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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vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaise

vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaise

vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaiseI’m sure there are those of you that have never heard of a banh mi sandwich before, am I right?  You’re probably thinking what the heck is a banh mi sandwich.  Well, I didn’t know what one was either until this past spring when my friend Carolyn showed some photos on Instagram of her fixings for a banh mi sandwich.  Since then, I’ve seen these sandwiches popping up everywhere, it’s like my eyes were opened.  Banh mi is the perfect combination of french bread combined with Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro, pickled vegetables, and chilies.  Banh mi’s can be made with chicken, pork, beef, tofu, eggs and salmon and the sauces or spreads vary with each sandwich.  I chose to make a vegetarian version with roasted tofu from my miso kale salad recipe, and a sriracha mayonnaise sauce that our family loves.  This sriracha mayonnaise is also a great dip for fries, onion rings and as a topping for burgers.


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Nepenthe’s ambrosia sauce for burgers and fries

Nepenthe's ambrosia sauce

Nepenthe's ambrosia sauceRemember that tofu burger that I raved about having at Nepenthe in Big Sur?  I swear it was the best tofu burger that I’ve ever eaten.

IMG_4230Unfortunately, I  didn’t find the actual tofu burger recipe yet, but I’m still on the hunt. I did find the recipe for their amazing ambrosia sauce that they slather all of their burgers with, as well as serve up with their shoestring fries. We all devoured and raved about this secret sauce. The kids loved it, the in-laws loved it, and John and I loved it. It gave each of our burgers a pop of flavor, and was also a great and addicting dipping sauce for our fries. I replicated the sauce at home and honestly couldn’t believe how simple it was. We served this sauce up on a thin, lean burger patty and used the extra sauce to dip our onion rings into. My kids said that this sauce made their burgers, and the sauce turned their boring old baked onion rings into a gourmet experience. Seriously, it’s a simple 3 ingredient sauce that will give some real flavor to your next beef or buffalo burger. Burgers and ketchup equal boring, but burgers with ambrosia sauce equal flavor.


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basic tomato sauce



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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easy tomato sauce

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.

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slawYou’re all in for a treat as you’re getting three recipes in one post here.  You heard me right, three recipes in one post!  I treat you well, don’t I?  Also, I want to let you know that all three of these recipes can be made ahead of time.  Now, that’s really treating you well.

Lets start the talk with turkey burgers.  To be honest with you, I have never been a big turkey burger fan because most of the ones I’ve tried have either been dry or lacking in the flavor department.  What’s the point of eating a meat burger if it tastes like cardboard? When we do eat a meat burger, we use buffalo meat because it has 70% to 90% less fat compared to beef and 50% less cholesterol.  It’s also higher in protein, iron and all the omega and amino acids, so you actually feel a bit better about eating meat.  Anyway, I decided to give turkey burgers a shot after this recipe from Real Simple magazine jumped out at me.  This turkey burger is not dry at all and it’s full of flavor.  Now, I must admit that the cilantro-lime mayo and the kale slaw help to knock this burger out of the ballpark.  I have sort of become a cilantro-lime mayo addict lately, which is probably not a good thing.  I have been substituting Greek yogurt in place of the mayo on occasion just to make myself feel a bit better.

Eli is typically not a burger fan at all.  When its burger night at the Grandy house he tends to cringe and sulk, but not when it’s turkey burger night.  He actually loves these burgers and I really think it’s the cilantro-lime mayo that has made the difference.

We like to use these mini brioche buns below for our burgers. They are smaller than a regular burger bun so you don’t have all that extra bun hanging off the side, and they tend to fancy up the burger experience.  I toast them up a bit under the broiler or on the grill.

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw:

recipe from Real Simple
serves 4
  • 1 pound dark-meat turkey (93 percent lean or less)
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced - I used 3 scallions, one time I even used 4, rebel, I know!
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, leaves pulled off stem and chopped
  • salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, gently combine (with a fork, spatula or gently with your hands) the turkey, scallions, mustard and thyme.
Note:  When you mix your seasonings into the meat, it’s important to remember that the more you handle the meat, and the more you squish it around, the more dense your burger will be. You might also squeeze out some of the juices and end up with a drier burger.Form the mixture into four patties and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Look there is a daddy burger and next to it is the little bitty Eli burger.
You can make this a make-ahead meal simply by assembling the patties in the morning, and covering and refrigerating them till dinner. 
Tip:  use your thumb to create a dimple or well in the center of the patty, as this will ensure the burgers cook evenly without plumping up.  Start cooking the burgers indentation side up.
You can either grill up the burgers 6 to 8 minutes per side or cook them up in a skillet.  If you’re going to cook them up in a skillet then heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the patties until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side.
 Tip: Don’t press down on the patties when you grill them, or you will squeeze out and loose the flavorful juices. 

cilantro-lime mayonnaise:

makes enough for 4 burgers

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise – regular mayo not miracle whip
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
This mayo has a bit of a kick to it and I have been using it on tons of sandwich recipes.
Anyway, I really think this mayo has helped Eli to become a turkey burger fan.
cilantro-lime mayonnaise ingredientsIn a small bowl or ramekin, whisk together the mayonnaise, minced cilantro, lime juice and garlic until combined.
mixing together the cilantro-lime mayonnaiseYep, that is all there is to it.  Refrigerate mayo until needed.  This mayo can even be made a day ahead of time.
cilantro-lime mayonnaise

creamy kale slaw:

recipe adapted from Real Simple
makes enough for 4 burgers
  • 3-4 lacinato kale leaves (depends on size), washed, de-stemmed & thinly sliced – the original recipe called for 2 romaine lettuce leaves, but I only had kale on hand so I used that instead and loved it.
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise – regular not miracle whip
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the sliced kale and grated carrot and toss to coat.
Refrigerate slaw until needed.Get out your toasted buns, dab some cilantro-lime mayo on the bottom, put your burger on next and then top it with the kale slaw.

We tend to pair our burgers with just a side vegetable or kale chips as the burgers are filling enough.
Like turkey burgers?  Then you need to try our favorite turkey burger.  It’s the bomb!
If you’re not a fan of meat burgers, then try my chickpea burgers.
They are just as satisfying as any meat burger in my opinion!

chipotle shrimp tacos


My friend Em wrote an amazing post on intuition and health and it got me thinking that we do tend to take our health for granted till it’s not there.  I know that when I’m feeling sick I crave feeling good again, I miss it, and when I do feel good again I feel so grateful and strong.  Health, love, peace and safety are my top priorities in life.  I feel blessed knowing my family is in great health, that I have lots of love and friends in my life and that I have a beautiful home that keeps my family and I warm and safe.  We can all get caught up wishing and looking for the next and greatest thing or focusing to much on the future instead of the here and now.  If we focused more on being present and on what is in front of us, we would realize that we really do have a wonderful and blessed life!

Speaking of feeling blessed, I felt extremely blessed on Saturday when the sun finally came out and the temperatures climbed up to the low 70’s.  It was a day where we had no obligations other than just being together, how cool is that?  We cleared off the back deck, the kids played in the yard till dark and John and I cooked this amazing meal together.  All in all it was an A+ day.

There are 3 recipes listed here.  You can just make the chipotle shrimp or add these delicious sides that we created.  It’s all up to you!  

chipotle shrimp tacos:

Recipe from Food Network
Serves 4

  • 1 pound medium shrimp (about 20) peeled and deveined & tails removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle or blended chili powder – You may want to add a bit less of this if you’re serving these to your kids and they are not fans of spicy things.   My kids were fine with these, but they can handle spicy dishes.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 corn tortillas

Mix the olive oil, chipotle or chili powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat.

Sorry about the raw shrimp photo, not to appetizing is it?Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to medium-high.

Pour on the shrimp and arrange them so they are not touching one another. Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.This is a much prettier photo than the raw shrimp!Throw the tortillas on the grill and grill them until slightly charred and pliable, about 20 seconds per side.

Now, lets move onto the toppings.

 red cabbage slaw:

  • 1/4 red cabbage
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

We make the slaw about 1/2 hour to an hour before dinner so it can marinate.  You don’t want to make it too much further in advance because it may get soggy.

Coarsely chop the cabbage, squeeze both lime halves over the cabbage, add the kosher salt and mix it all together.  Let the slaw sit and marinate.

cilantro-lime yogurt sauce:

Makes enough for 8 tacos with some leftover

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Combine the greek yogurt, cilantro, lime juice and minced garlic into a small bowl and mix together until blended.  Refrigerate sauce until needed.  This sauce can be made earlier that day or a day in advance.Spoon a bit of the cilantro yogurt on each tortilla and then top it with the red cabbage slaw and about 2 to 3 shrimp.  We served this up with some homemade avocado and tomatillo salsa (recipe to follow) and some tortilla chips, yummy.  

We gave ourselves a night off from veggies :)

This was the perfect “welcome to spring” meal!

salmon with almond-lime yogurt sauce


Last week was a much-needed rest from the chaos of life.  It was a week full of sleeping in, cooking up new recipes, play dates for the kids (and me) and just all around relaxing.  It gave me a glimpse of what summer will be like, and I liked it! The only downer was that it was spring break and it felt like winter break.  Remember these pics from our February ski week?Well, there was none of that going on over this past week.  We were in our winter garb and raincoats until Saturday.  When I took this picture of the salmon above, the wind was gusting, it was 50 degrees and the parsley leaves were blowing everywhere (I took this photo outside on my deck).  This is the best shot I could get as I wanted a somewhat warm dinner.

Saturday gave us a taste of summer though as the sun came out and the temps climbed up to the low 70’s.   We opened up the grill in celebration and grilled up some amazing chipotle shrimp tacos (recipe to follow Thursday).  The kids played outside till it was dark and we even contemplated going to Sausalito for ice cream cones, but unfortunately we were to stuffed from dinner to make that trek.  I know, to stuffed for dessert, who are we?

This recipe is your basic salmon topped with an amazing sauce.  I use to eat all my seafood and meats plain with just a touch of salt and pepper but I have recently discovered sauces, and I like them.  Sauces make all the difference and can transform a simple dish into a gourmet dish.  Get ready as I have some amazing homemade sauces coming up in the next couple of weeks.  salmon with almond-lime yogurt sauce:

recipe from whole living magazine
yogurt sauce is enough for 4 salmon fillets

  • salmon fillets – the amount you will get will depend on how many people you’re feeding 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 small shallot, very thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs to top such as parsley, dill, mint or chervil - I used parsley as that is what I had in the house.  My girlfriend made this and used dill and loved it.

I actually made the sauce in the afternoon and refrigerated it, so it’s a great make-ahead sauce.  In a small saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the almonds, stirring until they become fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer almonds and oil to a small bowl to cool, then stir in the tablespoon lime juice and season with salt.  
 Mix in yogurt until fully combined.  Chill the sauce (covered) until ready to use.
Cook your salmon your favorite way.  We like to either grill our salmon or broil it.  I broiled it for this recipe as it was raining outside.  
To serve, dollop each fillet with the yogurt sauce and sprinkle with the diced shallots and herbs.
This is the perfect dish to serve up at dinner or brunch as the salmon tastes great hot or cold topped with this sauce.  You can make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it till needed.    Salmon is such a quick, healthy and easy weeknight meal to serve up.  
Do you broil, bake or grill your salmon?

lemon pesto, walnut pesto & basil pesto

 Lemon Pesto
 Walnut Pesto
 Traditional Basil Pesto

Pesto, pesto, pesto, 3 cheers for pesto!  Pesto rocks!  Not only is pesto healthy, but it also has endless uses.  Top it over hot or cold pasta, throw it over some pizza dough and make yourself a green pesto pizza, spread it on some cold or grilled bread for a different take on garlic bread, top your favorite meat or fish with it.  You get where I’m going here, right?  Pesto is such a versatile sauce in the way it’s used and the way it’s made.  There is arugula pesto, parsley pesto, broccoli pesto (I have made this before and topped it on quinoa, that recipe later).

Have you ever made your own pesto before?  It’s super easy and so worth it.  If you do make it on your own, the great news is that pesto freezes exceptionally well, so you can make a big batch and store it for future use.  I usually make up 2 batches and then use one that week and freeze the other batch in a small glass container.

Below are 3 of my favorite go-to pesto recipes.  
If you’re looking for a dairy free one, try the walnut pesto.  
BTW, I don’t have a big food processor and have made all of these pestos in my mini-prep.

lemon pesto:

recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
makes about 1 cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled   
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts 
  • zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons  
  • 1 teaspoon 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 
This pesto is wonderful paired with this lentil meatball recipe.

Add the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
1 teaspoon sea salt
Blend ingredients until smooth
Add in the 2 cups basil leaves and 1/2 cup olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency.
 Add 2-4 tablespoons of water to thin as desired. I used 4 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.

walnut pesto:

recipe adapted from Oprah
makes about 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
This pesto is wonderful paired with pasta with sausage and broccolini.

My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a dry skillet.  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-high 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.
Combine the following in the bowl of a food processor:
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 cups basil
garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Process and, while motor is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil to form pesto; set aside.  Note:  If you don’t have a large food processor, like me, 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.

traditional basil pesto:

recipe from How to Cook Everything
makes about 1 cup – enough for a pound of pasta

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (not toasted)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more if desired
  • 1/4 fresh grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese – I used parmesan here and I add this to the pesto an hour before I am going to use it.

Combine the following in the bowl of a food processor or blender:
2 cups basil 
pinch of salt
 1/2 peeled garlic clove
 2 tablespoons pine nuts
half of the olive oil

Pulse away till you get a nice consistency making sure to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, then add the rest of the oil gradually.  If you want a thinner mixture you can add more olive oil.  I thought that the 1/2 cup was plenty and the pesto had a perfect consistency.

Pour your pesto into a container and store in the fridge till needed.  Add the freshly grated parmesan an hour or so before you use it.  This pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or two or in the freezer for several months. 
We are pesto lovers in my house.  We love it over cold or warm pasta and if were feeling carbed out we throw it on top of some quinoa pasta.  Pesto is what got my kids to try and love quinoa pasta as it masks the flavor of the quinoa noodles.  We always make sure to throw a veggie or two in the pesto pasta to make it a one-bowl meal.  Roasted cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli or broccolini tastes wonderful paired with pesto.  

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


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