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Category Archives: Pasta

Foodie Friday: Vodka Sauce

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Back in my single days, there were a few dishes that my then roommate and I used to make regularly because we loved them so much. One of them was penne with vodka sauce. We tried multiple recipes, and finally found…the one. The most magical one. Easy, creamy, a little sweet, with a good spicy twist.

When Josh and I started dating, I sort of filed that dish away mentally as “something I’ll make one day when he’s not around.” Then I forgot about it. I mean, it had a cup of heavy cream in it. Not something he could eat.

Over the last few months, I started craving it again. Then one day I realized, duh, coconut milk would work perfectly for the cream. So I started trying to hunt down the elusive recipe and couldn’t find any that looked right. Luckily, my old roommate has typed it into a Google doc and saved it at one point, so there was no need for tears (it was close).

We have no idea where we got this recipe, but it is, in my opinion, the best vodka sauce of all time. No biggie.

Josh’s response to this dish? “Why have you been holding out on me?!”

Note: To make it vegan, I switch out coconut milk for the heavy cream. Since the coconut milk is naturally sweeter, I omit the sugar from the recipe. Also, I always double the amount of red pepper flakes for a good kick.

Penna With Vodka Cream Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (double for extra kick)
  • 1/2 c vodka
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (about 8 leaves)
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 lb pasta

Cook pasta according to directions, making sure to reserve some of the pasta water.

Process garlic through garlic press into small bowl and stir in 1 tsp water. Heat olive oil and garlic and red pepper flakes in saute pan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add vodka and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in cream, ground black pepper to taste, basil, sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. At this point you can transfer the sauce to food processor and pulse to a course puree. I actually prefer to leave it a little chunky so I don’t bother to do this. Return sauce to pan and simmer over medium heat to thicken for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add a small amount of pasta water to add flavor.

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

(We would usually drink our beloved lemon drops with this) 



Foodie Friday: Spring Green Orzo

The great lunch challenge has been a success so far (with one minor misstep), and we’re learning what we like as we go. We’ve found that our favorite lunches, the ones that even at the end of the week we’re still excited to eat, have been orzo salads with citrus based dressing. This is great for many reasons, one of which being that it’s really easy to fill them with a lot of vegetables, and no meat. Now, we seriously love meat, BUT we don’t need to eat as much as we do, so making tasty and filling lunches without them gets us at least 5  more meals a week each that are meatless. Not too shabby.

This salad is perfect, full of different textures and flavors. I grilled the asparagus on a grill pan for some nice subtle smokiness, but sauteeing it in a skillet would be fine.
I really meant to take a picture of this, but I was too hungry.

Spring Green Orzo

  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1 good sized bunch asparagus spears
  • 8 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas


  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook orzo to al dente in well salted water. Drain, drizzle liberally with olive oil, and spread out on a sheet pan to cool (I typically try to stir mine around every 5-10 minutes or so, otherwise it gets a little clumpy).

While the orzo is cooling, pour the frozen peas into a bowl of warm water, and set aside to thaw.

Trim the tought ends off of your asparagus. Heat your grill pan ( a cast iron skillet would work too) and then cook your aspargus in batches. You want it in a single layer so you can get some nice scorch marks. Cook to your texture preference, rotating spears often. I think I did about 5 minutes a batch, so it still had a little crunch. Remove from pan and cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. You could use a flavored oil here (I had some lemon olive oil), but it’s really not necessary. Saute your spinach until wilted. Remove from pan with tongs or a slotted spoon to let the water drain out. Set aside.

Place all of the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor and blitz thoroughly. Taste, and add enough salt that it becomes a little saltier than you would normally have it. This is the only seasoning for the pasta and vegetables, so the salt is key.

Combine the cooled pasta and vegetables in a big bowl and pour about 2/3 of the dressing on. Mix thoroughly, and then taste. Add more dressing if desired.



Foodie Friday: Asian Noodle Salad

The great lunch experiment is going very well! This is now the second week in a row that I’ve made my lunches ahead of time, and I’ve only eaten out for lunch twice. Once was an unexpected half day at work, and once was to meet up with friends, so I don’t feel too bad.

After Josh saw how the first week went, he asked me to make double the amount of food for this week, so that he could take a lunch too. I did, and luckily he loved it (orzo, black beans, chickpeas, corn, and a cumin citrus vinaigrette. Yum). We realized that between the two of us, we’d save between $80-$100/week if we brought our lunch every day. Sheesh. Obviously, this needs to happen.

This next recipe is one of our favorites, and the perfect thing for lunches. What I’ll do is pack up individual salads, then give each of us a big jar of dressing to leave at work for the week so we can just add it each day before we eat. Nobody wants a soggy salad.

I’m just copying the recipe in its entirety here, but we definitely tweak this one depending on what we feel like/what’s on sale. I can’t wait til our garden (details soon!) is able to provide some of these ingredients, which will cut way down on cost. I also love to cook a little chicken in soy sauce and sesame oil, dice it up, and mix it in as well. I might also double the pasta to help this go further. Prep work for this does take a while, since it’s a LOT of chopping, but I’ll just crank up some music and get it knocked out on Sunday afternoon.

PW’s Asian Noodle Salad

  • 1 package Linguine Noodles, Cooked, Rinsed, And Cooled
  • 1/2 head Sliced Napa Cabbage, Or More To Taste
  • 1/2 head Sliced Purple Cabbage, Or More To Taste
  • 1/2 bag Baby Spinach, Or More To Taste
  • 1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Sliced Thin
  • 1 whole Yellow Bell Pepper, Sliced Thin
  • 1 whole Orange Bell Pepper, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 bag Bean Sprouts (also Called Mung Bean Sprouts)
  • Chopped Cilantro, Up To 1 Bunch, To Taste
  • 3 whole Scallions, Sliced
  • 3 whole Cucumbers Peeled And Sliced
  • 1 can (about 10 Oz.) Whole Cashews, Lightly Toasted In Skillet
  • _____
  • 1 whole Lime, Juiced
  • 8 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 8 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons (up To 3 Tablespoons) Sesame Oil
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger Chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 2 whole Hot Peppers Or Jalapenos, Chopped
  • Chopped Cilantro

Preparation Instructions

Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve on a platter.

Note: dressing keeps for up to three days before serving, without cilantro.


Foodie Friday: Ramen Soup, sorta

When we first married I wasn’t much of a cook. I loved good food, I just didn’t know how to make it. It took a bit of education before I felt somewhat comfortable in the kitchen. One of the big influences in my cooking was Mark Bittman and his legendary book, How to Cook Everything. I became a huge Mark Bittman fan that first year or so. He had a great column in The New York Times called the Minimalist. Its great for people, who like me, enjoy good food, but don’t have or want to spend the time and energy. Its simple, delicious food.

I bookmarked this video and decided it would make a perfect Saturday lunch. You know when you have been cleaning the house all morning, but can’t bring yourself to eat any more of that casserole and just want something fresh and comforting? I’ve adapted it over the years and made it my own. My husband loves it. He mentioned it the other day asking why I haven’t made it for him in a long time.

Ramen, sort of (Allyn says its more noodle soup, I still call it ramen)

Noodles, I use ramen
Chicken broth or water
soy sauce
rice vinegar
chili paste or chiles
Optional: frozen veggies, fresh herbs, cooked meat, anything in your pantry

Bring 2 cups of chicken broth or water to a boil. Season with 1/4 cup of ketchup, a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon or two of rice vinegar, and maybe some chili paste. I literally do not measure anything. I throw in whatever looks good from my pantry. Stir it up.

When the water is boiling add in your noodles. I always use a packet of ramen. Two if I’m feeding my husband.

Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the noodles are done. Ladle into a bowl and top with siracha or your seasoning of choice.

Occasionally I throw in a cup or so of frozen veggies if I want to feel healthy. You can’t mess this up. Be creative and make it your own.

Foodie Friday: Orzo Salad

I have a really, really bad habit. I buy my lunch every day during the week. Which means I spend a lot of stupid money that I don’t need to. While some of the meals I eat aren’t too bad, others, like my Chick-fil-a addiction (they know me by name) aren’t so great.

The main reason I do this is because I really just need to get out of the office for that hour. I pick up my lunch and sit in my car and (nerd alert) read my Kindle and it makes me happy.

I’m hoping to start making large amounts of things on Sunday that I can pack up and eat 3 to 4 times through the week (Chick-fil-a will so still be happening sometimes), and this easy and yummy orzo salad is one of them. I might add some tuna to it for some protein, but the recipe is perfectly tasty as is.

Orzo Salad (I think it’s a Giada recipe originally)

  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (sometimes I leave this out. Those suckers are not cheap)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the orzo until al dente. Drain it, and then spread it out on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with 3 tbsp olive oil, stir gently, and set aside to cool.

Once the orzo is cool, transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine. Season to taste. I often add more lemon juice, but it’s a personal preference.

Perfect for a picnic, as a side, or as something to allow your mornings to remain a little lazy during the week.

Foodie Friday: Bolognese

One of the things I love most about weekends (besides, oh, everything) is that I have time. Time to read, time to be a bum, and time to cook something and let its deliciousness develop while I’m reading and being a bum.

When I saw this recipe last week, I knew I had my perfect Sunday afternoon project, and I’m so glad I did. this turned out to be, with a few tweaks to suit our tastes, one of the best sauces I’ve had. There’s something so cozy about spaghetti with meat sauce, and it’s even cozier when it has been simmering for about 4 hours, filling the house with it’s wonderful smell.

Make it this weekend, if you have the time.

Bolognese Sauce

from Merry Gourmet

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans (26- to 28-ounces each) tomato puree
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • A few dashes of worcestershire sauce (optional)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot, and cook vegetables until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, or until garlic is fragrant. Add beef, pork, and a big pinch of salt; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up any clumps, until meat is browned and none of it is pink. Add milk and Italian seasoning, and cook, stirring often until the milk has evaporated almost completely, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add white wine; cook, stirring often, until the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree; when the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Simmer for at least 2 hours. At the two hour mark, I felt mine still needed a little somethin somethin and added the optional additions above. Do what you like. Cook for another two hours if you have the time. Please make the time. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over your favorite pasta, and pretend you’re in an Italian grandmother’s kitchen.


Foodie Friday: Squash and Sage Pasta

Winter squash are probably some of my favorite vegetables, and we’ve been getting a ton in our CSA. I wanted to do something other than just roast them as a side dish, not that there’s anything wrong with that at all.

This was really really good, even though I was coming down with some serious stomach funk and only ate a few bites.

Josh ate his bowl and mine.

The fact that it was completely vegan is pretty crazy, considering how creamy and buttery it turned out to be.

Squash and Sage Pasta

  • 1 medium butternut squash (I had a small one, so I also cooked a small carnival squash as well)
  • 1/2 cup fresh sage
  • 1 lb farfalle pasta
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Cut your squash in half and deseed. Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet.

Dice onion and the sage. Place on the baking sheet next to the squash and also coat in olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake this for about 45 minutes, until the squash is nice and soft (I stirred the onions around a few times through the process).

Towards the end of the baking process, cook your pasta until al dente in well salted water. Set some of the pasta water aside and drain.

Put the well roasted onion/sage mixture into a large bowl, and scoop all of the heavenly squash in as well. Slightly mash together. Try not to eat all of the deliciousness yet.

I only ate about 4 spoonfuls.

Stir the pasta into this mixture, and some of the pasta water as well (I think I used about 1/3 of a cup), just to make sure the sauce has enough moisture.

At this point you could easily add some grated parmesan cheese (gruyere would be amazing as well), or fry up a few sage leaves and crumble them over the top, but we just served it up as is.

Welcome, fall!

We love you so.


Foodie Friday: Pork Noodle Soup

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This soup is good. Really good. So good that I made it one night, and Josh asked me to make it again the next night, and to make a bigger batch. I think that’s a recipe win. It comes from the Nigella Kitchen cookbook that I gave my sister for Christmas. At this rate, I’m really going to have to buy myself a copy.

Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

* 10 oz pork tenderloin, cut into thin discs and then fine strips
* 2 tablespoons lime juice
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce
* ½ teaspoon paprika
* 2 tablespoons fish sauce
* 2 packages ramen noodles. Discard seasoning packets
* 1 tablespoon olive oil (I added some of our homemade chili infused olive oil at this point for a little heat. Yum)
* 6 scallions thinly sliced
* 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
* 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
* 3 cups bean sprouts
* 3-4 cups chopped bok choy.

Mix the pork with the lime juice, soy sauce, paprika and fish sauce in a bowl. The recipe said to not let this stand for more than 15 minutes. I probably did, but it turned out just fine.

Cook the ramen, then put in a bowl of cold water and set aside.

Heat the chicken broth in a small saucepan to a low simmer.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the scallions and ginger for a minute or so. Pour in the pork and its marinade and stir thoroughly.

Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. At this point your pork should be cooked. Add the bean sprouts and bok choy.

Put some of the noodles in a bowl, top with meat and veggies, and pour some broth over it all. At this point Josh drizzled a little more chili oil on top, but for me it was perfect.

Foodie Friday: Pasta with pancetta and leeks

My parents were in town for a few days this week and we decided to have everyone over for dinner to break in the new house. I knew I wanted to make something tasty that everyone would like (six adults and two kiddos), but I also knew I wanted it to be relatively cheap and simple to make. I really didn’t feel like spending the day cooking. Not conducive for lolling.
I decided to break out my trusty adaptation of this Pioneer Woman recipe. Hers calls for a whole lotta cream and cheese and other things that are delicious, but not so great for my dairy allergic fiance, or for my desire to fit into my wedding dress in August.

My version does, however, contain a lot more wine. Win!

I increased the amounts by half for that many people, but this is normally how much I make.

Pasta With Pancetta and Leeks

  • 12 ounces, weight pasta, cooked al dente  (I used farfalle)
  • 5 ounces, weight chopped pancetta
  • 3 whole leeks, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Boil pasta and set aside.

Saute chopped pancetta until fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add sliced leeks and cook for 8 minutes. Pour in wine, and cook til somewhat reduced. Add butter, and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour over drained pasta, and serve.

We served this with a giant pitcher of an incredibly fresh drink (recipe to come), and the platter was scraped clean.

I think they liked it.