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Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

These days I have an abundance of fresh basil leaves. I don’t have much of a green thumb but basil plants and I somehow get along really well. And so I am trying not to let this wonderful aromatic herb go to waste by making some basil pesto. It is quick and easy to make and, although I have not tried it myself, I have read that pesto also can be made using walnuts, unsalted cashews, almonds, pistachios and even  sunflower seeds. Besides using pesto on your pasta, it can also be used as a sandwich spread, baked into bread, add a little to your soup or marinara sauce for extra flavor. Today I am freezing mine by dropping spoonfuls into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, I pop them out of the tray and into a freezer bag for later use. Enjoy!

Basil Pesto (makes approx 1 cup)

Ingredients:

2 cups packed basil leaves

1-2 large garlic cloves

60 grams pine nuts

1/2 cup reggiano parmesan cheese, shredded and loosely packed

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

lemon juice, a big squeeze

salt to taste, a pinch

Directions:

Place basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and cheese into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. While the food processor is running, add olive oil and lemon juice. Scraping down sides, process until desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

Source: My Danish Kitchen

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Greek Pasta Salad

Caprese Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

This pasta salad war originally a caprese pasta salad with mozzarella, but I really don’t like to bite into chunks of mozzarella cheese. So I changed it up a little and replaced the mozzarella with a delicious feta cheese which I love. The dressing for the pasta salad is a wonderful blend of garlic infused olive oil, balsamic vinegar with a background of fresh basil, really flavorful. I hope you enjoy this easy to make and very delicious pasta salad.

Pasta Salad (8-10 servings)

Ingredients:

12 oz. of your favorite pasta, cooked

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 oz. feta cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse, set aside. In a small skillet combine olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes (optional) over low heat. Warm oil slowly to allow flavors to infuse, 5-10 minutes. Do not let the garlic take on color. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place pasta in a bowl. Add olive oil mixture, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and basil, toss to combine. Add feta cheese, toss gently. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

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Garlic and Anchovy Farfalle

Garlic and Anchovy Farfalle

Now that the holidays are over and we are settling back into our everyday routines, I think we need something quick and easy on the dinner menu. And this pasta dish is so easy to make, not to mention very delicious. The recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis and I just made some slight little changes. Enjoy!

Fresh Baby Spinach

Fresh Baby Spinach

Garlic and Anchovy Farfalle (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 pound farfalle pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

3 cloves of garlic, minced

5 cups baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until tender. Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

Rinse spinach in cold water, drain and set aside. In a large pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and garlic, cook for until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.  Add spinach and salt, cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Add cooked pasta to pan, add 1/2 of the grated cheese to pasta, add some of the reserved pasta water to pan, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Pour pasta into serving dish and top with remaining cheese. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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Stuffed Pasta Shells

I love stuffed pasta, actually I love anything pasta. But if the pasta is stuffed with just cheese, I am not a fan. So I like to mix something else in with that cheese, in this case, some spicy sausage and lots of fresh basil. The basil gives a wonderful flavor, and the spicy sausage adds a little heat and a better texture. It’s a win win! I hope you enjoy these Stuffed Pasta Shells as much as we did.

Ingredients:

6 oz jumbo pasta shells (1/2 box or 16 individual shells)

8 oz spicy ground sausage, cooked and cooled

15 oz ricotta cheese, part skim

1 egg

10 large basil leaves, chopped

1 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/2 tsp salt

your favorite marinara sauce

mozzarella cheese, for topping

Directions:

Cook sausage, drain off fat and place in refrigerator to cool.

Combine ricotta cheese, egg, basil, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and salt in a small bowl. Add cooked, cooled sausage. Stir to combine and place in refrigerator to keep cool.

Cook pasta in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a baking dish place a small amount of marinara sauce. Fill cooked shells with cheese/sausage filling and place in baking dish. Top with more marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake in oven for 35 minutes. Enjoy!

Source: My Danish Kitchen

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Penne Pasta with Shrimp

I had a craving for pasta and shrimp but didn’t want Shrimp Scampi since we had that not too long ago. Then i remembered this pasta dish which I have been meaning to try out. I made some adjustment to fit my likings and it turned out really good. The flavors are mild, a little sweet and creamy. I think I might add a little red pepper flakes next time I make this just to give it a kick.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound penne pasta

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

8-10 basil leaves, chiffonade

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring salted pasta water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente.

Peel and devein shrimp, season with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook for two minutes, turning shrimp over half-way through cooking time. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil to pan and lower heat to medium. Cook diced onions until tender and translucent. Add minced garlic and cook one minute longer, add wine and reduce for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and stir to blend. Add canned tomatoes and continue to simmer covered until pasta is ready.

Add pasta, parsley, basil and half/half. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat. Add shrimp back into pasta dish and arrange on serving dish. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks Book

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Pasta Salad with sun-dried tomatoes

I was looking for a good Pasta Salad to serve for the “BurleyMen Club” 🙂 aka Artist Blacksmith Group of Tidewater for their monthly meeting held at Gentile Forge. I came across this Pasta Salad and thought it sounded super delicious. Sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamate olives, what a winning combination. And it was delicious!….but….I’m now thinking that it might have been the wrong type of food to serve for all those MEN. Don’t get me wrong, they liked it, but the wrong type of food nonetheless. The sun-dried tomatoes may have been too refined, too delicate and too modern. This Pasta Salad would fit-in much better at my work with all the GIRLS there. I’ll try it out there for our next potluck.

Sun-dried Tomato Dressing

If your not able to find pitted olives use a Cherry Pitter, it works great. 

Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

Dressing:

7 oz Sun-dried Tomatoes in oil, drained

2 small or 1 large Garlic Clove

3 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad:

8 oz Spiral Pasta

20 Kalamata Olives (a good handful), sliced or chopped

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, cut in halves

10 Basil leaves, julienned

1 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Directions:

In a food processor combine sun-dried tomatoes (drained), garlic, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Start the food processor and add the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue blending until a homogeneous mass. Store in an airtight container for 1-3 hours or preferably until the following day to allow flavors to marry. Note: this dressing recipe makes enough for 2 pasta salads.

Cook pasta in salted water until desired consistency, rinse under cold running water and drain. Add about 1/4 of dressing to pasta and stir. Add cherry tomatoes, olives, Basil and about 2/3 cup Parmesan, stir gently. Continue to add more dressing and Parmesan cheese to your liking. Note: reserve a small amount of Parmesan for topping. Enjoy.

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa

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Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi is elegant, intensely flavored and surprisingly easy to make. It seems like a complicated dish because it’s usually something you would choose to order at a nice restaurant and not something you would think of to make at home. And the shrimp and pasta does not have to swim in butter like some places like to serve them. There wasn’t a lot of butter in this recipe to begin with but I cut it back even further and it is still delicious. I love Shrimp Scampi and serve it quite often, try it, I really think you’ll like it.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound angle hair pasta

3 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, finely diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes, optional

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

Cook angle hair pasta al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes until shallots are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add them to pan and cook until they turn pink, 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice to pan and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil and once butter has melted return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley, cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Tyler Florence

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Best Marinara Sauce

Best Marinara Sauce

I love love love tomatoes and Marinara sauce. I would eat it 7 days a week if they let me. But they won’t let me. Actually, truth be told, I eat a tomato every day for lunch and my coworkers love to point it out to me and so I never hear the end of it. 🙂 But I can’t help myself, lunch just dosn’t seem right without my shiny little red friend. Sorry, got a little sidetracked there.

Now for the Marinara sauce. This is without a doubt the very best Marinara sauce that I have tried out so far. This has become a favorite in our house and I’m happy to report that even my son likes it (and that’s saying a lot because he is used to only the best from his grandmother who makes a mean pasta and meatball). If you have a food mill this is a breeze to make, if not, it’s a little more work but well worth the effort. This sauce freezes really well so I always make a big batch and keep it in the freezer for easy use. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound diced pancetta

2 large Spanish onions, diced

Kosher salt

4 large garlic cloves, minced

4 (28 ounce) cans Italian diced or plum San Marzano tomatoes

Directions:

Coat a large sauce pot with olive oil and add diced pancetta. Bring the pot to a medium-high heat and cook pancetta for 4 to 5 minutes. Add onion and season generously with salt, stir to coat with olive oil. Cook the onions for 6 to 7 minutes stirring frequently. The onions should become soft and translucent but have no color. Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes stirring frequently.

Pass the tomatoes through a food mill or if you don’t have a food mill simply just pulse the tomatoes in a food processor to break them up and then press the tomatoes through a sieve. Make sure to press until you have a dry paste left in the sieve. This part can be a little bit of a workout. Make sure to scrape all the delicious pulp off the bottom of the sieve or the food mill. Add the tomatoes to the pot and rinse out 1 of the empty cans with water and add the water to the pot (about 2-3 cups). Season generously with salt (season in baby steps) and taste it to make sure it is seasoned enough. Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting frequently.

Serve sauce right away or cool down and then freeze.

Source: Anne Burrell

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Orzo with Grape Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

I just love Orzo! I serve it with everything, even things Orzo should not be served with. Orzo is so versatile and the combinations for what you can add to these tiny little pastas are endless. I saw this recipe on TV somewhere but I don’t recall which TV show it was on, so I am not able to give proper credit. 

And so, the other day my son came home from College. After a semester of cafeteria food he seems really happy to finally get some home cooked meals. I served this Orzo with my Teriyaki Chicken Nuggets and it got the official “head nod” stamp of approval. I was delighted! This Orzo dish is light, delicious and so easy to make that even a college student could make it.  🙂 

Ingredients: 

1 cup Orzo pasta 

5 oz. grape tomatoes 

3-4 tbsp feta cheese 

1 tbsp butter 

1 large sprig Basil 

Directions: 

Start by cutting grape tomatoes into halves. Fill a small cooking pot with water and season with salt. Once water is boiling add Orzo and cook for 9 minutes. Drain pasta and place back into cooking pot. Add butter, tomatoes, feta cheese and basil. Stir and serve. 

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