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

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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

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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.