Posts tagged ‘pasta’
Some days, comfort food is a necessity. Specifically, rainy days filled with grumpy patients, impossible automated phone calls, and traffic. After a rather benign but somehow still intolerable Friday, I dreamed up this comforting pasta bake while stuck in traffic on my way home. I had a bunch of leftover tidbits of ingredients from my Girl’s Night and a lot of leafy greens from my Boston Organics box that seemed to scream out for a creamy pasta dish. At first, I had an idea to make a grown-up version of my Mom’s amazing mac n’ cheese, which was inspired by our favorite white pizza. However, I saw the tomatoes and sauce calling out to be used and morphed this into a Tomato Basil Pasta bake. (I will have to come back to that other idea though!) To me, comfort equates to carbs and cheese, but done in a way that avoids the bloaty, to0-full feeling that plagues me after most rich pastas. For this dish, the ricotta adds the rich creaminess without making it too heavy, and the 1:1 pasta and greens ratio helps make this a healthier version of a typical cheesey pasta. Try this the next time a long day at work leaves you craving comfort!
Tomato Basil Pasta Bake
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
4 on-the vine tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup fat-free ricotta
1/2 cup low sodium pasta sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 +1/4 cup parmesan cheese, separated
1 tbsp basil, chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to directions, but stop 1-2 minutes shy of recommended cooking time for very al dente pasta. Meanwhile, prepare the kale and place in your pasta strainer. Strain your pasta over the kale, allowing the hot water to slightly steam the kale. (You don’t want to cook it, just soften it so that it stirs into the pasta better). In a separate bowl, mix together the remainder of the ingredients, except for separated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix in the pasta and kale. Stir until well combined. Pour into an 8×8 brownie pan coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has fully melted. Cut into rough squares and serve!
Roommate dinners are back in action! Life is busy for both of us, but it is so great to be able to relax – cook real food, enjoy conversation and share life together – at least one night each week. Marie had a spaghetti squash begging for roasting, so we planned to enjoy that for our first roommate dinner of 2012. She said to me this morning, “Oooh, maybe we can make it with pesto! Did you and I eat that together once?” Ha, yes! I made and shared vegan pesto early in January in fact… Her response, “Oh, I thought maybe I was just getting really food smart and creative.” Reason number 3709384 I love my roommate, and proof that our brains are so opposite!
Unlike Marie, I have a ridiculous memory for details. Helpful for med school, I guess, so I am not complaining. Also helpful when you are brainstorming a new sauce for spaghetti squash! I remembered seeing a lentil red sauce from The Smart Kitchen a few weeks ago, and decided to try a riff of that out for dinner. We also looked at another recipe and kind of made an amalgam of the two, with great results! The lentils took longer to cook than we expected, but we liked them a little on the al dente side for extra texture. This also made the meal much more filling and hearty, so is definitely a great vegan pasta sauce!
Dinner isn’t complete without dessert, right? Enter Hu-Mousse: a chocolate version of hummus, great spread on apples. Before you go “Ew, gross” remember that some of my favorite vegan pizookies and blondies are made with a chickpea base! I loved this dessert, and Marie eventually got on board after her expectations of a creamy chocolate peanut butter sauce slipped away. I would definitely make this dip again, and may even spread it on toast for breakfast one of these mornings!
Question: Do you usually remember details, or are you a more “big picture” kind of person?
Lentil “Meat” Sauce
inspired by The Smart Kitchen and The Confused Homemaker, serves 4-6
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3/4 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
In a large saucepan, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until the onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the diced carrot and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Add the lentils and vegetable broth and cook until 1/2 of the liquid is absorbed. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash.
My roommate and I invited a few friends over for dinner the other night, with the alluring promise of “the best dinner Jen has ever cooked.” That is a lot to live up to, my friends! But she wasn’t lying, this homemade pasta with brown butter, sage and butternut squash sauce was just as good as we remembered. I made it to celebrate finishing my anatomy course last year, and Marie and I were speechless at how absolutely decadent and flavorful this was. It is funny that we decided to make it again almost exactly a year to date later! To make it completely from scratch will take some time (I pulled the pasta, sauce and a salad together in just under an hour and a half) but there are some simple substitutions if you wanted to make this for a faster weeknight meal! Simply use prepped butternut squash (they sell peeled halves in the grocery store, or frozen cubes might work) and boxed pasta to simplify your prep time. Dinner will still take an hour, but most of that will be from roasting and not from active prep time. No matter which direction you take this recipe, be sure to give it a try. It lived up to my friends high expectations, and Marie and I still agree this is the best thing I have ever cooked! The recipe is not my own, however, so head on over to These Peas are Hollow to check it out. I followed the recipe exactly, but used fresh linguine (just narrower noodles than tagliatelle) and light instead of heavy cream, since it is what we had on hand. (I also left off the gorgonzola and parsley garnish.)
With a good dinner and good friends comes lots of laughter, music, good conversation, but few pictures. Not wanting to detract too much from our time together, I only snapped one picture of our meal! However, I did use the opportunity to learn a few things from my photographer friend. I really want to start working on improving my photography skills, which requires a little bit of equipment. My friend showed me how to use a napkin to diffuse some of the spotlight (aka a desk lamp creatively angled by my accommodating roommate) when taking pictures at night in my dining room. Lighting is as, if not more, important than the quality of your camera, and poor lighting has ruined many of my best meals. A project for Christmas break is to build my own light box, using this tutorial from (never)Homemaker. I am going to simplify the construction a bit, but really think that this is the most important (and inexpensive) first step I can take! The next problem is my camera. I am currently using a 6-year-old Cannon point and shoot, which has held up pretty well. It takes good pictures in sunlight, but is starting to fail if a flash can’t be used. I am slowly starting to research new cameras, but on a student income (read: <$0), this is a huge investment to make. My friend was telling me a little bit about micro 4/3 cameras, which sound like an interesting option. They aren’t named 4/3 because they are smaller (yes, my friends, 4/3 is greater than 1… oops), but because of the patented lens system. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) They are kind of a stepping stone between point and shoot and larger DSLR cameras. I need to continue to do some research, but there are so many options to consider! This is where your advice could come in handy!
Questions: What kind of camera do you currently use? Are there any brands/technologies/cameras that you would recommend? Do you think the micro 4/3 camera is a worthwhile investment, or would it be smarter to pay more up front for something of better quality that might last longer? Any advice from blogger/photographer/hobbyist friends would be greatly appreciated!
Everyone has their own theory on how to best prepare for a big race. One camp: Eat a lot of carbs the week before, but carbo-loading the night before is a bad idea. Another group: Eat as you normally do, changing nothing from the way you have been training. Traditional opinion: Carbo-load. There are so many schools of thought, and I have no real opinion. I am, however, a firm believer that friendship and support the night before a big race is the best medicine.
That being said, I invited all of my Boston friends running the half-marathon over for a homemade pasta party the night before our half-marathon. Some were running their first race, while others have run half and whole marathons (one even qualified for Boston!) We made fresh pasta, enjoyed a good meal, swapped stories from previous races and tips for race day. We laughed and joked, getting nervous energy out before the big day and bonding over our collective goal of running 13.1 miles.
Before my friends arrived, I started on the pasta sauce. I roasted some garlic in the oven, then chopped that and sautéed it with some onions. I added whole, peeled tomatoes with the paste they were canned in, and let it all come to a boil. I used the immersion blender to get a nice smooth base, and then added one more can of tomatoes, as well as some salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaves for seasoning. To make it sugar-free, I added a few spoonfuls of apple sauce, simply to cut the bitterness of the tomatoes. I left it uncovered and let it continue to simmer, allowing the whole tomatoes from the last can to break down into chunks. The sauce came out perfectly, and was really easy to make!
Rolling out pasta for 10 people is a big job, but many hands make light work! It was fun to show my friends how to make the dough, then roll it first into sheets and the cut it into strips. For a basic pasta recipe, see here. As they took over the rolling process, I pulled together a simple veggie side of kale with Balsamic vinegar, white beans and dried cranberries. The cranberries were an afterthought, but really made this dish. I will definitely make this again – over cous cous or quinoa, this would be a perfect weeknight meal for kale!
Everyone left full and happy, ready for our big race! I have shared the recipes from the evening, pared down into normal family sized meals. Feeding 10 hungry athletes required 3x this amount! This post is scheduled to go up as I am running. Wish us all luck and I will be back tomorrow with the race day recap and results!
Question: Have you run a race before? What are some of your pre-race traditions?
Classic Tomato Sauce
adapted from here, for 1 lb pasta
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, packed in paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
2 cloves roasted garlic
Wrap garlic cloves in foil and roast in toaster or conventional oven at 350 degrees for a half hour. Mince the roasted garlic finely, along with the onion. Saute in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. Add the red wine vine vinegar and one of the cans of tomatoes. Allow to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Using an immersion blender, create a smooth base for the sauce. Add the second can of whole tomatoes, including the paste. Add the apple sauce and season with salt, pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Allow to simmer uncovered until the sauce begins to thicken. Occasionally, use your spoon to break the whole tomatoes down into chunks. Serve over cooked pasta, fresh or dried, with fresh chopped basil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Kale with White Beans and Cranberries
serves 2 as a main dish (with a grain) or 4 as a side
1 bunch kale
1 can white beans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Roast the garlic as instructed above. Mince, and saute in a large pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Rinse well, and add to the saute pan. Add the rinsed beans and Balsamic vinegar, cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 4-5 minutes. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. Serve hot, alone as a side dish or over a bed of cous cous or quinoa as a main dish.
It’s amazing how fast a head cold can strike you down. I was feeling fine on Saturday – studied, met a friend for coffee, ran 11.5 miles. Then I sneezed, and all of the sudden all I wanted was my bed and a tissue box. I slept 9 hours Saturday night and 10 hours Sunday night in hopes of shaking this cold early. Here is a glimpse into my Monday eats while I was sick! Make sure you check out Peas and Crayons to see other bloggers creative meal ideas!
Breakfast: 9:15 am
Coffee makes my throat even more scratchy than it already is, so I decided to have some chai tea with a splash of rice milk instead. I had a whole grain English muffin with a bit of homemade peanut butter (my second batch, since we used the first up hiking!) and an orange on the side. Load me up with fluids and vitamins please!
My fridge is looking pretty sad right now. My Boston Organics delivery is on Tuesdays, so I only had white and sweet potatoes in my veggie drawer by Monday. Time for some back up green stuff from the freezer! I saw this recipe for Coconut Curried Potatoes with Peas on Daily Garnish a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to try it. It was so good! I ended up following the recipe more loosely, using what I had on hand rather than running out to the store. I cooked the potatoes in a bit of water, used regular coconut milk, used a little less curry powder (because I ran out), added some curry paste, and used fresh instead of powdered ginger. Even so, this turned out amazing, and now I have lunches for the rest of the week! I enjoyed my lunch with more tea – this time, green tea with slivers of fresh ginger.
Magic nap: 3:30pm
I slept for an hour and a half, choosing to listen to my body rather than my self-imposed study schedule. I went to bed sick and woke up feeling so much better! Still with a runny nose, but no longer feeling sick.
I made plans to meet a few friends from undergrad who are still in school at BU. We met up at my old favorite study spot, the student union. Of course there is a food court there, but it is a bit overpriced if you are no longer on the meal plan. Creature of habit, I packed my dinner into a Tupperware, threw it in my backpack, and biked over to campus! Remember the freezer pesto cubes from yesterday? I threw one in with my hot pasta to let it melt a bit, and then fully mixed it in when I re-heated my meal before eating it. A little broccoli to follow the 1:1 pasta rule… yum! Apple for dessert (the no-sugar thing is much easier this week than last!) Like my veggie supply, my fruit is also running low. I always eat my apples and oranges at the end of the box, since they have a longer shelf life than bananas, berries and stone fruits. Seasonal fall apples are always a treat!
A handful or two of peanuts and raisins before bed to keep my stomach from rumbling, and a cup of Sleepy Time Tea! Sleep and tea – the best cure for the common cold.
I have been thinking a lot about last week’s post and love the feedback I have gotten so far! I would love to hear more thoughts, and will be back tomorrow or Friday with an update of some of my own thoughts and musings about the problem of obesity in America and how doctors should address it.
Question: What was the best thing you ate today?
What would I do without a freezer? As we plunge into chillier weather, I have been freezing summer time favorites to reach for when I am in the depths of the winter time blues. My first piece of frozen summer was the Summer No ‘Smore, and now I have made Freezer Pesto. It is so simple, great for fast lunches and single serving dinners as my basil plant gives up for the winter.
I used what is likely the last of my crop of basil leaves to make my classic pesto. Then I cleaned out an ice cube tray and coated it with cooking spray. I spooned the pesto into 6 of the cubes, and then stashed it in the freezer overnight. The next morning, I covered the cubes to the top with water and then put it back in the freezer. I am hoping that this will help prevent freezer burn! Once fully frozen, I transferred the cubes to a Tupperware to keep for longer (and get my ice cube tray back!)
Each cube is perfect for a single serving of pasta. Simply add it to cooked, hot pasta in the pot and stir over low heat until it is melted and the pasta is well covered. Serve with some freshly grated cheese and enjoy, savoring a bit of summer sunshine and fresh basil in every bite.
In more exciting news, I was given the Liebster Award by Rufus’ Food and Sprits Guide! I love so many of the recipes on their blog and am really excited for this recognition. This award is passed onto bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, and it is my job to pass it on to 5 more deserving blogs! Check out some of these blogging friends and hopefully you will find a new page or two to enjoy reading!
Going Steady – one woman’s ups and downs on a journey to a healthier lifestyle
mixxedtape – great photography and meal ideas from a college girl in Belgium
Little Sacred Space – great thoughts on faith and life from a graduate student living in China
Real Fun Food – a woman’s fun and healthy eats from London
Snotting Black – a college friend’s journey learning Arabic in Cairo, with witty and clever posts about things most of us would overlook on a daily basis (you may have seen her recently on Freshly Pressed!)
Can’t wait to see who you guys pass this along to!
My family is both intrigued and appalled by vegetarian/vegan cooking. On the one hand, they understand the health claims, but at the same time my dad rejects the idea that life without meat can be truly healthy. He always thinks that my iron levels will fall off the charts without red meat, until I point out that beans and leafy greens contain iron also. My mom is more on board and has begun incorporating meatless meals into her weekly repertoire, but my dad has yet to get over the hurdle. While he always clears
one two plates of my cooking, he calls it rabbit food, even when I cook him chicken on the side! For my vegan meal during my last week home, I decided to be a little tricky: I simply wouldn’t tell him that it was vegan and see if he even noticed!
All went as planned. He made his daily phone call as he was leaving the office: “How was your day? Anything in the mail? What’s for dinner?” I smiled connivingly and answered sweetly through the phone, “pasta with mushrooms and alfredo sauce!” He was pretty excited that certainly no food fit for a rabbit would be found at dinner and continued his commute home.
Meanwhile, I soaked cashews for an hour in boiling water. Then I drained them, added them to a food processor, added a bit of fresh water, and pureed them. I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil and garlic, and then added a bit of my cashew cream. Then I seasoned it with salt and pepper until I was satisfied, and topped it off with my secret weapon: nutmeg. I mixed in some whole wheat linguine and made some green beans to accompany it as a side, and set the table as my dad arrived home from work.
My mom was in on the secret, but loved every bite even knowing what it was made of! We watched as my dad took his first bite, and then continued without note through the rest of his plate. As he asked for a second plate, he wondered, “What’s in the sauce? It’s… different.” Uh oh! The jig is up! He loved the flavor, but the cashew bits clued him in that this wasn’t any old alfredo sauce. I finally let him in on the secret, but it didn’t change how he felt about the dish! The flavor of a usual cream sauce came through with none of the cholesterol of the heavy classic. Maybe next time I’ll blend the sauce for longer and he would really have no clue!
Pasta with Mushrooms in a Vegan Cream Sauce
4.5 oz raw cashews
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2/3 box whole wheat linguine, cooked according to package
Boil water in a tea kettle. Pour over the cashews in a glass bowl until they are just covered. Set aside and allow to soak for about an hour. Drain and rinse the cashews. Add to a food processor with a few tablespoons of water. Blend until a smooth sauce is formed, adding more water if necessary for a creamier consistency.
In a pan, sautee garlic in olive oil until it is aromatic. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms are tender. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water if they look dry. Add the cashew cream (should be approximately one cup) and allow to heat through. The sauce will begin to take on a creamier consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix with cooked linguine. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg and serve.
Inspired by my recent travels in Italy and a beautiful pot or three of basil growing in my backyard, I present to you, as promised, homemade pesto. It is so incredibly simple with absolutely heavenly results. My sister and I are convinced that we could live solely on pasta with pesto for about a month, it is that good. The most important part of this dish is splurging a little bit on high quality ingredients, especially the pine nuts, cheese, and basil.
Pine nuts are on the expensive end, but really take pesto to a whole new level. To help with the cost factor of pine nuts, they can be bought in larger sizes and then frozen. This website recommends freezing for only 2 months, but admits that they can be kept for much longer while maintaining freshness. Another important factor here is the cheese – get real cheese! Fake American Parmesan cheese (you know, the stuff in a plastic tube…) will simply not substitute here. Lastly, find really fresh basil! As the pasta is cooking, start making the pesto. The closer the basil is chopped to when you mix it in the pasta, the more the aromatic flavor will absorb into the pasta. Simple, fresh ingredients that lead to heaven on a fork.
This meal was special for two other reasons – real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Bazzano and trofie pasta from Vernazza. Instead of buying my family souvenirs, I brought home things for a meal I could make for and enjoy with them. I have told you all about the making of the cheese, and was in heaven as the aroma escaped from my first open package. I couldn’t help but sneak a few slivers of fresh cheese as I grated it for the pesto! The trofie pasta was also really special, and unlike any pasta I have seen before. The noodles are short and twisted, and hold the sauce so nicely. They take forever to cook – 18 minutes! – compared to typical pastas, but were well worth the wait. To truly bring home the Italian spirit to my family, I served dinner the way my friend’s parents served us each night. We began with a primo – the trofie with pesto sauce. After we had practically licked our bowls clean, I brought out a simple garden salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, enjoyed with a small hunk of bread. I can’t wait until my basil plant recovers so that I can make this pesto again!
lightly adapted from here
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp pine nuts
scant 1 cup packed basil
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
Chop garlic in food processor. Add pine nuts and basil and process until chopped. Blend in cheese. Add olive oil slowly to bring all ingredients together as a sauce.
Have some picky eaters in your family? (Yup!) Or looking for a simple weeknight dinner? (Always!) Or are you just a pasta lover looking for something new to try? (Guilty.) This sauce is perfect for new cooks looking to start experimenting in the kitchen with a meal that comes together in minutes. The tomatoes can be roasted on the grill or in the stove, and then mashed with a fork. The spinach picks up a lot of the flavor of the tomatoes and is a good way to hide some greens in your meal. If you have smart picky eaters, like my sister, you can leave the spinach out. I like doing pasta night family style and make-your-own. This works even better now that my sister needs gluten-free pasta. She actually loved the taste of the GF pasta, but it is too expensive to make for the whole family so she gets her own treat! I drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta after it is done cooking to help it from sticking together. I put the sauce in one bowl, the chicken in another, and lay the cheese out on the table. That way, people can take as much or as little sauce and extras as they want and everyone is happy!
Question: How do you like your pasta?
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, roasted
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, somewhat drained
1 6-oz bag baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 lb pasta, cooked
Season the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on the grill over medium-high heat, or in the oven, until the skins begin to wrinkle. Remove the tomatoes into a bowl and mash with a fork to release the juices. Leave the skins to be chunky. Mix in the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Season lightly with salt and pepper. In a sautee pan over medium heat, add 1 tsp olive oil and garlic. Add spinach and begin to wilt. When it is slightly wilted, add the tomato sauce over the spinach and heat until spinach and sauce are heated through. Add basil and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked pasta with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
My best friend, Amanda, used to be the pickiest of eaters. She has come a long way since her early days of Elio’s and McDonald’s, but is still a tough critic on new food. She loves Italian food, but hates risotto, for example. However, this pasta dish is my go-to dinner to make for her. The first time I made it, I was actually surprised that she liked the sauce, since sun-dried tomatoes have such a strong flavor. Yet she asks for this pretty much every time I come home! Last night, I taught her step-by-step how to pull this dish together, and she was so surprised at how easy it is! I gave her our old mini food processor as a take-home gift, so now she can make this for me next time I come over! If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes to make a chunky sauce instead of a pesto. I have done this at friend’s houses before and it turns out almost as well! However, I would highly recommend at least investing in a mini food processor – they are seriously my favorite time saving tool in the kitchen!
I served this with some grilled chicken, which you can slice up and mix into the pasta, serve on the side, or ignore completely. I also steamed up some broccoli, Amanda’s favorite veggie, which again can go on the side or be mixed into the pasta. The pasta is pretty bare-bones and can be spiced up with a lot of things. I topped mine with a few caramelized onions left-over from that big batch from last week (they really last forever because of the slow cooking method with oil!) and some Parmesan cheese. If you are a tomato lover, it would also be good with some fresh tomatoes stirred in as well. Definitely give this dinner a try – it’s the dish my friends at home all know me by and love me for, and I hope you like it too!
Tortellini with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup olive oil (if not already packed in oil)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1 lb tortellini
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
Chop sun-dried tomatoes roughly to make them easier to process. If they are already packed in oil, use the packing oil. If not, pour olive oil over the tomatoes until it reaches 1 cup and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil; salt it and then cook tortellini. You know tortellini (or any other stuffed pasta) is done when it begins to float. In a small food processor, combine Dijon mustard, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil. Blend until a smooth pesto is formed. Mix with cooked tortellini and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with desired veggies.