Fresh Tomato and Pesto Pasta

This pasta dish is simple, yet really delicious.  It’s a great as a side option for Baked Shrimp Scampi or as a quick dinner on its own.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. thin linguini or angel hair
  • 3/4 cup pesto sauce
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 – 1 cup powdered parmesan cheese, and more for topping

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • In a large saute pan, saute the garlic with 1 tbsp olive oil until it’s fragrant
  • Add the pesto sauce to the garlic combine well
  • Pour in the white wine, chicken broth and olive oil and bring to a simmer
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and stir well over medium-low heat
  • Cook the pasta as directed and then add it into the pesto sauce mixture
  • Keep the heat on medium-low and and cook the pasta in the sauce so it absorbs the flavor
    • If the pasta seems a bit dry, add in more chicken broth or olive oil
  • Once the pasta is well coated in the pesto sauce, turn off the heat and pour in the powdered parmesan (as much or as little as you desire)
  • Top it all off with a little more parmesan and serve immediately!
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Mac ‘n Cheese Bites

If you’re looking for a good appetizer idea for Super Bowl Sunday, look no further.  I tried this out for New Year’s Eve – and it was a-mazing.  Crispy bite-sized mac ‘n cheese?  Yes, please.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor fitted with a metal blade – you could also use the grater attachment if you’ve got it
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs
* This recipe yields 36 mac ‘n cheese bites – you can easily freeze this and bake when you need it!

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray the mini muffin pans with  nonstick cooking spray
  • Pour some bread crumbs into each cup of the mini muffin pan and turn the pan around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs, if you can, and reuse to coat the other pans
  • Once the noodles are just cooked, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined spoon the mixture into each mini muffin cup – use your fingers to pack it in
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for approximately minutes or until the tops are golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the muffin cups to loosen the mac ‘n cheese bites from the side of the pan

** This is basically the Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese recipe without the breadcrumb crust.   I did try making the breadcrumb crust in the mini muffin pans and you really couldn’t tell the difference between the crust and just plain breadcrumbs – so save yourself the work and leave that step out!

Veal Bolognese

My husband’s favorite Italian dish is, hands down, pasta with a bolognese sauce.  He’s ordered it in every Italian restaurant we’ve ever been to and even has them mentally ranked.  It seemed only natural for me to figure out a way for my bolognese to get to the top of his list.  Mission accomplished.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large onion (or 2 small ones), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • 3 lb. lean ground veal (you could also use ground beef or turkey)
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups good red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (room temp)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese
*This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta – keep in mind that this sauce freezes really well

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor and process until it forms a course paste
  • Coat the bottom of a large sauce pan with olive oil and then add in the pureed vegetables
  • Season the puree with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until the water has evaporated
  • Add in the ground veal, season with salt and pepper and cook until the meat is totally browned, about 15-20 minutes
  • Add in the tomato paste, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and nutmeg and mix well – cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add in the red wine and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Add water to the pot until the meat is covered with an inch of water – add in the bay leaves and bundle of thyme and mix well
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering
  • Now, is the painful part – allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for AT LEAST 2 hours, ideally you want the sauce to simmer for 3-4 hours, stir it frequently
  • You want the bolognese to be a very meaty consistency – not really “saucy”
    • If you find that your sauce is getting too thick, add some more water and continue to simmer
  • When you think that your sauce looks ready, add in the cream and blend well
  • Add about half of the sauce to 1 lb. of cooked pasta and toss in at least 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese – stir well and enjoy!
    • You can freeze the other half of the sauce and defrost it when you’re ready to have it again!

Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese

This is another one of my Godmother’s recipes and Christmas just isn’t the same without it on the dinner table.  When I asked her for the recipe, she told me there wasn’t one.  I would have to come over and watch her make it… let’s just say we were both amazed by how much cheese actually goes into this dish – but it’s worth every bite.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 3 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 2 cups mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor
  • 2 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Approximately 2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (I use PAM olive oil spray and I use this 4 quart oval Pyrex roasting dish – it’s the best for this dish)
  • Pour 1 cup of bread crumbs into the baking dish and turn the dish around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs
  • Beat the 2 eggs and pour them into the baking dish – again, rotate the dish until it’s evenly coated with egg; discard any excess egg
  • Pour the rest of the breadcrumbs back into the pan and rotate the dish until it’s coated with the crumbs again – you’ve just created the crust for the mac ‘n cheese!
  • Once the noodles are cooked al dente, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes
    • Baking this in a glass dish is helpful because you can watch to see that the breadcrumb crust is turning golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the dish to loosen the crumb crust from the side of the dish
    • My Godmother always serves this dish tipped over like a mac ‘n cheese “cake” and then cuts it into squares – the breadcrumb crust should hold everything together when you place a large platter on top of the dish and flip it over

*This dish also freezes really well — so you can make it ahead of time, freeze it and defrost it the night before you plan on baking it!

Pesto Tortellini

This recipe is my favorite vegetarian pasta dish.  It tastes great the first night… and even better cold the next day!

INGREDIENTS

  • Approximately 1 lb. fresh 3 cheese tortellini (I like to use Buitoni – a large package is a little over 1 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce (either homemade* or store-bought works)
  •  3 large roasted red peppers (either homemade** or store-bought works)
  • 1/2 cup of mixed pitted kalamata olives
*PESTO SAUCE
    • 2 cups packed basil leaves
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmesan works, too)
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
**ROASTED RED PEPPERS
    • Red peppers
    • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Chop the roasted red peppers into bite size pieces
  • Finely chop the kalamata olives (I use this chopper and it’s awesome)
  • In a large saute or non-stick frying pan, combine the peppers and olives with 1/4 cup of pesto sauce – saute the mixture over medium heat
  • In a separate pot, cook the tortellini
  • Combine the cooked tortellini with 1/4 cup of pesto sauce
  • Once the peppers and olive mixture is heated through fold it in it with the cooked tortellini
PESTO SAUCE
    • Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth
      • Storage: I typically make this in bulk during the summertime and then freeze it in ice cube trays – then I can enjoy fresh pesto sauce anytime