this lemon sauce and just add it to a mess of broccoli one night.

I hope this pasta becomes a family favorite in your house.

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Ingredients

  • 4 broccoli heads or 3 bunches of baby broccoli - use as much broccoli as you want here, the more the merrier
  • 1 box of your favorite twisty pasta - we like to use cellentani
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper (for the grown ups)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts or walnuts

Instructions

Prep all of your ingredients. Wash and chop up the broccoli into small florets, zest the lemon, mince the garlic and squeeze your 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside in small bowls. I put the lemon zest and minced garlic into the same bowl because they both get used together later.

Get out a small glass measuring cup and add the 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside.

Below are two ways to cook the broccoli. Pick the one that works best for you.

Put your broccoli in a steamer over about and inch of water (or however you steam your broccoli). Put the lid on and steam away. I like to steam my broccoli while the pasta water is cooking so I get it out of the way. We like our broccoli to be a bit underdone so it has a bit of a crunch. You want to make sure not to overcook or undercook it. Once my broccoli is cooked, I pour it in a bowl and put it aside.

Here's my new favorite way to cook up the broccoli or baby broccoli. I throw the broccoli in for the last minute of the pasta's cooking time. So, if the pasta cooks for 8 minutes, I throw the broccoli in at 7 minutes and then drain the pasta and broccoli together. NOTE: If one minute seems too short then throw it in for the last two minutes. One minute definitely works for baby broccoli and broccolini.

Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute. Pour this mixture into the glass measuring cup (the one the salt is in) and then add in the tablespoon of lemon juice, mix the ingredients together.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl that the broccoli is in. Add the lemon mixture (see above) and mix everything up together really well so all the pasta and broccoli is coated with the lemon mixture.

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls. I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of broccoli and then I add the pasta. I top the kids pasta off with some freshly shredded parmesan and I add freshly ground pepper and toasted pine nuts to John's & my bowl. The pepper just adds a bit of flavor and the pine nuts add a nice nutty sort of meaty crunch.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/10/broccoli-lemon-pasta-kid-rated-10/