Category Archives: Pasta

Macaroni & Cheese with Fresh Sage & Garlic Bread Crumbs

This past weekend, my husband and I made a date to sit in front of our TV at 5:30 p.m to watch our favorite college basketball team (Go Cuse!) on ESPN 2.  Watching college basketball in our house is a big deal and since this game would begin and end during dinner time, I decided to make something conducive to throwing in the oven to cook while watching the game and then eating easily on the couch.  I love homemade macaroni and cheese, but honestly do not make it enough.  It’s not the healthiest thing for you, and it’s just one of those easy recipes that I often overlook.  But it’s gooey and delicious, and I decided it was the perfect meal to make — I could prepare it before the game started and then during one of the time-outs, throw it in the oven to bake.  I spiced up the breadcrumbs with some sautéed garlic and added some fresh sage to the milk, cheese, and onion mix.  Instead of using heavy cream, I used milk and also used Barilla whole wheat shells to make it a tad bit healthier.  This dish is so creamy and comforting — Syracuse won too, so it was a good night!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shells
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1 small, yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 cups white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to season

Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and stir it for 2 for about 3 minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps.
  4. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and sage. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a casserole dish. Top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan and add the garlic.  Let cook 1 minute.
  8. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat.
  9. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until bread crumb topping is golden brown.

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Fettuccine w/ Fresh Oregano Cream Sauce

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween weekend!  My husband and I were spaghetti and meatballs for Halloween (see photo below).  My husband found the costume on Friday night and it’s super cute and very comfortable as well!  I’m sure we’ll be reusing this costume several more times.

My husband loves cream sauces, so for our Sunday, Halloween dinner he decided to cook me fettuccine with a fresh, oregano cream sauce.  It was delicious and very satisfying.  Most cream sauces usually leave me feeling very full, but this dish was rather light and made enough for lunch today!  I am fortunate that my husband not only loves to cook with me, but for me as well.  Food is definitely something that we both love and appreciate.  We’re always looking for new and unique restaurants to go to as well! 

Do you like to cook with your significant other?  What are your favorite dishes to make?

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to season
  • 1 box of Fettuccine

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and salt and sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the squash, oregano, and red pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the squash is  soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour in the cream, stir to coat the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Stir in the cheese and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine until al dente.
  6. Using tongs, transfer the pasta directly into the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  7. Remove the pasta and sauce from heat and toss with tongs to coat the pasta. Add the reserved pasta water by the tablespoon to reach the desired sauce consistency.
  8. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

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Filed under Main Course, Pasta

Cavatelli con Zucca (Squash)


Cavatelli con zucca (squash/pumpkin) is a dish from Campobasso, Molise, Italy [COM-POH-BAH-SO].  Campobassani actually hand-roll the cavatelli making the dough from squash and potato and then topping with a butter sauce or a pomodoro sauce.  Instead of hand-rolling the cavatelli, I found a recipe via Mario Batali that mixes the cavatelli with butternut squash.  This dish is amazing and probably one of my favorite pasta dishes.  It’s perfect for the fall; hearty and satisfying, sometimes a big bowl of pasta after a long day at work is just what you need.  Pair it with a glass of sweet, white wine (Pinot Grigio) to offset the spiciness of the red pepper flakes.

Italy is made up of various regions (20 to be exact) that have their own capital city.  For example, Tuscany is probably one of the most famous regions, and its capital is Florence.  Campobasso is the capital of the region of Molise.  However, Molise is probably one of the least known regions as well as the most rural; it’s the second smallest province in Italy and home to about 300,000 residents.  The reason I’m talking about Molise and more specifically about Campobasso is because it’s where this dish originated from and also where my maternal grandfather’s relatives are from.

Even though Campobasso is such a small city, what is ironic, is that there are numerous people in Syracuse that have relatives from Campobasso (two of my friends’ families (ACV & LDN)).  Is it possible that even though Campobasso was so small and the internet was nowhere near existence, people in small Italian towns (via word of mouth) heard where their neighbors and friends were settling in the US and decided to move there?  Since there were other Campobassani in Syracuse, NY, maybe that’s why Frank and Carmella Farinacci (my great-grandparents) decided to move there; they had a connection and even the possibility of work.

I’ve been to Italy three different times now: the first time, I was studying abroad in Florence and actually met my future husband there; the second time, I was there for 2 weeks running a marathon in Florence with my future husband; and the third time, I was there for 1 month doing graduate school work and getting engaged to my future husband.  Even though I’ve traveled around various regions and cities in Italy, I never made my way down to Campobasso.  My mom went there when she was 16 to visit her cousins and relatives.  They are still there in Campobasso, so next trip to Italy will be to the south and more specifically, to Campobasso, to visit my relatives.

Do you have family in Italy?  If so, have you visited them?  What unique and local dishes did they make?  What is their regional cuisine like?

Molisian cuisine consists of rustic peasant fare – vegetables and game (rabbit, lamb, suckling pig, etc.)  They are also known for their sheep’s milk cheeses like Pecorino, Scamorza, Caciocavallo, and Provolone.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper for seasoning
  • 1 package of cavatelli
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Peel, seed, and dice butternut squash and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and crushed red pepper. Cook over med-high heat about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the squash, thyme, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Cover sauté pan and cook over low heat, about 8 more minutes or until squash is tender.
  6. Meanwhile, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until al dente (Cavatelli cooks extremely quickly because it is fresh pasta, so do not overcook or they will become mushy.).
  7. Drain cavatelli, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  8. Add the cavatelli to the squash mixture in the skillet, then stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water and toss gently to combine.
  9. Add the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir gently. Add more pasta water if too dry.
  10. Serve the pasta with more Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

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Cavatelli w/ Sun-dried Tomatoes & Summer Squash

Late yesterday afternoon, the DC Metro Area had a thunderstorm that knocked down several trees and caused some flooding in various locations. That being said, traffic was atrocious; it took us 1.5 hours to drive about 10 miles. Once we finally got home, we were both hungry and not in the mood to cook something elaborate or that would take a long time. I had a large yellow squash that I diced into small cubes. I sauteed it in olive oil with some red pepper flakes. I then added some sliced garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts. I decided to go with Cavatelli pasta because it cooks quickly; its frozen and literally cooks in a couple minutes. This recipe was quick and delicious; perfect for an evening when traffic was anything but easy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow squash, diced into small cubes
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • parmesan cheese to sprinkle
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, fill with water and heat until water comes to a boil.
  2. While water is heating, heat olive oil over medium heat and add red pepper flakes and squash.  Saute the squash for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
  3. Add the sliced garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts to the pan and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Season squash mix with salt and pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, once the water comes to a boil, add the cavatelli and cook until the cavatelli becomes al dente and starts floating on the surface.
  6. Drain the cavatelli and add to the sauteed squash mix. Add 1 more tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cavatelli immediately and top with basil and parmesan cheese.

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Acini di Pepe

This past weekend for my sister’s 30th birthday party, I made my mom’s infamous Acini di Pepe recipe (pronounced ahh-chee-nee-dee-pep-eh). Acini di Pepe is actually the name of the pasta that you use in this recipe. Acini di Pepe in Italian means pepperberry or peppercorns. If you look at this pastina (tiny pasta) up close, you’ll see it is extremely small and does indeed look like small peppercorns. Acini di Pepe is traditionally used for soups, but my mom has been making this dessert dish for as long as I can remember. Summer does not officially begin for me until this dish is passed around at a cookout or a party. Someone at the party asked me what this dish is, and I had a very difficult time explaining. The best I can compare this dish to is some sort of ambrosia salad, but infinitely better. While this dish might look very peculiar, you have to take my word for it and just try it. It’s absolutely amazing – light and sweet and perfect for summer. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box Acini di Pepe (2 brands I know make this are De Cecco & Wegmans)
  • 2 small cans of mandarin oranges
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside
  2. Open the canned fruit, strain the juices, and set the fruit aside.
  3. Add the juices from the mandarin oranges, pineapple, and cherries to a small pan along with the sugar, cornstarch and beaten eggs
  4. Over medium heat, stir the juice mixture until it becomes thick
  5. Pour the thickened juice over the pasta and mix well
  6. Add the fruit and Cool Whip and mix
  7. Refrigerate and serve cold

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Filed under Desserts, Pasta, Side Dishes

Basil & Mint Pesto

My herbs have been growing extremely well, so I decided to use a bunch of them to make fresh basil & mint pesto that I adapted from a Giada DeLaurentis recipe. Many of the recipes for pesto use garlic, but they normally add it to the food processor raw. This is ok if you’re going to mix your pesto with your pasta and sauté for a few minutes afterwards. However, if you’re like me and you add your pesto to your pasta right after you strain it while it’s still hot, it doesn’t sauté your garlic, but only warms it. Now I love garlic and yes, sometimes I’ll admit I sneak a few raw pieces while I’m cooking.  But, this stuff is extremely overpowering when it’s raw, so I like to sauté my garlic before adding it to my food processor. Also, pine nuts are the customary nuts used to make traditional pesto, but I like to use walnuts. They taste just as great as pine nuts and they’re far more inexpensive. I also like to add fresh mint to my pesto; it gives it a refreshing kick and makes it smell good too. Spinach, parsley, cilantro, sun dried tomatoes, etc… can all be used to make a great pesto. Be creative and use whatever you have on hand!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c fresh mint leaves
  • 1 c  fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1/3 c olive oil

Directions:

  1. Coat a pan with olive oil and saute garlic over medium heat until garlic browns slightly.
  2. Strain the garlic from the olive oil and set aside.
  3. In a food processor, combine the mint, basil, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice and sauteed garlic until smooth. Add salt and pepper to flavor.
  4. While the mixture is still pulsing, gradually add the olive oil until the pesto is creamy.
  5. Add the pesto to just-cooked pasta and serve immediately.
  6. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese and fresh basil and mint.

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Spaghetti w/ Creamy Spinach

I’ve never been a cream sauce lover; I don’t know if it’s because I genuinely don’t like cream sauces or because I know how unhealthy they can be.  As a young child and even today, I’ve always preferred eating spaghetti with garlic and olive oil (aglio e oglio). The flavors of garlic, olive oil, and even a little red pepper were enough to complement a nice spaghetti or linguini. My mom and my grandmother even used to set a little bit of the just-cooked, plain spaghetti aside for me before pouring the red sauce on top for everyone else.  As I grew older, my taste buds began to appreciate homemade red sauces, pestos, and wine sauces.  However, I’ve still steered clear of ordering and/or making cream sauces…. until about 4 days ago.  I found this recipe for spaghetti with creamy spinach in Epicurious, and even though it’s not a true cream sauce (there’s no real cream in it), it was enough to convince me that a healthy “cream” sauce is agreeable with my palate, my stomach, and my eating habits.  Substituting the cream with low-fat, plain yogurt not only saves you hundreds of calories, but also prevents the sauce from becoming rich and heavy. Try this recipe as a healthy alternative to a traditional cream sauce!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 c plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 c baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the flour until smooth.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the yogurt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring.
  5. Add the spinach by the handful and cook until wilted, stirring. When all of the spinach has been added, stir in the lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the sauce to the spaghetti and toss well to coat.
  7. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve right away.

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