CAPRESE SPAGHETTI

Angel hair spaghetti, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves all combine to make this Caprese Spaghetti amazing. Though I expected Senior to balk as he often does if anything resembling Olive Garden fare lands on the table, he couldn’t praise this meal more highly. Get those thumbs in the air!
Caprese Spaghetti8 Campari tomatoes (about 1 lb.), each cut into 8 wedges

8 coarsely chopped basil leaves

1/4 cup +2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (plus extra for serving)

12 oz angel hair pasta

1/4 cup basil pesto sauce (optional)

8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1) To large bowl, add tomatoes, basil leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil (reserving 2 tbsp), and balsamic vinegar; toss to mix; set aside

2) Prepare pasta al dente according to package directions; drain pasta, stir in reserved 2 tbsp olive oil and pesto sauce (optional)

3) Divide noodles between 4 plates; stir tomato-basil mixture and scatter over noodles, followed by cubed mozzarella; serve immediately with extra balsamic vinegar; enjoy!

Servings: 4

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TOMATO, MOZZARELLA, CHICKEN, AND PINE NUT PASTA SALAD

I tried–I really did–but though I added chicken to this lovely cold pasta salad, Senior balked when he called home and I told him what was on the menu. His response: “Oh look, a McDonald’s ahead.” Ugh. But his loss was our gain. After a tasty dinner, Junior Too and I were all grins at the prospect of leftovers for lunch tomorrow–and maybe the day after that as well. Lip smacking good and perfect for warming weather.

Tomato, Mozzarella, Chicken, and Pine Nut Pasta Salad

DRESSING:

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp water

1 tsp basil paste

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

SALAD:

1/2 cup pine nuts

8 oz mini farfalle pasta, cooked al dente and chilled

2 cups quartered cherub salad tomatoes

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

4 green onions, sliced thin

1-2.5 oz can sliced black olives, drained

8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1-10 oz can chicken breast, drained

1) To small bowl, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, water, basil paste, salt, and pepper; mix and refrigerate

2) To small saucepan over medium-high heat, add pine nuts and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until pine nuts turn golden; remove from heat and set aside to cool

3) To large bowl, add: cooked pasta, tomatoes, red bell pepper, green onions, black olives, mozzarella cheese, spinach, chicken, and pine nuts; toss until well mixed; give dressing another mix and pour over pasta salad, toss again, and serve

Servings: 6 dinner-sized portions; 10-12 side portions

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

I’ve made Spaghetti Carbonara with sun-dried tomatoes and without. Either way, it’s a wonderfully tasty meal that’s fairly quick and easy to put together. We think it’s especially good made with whole-grain spaghetti.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

2 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

12 oz 100% whole grain spaghetti

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

10 slices turkey bacon, chopped (Note: if you use regular bacon, reduce oil and butter by half)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup shredded 6-cheese Italian blend, divided

ground black pepper

OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1) In small bowl, beat eggs with cream; refrigerate

2) Prepare spaghetti al dente according to package directions

3) Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat; add bacon and, stirring often, cook 5-7 minutes until lightly crisp

4) Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of water; add pasta and peas to baon in skillet and stir well (if pasta starts to dry out, add some of the reserved pasta water); stir in egg and cream mixture and 3/4 cup cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) and cook 1 minute; remove from heat, top with reserved 1/4 cup cheese, sprinkle with pepper, and scatter with sun-dried tomatoes (optional); serve immediately

Servings: 4

ARTICHOKE-LEMON-RICOTTA STUFFED PASTA SHELLS

This Artichoke-Lemon-Ricotta pasta dish went over surprisingly well considering the absence of meat (my guys do like their beef, poultry, pork, and seafood). If not that it was just the three of us tonight, there wouldn’t have been a morsel left. But guess what’s for lunch tomorrow. Lucky me!

Artichoke-Lemon-Ricotta Pasta Shells

spray olive oil

1 tbsp olive oil

6 tbsp butter, divided

1 red onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

8 oz marinated artichokes, drained and chopped

1/4 cup white cooking wine

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan-Romano blend cheese

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided

1 tsp sea salt, divided

1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

18-20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente

1 tbsp minced parsley

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly oil a casserole dish (I used a 10×10) with olive oil spray

2) To large skillet add 1 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp butter (reserving 3 tbsp); heat over medium-high and, when butter melts, add onion, red bell pepper, and artichoke; cook, stirring often, 7-8 minutes until vegetables soften

3) Reduce heat to medium, add cooking wine, and cook 3 minutes; stir in parmesan-romano cheese, egg yolks, 1 tbsp lemon juice (reserving 1 tbsp), 1/2 tsp salt (reserving 1/2 tsp), and 1/4 tsp pepper (reserving 1/4 tsp), and immediately remove from heat; transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside

4) To large skillet, add reserved 3 tbsp butter and melt over medium heat; scatter flour over butter and whisk until smooth; gradually add milk, whisking until smooth and sauce thickens; stir in ricotta, reserved 1 tbsp lemon juice, reserved 1/2 tsp salt, and reserved 1/4 tsp pepper; remove from heat

5) Pour half the sauce in bottom of casserole dish; fill each pasta shell with about 1 tbsp artichoke mixture and arrange over sauce; pour remaining sauce over shells; cover dish with foil and bake in oven 25 minutes; remove foil and bake additional 10 minutes; remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley, and serve

Servings: 4-6

SPICY TURKEY AND RICOTTA PASTA BAKE

Senior has a soft spot for goulash. Not that this is goulash, but he oohed and ahhed over it as if it were and even commented, “So this  is the closest I’m getting to goulash, hmm?” It was definitely a hit and, though it should serve 6-8 people, Senior ate three of those servings on his own. One day those calories will catch up with him. Maybe…

Spicy Turkey and Ricotta Pasta Bake

8 oz uncooked rotini pasta

cooking spray

2 tsp olive oil

1-1/4 lb ground turkey

1 cup chopped onions

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 tbsp + 1 tsp diced jalapeno pepper

1-1/2 cups pasta sauce

3/4 cup medium-heat salsa

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1-1/3 cup ricotta cheese

3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

1) Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside

2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly spray casserole dish (I used a deep dish pie pan) with cooking spray

3) Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add turkey, onions, red bell pepper, and jalapenos; stir and cook 5-7 minutes until turkey is no longer pink; stir in pasta sauce, salsa, oregano, cumin, and black pepper; cook 2-3 minutes until warmed through; remove from heat

4) Spoon a small amount of pasta sauce in bottom of casserole dish; spread half the rotini pasta over sauce followed by half the pasta sauce; drop spoonfuls of ricotta cheese evenly over sauce; spread remaining pasta over ricotta cheese followed by remaining pasta sauce; scatter 1/2 cup cheddar cheese over top and bake in oven 25 minutes until heated through; scatter remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese over top and bake additional 5 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle cilantro over top; serve

Servings: 6-8

PEPPERONI PIZZA PASTA BAKE

Junior came home for the Thanksgiving holiday and, being the pizza lover he is (and since he ate his quota of ham, yams, and stuffing), I made sure one of his dinners included this delicious pepperoni pizza casserole–a nice reminder of what he’s missing on campus 🙂

8 oz multi-grain spiral pasta (it doesn’t have to be multi-grain but–trust me–it’s super tasty)

1 lb lean ground beef

1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

3/4 tsp Italian seasoning

1-14 oz jar pizza sauce

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1-1/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided

2 oz sliced pepperoni

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees; lightly oil a deep-dish pie pan

2) Cook pasta al dente according to package direction, drain, and set aside

3) Meanwhile, in large skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef and onion until meat is lightly browned, 5-6 minutes; drain fat; stir in salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and pizza sauce; cook 3-5 minutes until heated through and remove from stove top; set aside

4) In large bowl, mix egg, milk, and Parmesan cheese; stir in pasta and spoon mixture into pie pan; top with beef mixture; sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) over meat; cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven 25 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes longer; sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese over top and bake additional 2-3 minutes until cheese melts; serve with a crunchy green salad

Servings: 6

FAUX MANICOTTI STUFFED WITH CHICKEN AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

This dish is easy and makes much less of a mess than stuffing narrow manicotti tubes. And then there’s the spinach and, best of all (in my opinion), sun-dried tomatoes. Despite the generous number of servings, Senior and Junior Too (and little old me with my token serving) left only a single manicotti behind. Yum!

1-1/2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

6 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened (microwave 1 minute)

1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1-1/2 cups cooked and chopped chicken breast

2 cups chopped fresh spinach (I used baby spinach)

1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

8 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente, drained, and cut in half horizontally (16 pieces total)

1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce

3/4 cup Italian 6-blend cheese (or mozzarella)

chopped parsley (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly oil large casserole dish (I used a 9×9)

2) To large bowl, add cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper; mix well; stir in chicken, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes

3) Place about 2 tbsp cheese-chicken mixture in center of each half noodle, roll up, and place seam side down in casserole dish; cover dish with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes

4) Remove foil, pour spaghetti sauce over faux manicotti, and sprinkle with 6-blend cheese; cook additional 7-8 minutes until sauce heats through and cheese melts; if you like parsley (my favorite last minute topping), sprinkle over manicotti; serve with a pretty green spinach salad

Servings: 4-5