Posts Tagged ‘pasta’


December 16, 2017

So with working full time my dinner mojo is often missing. It seems our weekly menu consist of the same types of items – burger night, pasta night, protein night, taco night, pizza night and more of the same. I wanted to freshen things up and keep my passion for cooking alive, so I found a remedy. I look at my Food Network magazine’s “weeknight dinners” every week to add a new recipe to the mix. I am really enjoying this inspiration. I look forward to a new issue each month. In the past I have struck out with new recipes but lately I have been on a roll. I have made four new dinners, one each week, that have been home runs. It spices up our weeks as it adds something new to the mix. Each of these four recipes were a huge hit with my family. They were all easy to make and quick after a long day. I hope you try them and make your families tummies happy!

Chicken with gnocchi

This recipe was so delectable and using store bought gnocchi on a work night made my life easy. It had the perfect balance of protein and veggies. I made this with the perfect side -homemade Olive Garden breadsticks which were so fluffy and better than the real thing.

Tortellini Stroganoff

All the great flavors of stroganoff were there and this was simple to make. I added some stir fry beef for protein.

Orzo with mushroom

My family was skeptical with the spinach and leeks, but they tore it up, due to the creamy sauce and the chicken breast I added. Campy said: “it was on point!”

Flank and mac

As you can see a theme here, protein, carb, and veggie. I try not to make carb heavy dinners but this trifecta pleases the little people. Flank steak was too pricey so I used another affordable cut. The idea here is the flavors, add your own twists.

That’s what I love about these Food Network recipes, you can add your own ideas. Also if the magazine subscription is too much, get your issues from the library like me, and then google the recipe name and they come up on their website. Also these are all great vegetarian recipes too. Manga!


Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

April 8, 2013


I love my usual go to gnocchi recipe I posted before but tonight I decided to branch out and challenge myself and make some eggplant gnocchi aka Gnocchi di’ Melanzane.  The secret is you puree roasted eggplant and put it in your gnocchi dough. The best part was that my kids ate it and I got eggplant into their tummies! I topped it with my favorite sauce, my leftover cacciatore sauce. After you make a big pot of cacciatore there is always leftover sauce.

According to my research, gnocchi are little dumplings that can be varied by adding cheese, vegetables, herbs, or even fruit to the basic dough. Just look for whatever is in season and blend it into the dough for a special treat.

This gnocchi was relatively easy to make. I loved the technique of piping the gnocchi out of a pastry bag and cutting them with pastry scissors, this was much easier than hand rolling them.  I would say if I made them again I would probably add a bit more flour to make the dough a little thicker, as it did not hold together as well as usual gnocchi dough does, but it still came out good. So if you want to add an extra Italian flavor to your gnocchi, try this eggplant version

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

2 pounds of firm eggplant

coarse salt

olive oil

1 pound of Idaho potatoes

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan or romano (I prefer)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons of salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

12 leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, halve eggplant lengthwise and brush olive oil on, then put cut side down on foil lined baking sheet and bake about 40 mins, till tender (or less if you are using several small eggplants). While eggplant is cooking boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 mins till tender. When it is cool enough to handle peel eggplant and puree in food processor. Allow puree to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and use potato ricer to squeeze them into a large bowl. Add the eggplant puree and the cheese and mix well. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, and basil and mix to blend. Add flour and mix to incorporate, but do not overmix.


Bring large pot of salted water, about 6-8qts, to boil. Fill pastry bag with eggplant mixture and when the water boils, pipe 1/2 inch long pieces, cutting using pastry scissors, dropping them into the boiling water. Work rapidly until all the dough is used up. Allow gnocchi to cook until they float to top and then drain on a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Butter lightly and keep warm. Top with your favorite pesto, alfredo (my pistachio alfredo would be great), red sauce and freshly grated cheese and manga!

A great fresh tomato sauce from scratch is featured here, by one of my cooking idols, Lidia Bastianich

Gnocchi Alfredo Amore

March 2, 2013


I have posted my gnocchi adventures before but this time I used a new technique, using the back of a fork to hand press your gnocchi shape. (See video update below) It is not a requirement to roll it like this, as you can just simply hand cut your gnocchi and be done, but the fork tines do make a nice traditional gnocchi indentation.

Making gnocchi is hard work but it is well worth the delicious result, especially paired with my pistachio alfredo concoction. Pistachio alfredo is a yummy treat we ate when we lived in Sicily, they used what they grew around them at the little farm agiturismos we went to, so pistachio was a plentiful ingredient in many dishes. Something about the rich soil from the volcanic eruptions of Mt. Etna made the vegetation grow like crazy in Sicily. I usually double the gnocchi recipe to feed my family of four, the gnocchi is not a large serving even with it doubled, but it is very rich and filling so you don’t eat a giant bowl.

Update: here is my video of my technique to hand roll your own gnocchi:


  • 1 pound baking potatoes, preferably Russet
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg


  • 2 T of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated pecorino Romano, or more if you like
  • 1 cup of shelled pistachios grinded to powder in a spice grinder or nutribullet
  • freshly cracked black pepper


1) To make the gnocchi: Bake or microwave the potatoes until soft (do not boil as the potatoes absorb too much water). Peel the warm potatoes and press them through a ricer, or mash them; measure out 1 ¼ cups potato; enjoy the rest as you see fit.

2) Mix the baking powder with the flour, and sprinkle over the potatoes.

3) Add the cheese, yolks, salt, and nutmeg, mixing just until everything comes together in a smooth ball.

4) Place the dough on a floured work surface, cover, and let it rest for 30 minutes.

5) Take about a third of the dough, and roll it into a rope about the thickness of a finger.

6) Cut ¾”-long pieces. Using a gnocchi board, or the back of a fork, roll the individual gnocchi to create ridges on one side, and a little space in the middle.

7) Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with flour, cover lightly, and chill until ready to cook. Gnocchi may be stored in the refrigerator up to a day, and in the freezer for several months.

8) To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow boil, and add the gnocchi.

9) Once gnocchi float to the surface, cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain cooked gnocchi, and toss with sauce.

10) For the Alfredo,  melt butter and add minced garlic, then add cream over medium heat until it starts to slowly bubble and thicken. Then stir and keep simmering until the sauce is reduced in volume by about a a third. Add the cheese and stir until all the cheese melts and the sauce becomes smooth, add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t need salt usually because butter and cheese have salt) then add ground up pistachios and stir it in to thicken sauce.

12) Toss with pasta and sprinkle servings with pepper and more cheese if you like.

Yield: 4 appetizer portions, 2 main course portions. Double gnocchi recipe to feed family of 4, sauce makes enough in one batch…

Whole Wheat Fettuccine

February 13, 2012

I love Sundays because I am reviving and old tradition of Sunday family dinners. Last night I made my homemade fettuccine recipe with whole wheat flour to make it healthier. I served it with my famous Osso Buco which was a delicious combination. It turned out great! Again I faced the problem of finding a recipe with just whole wheat flour in it, most “whole wheat” recipes are 2 parts white flour.  I was skeptical at first because the dough wasn’t coming together like it usually does, it was very dry and hard to form into a ball. I think next time I will add an extra egg or perhaps some water to loosen it up a bit. If you use whole wheat flour be prepared for a big more muscle work going into kneading the dough.

When it came time to rolling out the dough in my pasta machine it was also pretty stiff. I did not think it was going to go through the roller. I always start at level 1 (the thicker setting) on my ampia pasta machine and work my way up to level 5 (think paper thin dough). It just took a little persistance to get it going but once it worked and the pasta turned out fabulous. I could not even tell it was whole wheat, unlike the store pasta which is leathery, and it was so simple and fresh with only 2 ingredients. I was turned off by store bought whole wheat pasta or imitations that claim to be whole wheat, but my recipe has made me a convert, I might never go back to white flour!

Birthday feast for Nonna

January 30, 2012

I love an occasion to cook for. Cooking is my way of showing love for someone I care about. Its not so much the foods I make as much as it is the preparation or love that goes into the meal. I would rather spend all day making something from scratch for someone than taking them to a restaurant chain. My mom’s birthday was yesterday. For her present she requested a favorite meal of ours. My mom is the reason I cook, because she always taught me so many things in the kitchen. I love seeing her with the girls today teaching them the love of cooking. For her dinner she requested Penne with Crabcake pasta from the restaurant we had our wedding rehearsal dinner at. I always loved that entree so I recreated it at home till I got it right. It is extremely simple yet it plates and tastes like 5 stars. Then because my mom has a sweet tooth I made her a delectable chocolate cake. Who doesn’t want to try a new chocolate cake recipe? So here we go:

Crabcake Penne with Spinach and Sundried tomatoes

This recipe is one I made up to duplicate the dish we always enjoyed at one of our favorite NC places, Amos Mosquitos cafe. First I cook some garlic, about 6-8 cloves, roughly chopped in butter. Then I toss spinach in the butter and cover it to wilt, you don’t want it to cook too long. Then I add a about 3/4 jar of chopped sundried tomatoes in olive oil and I add some of the oil from the jar as well. I cook some penne till it is al dente and then I toss it in the saute pan with the spinach. I serve a bowl of this lovely pasta concoction with a crabcake sitting on top and some aioli on the crabcake. Sometimes I make my own crabcakes from scratch but lately I have been using Maryland Lump crabcakes from the freezer section. The crabcake is so happy to be sitting in this pasta nest. Aioli is what really adds the zing to this dish. For my aioli I use garlic, mayo, chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar. I got the recipe from Food a while ago but I have since added to it. This dish has such few simple ingredients but it is really pleasing to the eye and the palate. It really makes a date night in look extra fancy.

For dessert we had the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing, pictured above. No matter how little time I have I just can’t use a store bought or boxed cake, as the ones from scratch taste so much better. I have made this recipe for so many special occasions before. It is so moist and light and fluffy. I have really never tasted a cake like it. In fact I think I am going to go taste some right now…


Terrific Tuna Vermicelli

July 26, 2011

I know many people cringe at the the word tuna, thinking of the canned variety with the happy little fish on the can, especially when I mention it in the same sentence as pasta. But this tried and true recipe has been my “go-to what the heck” can I make last minute recipe for years. The combination of the tuna along with the tomato and balsalmic vinegar just sings with deliciousness. When we lived in Italy I often saw Tonno or tuna in many dishes, even on pizza with hard boiled eggs! My mom taught me to make Tara’s tuna vermicelli at a very  young age and I would often make it afterschool to have dinner ready when she got home for work. I have fond memories of this recipe as I think along with my mom’s greek chicken one, it is one of the first things I really cooked on my own. Initially I made it with a can of tuna and then the vacuum sealed pack but lately I have been using one fresh tuna steak to make it.

Tara’s tuna vermicelli


2T olive oil

1 small chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic minced

1(14 oz) can of whole tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp dry basil or few leaves of fresh

2tsp parsley

1/4 tsp S&P

1T balsalmic vinegar – or more if you like

4 oz fresh mushrooms

1 can/vac pack of tuna or small tuna steak

8-12 oz vermicelli

First saute one small onion that is chopped up in olive oil, add garlic. Add fresh mushrooms to the onions to cook for a bit, if I have them I add artichokes to add more veggies. After the onion is cooked through and translucent add tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Let this simmer for a bit and add Balsalmic vinegar (I have to admit I am a huge fan so I often add quite a bit more and I don’t measure). Then add the pack of tuna or if you are using a fresh tuna steak add that (I usually cook it in a separate fry pan to get it medium). Let the sauce simmer for about 5 mins so the flavors come together. While your sauce is cooking get your pasta ready. You can use vermicelli or any pasta. I like to scoop the pasta out of the hot water and add it directly to the sauce for maximum flavor and also some of the pasta water adds nice flavor to the sauce. Top with grated Romano cheese and cracked fresh black pepper and enjoy. Yes it is a sin in Italy to put cheese on seafood (I know Scott Conant is gonna get me) but I like to live on the edge! Just wait until your taste buds get a sample of this incredible dish, you won’t be disappointed!