Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan

Attempting food photography with a little one. -Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan, on Books n' Cooks
Attempting food photography with a little one. -Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan, on Books n’ Cooks

My husband pretty much requires meat at dinner. Doesn’t matter if it’s red meat or chicken, but he’ll rarely feel full or satisfied without one or the other. Occasionally, I’ll test the waters with a veggie-based pasta or a seafood-based dish, but those options are rarely winners with him. This pasta dish is one of the few exceptions.

Whole wheat pasta makes this dish filling. Walnuts provide crunch; Parmesan provides some saltiness. And fresh parsley (or freeze-dried parsley in a pinch) is a burst of freshness. And I love that the ingredients are always in my pantry and the dish can be finished in roughly 20 minutes. Yes, this dish is definitely a winner.

The photo isn’t the prettiest – it came out darker than I had hoped, but I think the baby’s hand is a cute touch. 🙂

 

Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan

Adapted from The Food You Love by Ellie Krieger

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped (I’ve also used freeze-dried parsley if I don’t have any fresh parsley in the house)
  • 1/3 c . low-sodium chicken broth*
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
*Make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock. 

Bring a large pot to a boil over medium heat, to cook the pasta in. When boiling, add the pasta and cook until desired doneness (for my hubby us, cooked throughout instead of al dante). Drain and return pasta to the pot it was cooked in. Hopefully by the time it’s done, the next steps are  done and you’ll be ready to assemble the dish.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Move to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, saute garlic in olive oil until garlic is browned, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat (or if it’s going to be a little while until your pasta is done, reduce heat to lowest setting to keep oil warm).

Toss cooked pasta, chicken broth, garlic & olive oil, walnuts, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. Toss with 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese.

Portion out and top with remaining Parmesan.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

I’m always on the look out for easy, quick dinners that don’t make a huge mess in the kitchen. Bonus points if veggies are incorporated right in. After being up a couple times a night (Sophie’s almost 9 months old and still not sleeping through the night) and working all day, dinner needs to be as low-fuss as possible.

This recipe, or the version I had originally pinned from Shape Magazine (the link is apparently no longer good), fit that bill. One pot meal and a veggie made this pasta dish a weeknight reality. I updated the recipe to add a bit more flavor and freshness – a little extra red pepper flakes and some fresh basil. I also decided against using chicken stock to cook the pasta. Even with the low-sodium broth, I found it a bit salty and just… off. When I needed to add extra liquid, I used plain water, and that seemed to help.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Adapted from Yummly

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage
  • 12 oz. broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 c. water
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 c. freshly chopped basil

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe 4Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, crumbling it into pieces until completely cooked. Transfer to a plate, leaving behind as much of the oil and juices as possible. Add broccoli rabe and garlic to skillet. Sautee until beginning to wilt. Transfer to plate, again leaving behind as much of the oil and juices as possible.

Pour 4 c. water into skillet. As it heats, scrape bottom of the pan with a wooded spoon to loosen burnt bits. When boiling, add pasta. Cook 7-9 minutes, until not quite tender. Add sausage and broccoli rabe  back to pan and continue cooking until pasta is ready and sausage and broccoli rabe are hot. If needed, add additional water (I had to).

Remove from heat. There should be little water left in the pan – just enough to be a sauce. Season with salt, red pepper flakes and toss with 1/2 c. grated Parmesan.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Last month I attempted macarons. I was so excited, I thought they were going to come out – the temperamental cookies had “feet” and everything! However, I was never able to get the darn things off the baking sheet. I was sooo disappointed.

After my failed macaron attempt, I had a container of marscapone cheese in the fridge (the cookies were supposed to have a marscapone-raspberry filling). I rarely cook with marscapone and was struggling to find a recipeto use it up. Lucky for me, the perfect recipe popped up – tomato marscapone pasta. I love that it’s quick and easy (30-45 minutes end-to-end, mostly inactive time, depending on whether you follow the cooking times below… I’ve definitely cut the simmering time short at least once before), but even more, the sauce was impressive. The marscapone adds a slightly creamy texture to the sweet tomato sauce, making a simple meal something special. Thanks to The Jey of Cooking for a great new recipe!

Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Adapted from JaimeOliver.com via The Jey of Cooking

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, small dice
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. of pasta, cooked

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. When hot, add garlic, shallots/onions, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in red wine and simmer for another 20 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta.
  4. Just before pasta is ready, stir marscapone into tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and leave on the hot burner until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and stir in tomato-marscapone sauce.

Serve hot with a grated Parmesan cheese, a side salad, and some fresh bread.

Marinara Sauce

The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.

The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”

The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.

Marinara Sauce

By Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, small dice
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz. water
  • 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. sugar

* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.

In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)

When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola & Pecans

First impressions about Brussels sprouts…. and go….

Let me guess. First thought is “ew.” Followed by something like, “who eats that?” I used to think the same. When we were little my mom would steam them, stinking up the kitchen. My youngest brother was the only one of us fooled into eating the “baby trees” (no, wait, that was broccoli…. well, it was something like that).

Anyway, then one day, when I was in high school or college, my mom roasted the Brussels sprouts until they were crispy. The veggies were non-stinky, so I gave them a whirl. I was officially a convert. Roast ’em and you’ll get a slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture. Throw on some salt and maybe some bacon, and it quickly became one of my favorite sides, and the only way I’d eat Brussels sprouts.

Then this recipe came long. The Brussels sprouts were cooked pretty much the same – sliced instead of halved but roasted until crispy. Tossed with pasta, pecans, and a very light Gorgonzola-cream sauce, this recipe is sure to win over Brussels sprout-haters. Give it a try. Even a doubtful coworker cleaned his plate.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola & Pecans

Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 102 (p. 107)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground back pepper
  • 4 c. (20 oz.) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. dried pasta, such as shells or orecchiette
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. Gorgonzola, crumbled

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 500°F. You want the baking sheet hot before you roast the Brussels sprouts.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and a bit of salt, for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Prepare the Brussels Sprouts: In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts. When the baking sheet is heated, remove from oven. Place Brussels sprouts on baking sheet, and use a large spoon to toss with olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, until Brussels sprouts are coated. (You can also toss the Brussels sprouts, oil, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl, and then spread on the baking sheet, if you prefer.) Make sure Brussels sprouts are spread out in a single layer before roasting, until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes (stirring halfway through).

Cook the Pasta: As Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook pasta according to the box, draining once cooked.

Make the Sauce: In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1/2 Tbs. butter. Add pecans, cooking until pecans are toasted and butter is browned, about 3 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove pecans and place on a plate. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter. Cook shallots until softened, another 3 minutes, still stirring frequently. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and add 3/4 c. Gorgonzola, stirring until melted.

Put it Together: In a serving bowl, toss pasta, pecans, Brussels sprouts, and Gorgonzola-cream sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. Gorgonzola. Serve warm.