Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts


Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad

A few weeks ago, I made lunch for one of my favorite non-profit organizations, Rising Star Outreach. Rising Star helps those afflicted with leprosy in India through education, micro grants and medical care.
We served three salads:  Basil Couscous Salad,  Chicken, Apple and Smoked Gouda Salad and this incredibly simple and flavor packed Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad.  A fruit platter, assorted rolls and cookies completed the menu.

If you are looking for a simple and fresh pasta salad, it doesn't get much easier than this, cook the fresh pasta in less than two minutes, chop a few ingredients and toss with salad dressing.  It's great for make ahead, or make at the last minute. With fresh basil and tomatoes being available year round, this is a salad you can make any time of the year!

Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad
A Bountiful Kitchen

16-20 oz package fresh Tortellini or Ravioli cheese filled pasta
1- .7 oz  Good Seasons Salad Dressing (dry mix) envelope
6-8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut up
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup good quality Italian salad dressing  (I used Bernstein's Cheese Fantastico)
8-12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook Pasta according to package directions. Be careful to not overcook.  Rinse with cold water and drain well. Place pasta in a large bowl and sprinkle with dry seasoning. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible. Before serving, add the remaining ingredients.
Serve or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
Serves about 10 as a side dish.

-You may make this salad the day before serving. Cut up the mozzarella. Cut the tomatoes in half and refrigerate each in separate Ziploc bags (if you mix the cheeses and the tomatoes and refrigerate, the cheese will become wet from the tomatoes). Toss the cooked pasta with dry dressing, refrigerate in separate bag. When ready to serve, Toss all ingredients together, add artichokes, basil leaves, salt and pepper.
-If you are making this last minute, toss the pasta with the dry dressing mix and then add remaining ingredients. It is better if the pasta can sit with the dry dressing sprinkled on top, but not necessary.
-If you are making this for a large crowd, it is not necessary to double the dry and bottled dressings.  One package of the dry dressing should be enough for a double recipe. A double recipe will also consume about 1 1/4 cups of bottled dressing. Add more bottled dressing if necessary before serving.
-If you are preparing this for a large group, and want to shop at a big box store, purchase:
double pack of the cheese filled tortellini and two grape tomato packages, one package of the fresh mozzarella (comes in double pack), And 1 large marinated artichoke hearts (use  about 1/2 jar) . This along with tripling the dressings and basil should feed approx. 50 people as a side dish.


Favorite Summer Pasta Dinner

You know those nights when you just cant bring yourself to cook, but the thought of eating drive thru makes your stomach turn?? This is my simple solution. It's called Favorite Summer Pasta (and anything you have in the fridge) Dinner.

Here's the deal. Look in your fridge or freezer. Pull out any type of vegetable. It can be broccoli, carrots, peppers, spinach, green beans, asparagus. You'll need about 2 cups. Then some protein. Chicken goes well in this dish. Or you can use just about anything you have. I'd probably pass on Spam, but almost anything else goes. Shrimp, turkey, bratwurst, leftover steak, pork, even ground meat. Or if you're not a meat lover, you can simply add more veggies. Tofu (a firm texture) folded into this would be wonderful too!

I used Harmons brand of pasta, which I highly recommend. It has a comparable quality to that of pasta made in Italy. Trust me on this, I've carried home bags full of dried pasta from Italy on past trips. Once I realized for about the same price I could purchase the imported items here, I filled my carry-on with other items.

Get yourself a pot and grow a few fresh herbs.
Joy in a pot. 
If you have access to fresh tomatoes, use them! If you don't have any fresh tomatoes, use boxed or canned. And the fresh herbs? If you don't already have an herb pot, vow to grow one next summer.
In the amount of time it takes you to run to In and Out you can make this at home!
You're going to love it.

Favorite Summer Pasta
A Bountiful Kitchen

1/2 lb Harmons pasta, any shape will do, I used Casarecce pictured above
2-14 oz or one 26.46 oz carton Pomi brand chopped tomatoes,
or about 28-30 oz chopped fresh tomatoes in their own juice
2 cloves fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil
2-3 tablespoons each fresh chopped oregano, rosemary, thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup cream (optional)
2 cups chopped fresh vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, etc
2 cups chicken (or other meat), chopped into bite size pieces and cooked
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, additional for topping pasta

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain and set aside.
Pour the chopped tomatoes in a large saucepan. Simmer over medium high heat. Add garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper and sugar. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until reduced a bit.
Meanwhile, chop vegetables and place on plate and microwave for about 2 minutes, covered or until the veggies are barely cooked and bright in color. Toss into sauce and add chicken as well.
Add cream and cheese and cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Toss sauce with cooked pasta. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese on top.
Serves about 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish

-This recipe is easy to double. Simply double the sauce and cook the entire package of pasta. Doubled, it will serve 8.
-It is best to use fresh vegetables and fresh herbs in this recipe. Although, the Pomi brand (purchased at Harmons) chopped tomatoes work very well in place of fresh tomatoes. if using fresh tomatoes, make sure to use a variety that will yield a lot of juice. I do not recommend using fresh Roma's in this recipe, they don't typically yield enough juice.
-I found the Harmons brand pasta needed a bit more cooking than the package directions. I cooked the pasta for about 10-11 minutes total for a perfect al dente texture. Make sure to test this in your kitchen. Depending on size of pot, how much water and pasta are in the pot, how hard the water is boiling will all be factors in how quickly pasta cooks. Do not over cook!


Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

I love recipes that are simple enough for a weeknight, but  are also special enough to be served to dinner guests. This recipe hits the jackpot for a dish that falls into both categories. 
My friend Laurie, also famous for a few other recipes on this blog (Laurie and Amy's Amazing Chocolate Cake,  Laurie's Amazing Carrot Cake,  Laurie's Creamy White Chili,  Laurie's Lemon Bars ) gave me this recipe. If you're new to ABK, here's a tip- anything with this woman's name on it is amazing and worth making. 
This dish is perfect for almost any occasion. I mean, really now. Who doesn't love pasta, cream, tomatoes and cheese?? 
Throw in a little sweet Italian sausage. Perfection in a bowl. 
Oh, and I forgot to mention. It takes less than 30 minutes start to serve. 
You're going to love this. 
And your family will too. 

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream
Laurie Cutler (with slight alterations and additions)

1- 1 lb package bow tie pasta
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
3- 14.5 oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes, drained 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
additional Parmesan or Romano cheese, fresh grated

Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain, toss with a little olive oil and set aside. 
Using medium-medium high heat cook sausage, red pepper flakes, chopped onion and sliced mushrooms in large pan until sausage is browned a bit, breaking up sausage into bite size chunks while cooking. This takes about 5 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of cooking.  Drain the grease. Pat sausage mixture with paper towels to remove excess grease from meat. 
Stir in tomatoes, cream and salt. Simmer until mixture is thickened a bit, about 8-10 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese to sauce.  
Stir cooked pasta into sauce, or pour sauce over cooked pasta on platter. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. 
Serves 6 as a main dish
See tips below for making this lower in fat. 

-I use a mixture of part sweet Italian sausage and part spicy sausage. 
-You may use part half and half, and part cream.
-I have used both Italian chopped tomatoes, or cans of plain chopped tomatoes. 
-To lighten this up, you could use 2-3 chicken breast halves and all half and half. Crush two of the cans of tomatoes before adding to the pan with a masher, or pulse in a blender for a few seconds. 
-When tomatoes are in season, use fresh juicy tomatoes, such as beefsteak tomatoes.  Chop several into a bowl, scooping juice into the bowl as well. Measure out about 5 1/2 cups of fresh tomatoes and juice. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, pinch of sugar and any of the following fresh or dried herbs( about 3 tablespoons fresh each, 1 tablespoon dried)  parsley, thyme, oregano. 
-This can also be made in the slow cooker. Cook the sausage, drain and place in slow cooker. Add the rest of ingredients, except the cream. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 
last half hour of cooking, add the cream. Stir and turn temperature to high. Serve as directed over cooked pasta, top with fresh basil. 


Margherita Pasta (updated)

It's summer and if you're like me, you're thinking of every way to avoid turning on the oven, but not eat a sandwich or salad. Again. You're in luck. This recipe involves the stove, but only for a few minutes.
I originally posted this recipe in 2010, but have updated it a bit. Spaghetti Margherita is a simple and straight-forward dish. While the pasta is cooking, you can throw together the sauce.

Some people think- Margherita Pasta? Is that alcoholic? The answer is no. Legend (some question this) says that Pizza Margherita was created in the late 1800's, and named for Queen Margherita to reflect the colors of the Italian flag. The pasta variation followed.

I know I say this all of the time, but EVERYONE loves this dish. When I make it for my boys, they love it, even though it isn't a meat dish. Now that's saying something. Since they have never jumped aboard the "meat is not all that good for you and you should eat it sparingly" train.
Lazy summer days mean lazy summer nights.
This dish fits perfectly with that theme.

Spaghetti Margherita (updated 8/2014)
A Bountiful Kitchen
print recipe

3/4 lb. spaghetti, cooked "al dente", drained
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (optional) optional, but highly recommended for flavor
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes (about 10-12) coarsely chopped or grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
½ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
additional basil leaves for garnish

Cook pasta. Set aside, or while pasta is cooking prepare sauce.
In large skillet, heat oil and butter over low heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant over low heat, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add basil, and pasta to pan with tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until all pasta is heated through. Just before ready to serve, pour into serving bowl, toss with fresh mozzarella and grated cheese. Serve at once with additional grated cheese, and more fresh basil if desired.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.

-Fresh Mozzarella differs from mozzarella that is sold in most cheese cases at grocery stores. Some grocery stores, such as Harmons in Utah, make their own fresh mozzarella daily.
Make sure you are purchasing fresh mozzarella for this dish. Fresh Mozzarella is made from whole milk in small batches, usually round in shape and surrounded in liquid.
-If you aren't growing basil in your back yard, you can purchase fresh basil at farmers markets, grocery and garden stores. One plant will yield fresh basil for several recipes this summer.


Broccoli, Grape and Pasta Salad

You know that salad that shows up at every potluck? The one with broccoli, sunflower seeds, bacon and a coleslaw dressing?  I like it, but it's a little heavy on green for some of my fam (code for the boys). This salad is a twist on that old favorite.  I opted out of the bacon and didn't miss it a bit. Make sure to give the sunflower seeds a try. The original Southern Living recipe calls for pecans, but I thought staying with the original idea of broccoli and sunflower seeds would be a nice combo and I loved the end result.  If you're looking for a newbie to take to your next bbq, give this recipe a try. You're going to love it.

Broccoli, Grape and Pasta Salad
Adapted from Southern Living by A Bountiful Kitchen

1- 1 lb package farfalle (bow tie shaped) or other pasta
3/4 pound fresh broccoli, blanched if desired
2 cups seedless red grapes
8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled (optional)
3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup light mayonnaise ( I like Best Foods or Hellman's)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
Cut broccoli into bite size pieces. 
Wash grapes and leave whole, or if desired, cut in half.
Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Separate about half of the dressing and set aside in small bowl or cup, cover and set in refrigerator.  Add broccoli, cooked pasta, and grapes to bowl with remaining dressing.  Stir to coat pasta, broccoli and grapes. Cover and chill 3 hours or overnight. 
When ready to serve, add remaining dressing and bacon (if using) and toss. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds just before serving. 


Baked Ziti (new and improved) and Girl's Camp 2013

Last week I joined 300+ young women and their leaders in the mountains above Heber City. Depending on the day, we had between 330-350 girls and leaders in attendance.
With a crew of 7 joyful, hardworking women, we planned, cooked, and served about 3300 meals in 5 days. Did you just go back and re read that? Me too. Our meals included some ABK favorites: Teriyaki Spinach Pasta Salad,  Southwest Salad with Cilantro Honey Lime Dressing, Sweet Baked Beans (click on links for recipes) , and our favorite pasta- Baked Ziti. Ziti for camp? You know how they say food always tastes better when you're camping? I never fell for that line, but it's true if you are eating Baked Ziti.
We also made some new favorites I'll post in the next few weeks:  Kash's Black Cherry Chocolate Dutch Oven Cobbler, Janis' Hot Fudge Sauce, Slow Cooked Roast for French Dip and Cooler Corn for 350.  
Here are a few pics of our adventures in the mountains  kitchen...
The kitchen crew: Janis,Jenny,Brenda, me, Michelle, Mims, Stephanie, Kash.
Amazing women. 

Remember when I first posted Cook's Illustrated Baked Ziti  back in 2009? After making the Cook's recipe several times, I decided it needed a little tweaking. The biggest issues I had with their recipe were:
1. It was a bit on the dry side, especially when heating up for leftovers. 
2.There were too many steps (dishes to pour in and out of and other unnecessary complications). The recipe needed to be streamlined. 
I set out to make a dish with more sauce and easy to create in about 30 minutes. 
The result-we love this dish. 
The girls loved this dish. 
All 300 of them. 

Baked Ziti
A Bountiful Kitchen, adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 pound Ziti or other short, tubular pasta (it is usually easier for me to find Rigatoni)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
2-15 oz can tomato sauce
1-8 oz can tomato sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon each
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound whole milk cottage cheese or low fat  cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

Cook pasta for about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside. 
Place oil and garlic in large pan and sauté over medium heat just until fragrant. Add all of the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until thickened a bit. Turn off heat and add 1/2 cup of chopped basil. 
Pour heavy cream into a second large saucepan. While cream is cold, whisk in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.  Simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1lb of cottage cheese, 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup of the tomato sauce mixture, and half of the Parmesan and cubed mozzarella (reserving the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella for top of dish). Stir until combined (this mixture will now be a light red/pinkish color). 
Add the cooked pasta to the cream mixture. Stir until all of the pasta is coated. 
Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Pour remaining tomato mixture over the top and sprinkle the remaining cubed mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta in dish. Top dish with remaining chopped fresh basil ( I like to save a few leaves for after baking as well for color). 
Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees on middle rack of oven for 30 minutes with foil, then remove foil for last 30 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Tips (longer than the recipe):
-We made 17x this recipe for the girls and divided it into 8 large (20 3/4 x 12 3/4x 3 inches deep-disposable foil steam table pans) The pans served about 35-40 each.
-We prepared the Ziti and covered each pan with foil until baking. The dish was prepared Saturday morning, and was baked Monday late afternoon. It was as good as if it were prepared on the same day.
-This dish may also be frozen after ingredients are poured into the pan.  About two hours before baking, remove from freezer and set on counter. When ready to bake, place in oven at 325 for 1 1/2 hours on middle rack.  After 1 1/2 hours, turn oven to 375, remove foil,  and bake an additional 15 minutes. Allow more time if multiple pans are being baked in the same oven (about 15  minutes per pan, while covered).
-If you don't have a basil plant, or enough basil to make this dish, I suggest a trip to Trader Joes, where you can buy (the biggest basil plant you have ever seen in your life) for $2.99 . That's right $2.99.  We used three trees plants to make 17 times this recipe, it was more than enough fresh basil for our Ziti-a-thon.
-When I first started making this dish as a child (jk) , I thought fresh mozzarella was always the best choice when following a recipe that called for mozzarella. Not so. It has way too much moisture for this dish. A firm mozzarella, that can easily be cut into cubes works best. It melts into the pasta dish without leaving water in the bottom of the dish.
-If you are making this recipe in large quantity, I found that the #10 cans found at Costco and other restaurant suppliers will cover 3x this recipe for the tomato sauce. So instead of: 2-15 oz cans and 1-8 oz can of tomato sauce for every three times this recipe, I used 1 #10 can of tomato sauce (approx 96 oz), and one additional 15 oz can of tomato sauce. If you 6x the recipe, use 2 #10 cans of tomato sauce and one #10 can of diced tomatoes.


Lobster and Shells

If you want to splurge on Mom for Mother's Day, try this salad from Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa.  Ina says it's important to use small shells in this salad so the corn kernels can get stuck inside of the shells. These things are important. Yes, they are. 
If you are as anxious for summer to get here as I am, you'll love this recipe. It tastes like a bite of summer in a salad. 

Lobster and Shells

Kosher salt
olive oil
1 pound small pasta shells, such as Ronzoni
Kernels from 8 ears of corn (about 6 cups) cooked, or about 1 1/2 small bags frozen corn*
12 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 yellow or orange or red bell peppers, seeded and small-diced
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 pounds cooked fresh lobster meat, medium-diced, about 2 medium size lobster tails
1 1/2 cups Best Foods or Hellman's mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream, regular or light*
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-4 lemons, depending on how juicy)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup minced fresh dill*

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt and some olive oil. Add the pasta and cook it for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente.  Drain the pasta pour into a large mixing bowl.  Add the frozen corn. Add the scallions, diced pepper, tomatoes, and lobster, tossing gently to combine. Allow to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, 4 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper until smooth. Pour over the pasta and mix well to bind the ingredients. Stir in the dill. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 6 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Check the seasonings and serve chilled or at room temperature.

-*Fresh corn is always best. Cook the cobs of corn for about 4 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Cut the corn off the cob and let cool before adding to the salad.  If fresh is unavailable, use frozen corn, unthawed. The corn will thaw in the salad and help keep the rest of the salad ingredients cool.
-*Sour Cream-I used regular sour cream, but thought the dressing was a bit heavy. This salad could use a little lightening up, next time I make it I will use light sour cream.
-If you make this ahead of time and set in the fridge, you may need to thin the dressing a bit  by whisking in a tablespoon or two of milk. 
-Fresh dill- If at all possible, use fresh dill. If fresh is not available, 1 tablespoon of dried dill will work. 

Here's the link to Amazon and Ina's "How Easy is That?" cookbook. It's the perfect Mother's Day gift. 


Sheri's Creamy Southern Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese. What comes to mind when you hear those words? If it's a pan filled with an unnatural yellow/orange color sauce coating macaroni, your world is about to change.
In a good way.
My SIL,  Sheri, is famous for making huge pans of luscious, creamy mac and cheese. She perfected the art of making an amazing pan of one of my favorite dishes when she lived in the South.
I love it when we have a family dinner that includes a pan of her mac and cheese. Love it for days after too. This dish re-heats beautifully.  Sheri's version includes lots of sauce,  coating the pasta generously,  so it doesn't become a thick, gluey mess when heated up for leftovers. This is mac and cheese heaven.
You're gonna love it.

Creamy Southern Macaroni and Cheese
print recipe

½ cup butter
3-4 tablespoons grated or crushed onion
1 cup flour
6 cups skim milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons pepper
5 cups sharp or combination of sharp and extra sharp cheese
1 ½ cups fresh grated Parmesan
1 pound macaroni

Boil macaroni until al dente. Set aside.
Melt butter. Sauté onion in butter until onion is translucent not brown. Add flour and cook for about two minutes. Add milk and stir with wire whisk. Cook until thickened. Add nutmeg, dried mustard, salt, and pepper. Turn off heat. Add 3 ½ - 4 c. sharp cheddar and 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan. Put in greased 9x13 pan and cover with 1 c. sharp cheddar and ½ c. Parmesan. Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes until lightly browned.

-You may add any of the following in the recipe above: sautéed mushrooms, diced tomatoes, diced jalapenos, chopped spinach, chopped broccoli, smoked chicken.
-Also, you may substitute Gouda, smoked Gouda, smoked Cheddar, Swiss, or any other type of cheese you like as part of the cheese. Mild cheddar is not recommended, as the flavor is too bland.
-This is also great as a make ahead dish. Prepare as directed, refrigerate and bake within two days.
-This dish also freezes well. To cook, remove from freezer and keep covered with foil. Bake at 325 for  about 1 hour. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.


America's Test Kitchen Spaghetti and Meatballs

Who doesn't love a good spaghetti dinner?  The America's Test Kitchen  recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs intrigued me because it calls for bread soaked in buttermilk, instead of the dried bread crumbs I use in my go-to recipe. The meatballs were extra tender, and the buttermilk added a bit of tang, as the Test Kitchen book promised. Yummy.
If you are looking for the perfect Sunday meal, (which in my opinion includes a good part of the meal prepared ahead) make these Saturday afternoon. After completely cooking the meatballs and preparing the sauce, let the meatballs bathe in the sauce overnight in the fridge.
Trust me, you'll want to double this recipe.
One step closer to the day of rest.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
print recipe

2 slices white bread (crusts discarded), torn into small cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons sweet milk
3/4 pound ground beef  ( or 1 pound if omitting ground pork below)
1/4 pound ground pork (to be mixed with ground chuck)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg yolk
1 small clove garlic , minced (1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for pan-frying

Simple Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound spaghetti
grated Parmesan for topping pasta

For the meatballs: 
Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms.
Mix all meatball ingredients, including bread mixture and pepper  in medium bowl. Lightly form 2 tablespoons of mixture into 1 1/2-inch round meatballs; repeat with remaining mixture to form approximately 18-20 meatballs. (Compacting them can make the meatballs dense and hard. Can be placed on large plate, covered loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for several hours.)
Meanwhile, heat  about two to three tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat in 10- or 11-inch non stick saute pan. When edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, regulating heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to paper towel--lined plate; set aside. Repeat, if necessary, with remaining meatballs.

For the sauce:
Discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; saute, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer. Keep warm over low flame.

For pasta:
Heat 4 quarts of water to boiling in a large pot to cook pasta. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Follow package directions and cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot until serving. 

-This recipe serves about 6 adults. 
- The longer the sauce simmers, the more flavorful the dish will be. Preparing the dish the day before allows for best flavor. This dish may be prepared up to five days before serving. On day of serving, cook pasta and heat up sauce on stove top over low to medium heat for about 45 minutes. 


Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach

A few weeks ago, I received an email asking if I wanted to join a group of bloggers (about 50) to post mac and cheese recipes they find on the Internet. Same day, same time, random recipes. The only rule: the recipe had to be found on a blog.

Remember when I told you there were approx 40 THOUSAND food blogs out there?  I think almost every single one of those blogs has a mac and cheese post. How to find a special recipe? One worthy of a mac and cheese challenge? I turned to my cheese drawer, and my good friend Google. In the fridge,  I found some Baby Gouda (still in the wax) that Brookie brought me back from Henri Willig while in Amsterdam.  Also, some white cheddar,  yellow cheddar, and about 7 other types of cheese. Cause you never want to be without at least 10 varieties of cheese in your fridge, right? Just in case. Anyway.  I had eaten some of this special Gouda months ago, but was saving this round for a special occasion. Btw, if you are thinking whaaa? Didn't Brooke go to Europe last year? Answer, yes. But hard, low moisture cheese wrapped in wax stays good indefinitely, so no worries.  I googled Gouda Mac and Cheese and came up with a great little recipe from A Cozy Kitchen .
Result: move over children, this mac and cheese is for grownups.

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach
adapted from Chase Livengood, a Cozy Kitchen
print recipe

1 lb package short pasta (penne, elbow macaroni, etc) I used large macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
5 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8-oz block sharp or regular white cheddar cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)
8-oz block smoked Gouda cheese, grated and divided (about 2 cups)
4-oz  medium cheddar cheese, grated and divided ( about 1 cup)
4 oz  regular Gouda cheese, grated and divided (about 1 cup)
2 cups fresh spinach, washed
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained

Cook the pasta about 7-8 minutes in boiling salted water, remove when pasta is al dente.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Continue whisking and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisking constantly, cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in salt, black pepper and most of the cheese, reserving about two cups of cheese. Stir in the fresh spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Remove from heat.

Pour the pasta in a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta. 
Using a large spoon, evenly distribute the sauce without stirring. 
Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of assorted cheeses.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven, let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving.


- This recipe is easy to half. I halved this recipe, and baked it in a 8 inch casserole. Perfect!
-You may use any combo of cheeses in this recipe, I would not suggest using more than 2 cups of smoked Gouda, the flavor is very distinct, and 2 cups of smoked Gouda goes a long way :)

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Caesar Pasta Salad

This is my new favorite super simple go-to salad. It came about when I was making a salad for a missionary farewell a few months ago.  Farewell food is kind of like funeral food. It has to be able to stand up to sitting on a table for a while without wilting or melting. It has to appeal to a large crowd, young and old.  And doubling or tripling the recipe should be easy.  I know your Aunt Edna's gonna love it.

Caesar Pasta Salad
A Bountiful Kitchen
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1 lb pasta, any shape (I like Radiatore) cooked al dente
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian dressing, dry
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halve them if you like
2 large or 6 hearts of Romaine lettuce, washed, chopped
4 cups croutons, home made or store bought
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese*
1/2 to 3/4  (32 oz) bottle Cardinis Original Caesar Dressing*, refrigerated before using if possible

Make ahead- if possible, the night before serving:
Place cooked pasta in a bowl.  Sprinkle with dry Good Seasons Italian dressing and about 1/2 cup of the bottled Cardinis dressing.  Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, before serving:
Place the prepared pasta, grape tomatoes, chopped lettuce, croutons and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl.  Toss with about 1/2 of the bottle of dressing.  Let sit for a few minutes, add additional dressing to taste just before serving.

-I purchase the grape tomatoes, Romaine, croutons, Parmesan cheese and Cardini's dressing at Costco.
-*I usually prefer fresh grated Parmesan, but in this case, I like the bagged grated Parmesan. It holds up better and won't "fade" into the salad. A big bag will last forever, and can be frozen, if needed.  Found in the refrigerator section next to other bagged, grated cheese.
-*If you can't find Cardini's, any other name brand of Caesar dressing will work. Also, it's best to refrigerate the salad dressing before adding to the salad. Helps keep the salad cooler.
-If grape or cherry tomatoes aren't available or too expensive, use chopped Roma tomatoes instead.
-Adding chopped or sliced chicken makes this a nice main dish salad.
-This makes a huge salad, enough to serve about 30-40 as a side dish. Depending on how polite your peeps are.


Mango Chicken Pasta Salad with Tarragon Lime Dressing

We have this cute little place called Plates and Palates in Bountiful. Not Plates and Pilates (what everyone thinks it's called until they realize its  a restaurant, not a workout studio).   Plates and Palates. It's locally owned and operated by Jared, Justin and Nina Christensen. Their shop has been a popular lunch spot for girlfriends in Davis County  since 2004. They make all of their salads and dressings in the shop each day. My usual combo is a half green (usually Pear and Pecan with Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette) along with half of one of their pasta salads. My favorite pasta salads are the Mango Avocado Chicken with Basil Dressing or the Lemon Bowtie with Tarragon Dressing. This salad is my creation,  a combo of the two, with a little bit lighter version of their dressing. You know how crazy I am about sweet and savory together, I loved the way the flavors all blend. Perfect for a summer bbq.
Oh and if you are in Btown, make sure to stop by and have lunch or take-out from Plates. They treat everyone like family... you'll be feeling like a local in no time.

Mango Chicken Pasta Salad with Tarragon Lime Dressing
A Bountiful Kitchen
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3/4 lb bow tie pasta
1 1/2 cup chopped celery
1 bunch chopped green onion, green parts only
3 cups seedless grapes, red or green
1 ripe mango, cubed
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked, cubed, (about 2 cups)
1-2 avocados, chopped
slivered almonds, toasted, optional

Tarragon Lime Dressing:
1 1/4 cups mayo (not low fat)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2-3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dried tarragon or 1/4 cup fresh chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed on package.  Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside to cool.
Prepare the dressing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl. If you are using fresh herbs, place ingredients in a blender and blend until herbs are chopped fine.  Pour half of the dressing over the pasta and place in the refrigerator overnight if possible, or for at least 2 hours.
Place chopped celery, green onion, grapes, mango and chicken in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
To assemble, place three quarters of the vegetable, mango and chicken mixture in the bowl with the pasta that has been mixed with dressing. Most of the dressing will have been absorbed into the cooked pasta.
Toss in the remaining half of dressing.
Place the pasta mixture on a serving platter or bowl and top with the remaining vegetable, chicken and fruit mixture, and chopped avocado.  Top with almonds.

-I think tossing the pasta with the dressing and letting it rest in the fridge allows the flavors soak into the pasta. If you don't have time for that, just mix up the salad and let the pasta sit in the dressing for at least a half hour. Then proceed as directed.
-If you want make a  fresh basil-lime dressing, just sub 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves for the tarragon.
-I made this up with 1 lb pasta originally, but thought the veggie to pasta ratio was a bit on the heavy side for the pasta, so I reduced the amount of pasta in this recipe to 3/4 lb.
-Did I mention Plates and Palates caters? If you are not the cooking type, you can purchase a whole BOWL of salad for your next gathering at a very reasonable price :) 


Orzo, Shrimp and Summer Vegetable Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

For some unknown reason, I feel the need to have an orzo salad with our Easter meal. Why orzo? Why at Easter? We don't really need to answer these questions.    Information that actually might be useful: Orzo is a small rice shaped pasta.  It comes in different sizes, some look more flat and like short grain rice. Other varieties of orzo are more similar to a piece of long grain rice. I prefer the longer, thinner shape. It's not rice, just pasta shaped like rice. Find it in the pasta section of your grocery.

The Easter orzo salad changes a little each year. I love shrimp, orzo and vegetables together. I tried a new recipe this year, and everyone agreed it's a keeper. I know you're going to love it too.

Orzo, Shrimp and Summer Vegetable Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon Appetite 2008
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8 ounces orzo (about 1 1/3 cups)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (about 9 ounces total), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 red or yellow bell pepper, quartered
3 tablespoons purchased pesto
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 cups tomatoes, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups) or 2 cups grape tomatoes, slice in half
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves plus sprigs for garnish
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush zucchini and bell pepper with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk pesto, lime juice, remaining 4  tablespoons oil, and remaining 1-2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl for pesto vinaigrette. Place shrimp in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons pesto vinaigrette; toss to coat.
Grill zucchini and bell pepper until crisp tender, about 2 minutes per side for zucchini and 3 minutes per side for bell pepper. Transfer to work surface. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper; grill until charred and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place shrimp in bowl with orzo. Chop zucchini and bell pepper; add to bowl with orzo. Add remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, sliced basil, and mozzarella; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Garnish with basil sprigs and serve cold or at room temperature.
Serves 4-6 as a side salad
This can be made ahead and kept in refrigerator for up to a day before serving. 

-This can be prepared without a grill. If you have a convection oven, turn the heat to about 425 and cook just until vegetables start to turn golden. You may cook the shrimp in the oven as well, or saute in a pan on the stove. The flavors are definitely better when the vegetables ad shrimp are grilled on a barbecue grill.
-Don't overcook the vegetables.  They should be barely softened when cooked properly. 


Pasta with Creamed Leek and Spinach

It's baseball season again.  Caught me by surprise, again.  You would think I'd get the hang of this after years and years of boys playing ball, but it always sneaks up on me. The first night of the regular season, there I was sitting at a game, 7 PM, eating mini Reese's and Red Vines for dinner.  Then, the "after meal" on our way home at 9:30.  The choices were fast food and fast food.
Ok, so now I'm resolved to get my act together.  Either start dinner early in the day, in a slow cooker, or find some quick and easy meals to make. I found this one in a new cookbook "Food and Wine Annual Recipes 2011".  It's a compilation of all of the recipes found in their 2010 magazines.  Remember this recipe for Sweet Potato Meringue Pie with Ginger Pecan Crust we made in November?  Same magazine.  Wonderful recipes.  I threw this dish together in a matter of minutes. Served it with a simple salad and bread.  The guys liked it so much they ate seconds when we returned from the game.  This is my kind of fast food.

Pasta with Creamed Leek and Spinach
Food and Wine Magazine 2010
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3/4 pound fusilli, penne, ziti or other pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups packed baby spinach 4 oz, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
pinch of nutmeg, optional
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
shaved Parmesan

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente, drain, reserving a bit of the water for thinning sauce.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, heat the oil.  Add the chopped leek and cook over moderate heat until softened about 10 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss over medium low heat until the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Remove from heat and add the basil.  Season with salt pepper and nutmeg if desired. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little bit of the warm pasta water to thin the sauce.  Top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

-This is a creamy and rich dish, if you want to cut some of the calories, you may use half and half.  The sauce will not be as thick, but the flavor will still be great.
-To shave the Parmesan cheese,  simply lay the wedge of cheese on a cutting board and take a sharp knife and run it from the top to the bottom of the piece of cheese.  The cheese will come off in large pieces.
-Great side to serve with chicken or fish.