Archive for the 'pasta' Category

Pasta with Tomato, Spinach and Mozzarella

This meal has my favorite combination of flavors – fresh mozzarella, sweet grape tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar.  I make some variation of this meal at least once a week in the summer.  It’s light, fresh and delicious. 

Pasta with Tomato, Spinach, and Mozzarella

1 box pasta (any kind will do, I used Rotini this time)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb. bocconcini, halved (or as I usually call them, little mozzarella balls)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, rinsed
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
5 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Parmesan cheese for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

-Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente, making sure to salt the water.
-Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce by half (about 10 – 15 minutes) – the vinegar should become thick and syrup like.
-Add the spinach leaves to the bottom of a large bowl.
-When the pasta is cooked, spoon it over the spinach into the bowl, allowing the spinach to wilt (about 2 minutes).
-Add the mozzarella and stir to combine.
-Add the grape tomatoes and some freshly ground black pepper.
-Top with balsamic reduction.
-Add basil and stir to combine.
-Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Penne and Asiago

I love America’s Test Kitchen.  I literally take their recipes, equipment ratings, and taste tests as gospel.  The other night a caught an episode for quick skillet dinners.  I was thrilled because cleaning a million pots and pans is not my (or hubster’s) idea of fun.  This is one of the recipes featured on that show.

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Penne and Asiago
America’s Test KitchenIngredients
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 medium onion, minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces ziti (I used penne) – 2 1/2 cups
2 3/4 cups water
1 2/3 cups low sodium chicken broth
12 ounces broccoli florets (4 cups)
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ounce grated Asiago cheese (1/2 cup, plus extra for serving)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of the pink color has disappeared and the chicken is lightly browned around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.
2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the ziti, 2 cups of the water, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.
4. Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Uncover and return the heat to high. Stir in the cream, Asiago, and reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing more grated Asiago at the table, if desired.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

This is one of hubster’s favorite things to order in restaurants and bikini season is approaching (YES!), so I searched Cooking Light for a Vodka Sauce recipe.  Low and behold… I found one!  It was delish, though next time I’ll reduce further to thicken the sauce.

Penne with Vodka Sauce
Cooking Light (modified)

1/2 pound uncooked penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons sliced fresh basil

– Cook pasta according to package directions, ommitting salt and fat.
– Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
– Add onion and saute 4 minutes until tender.
– Add 1/4 teaspoon slat, pepper, and garlic; saute for 1 mintue.
– Remove from heat and add vodka; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid reduces by 1/2.
– Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
– Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.
– Use immersion blender or transfer sauce to blender and process until smooth.
– Stir in cream and cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly.
– Remove from heat.  Stir in cooked pasta, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and basil.
– Serve immediately.

Baked Ziti Redux

I absolutely love baked ziti.  It is one of my all time favorites.  However, it is not so…well, as Rachael Ray would say, “Figure Friendly.”  I decided to revisit and healthy it up! 

Baked Ziti (the healthier way)

1 lb. whole grain pasta (I used Barilla Plus Penne) cooked
3/4 lb. ground turkey
2 cups pasta sauce, divided
1 15 oz. container part skim ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (I always use fresh) plus more for topping
Salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350. 
  • Season the turkey with salt and pepper and brown in a non-stick skillet. 
  • Transfer to plate.
  • Add half of the cooked pasta to a baking dish lightly lined with pasta sauce.
  • Add half the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella, 1 cup of pasta sauce and half the ground turkey to the pasta.
  • Mix well to combine.
  • Repeat with the rest of the pasta, turkey, and ricotta.  Add the other cup of mozzarella and sauce.
  • Mix again to combine.
  • Top with sliced mozzarella.
  • Bake covered for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes until cheese on top is melted.

Rotini with Lemon Cream Sauce, Broccoli, and Chicken

Pasta with Lemon Cream sauce is something I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. I usually fear cream sauces because of their high fat content. However, I saw this recipe on Good Eats ‘n Sweet Treats and noticed it was from Cooking Light. I looked it up on their website and saw it weighed in at only 350 calories (11 grams of fat, but we’ll pretend that isn’t there…it is CREAM sauce afterall). Mrs. Presley at GE’nST made the substitutions of adding chicken and subbing broccoli for asparagus in the original recipe. I did the same, but ommitted the red pepper that the recipe called for, as hubster doesn’t love the spice.

Rotini with Lemon Cream Sauce, Broccoli, and Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light

8 ounces Rotini (or other pasta)
2 c steamed broccoli
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 T butter (I used SmartBalance)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c vegetable broth (I used chicken bc I had it)
1 t cornstarch
1/3 c heavy cream
3 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

  • Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt.
  • Season chicken with s + p.
  • In a skillet coated lightly with cooking spray, brown the chicken.
  • Set the chicken aside and cover with foil. Wipe out the skillet.
  • Melt butter in the skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add garlic to pan; saute for 1 minute.
  • Combine broth and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir until wel-blended.
  • Add broth mixture to skillet; bring to boil and cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Combine pasta, broccoli, chicken and sauce and toss to coat.
  • Serve immediately.

I added a little grated parmesan to the top. This meal was delish. Hubs suggested trying to make the sauce a little thicker. But I think I’ll keep it where it’s at to keep the calorie count low… bikini season is upon us, afterall.

Ravioli in Balsamic Brown Butter

While this recipe was definitely good, it looked better on TV. Giada (of course) made it on FN. I must not be used to consuming that much butter – I even cut it down from what was suggested! I loved the balsamic flavor more. The toasted walnuts and parmesan on top were winners! I might do it again, but use olive oil instead of butter. My arteries hurt after eating this one!

Ravioli in Balsamic Brown Butter
Recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli (cheese, mushroom, or squash)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

*I halved everything bc I was only cooking for two – still a LOT of butter for me!

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. A
  • dd the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  • Transfer the ravioli to the pan saucepan with the balsamic brown butter. Sprinkle walnuts and Parmesan over the top. Serve immediately.

Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce

This is a recipe from Healthy Appetite with Elli Krieger on FN. It’s yummy and makes lots to take for lunches, which is always a plus!

Aromatic Noodles with Peanut Lime Sauce

3/4 pound spinach or whole-wheat linguine
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups snow peas, trimmed
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • While the pasta is cooking put the broccoli in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water and steam it for 3 minutes.
  • Add the snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for 2 minutes more.
  • Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until they become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
  • Make the sauce by pureeing the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Right before serving, toss the pasta with 3/4 cup of the peanut sauce.
  • Drizzle the remaining sauce over the vegetables. Coarsely chop the peanuts, sprinkle them on top and serve.

So Comforting

Well today was an utterly frigid day in NY so I decided to make one of my favorites, baked tortellini. It was the perfect dinner to top off a blustery day of shopping for/putting up some Christmas decorations. Forgive its unphotogenic appearance, it really is such a tasty dish.

Baked Tortellini

1 lb. store-bought tortellini
2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Cook tortellini according to package instructions
  • Using a paper towel, coat the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 x 2″ baking dish with olive oil
  • Wisk the tomatoes and mascarpone cheese in a medium bowl
  • When tortellini are ready, drain and add to sauce. Toss to coat.
  • Top with parmesan cheese followed by mozzarella cheese
  • Bake, covered for 30 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce begins to bubble

Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs are a favorite of my husband’s. Using ground turkey makes them a lot more healthy. I serve them over whole wheat penne or sometimes roasted spaghetti squash to make them even more healthy.

1 slice whole wheat bread with crusts removed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground turkey
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Place slice of bread in the bottom of a medium sized bowl, add milk and break up with a wooden spoon
  • Add the parmesan, garlic and parsley and stir until well-combined
  • Add the turkey, egg, salt and pepper. Mix with hands until well-combined
  • Form mixture into balls (I use an ice-cream scoop so they’re uniform)
  • Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat
  • Working in batches, cook the meatballs until evenly browned, turning often (about 6 minutes for 1 1/2 inch meatballs)
  • Transfer meatballs onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess fat and add to sauce
  • Repeat with remaining meat
  • Simmer in sauce for about 10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through

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