Macaroni Salad

This is straightforward and very adaptable to any other veggies you may wish to add. Reminder: tomatoes & cucumbers don’t adapt well in a salad that is kept stored – they get mushy. Serve them on the side or add them at the last minute before serving.

1 lb. box of elbow or small shell macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise (I only use Hellmann’s)
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard – (don’t use plain mustard)
1 tsp. brown sugar
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain & cool it under cold running water. Drain well. Place in a large bowl.

In separate small bowl, whisk the mayo, mustard, sugar, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well into pasta; taste and adjust, if needed. Add the celery, carrots and/or any other veggies you want. Refrigerate it now or you can serve it now.

See my “A Few Tid Bits” Category for trying it with wheat pasta.

Pesto Lasagna

This is is an unusual, yet extremely delicious lasagna.  I served it with grilled garlic bread on the side and ham steaks.  Due to a pine nut allergy I make homemade pesto (very easy to do) and substitute walnuts.  I think it tastes better, but of course use whichever blend you prefer.

1 box lasagna noodle, cooked, drained & cooled

Pesto Ingredients (or buy a good quality jar of pesto)
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves

2 cups grated cheese of your choice:  Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup walnuts
8 peeled garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
2 tsp. kosher salt

4 heaping Tbsp. of the choice of grated cheese you are using for sprinkling on top before popping in the oven

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees; lightly grease a 9 x 13 or 9 x 9 pan.

Make the pesto:  put half of everything into a blender and process for 1 minute; add the other half and process another minute. Meanwhile, cook, drain & rinse the noodles.

Layer a 1/4 cup of pesto into the pan, then begin layering noodles, pesto, and keep going until the last layer is noodles.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for about 25 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges.  Let stand 15 minutes before you serve.


Creamy Orzo Pasta

A rice-looking pasta which cooks up quickly – in about half the time as rice. This method is kinda like risotto. Sometimes we add a small chunk of butter and some grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan. Try it with my Beef Stew recipe.

2 Tbs. butter (I use only non-salted)
1/4 cup minced onion or shallots
1-2 cloves minced garlic – (of course, more if you like)
2 cups of orzo
1 bay leaf
4 cups of chicken broth, heated
1) Melt the butter in a large skillet; stir in the onion or shallots and garlic and cook slowly for about 5 minutes. Be careful to not brown it.
2) Stir in the orzo and keep stirring, cooking briefly – it will become goldenish colored.
3) Add only 2 cups of the broth and the bay leaf; simmer this uncovered unitil almost all of the liquid has been absorbed – this takes 3 – 5 minutes.
4) Add the remaining broth – cover and simmer for about 8 minutes longer – until most of the broth has disappeared.
5) Season to your liking with salt and pepper.

Pasta e Fagioli (Sort of)

This is my version of pasta e fagiloi. Delicious, simple, easy to prepare. The ingredient list may seem long, but it’s stuff you probably already have in your kitchen, except maybe the V-8 juice and meaty ham bone. Remember, you can prepare the pasta separately, add to the bowls then add this soup – it’s up to you.

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced small
4+ minced garlic cloves (to taste)
2 14-5 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 15 oz. can kidney beans with juice
1 15 oz. can white beans with juice
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 12-15 oz. can V-8 Juice
1 Tbsp. white or rice vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Italian seasonings
1 meaty ham bone
1 cup water
1/2 – 1 cup small pasta such as ditalini

In a large pot, brown meat and drain off almost all of the fat. Place back in pot and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute for 10 minutes. add all the remaining ingredients except the pasta and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding another cup of water if it seems to thick – remember, when you add the pasta it thickens up.  During the last 20 minutes, remove the ham bone, add pasta, bring to a boil then simmer until pasta is done.

Chinese Noodles

img_0155.jpgThese noodles taste much better than the ones from a take-out, plus they’re easy to make – you can really add what you want – kind of a “clean out the fridge.” An added bonus is it improves with age so the next day it’s even better. I’ve actually taken the bowl out and just stood there with a fork eating it at the counter!

1 pound cooked angel hair pasta, drained and rinsed with cold water
1 small bunch scallions
1/2 lb. chunk of ham, diced
Some black or green olives
Small slices of roasted red pepper (even diced green is ok)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (not olive oil)
2 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. chili oil – or more to taste -more will give it a kick

Place the drained pasta, scallions, ham and walnuts in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside. In separate bowl, whisk to combine all the rest of the ingredients then pour over pasta and mix very well. Pour this dressing over the noodles and toss and toss and toss to coat well.

Cavatelli & Baby Spinach

cavatelli.jpgJust recently I became acquainted with that wonderful, frozen pasta – cavatelli. This is great stuff. You’ll find it in the frozen food section.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 links crumbled sausage (pork, turkey, chicken – whatever you wish)

1/2-3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
2 bags (about 8 oz. each) frozen cavatelli pasta
1/2 – 3/4 bag of rinsed & squeezed dry baby spinach
1 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

Heat the butter and oil; stir in the garlic and sizzle for about 1 minute; add the sausages and crank up the heat a bit to medium-high to cook/brown the meat nicely. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper, and cook about 10 minutes – or just keep it simmering low until the cavatelli is done.

Meanwhile read the directions on the pasta package and cook accordingly. Drain and put back into pot you cooked the pasta in. Stir the sauce & sausage mixture into the pot, add the spinach then add 1 cup of grated cheese. Mix well over low-medium heat for about 2 minutes. Serve!

Pasta Salad

This recipe is quite versatile. Add whatever veggies, cheese or meat you want – there are no set rules. If using a large, diced tomato, don’t add until just before serving. Enjoy!

1 lb. pre-cooked pasta – elbows, corkscrew, tri-colored, etc.
1 small red pepper – diced
1 small green pepper – diced
1 small can sliced black olives – drained
1/2 cup pitted, green olives
1/4 lb. diced yellow cheddar
1/4 lb. diced Provolone
1/4 lb. diced Genoa Salami
1 8 oz. bottle of Italian Dressing

While cooking the pasta, add all the other ingredients to a large bowl, set aside. Drain and rinse the pasta under cold water. Add to bowl and mix very, very well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or even overnight – the longer the better.

Mac ‘n Cheese

A classic with a twist.

1 pound elbow macaroni
4 1/2 cups whole milk
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cloves minced garlic (jar is fine)
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
4 1/2 cups shredded sharp orange cheddar
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook the macaroni according to directions on box, drain & set aside .In a saucepan, heat the milk with the sprigs of thyme  and the garlic. In a separate large skillet, melt the butter, then whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove the thyme from the milk mixture and discard; then whisk the milk mixture into the butter & flour and keep whisking until it is smooth. Stir in only 4 cups of the cheese and cook until cheese is melted. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add the macaroni and the parsley; mix it all then place into the baking dish. Sprinkle the last of the cheese – the 1/2 cupon top then sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of that. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes – or until hot & bubbly.

Garlic Pasta

If you like garlic, butter, and olive oil, then you’ll love this.

1 lb. box of pasta – (we use spaghetti or angel hair)
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil – (don’t use any other kind)
2-3 Tbsp. – or to taste – minced garlic
6 Tbsp. butter – (NOT margarine)
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package but before draining, reserve 1 cup of the hot cooking water – set aside. Place pasta back into pot. While pasta is finishing cooking, in a small pot heat the oil, butter, and garlic until butter has melted. Pour the hot oil mixture over the pasta and stir; add in the cheese and stir until well-mixed. Add as much of the reserved hot cooking water as needed to keep pasta moist- it may not take the full cup. Sprinkle in the parsley, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately. This also reheats well the next day – just zap it in the microwave.

Rigatoni & Sausage

You’ll get so many requests to make this that you won’t need a written recipe. Delicious with a crispy green salad or broccoli and some garlic bread. I doubt you’ll have any leftovers – we never do.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 lbs. (about 6 links) good quality sweet Italian Sausages
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 – 1 Cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 lb. box Rigatoni

In a deep, large-sized skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and cook it till it’s golden – this takes about a minute. Add the onion and sausages and cook, breaking up the sausages with a wooden spoon – this takes about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to high, and brown the sausage mixture for about 10 minutes. If the heat seems too high, lower it a bit, but don’t turn it too low, you want it to crisp the sausages. Stir and scrape the browned bits from the bottom, then add the can of sauce, salt & pepper to taste – stirring. Reduce the heat to medium and cook/simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni. Before you drain it, reserve 1 cup of the hot cooking water; drain and return it to the pot. Add the sauce mixture to the pot of rigatoni, stir, add the reserved cooking water and the grated cheese stirring for about 1 minute. Serve.