pesto and rotini

An amazing, simple, healthy dish. Use store-bought pesto, or make your own (like I did.) Serve with a sautéed chicken breast, a veggie and a nice glass of white wine.

3-4 cups of packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I toasted mine in a saute pan over low heat, just enough to warm them and see a hint of golden)
1-2 garlic cloves (to your liking)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Blend/puree all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto is blended and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Serve with cooked whole wheat rotini pasta.

Prepare whole wheat rotini per package directions. Toss pasta with pesto and freshly grated parmesan cheese and whole pine nuts (if desired.)


rigatoni with spicy sausage, arugula and tomato

This one’s a keeper.  Mmm.  Served it to a group of friends for a weekend dinner, pre- Superbowl and pre- Valentine’s Day.  Friends+pasta, salad, bread and dessert+red wine = a great time.  We even discovered that a couple of our friends may be distant relatives…and a search for Icelandic ancestors may be in their future.  🙂

Love the addition of arugula and fresh herbs in this dish.   And, freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Add crushed red pepper to your preferred level of spice.

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage-Tomato Sauce, Arugula, and Parmesan
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
16 ounces rigatoni
2 cups (packed) fresh arugula, stemmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain drippings from pot. Add wine, diced tomatoes with juice, and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Stir pasta, arugula, basil, and oregano into tomato sauce. Simmer until arugula wilts, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

kids’ choice two

Another “kid’s choice for dinner night.” Clare’s pick? Good old spaghetti and meatballs – the healthified version using ground turkey.  Everyone LOVED these meatballs…such amazing flavor.

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
Adapted from the 2008 HNOJ School Cookbook

2 lb. ground turkey (could use ground beef, if desired)
1 c. fresh white bread crumbs
1/2 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 extra large egg, beaten
vegetable oil
olive oil

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. red wine
1 (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Package  of spaghetti, cooked per package directions. (We use the whole grain wheat pasta.)

Meatballs: place ground meat, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg and 3/4 cup. warm water in a bowl. Combine with a fork. Using your hands, form into 2 inch meatballs (you should have 14-16).

Pour equal amounts of oil into a large 12 inch skillet to 1/4 inch depth. Heat oil. In batches, place meatballs into oil and brown well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully, takes about 10 minutes per batch. Remove meatballs to paper towel covered plate. Discard oil, but don’t clean pan.

Sauce: heat olive oil in the same pan. Add onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until translucent. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits until most of the liquid evaporates (about 3 minutes). Stir in tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper. Return meatballs to sauce, cover and simmer on low about 25-30 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Serve over cooked spaghetti.   Top with shredded parmesan.  And, add a side salad and some garlic toast, if desired.

Yay or Nay?
Yay.  For Sure.

gnocchi with browned butter thyme sauce

Mmm.  I love gnocchi.  It’s really heavy and rich, so I typically eat as a side rather than a main dish.  I use pre-packaged gnocchi from Trader Joes.  Much easier and just as good as made-from-scratch.  This is a quick sauce recipe and the pecorino romano cheese tops off the dish.  Enjoy!

Gnocchi With Browned Butter Thyme Sauce
adapted a little from Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, shredded

Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside. Cook gnocchi per package directions and drain. Toss with butter thyme sauce and top with pecorino romano cheese. Can be served as a main or side dish.

kids’ choice

I’m going to start something new.  Instead of me always deciding what we’re having for dinner, I’m going to have the kids pick.  At least every now and then.  Each child has a night to pick a recipe from a cookbook (and yes, it must be directly from one of our cookbooks or an online food site.)  It’s not as easy as saying, “sloppy joes” or “pizza” or “spaghetti”.  It has to be a new recipe – perhaps one that we’ve not tried or an old favorite with a new twist.  My hope is that they will gradually get more adventurous and learn to love ethnic variety.  We’ll see how long we can keep it going.

First up this week was Brendan.  He wasn’t as daring as I thought he’d be and, after reading the recipe, I wasn’t too crazy about using canned crescent roll dough (something I NEVER buy.)  But, he picked it and we’d never had it before.

Yay or Nay?
All of the kids ate their piece of the pie. Some had seconds. Not bad. I think it’s a yay.

brendan's pick - pizza pie

Pizza Pie
adapted from 2008 HNOJ cookbook

1 lb hamburger or ground turkey
1 tsp Italian spice
1 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 pkg. crescent rolls
1 pkg. mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese
1 jar marinara sauce

Brown hamburger, drain. Add onion and Italian spice. Mix with tomato paste. Place crescent roll dough in bottom of glass pie dish to form a crust. Spread hamburger mixture on top of crust. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut into pie pieces and top with marinara sauce. Enjoy!

Serve with a hefty side of green veggies, fruit and a nice tall glass of milk to counteract those crescent rolls ;).

eggplant parmesan

What a beautiful vegetable.  Eggplant.

I got this from a co-worker and wasn’t really sure what I’d do with it.  A friend suggested that I make eggplant parmesan.  Mmmm.  A new challenge.  Perfect.  Another bonus…using my brand new
Staub enameled cast iron frying pan.

I halved the recipe since I had one eggplant.  The only part of the recipe I didn’t follow was the made from scratch tomato sauce.  Instead, I used Paul Newman’s prepared marinara sauce.

It was excellent.  However, my 1/3 inch rounds were more like 1/2 inch and some of the slices didn’t seem to get as done.  I will remember for next time – slice them thin.

Jeff and I were both amazed at how filling this was.  One eggplant.  4 people.  Two meals.  Amazing.

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted by Gourmet

Makes 8 main-course servings

2 1/2 lb medium eggplants (about 3), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
3 1/4 teaspoons salt
5 lb plum tomatoes (used in tomato sauce)
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (used in tomato sauce)
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half (used in tomato sauce)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (add to jarred sauce, if using.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
3 1/2 cups panko * (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2/3 cup)
1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly sliced

Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander set over a bowl, then let drain 30 minutes.

*Note* If you must use a prepared sauce like I did, rest easy.  The dish is still amazing, and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs. 

While eggplant drains, cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch tomatoes together in a 5-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, then coarsely purée in batches in a blender. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together flour, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir together panko and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in panko until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to sheets of wax paper, arranging slices in 1 layer.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 cups oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant 4 slices at a time, turning over once, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a rectangular 3 1/2-quart (13- by 11- by 2-inch) baking dish. Arrange about one third of eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary. Cover eggplant with about one third of remaining sauce (about 11/4 cups) and one third of mozzarella. Continue layering with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.  Enjoy.