Category Archives: Pasta

2014 Round Up Top Five Posts

Looking back on 2014, I am happy of all the things I accomplished in my art life, but cooking took a backseat this time….  I won’t lie, most popular posts were from previous years! Number one was Creamy Pesto Sauce from 2013 for some reason in April of this year:

creamy pesto ravioli2

It is a really good recipe, I have to say — check it out!

The top posts of this year were Adventures with Jello — also in April (am I sensing a trend here?):

flubber jello

Check out my Flubber Jello!

California Dreamin’ — our recent trip to California and my mom’s yummy Migas!

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

And Tex Mex Scramble (another fav I always cook) and my illustrated recipe of it for They Draw and Cook:

tofu2

Click to view larger

Click to view larger

And last but not least — another easy weeknight meal: Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Mini Pizzas!

pizza 2

Hope everyone has a wonderful, exciting, prosperous 2015!!!  See you next year! 🙂

2015 copy

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17 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Eggs, Pasta, Vegetarian

Sneaky Tofu Lasagne

tofu lasagne 3

Awhile ago, I did a post on our favorite lasagne done several ways.  Well, I found another way to vary it and still keep it vegetarian!

Our dear friends came over for dinner over the weekend, and I needed to make something FAST that would serve eight people, AND be something kids would probably like.  While I was making it, I felt like it needed more substance.  But I didn’t have time to grill vegetables, and I didn’t know if my friend’s kids would like it with vegetables anyway.  I thought of adding more cheese, but there is a lot in it as is.  I remember reading about combining ricotta with tofu on The Kitchn blog, so I thought I would try it.   I doubled my sauce recipe and added onion to it.  Then I made the lasagne with a mixture of fresh mozzarella and smoky mozzarella and parmesan as I always do.

You can see the ricotta and tofu mixture here.

You can see the ricotta and tofu mixture here.

Roasted zucchini and eggplant were served on the side, so people could have the veggies if they wanted it.  The lasagne was really delicious!  I’m happy to say, adults and kids had seconds, and no one was the wiser! 🙂

tofu lassagne 2

Sneaky Lasagne

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or smashed

2 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or whole pureed)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

1 box of lasagne noodles (1 lb.)

1 container of ricotta cheese (16 oz.)

1/2 block of tofu (I used firm, but any would do)

8 oz. smoky mozzarella, grated

8 oz. plain mozzarella, grated

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Mix grated mozzarella cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.  Mix ricotta and tofu together with hands in another bowl.  Set aside

3.  Saute onions in oil until soft.  Add garlic and saute for about a minute — do not burn!

4.  Add tomatoes, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sugar if desired.  Simmer 20 minutes uncovered over medium low heat.

5.  Meanwhile soak noodles in boiling water in 2  9-inch by 13-inch baking dishes, covering by about 1/2-inch.  Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking.

6.  Assemble lasagne in each pan in this general order:

1 cup sauce, pasta, 1/6 of the ricotta mixture spread on top, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella mixture, a spoonful or so of the parmesan.  Then pasta, 1/6 ricotta mixture spread on top, some sauce, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella mixture, and a spoonful of parmesan.  The last layer is pasta, 1/6 ricotta mixture, some sauce.  Leave about 1 cup of mozzarella mixture to cover both pans later.  You will have extra sauce leftover.  Heat and serve later with meal.

7.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and top with remaining mozzarella and spoonful of so of parmesan and bake for another 5- 10 minutes.  Serve with extra sauce at the table.

5 Comments

Filed under Children, Dinner, Pasta, Vegetarian

Creamy Pesto Sauce

creamy pesto ravioli


When it comes to gardening, my thumb is pretty much black.  The one thing I have success with every summer, though, is basil.

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

And everyone knows, the best way to use copious amounts of basil is to make PESTO!  I make a lot during the summer and freeze it for future use.  When freezing, the one thing you want to remember to do is omit the cheese — it messes up the texture.  Then after the pesto is thawed and heated, add grated parmesan to it.

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be really expensive. I buy the Chinese ones instead of the Spanish ones.  Also, you can substitute walnuts for the pine nuts if the price is too great in your area.

Mmm.  Toasted pine nuts!
Mmm. Toasted pine nuts!

You just process the nuts with basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and olive oil, and you end up with a great sauce.  You can also thin the sauce with some hot pasta water (from the pot you boiled your pasta in).

pesto with pasta

With some extra grated parmesan of course!

I also love pesto on sauteed zucchini “pasta”.  You may like this low carb alternative.

pesto with zucchini slices

Another great pesto sauce is a creamy version.  Heat cream cheese and milk in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth, and then whisk in about 2 large spoonfuls of pesto.  It makes a wonderfully creamy pesto sauce that is not as rich and fattening as one made with heavy cream.

creamy pesto ravioli2

Which do you prefer?  Regular or creamy pesto sauce?

Pesto Sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup  pine nuts

a huge bunch of basil leaves, washed and dried

2 garlic cloves, smashed

about 1/4 cup olive oil or more as needed

grated parmesan to taste

kosher salt to taste

1.  Toast pine nuts.  I use my toaster oven.  Watch carefully, because they brown quickly!  You could also toast them in a skillet on the stove.  Keep stirring and watch them so you don’t burn them.  Remove from heat and let cool.

2.  Wash and dry basil leaves.

3.  Process basil in a food processor until chopped up fine.  Add garlic and pine nuts and process until fine.  While processor is running, add olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add grated cheese if you plan to use immediately, rather than freezing the pesto.  Taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Or more olive oil.

4.  Cook pasta until al dente. Dress with the pesto sauce — thin if you need to with pasta water.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1/4 cup milk

2 large spoonfuls of regular pesto sauce (see above)

1.  Heat cream cheese and milk in saucepan over low to medium heat.  Slowly whisk together until smooth.

2.  Whisk in dollops of pesto sauce.

3.  Serve over you favorite pasta.

40 Comments

Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Pasta, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Easy Weeknight Baked Pasta with Meat and Veggies


Trying to get some vegetables into your diet?  (Sneaking in more vegetables in your kids’ diet also counts!)

Here is an easy weeknight dish that accomplishes that, and even meat eaters will approve.
I think it was in Mark Bittman’s Food Matters that I first read about the benefits of stretching meat centric dishes with vegetables and/or grains.  It’s a nice compromise, because you are not cutting out meat completely–if you are an omnivore–but just reducing the amount and bulking up on vegetables and grains.  This accomplishes a lot of great things at once:

From a health standpoint, eating less saturated fats and more healthy fats from plants is always a good thing.

From an environmental standpoint, eating less meat and more plants is also a good thing.

From your pocket book’s standpoint, it is a lot cheaper to maintain a diet heavier on plants (especially if you grow a lot of them–something I, unfortunately, haven’t had to luck of doing) rather than on meats.

My husband is a meat person — I’ve mentioned before he only used to eat brown food (think bacon, beef, chicken, potatoes, peanut butter, bread, etc.) for a lot of his life before we got together!  I’m not going to force him to become a vegetarian — it would never work anyway.  And I eat meat also — just not so much red meat.

This is a simple, fast weeknight dish that you can adapt to suit your preference.  If you like more meat, add more.  No meat, omit it.  You can swap ground turkey or chicken for the beef.  Use whatever vegetable you like.  Since zucchini is a family favorite, I use it.  But I think this dish would also be great with eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, even fall friendly vegetables like butternut or acorn squash.  The more variety of colors, the better!  Just be sure to cut the pieces into similar sizes.

Fiori pasta is so cute.

 

I used Fiori pasta because I had a package in the pantry, but any bite sized pasta would work well.

Make a meat and vegetable sauce.

Béchamel sauce cooking.

Make a Béchamel sauce if you’d like an extra layer of flavor and richness.

Pasta topped with Béchamel sauce,

Yum!

Topped with grated mozzarella.

Top with mozzarella — note:  Freeze the mozzarella about 30-60 minutes before grating, so it is easier to grate!

Spotted from some broiler action.

Throw in the broiler for a quick melt and you’re done!

Easy Weeknight Baked Pasta with Meat and Veggies (based on Rachel Ray’s Baked Ziti)

Lb. pasta of your choice (I used Fiori)

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion (one whole small onion)

½ lb. ground meat (I used lean beef)

3 cups chopped vegetable (I used one large zucchini)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes

pepper to taste

For Béchamel Sauce (optional):

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

grated nutmeg to taste

nonstick spray

¼ cup grated parmesan

4 oz. grated mozzarella

  1. Bring large pot of water to boil.  Season with salt.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, put mozzarella in freezer to firm up.  Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.
  3. Sauté onions and beef until beef is no longer pink.  Add garlic and let cook until fragrant.  Add zucchini or other vegetable.  Sauté until softened slightly.  Add canned tomatoes.  Turn heat down to low, cover, and let simmer, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. If using, make béchamel sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add flour and quickly whisk with butter to prevent from clumping.  Sauté for a minute.  Gradually add a little bit of milk while whisking.  Don’t add it too fast, or the sauce will become lumpy.  Add just enough at a time to smooth it out.  When it is the consistency of a smooth, liquid paste, add the rest of milk, while whisking.  Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste.  Let simmer and thicken about five minutes.
  5. Meanwhile cook pasta al dente according to package instructions.  Set aside.
  6. Preheat broiler.  Coat the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with spray or olive oil.  Set aside.
  7. Assemble baked pasta. Combine cooked pasta and cooked sauce in the large pot you used to cook the pasta in.  Add grated parmesan. Stir to combine.  Transfer to baking dish.  Top with a layer of béchamel sauce.  Cover with grated mozzarella.  Broil in oven until cheese is melted and is starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

13 Comments

Filed under Beef, Dinner, Pasta, Vegetables

Asian Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce and Soba Noodles


Last week, we’ve so enjoyed having my mom visit us from California.  She came to celebrate her 82nd birthday. 🙂

Denis did not photoshop this photo. His comment: What 82 year old woman has that jaw line!??

Other than when we took her to visit Denis’ lovely parents in Shelter Island, she’s been in our garden weeding, picking up leaves, pruning plants–basically working her green thumb magic on it (which I sadly did not inherit)!

I wish I had “before” pictures to contrast this with! There were less flowers all around, and the rocks and back were covered in leaves and weeds!

We call her the Energizer Bunny.

Instead of eating out, she preferred me to cook “things from [my] blog” for her, so all week, I prepared various dishes for her and revisiting some old recipes.

Lots of smoothies:

A ton of sushi, of course (click on each image for recipe):

With Miso Soup:

For her 82nd birthday which was the same day as Father’s Day, I made Reese’s Pieces and M & M waffles for brunch using our trusty Cadbury Egg Waffle recipe:

I bought a small bag each of Reese’s Pieces and plain M & Ms and scattered them on the batter before cooking in waffle iron.

And Crispy Fish Tempura Bites for dinner:

with Miso Green Beans:

And Rich Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting for dessert:

I used a double amount of  Chocolate Ganache Frosting in place of this frosting

Other meals were quick Chicken Quesadillas using cooked rotisserie chicken (after a long day of shopping–not much time to cook!):

I filled ours with cooked chicken, cheese, onions, and salsa

and Creamy High Protein Avocado Dip:

I discovered I don’t have to spend a lot of time searching for favorite recipes anymore — I can just do a search on my blog!

For her last night here, I decided to make something special and created my version of a chicken salad with peanut sauce, because she had mentioned she had had a great one awhile back during her many travels.  It is a quick and easy when you have leftover cooked chicken! We used more of the rotisserie chicken.  I also used my favorite peanut sauce recipe using roasted peanut flour (if you can’t find this, just peanut butter is fine–use this recipe instead minus sesame seeds) and coated cooked soba noodles and chicken with it (angel hair or vermicelli would work too).  Then I made a salad with shredded Napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, shredded carrot, julienned daikon radish, cilantro, green onions, and snow peas.  I topped the salad with the peanut sauce coated noodles and cooked chicken and garnished with more chopped cilantro and chopped roasted peanuts.

It was really good!  We had leftover sauce which I diluted with a bit of rice vinegar and used as a salad dressing over the course of the week –sans mom.  😦
We miss you obaachan! (Japanese for “grandma”)  Thank you for all your hard work here!!


Asian Chicken Salad with Soba Noodles and Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce:

¼ cup peanut butter (or 1 tablespoon peanut butter plus ½ cup peanut flour and 2 tablespoons water)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Salad Greens:

4 cups shredded Napa cabbage

2 cups shredded Romaine lettuce

1 cup sliced cucumber

1 cup julienned carrot

1 cup julienned daikon or other radish

1 cup blanched snow peas

2 scallions, sliced

¼ cup chopped cilantro, divided

Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 oz. soba noodles

2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

¼ cup peanuts, chopped

  1. Make peanut sauce.  Process all ingredients (peanut butter to sesame oil) in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare vegetables.  Mix salad greens together in a large bowl, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro for garnish.  Set aside.
  3. Make vinaigrette.  Whisk soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil together in a small bowl.  Toss salad greens with vinaigrette to taste.
  4. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain.
  5. Assemble salad.  Toss cooked soba noodles with shredded chicken and prepared peanut sauce (use as much sauce as you want depending on how dry or wet you prefer the noodles—you will probably have some leftover!).  Divide salad greens into four bowls.  Top with noodles and chicken.  Garnish with reserved cilantro and chopped peanuts.

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Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast, Desserts, Dinner, Fish, Pasta, Sides, Snack, Vegetables

Smoky Mozzarella Lasagne Three Ways

I had two “fails” yesterday. One was the lasagne recipe I was planning on posting. It was a partial experiment (I added grilled vegetables), and it didn’t go as expected! The “fail” part was that it was a little too saucy and watery due to the vegetables — even though I had grilled them. My sweetie pie son kept saying “Mommy, this is SO not a fail! It’s SO good!” while eating it though, so the flavor wasn’t affected. He actually literally licked his plate clean.  Kind of gross but sweet at the  same time.  🙂  Then when we had it the next night as a leftover, it was perfect — so unlike dry leftover lasagne that needs a good dose of extra sauce. So I think if I were to make this again, I would let it set awhile after coming out of the oven to let the juices redistribute and thicken more instead of cutting and serving right away. If anyone else has any other suggestions, please share! Otherwise, this is a great spin on a classic and it is a little lighter and more nutritious with the addition of the extra vegetables.

My other” fail” involved work.  Let’s just say I was screaming and cursing at 10:30 pm after working about six hours on an illustration only to lose ALL of the work I had done on the computer. In technical terms, I accidentally saved my file after collapsing all of my layers and reducing the dpi to 72 from 300 dpi instead of doing a “save as” and renaming it. The work was done after my automatic backup to my external hard drive, so I had no other copy.

Suffice it to say, it was a LONG day. I started redoing everything I had lost this morning at 6:45 am and completed everything before lunch.  I’ve just begun creating the final illustrations for the book , and I’m so excited about this project — can’t talk much about it, but it does involve food, so I’ve been making a lot of little paper collage treats. 🙂  It will be published by Viking next year!

Juicy oranges

Plate o' donuts from the diner

On to that lasagne “fail” recipe…

I’ve been making this lasagne for years ever since I first saw a version of it in a 2000 issue of Gourmet. That’s how long it’s been! It’s a vegetarian lasagne that doesn’t have the ricotta and egg filling that traditional lasagne has, so it’s a bit lighter. I’ve changed the recipe over the years. I use a combination of smoky and regular mozzarella because I think using only smoky makes it too salty. I decided to take it a step further in my quest to increase veggies into our meals and layer the pasta with grilled eggplant and zucchini. I made three versions in one pan — 1/3 all pasta, 1/3 half pasta half veggie, and 1/3 no pasta all veggie. (Easy to guess who eats which portions!)

If using eggplant, salt slices and drain in colander for 30 minutes. I do this to season it and to reduce moisture.

Meanwhile make sauce. I buy whole tomatoes which I puree in my Vitamix, but crushed canned tomatoes works well too. Slow saute crushed garlic in olive oil to infuse the oil with flavor. Add tomatoes, dried basil, oregano, kosher salt, and sugar if you like, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Cover lasagne noodles with boiling water in dish while sauce cooks for 20 minutes. This reduces the baking time. Determine how many noodles you need depending on how much vegetables you will be using. In my version I used six.

Move them around from time to time so they don't stick.

If using veggies, grill; otherwise skip this step.

Pat rinsed and drained eggplant slices with paper towels. Brush zucchini and eggplant with olive oil and grill on each side for about 2 minutes. I cover mine with a lid so they steam and grill at the same time.

Look at those grill marks!

Now you’re ready to assemble lasagne. Drain pasta if using. Start with about a cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Then layer with noodles, veggies, 1 cup of mozzarella mixture, a spoonful of parmesan, another cup of sauce, and repeat two more times except on the last layer, end with sauce and reserve the cheeses.

Second layer

Last layer

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with rest of cheeses and bake another 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted.

You may have leftover grilled veggies, depending on how much you use.  This isn’t a bad thing.   They can easily be used in frittatas, pizzas, quesadillas, salads…

All pasta, no veg

Half pasta and veg

All veg

Smoky Mozzarella Lasagne Three Ways
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices crosswise

kosher salt
1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch slices lengthwise

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or smashed

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or whole pureed)

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Lasagne noodles (figure on 3 sheets per “stack” — amount depends on how much vegetable you use)

8 oz. smoky mozzarella, grated

8 oz. plain mozzarella, grated

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Mix grated mozzarella cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.

3.  Salt and drain eggplant if using.

4.  Saute garlic in about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil until soft on low heat — do not burn!

5.  Add tomatoes, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sugar if desired.  Simmer 20 minutes uncovered over medium low heat.

6. Meanwhile soak noodles in boiling water in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, covering by about 1/2-inch.  Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking.

7.  Rinse and drain eggplant if using. Pat dry with paper towels.  Brush eggplant and zucchini slices with oil and grill about 2 minutes per side, covering with a large lid.

7.  Assemble lasagne using pasta or veggies or both in this general order:

1 cup sauce, pasta, vegetable, or both, 1 cup of the mozzarella mixture, a spoonful or so of the parmesan.  Repeat twice, reserving the last layer of cheese for later.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and top with remaining cheese and bake for another 5- 10 minutes.

9.  Let rest for an hour if possible if using vegetables!  I think this would prevent runny sauce as mentioned at the beginning of the post.  This lasagne is great the next day!

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta

Low Carb Zucchini Pasta and Creamy Ricotta, Smoked Bacon, and Artichoke Sauce

After our week of eating while traveling — that is, many In-n-Out burgers, diner food, and other processed and greasy vittles, it feels good to be back at home, cooking healthy whole foods again!

I had to make a quick weeknight meal last night, so I made some pasta for the boys, and sauteed zucchini “pasta” for me.  I saw this recipe on the NY Times site, and it sounded intriguing.  It’s just zucchini slices made with a vegetable peeler sauteed in olive oil until al dente and seasoned with salt.  It really makes a wonderful foil for a creamy rich sauce, and I think it’s more flavorful than regular pasta.  I saved the cores of the two zucchini and will steam them and throw them in a soup later in the week.

Cooking the zucchini al dente makes a wonderful alternative to pasta.

I knew I wanted a rich, creamy sauce (I had extra ricotta  on hand), so I made up one inspired by this Cooking Light Alfredo with Bacon recipe.  I altered it by adding the ricotta, nutmeg, a mix of part skim plain mozzarella and whole milk smoky mozzarella to bring out the smokiness of the bacon, and some leftover artichoke hearts I had that needed to be used!

It was a perfect marriage of flavors and my boys loved it (always a good indicator for a recipe I can use in the future!)

Ricotta Artichoke Sauce with Spaghetti -- fettucine would be great too, but none to be found in our pantry at the time!

Pasta with Ricotta Cream Sauce and Bacon

½ lb. pasta (spaghetti or fettucine works well) and 1/2 recipe of zucchini pasta

or 1 lb. pasta or one full recipe of zucchini pasta

kosher salt

2 slices of hickory smoked bacon, chopped

2 teaspoons  olive oil

½ small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon flour

1 ½ cup milk (whole or 2% would probably be best, but I used skim!)

¾ cup ricotta (5 oz.)

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup grated mozzarella (I used a combination of regular and smoky)

2 canned artichoke hearts, chopped (could probably use more, but that’s all I had)

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Freshly crushed black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Season water with salt and cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve about ¼ cup cooking water and drain pasta.  Or make zucchini pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking make sauce.  Cook bacon in a large skillet until browned.  Remove to a paper lined plate to drain.
  3. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to pan depending on how much bacon grease is left.  I hardly had any so I had to add oil.  Saute chopped onion and garlic until softened.  Sprinkle flour on top and brown quickly in pan.  Then whisk in milk gradually to create a sauce.  Add ricotta and whisk until smooth.  Then add parmesan and mozzarella and artichoke hearts.  Stir to combine.  Season with kosher salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.  Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to coat.  Add bacon and stir.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

26 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Vegetables