Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

So yeah. I haven’t been here in a while. Life is a strange thing that often gets in the way of a lot of other things. We went on a West Coast vacation in July, Gemma started preschool in August, I started teaching two Zumba classes a week at our Y, Jake has worked on two Mark Wahlberg movies and is now back on the final season of Breaking Bad, there were debates and an election that merited wine-filled viewing (and victory!) parties, and I’ve been doing freelance language work while working steadily on getting my freelance translation business up and running. These are all good and happy things, but it’s been a busy few months chez nous. The blog (as well as my creativity in the kitchen) has definitely suffered, but I’m back. Because of Jake’s long hours, I’m back to working on dishes that can be put together in advance and popped in the oven or slow cooker when the time is right. I’ve made the dish that follows several times in the past few months, and I haven’t gotten tired of it! I usually make it with chopped spinach, but I didn’t have any the other night. I did, however, have a beautiful bunch of asparagus, so into the mix it went. Remember:  this whole thing can be put together well in advance (I think I’ve even done it the day before) and refrigerated until it’s time to get it in the oven!

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
adapted from Pink Parsley

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces (or 1 bag/12 oz baby spinach finely chopped)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1.5-2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1 lb pasta shapes, such as rotini or medium shells
  • 1 small log (4-5 ounces) of goat cheese
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 cup)

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

*Toss the asparagus with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper.

*Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roast for 6 minutes.

*Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water, until just shy of al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

*Soften the goat cheese in a large bowl (microwave for 30 seconds if needed) and season with salt and pepper

*Stir in the roasted asparagus until it is all incorporated. If you’re using spinach, use the heat from the cheese to wilt the greens.

*Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and transfer the pasta to the cheese mixture.

*Mix the pasta with the cheese until melted.

*Add the cooking water, just a bit at a time, until the sauce has thinned, but it’s not watery.

*Stir in the sun dried tomatoes, and check seasonings.

*Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish, add the pasta mixture, then top with the grated Parmesan.

*Bake 20 minutes, until the pasta is golden and bubbly.

photo (1)

This is one of our new go-to meals. The goat cheese feels decadent without adding the unwanted fat and calories of a cream sauce, and you can feel good about yourself with all of the veggies that are stuffed in there. I plan on trying it with artichoke hearts in the near future!


When Pants Chooses Her Dinner

Because Gemma eats before we go to the gym in the evening, she often has leftovers of what Jake and I eat the night before. It’s still working out pretty well for us. Tonight I asked if she wanted pizza (homemade and leftover from last night). She said “No thank you Mom.” I asked if she wanted Roasted Curried Cauliflower Soup. Same answer. When I asked if she wanted tortellini, she said “Yes, please Mom.” Here’s the meal she asked for.

Spinach tortellini, peas, feta cheese, and mini heirloom tomatoes.

Seems pretty happy with her choices, doesn't she?

Marinara con Lenticchie (because everything’s better in Italian)

So yeah…ummm…I haven’t been here for a while.  I started the new year full of grand plans and goals, and I’ve stuck with some of them.  I’ve been doing a Push-up Challenge where I started with 1 push-up on January 1st and I’m up to 65 as of today (March 5).  By Zumbaing (yes, it’s a verb) 5 days a week and being more mindful of what I eat (most of the time) I’ve managed to banish the last few pounds that were sticking around from France and Italy.  I’m using my yogurt maker to make yogurt and I haven’t bought canned beans since I figured out how to make them in the slow cooker.  The blog, however has been neglected as the cold weather sunk in around the ABQ and Jake, Gemma, and I craved our tried and true recipes rather than being more adventurous in the kitchen.  The unexpected death of a good friend on Valentine’s Day shook our little world, and I proceeded to eat and drink my feelings for several days in a row.  Fun fact:  did you know that my feelings happen to taste like red chile and white wine??  What do your feelings taste like?

But I’m back.  At least I’m trying to be back.  On Friday I willed myself to be motivated to cook something new, and you know what??  It worked!  The sauce that follows is another great way to break away from plain old marinara sauce.  I give you…

Marinara con Lenticchie (Lentil Marinara)

adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles


*1 tablespoon oil
*9 garlic cloves, minced or grated
*¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
*¼ cup red wine
*1 can (28 oz) tomato puree (or your favorite variety of tomato)
*8 ounces brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
*1 cup water (this was for a thicker sauce, but please add more to reach the consistency you want!)
*salt to taste

To Make:

*Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

*Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

*Add the wine to release (with scraping) any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

*Add the remaining ingredients and turn heat up to medium-high.

*Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

*Cook for 60-75 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the lentils are tender and the sauce is at your desired consistency.

Beacuse even movie stars have to eat dinner.

And let's all marvel once again at the TERRIBLE lighting in my house!

Survey Says:

Gemma and I really enjoyed this sauce (and she’s having leftovers for dinner tonight)!!!  The lentils add good texture, great taste, and awesome nutrition!  I made mine thicker so as to avoid any major sauce related accidents on Gemma’s part.  If you like a thinner sauce, by all means, use some extra water.

Pasta e Ceci

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I don’t do meal planning.  I am in AWE of the people who can plan their meals a week or a month at a time and stick to it.  I never know what I’m going to feel like from one day to another, so I just keep my arsenal of basics stocked up and I go from there.  This morning while catching up on Facebook, I was reminded exactly why meal planning isn’t an attractive notion in this household.  My friend Chiara, who happens to live in Rome, posted something about the weather getting cooler, and that this would be a good time to snuggle up and eat some Pasta e Ceci. I actually have eaten Pasta e Ceci in Rome & had totally forgotten about it until Chiara mentioned it!  It was at the Antica Birreria Peroni one afternoon when we popped in for lunch on our trip this summer.  Super simple and delicious, but I had never made it.  That has all changed now, and I give you…

Pasta e Ceci

adapted from


*1 can chickpeas, drained with some liquid reserved

*14 oz crushed tomatoes

*8 oz ditalini pasta (I suppose another smallish pasta would suffice, but ditalini seems pretty traditional)

*2 tbsp olive oil

*6 cloves of garlic, grated or minced

*salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

To Make:

*Saute garlic in olive oil until it begins to become fragrant.

*Add the tomatoes to the garlic.

*Season mixture to your taste (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes) and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

*Add chickpeas to the sauce with reserved liquid and continue to let simmer.

*Boil pasta until it is about halfway cooked, then add it to the sauce to finish cooking completely.

*Pour yourself a glass of Italian red wine (Chianti, Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola) to congratulate yourself on what promises to be a fantastic dinner.

*Sip on your glass of wine.

*This is ready to serve when the pasta has reached al dente doneness and when you’ve refilled your wine glass.

Please excuse the terrible phone photograph, but the battery for the real camera was dead!!

Survey Says:

Perfection in a bowl!  I think that Jake was a little wary of it to begin with, and seriously, who could blame him?  We eat a lot of pasta/legumes/tomatoes/garlic in this house!  He did, however, love it and tell me that it was definitely something that needed to be made on a regular basis.  Awesome, because although it’s not necessarily quick, it’s an easy and filling  meal!

Slow Cooker Zucchini Ziti

I am the biggest blog slacker!  Well not really…I mean we’ve had stuff going on around here.  I started doing some freelance translating and then we went on a last minute trip to Long Beach to see family and friends.  It’s hard to work on the blog with stuff like that going on!  I vow to be better.  Jake goes back to work in the middle of the week, which will definitely make getting time at the computer (when Gemma is napping or has gone to bed) much easier!

So here we go with another slow cooker creation that will help get you through the winter!  I found this gem on Pinterest, of course, and it seemed so easy that I just couldn’t pass it up!!  You already know that I am addicted to zucchini, but zucchini and pasta…YUM!!  The original recipe touts itself as “Skinny Zucchini Ziti” with the hopes that you will keep your portions in control.  I hope that for you too, but this is too good limit yourself too much!!  I have learned that I am damn near physically incapable of following a recipe exactly (the original call for zucchini slices as a layer, but I decided to grate it and mix it in with the cheeses), but I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it tastes good!  I present you with my version of:

Slow Cooker Zucchini Ziti



*8.5 ounces Barilla Plus Penne, uncooked.

*1 large can (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes, or the equivalent in your favorite tomato-based sauce.  (I used an extra 1/4 of another can because I was afraid that it was going to be too dry…it wasn’t.  If you have some extra on hand, use it if you think you need it, but I don’t think you will.)

*2 cups cottage cheese (I use lowfat rather than fat free)

*2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

*1 large zucchini (2 medium or 3 small), grated and water pressed out. (I usually take my grated zucchini in paper towels over a colander and squeeze.  Zucchinis have a TON of water in them, and you just don’t need it all in this.)

*Garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper to taste.

To Make:

*In a large bowl, combine the two cheeses, the grated zucchini, spices, salt, and pepper.

*Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray (or coat with olive oil) to prevent sticking.

*Add about 1/4 of your sauce to the bottom of the cooker.

*Add 1/3 of the penne.

*Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture.

*Repeat until you have three layers and top with the remaining pasta sauce (and cheese if you wish and/or have any extra).

*Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.  (Cook time will totally depend on your machine, so I would check every so often after 1 hour just to see how it’s coming along.  A true whole wheat pasta will probably add cooking time too.  Once you know how your machine and your ingredients behave, feel free to leave the ziti to its own devices!)

Survey Says:

This was a PERFECT dinner for last night!!!  It rained almost all day long, and it was freezing outside!  Jake had taken Gemma out to run errands so I could get some work done on this new translation project, and it was really nice to have this all ready to go when they got home.  Gemma loved it and she’s eating leftovers for lunch right now!  This is super easy to throw together, and is one that you can do at the last minute since it doesn’t need to cook all day long!

Pasta With Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

You may have noticed that I am obsessed with tomatoes this summer.  I mentioned before that I am apparently unable to grow them, so this is a sick cosmic joke that I suffer through.  I love them raw, but I am obsessed with roasting them this season and I was SO excited when I came across a pasta recipe that calls for roasted tomatoes in a cookbook that I have not used in a LONG TIME!  Roasted tomatoes + goat cheese=YUM!  These gorgeous tomatoes are going to be disappearing soon, so, devoted readers, I give you…

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

based on the Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook


*6-8 tomatoes (or the equivalent in smaller tomatoes…I usually use a mix of large and mini tomatoes for texture)

*2 tbsp olive oil

*4 ounces goat cheese (mine is always from a log, but you could definitely use crumbles if that’s what you have or just prefer), cut into small pieces

*7 ounces Barilla Plus Penne

*Salt and pepper, to taste

To Make:

*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

*Place the tomatoes (halved, and maybe even quartered, if you’re using large ones…you can keep the small ones whole) on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.

*Drizzle with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss thoroughly to coat.

*Roast for 15-25 minutes, or until they are very soft and/or slightly charred (it all depends on the size and type of tomato).

(edited to add:  You can also throw some good sized garlic cloves on the baking sheet with the tomatoes a bit into the cooking time.  Roasted garlic adds a lot of good flavor here, but leave them whole-ish so it doesn’t burn!)

*Cook pasta to specifications.

*When the tomatoes are ready, put them in a large bowl and mash them gently with a fork.

*Add pasta to tomatoes and incorporate thoroughly.

*Add goat cheese to pasta and tomatoes, and gently stir until everything is incorporated.

Survey Says:

It really doesn’t get much better than this!!  Roasting does incredible things to tomatoes and with the goat cheese they are just divine!  This gives you the feel of a cream sauce without the ridiculous amount of fat that most such sauces call for.  Goat cheese is a good source of protein too.  Gemma loved this!

Week 1 Of Pinterest Challenge: “Dirty” Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Pinterest is a beautiful thing.  That’s all I can really say.  If you don’t know what it is, let me know and I’ll pass an invite on to you (I have 4 left)!  Feel free to check out my boards!  Julie at decided to launch a 52 Weeks of Pinterest Challenge to get us to try the magical things that we have “pinned”!  I’m not so inclined toward the “crafty” side of Pinterest (but I’ll probably give something a try in the near future), but it’s also a great resource for new recipes!  I have been wanting to try Mac & Cheese in the slow cooker for a long time, but I just never got around to it!  I “pinned” one, but I guess it comes down to the fact that I have a really hard time these days making a meal that has little to no nutritional value.  Mac & Cheese is delicious, but it is cheese and fat.  Yum, but hmmmmm.  My friend Dana has been talking about a “Dirty” Mac & Cheese that he makes (on the stovetop I believe) with kale, and that got me thinking.  We actually have swiss chard in our garden right now!!  I decided to add that to the original recipe!  I absolutely don’t have to hide veggies in things to get Gemma to eat them, but sometimes it makes so much more sense to mix everything together rather than to have a totally separate side dish!  So, faithful readers, I give you…

“Dirty” Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer (with major inspiration from Dana!)


*8 ounces Barilla Plus Elbows

*3 cups of shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)

*1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

*3 eggs

*1 1/2 cup of milk

*1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (I used fat free) 

(*1/4 cup of room temp butter–I totally forgot to add this)

*1 bunch of swiss chard

*4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

*2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*Salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

*Chop swiss chard into bite sized pieces.

*Heat oil and garlic in skillet until garlic starts to turn fragrant.

*Add chard and sauté until soft.

*Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.

*Add milk, evaporated milk. eggs, (butter), salt, pepper, and swiss chard.

*Use immersion blender to blend mixture so there are no large chunks of greens and all ingredients are incorporated.

*Parboil pasta for about 5 minutes.

*Add pasta and cheese blend (not the Parmesan) to the slow cooker.

*Incorporate thoroughly and then add Parmesan cheese on top.

*Cook on HIGH for 30 minutes.

*After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to LOW and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours (until the custard is set in the middle)

*After 2 hours I removed the lid to let some of the moisture air out for a bit.

*I toasted some bread crumbs (3/4 cup breadcrumbs, dash of dried oregano, dash of “Italian Seasoning,” 1 tbsp olive oil) to add to the top.  I grated some more Parmesan cheese on top of the breadcrumbs and put the cover back on for 15 more minutes.

Survey Says:

This was FANTASTIC and we didn’t even miss the butter and the 8,000 calories that it would have added!  The next time I make it, however, I’ll probably use a different cheese blend.  The Italian blend is a little bland, but a Gruyere/Emmenthal mix would be great as would something like Cheddar & Pepper Jack!  YUM!!  Now I’m thinking about all of the other sauteed and roasted veggies that could be blended up and added to this to enhance it:  cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, green chile…the possibilities are endless and I’m going to have to start going to 8 Zumba classes a day to keep up with the Mac & Cheese!!

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