Category Archives: Pasta

Cheddar & Gouda Macaroni & Cheese

I’ve just been getting over a two-week long debilitating sinus infection.Β It started as a head cold and then progressed into an infection. The first round of antibiotics didn’t work~ so it was a long recovery process!

Yesterday I was finally feeling up to cooking for the first time in WEEKS and I decided to make a comfort dish. What’s more comforting than mac & cheese? Um. Cheese = Comfort in my book. Agreed? Okay then moving on!

I started with this recipe and made some additions/deletions based on what I had in the pantry/fridge. The result was cheesey amazingness πŸ™‚

  • 3/4 lb small pasta (I used elbow)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 3 heaping Tbsp flour
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
  • dash red chili peppers or hot sauce
  • 1-1.5 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 1 c. skim milk
  • 1 lbs sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-4 oz smoked gouda, shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • 1/2 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 oz parmesan, freshly shredded

In a medium pan, boil water. Add in noodles and cook for 5-8 min until al dente. Drain & set aside

In another pan (I used my le creuset dutch oven), melt butter. Add in the garlic & chili peppers. Cook for approx one minute. Then add the flour to the pan whisking constantly until flour is fully incorporated. At this point, gradually stream in the chicken broth, milk & half and half a little at a time fully incorporating the liquid before adding any more. Once all the liquid has been incorporated, cook for 5-10 min more until thickened.

Take the dish off the heat and stir in the cheese. Toss in the pasta & stir. I added about 1 tsp of salt & a few turns of pepper at this point.

Top with the mixture of saltines, butter & parmesan.

Bake, uncovered at 400 for approximately 20-30 minutes until the top is brown & crunchy. Enjoy!

I’d post a photo, but Pax, Steve and I ate this for dinner two nights in a row (and if we’re being honest… lunch today too!) and it is all GONE. Whoops!


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Creamy Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Bacon & Apples

When I was a little kid, I LOVED and I mean really really loved, eat it twice a week, two bowls at a time, Macaroni & Cheese. Now, I’m not talking about the homemade variety. I’m talking about the good old fashion, powdered cheese, Kraft variety. I could not get enough of the stuff. And if I’m being honest, I used to buy this all the time in college too πŸ™‚

But then, I grew up. And learned to cook and realized how absolutely nasty (in theory) powdered cheese in. Sadly, in practice the stuff still tastes good…but I digress.

My mom also made mac & cheese, the homemade variety, when I was a little kid. I hated it. It was grainy and I thought that was simply disgusting. Blech. Sorry mom. I love you!!

Here’s the thing about creamy M&C, most CREAMY M&C recipes have Velveeta in them… not much better (health/whole food-wise) than the powdery alternative.

Enter this recipe.

I was inspired by this recipe and also drew on Alton Brown’s expertise to create the creamy factor.

Here’s my combined version

  • 1 medium butternut squash (when baked, yield 1-2 c. squash)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter + 2 tsp butter
  • 1 lb package pasta noodles
  • 1/2 can (6oz) evaporated milk (I used the full-fat kind, save the other 1/2 can)
  • 1 package of cream cheese (8oz) (I used full fat)
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 8-10 oz cheddar cheese (I shredded it myself to make sure it was creamy!)
  • 8 pieces bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 2 large apples (honey crisp or other crunchy semi-sweet variety), diced

For squash: Cut in half, scrap out the seeds & pulp. Put 1 tsp of butter in the hollowed out place on each side. Bake, covered, at 400 for approx 40-50 min until fork tender. This time could vary dramatically based on the size of your squash. Just keep checking it.

For onion: slice and caramelize over low heat in a pan with 2 Tbsp butter. This will take 20-30 minutes.

For the sauce: in a food processor, combine the squash pulp (I pulsed this alone a few times to really break it up), 1/2 can evaporated milk, hot sauce, salt, & cream cheese. Blend until fully incorporated. Add in 2 eggs. Pulse till just mixed.

To combine: Boil pasta till al dente. Drain & put back in the sauce pan off the heat.Β  Then add in the sauce. Stirring constantly to combine so as not to scramble eggs. Then immediately stir in shredded cheddar cheese and turn the heat on the stove to low/med. Stir continously for approx 3 min until the cheese is melted and the sauce thickens slightly.

To serve: Top with cooked, crumbled bacon & apples.

I left the bacon & apples out of the “big dish” so that the leftovers would be fresh & amazing. They were. Also, this is totally kid approved (well, minus the onions but Pax just picked around those!) πŸ™‚


Filed under Main Course, Pasta

Sun Dried Tomato & Lentil Pasta Salad

So last night I was in a rush. We were headed out to a church even and I wanted to toss something light & healthy together for dinner.

THIS dish fit the bill. It was amazing!! πŸ™‚ It was also a healthy way not to counter-act the jog Pax & I took earlier in the day!!

As we were headed to church, I typed up the ingredients on my iphone. I was planning to go back in and edit the amounts, add instructions, etc. Unfortunately, I hit publish instead πŸ™‚ that’s why there was a random list of ingredients posted last night. Whoops!

Here goes round 2 of this beautiful & tasty dish:


  • 1/2 lb of cooked Orzo
  • 8 oz dried Lentils, cooked
  • 1/4-1/2 c. Sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
  • 1/4 c. Fresh shaved Parmesan (or feta)
  • 2 Tbsp Capers
  • 1/4-1/2 c. chopped Pecans (or preferably pine nuts)
  • 1 can Chick peas drained & rinsed

For the dressing:


  • Juice of 1& 1/2 lemons
  • Lemon rind from one lemon
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Toss all salad ingredients together. Then combine the lemon juice, rind, salt & pepper and stream in the olive oil while whisking. Pour dressing over salad and chill.

Steve ate this warm last night…but I think it’s better cold.

I love it when summer meals come together in a flash.Β  Also, I swear each time I take a bite of this dish I like it more and more πŸ™‚ Make it.

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Filed under Pasta, Salads

Roasted tomato pasta with Basil, Bacon, and Brown butter

We just got back from a lovely vacation in Isle of Palms, SC (near Charleston). Saturday was a L.O.N.G. day of driving~ we were in the car from 9am-8:45pm… (3 stops, plus 2 pull off diaper stops)….ugh. So, Sunday we made an executive decision to stay inside and recuperate!Β  Unfortunately we had no food to speak of in our house. Enter garden. Most everything in my garden is done for the year (cucumbers & zucchini plants produced a lot of fruit early on but later got eaten by evil mexican bug beatles, boo). Tomatoes & basil are two of the only things left!!

I decided to whip up a fresh tomato basil pasta with a twist, bacon & brown butter. YUM.


The acid from the sauce balances wonderfully with the richness from the brown butter and the saltiness and crunch from the bacon. This “thrown together meal” is DEFINITELY something I’ll make again. Roasting the tomatoes brought out the sweetness in the sauce (plus I tossed in a pinch of sugar πŸ™‚ ).

Today we’re back to the grind. Although, sweet Pax didn’t get that memo. He, for whatever reason, was up at 2, 4, and 6 am this morning. UGH. It’s going to be a long day!! Now if he’d only wake up again so I can take him to the sitters πŸ™‚ Boys. They have a mind of their own!


  • 15-20 small tomatoes
  • 10 large leaves basil
  • 1/2 package spaghetti noodles
  • 4-6 pieces if bacon
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425
First, prepare tomatoes. Wash and pat tomatoes dry. Toss in a few tsp olive oil and put on a sheet pan.
Next, prepare bacon. Layer aluminum foil over a sheet pan, then put a cooling rack on top. Place slices of bacon on wire cooling rack. OR use a broiling pan πŸ™‚ same principle.

When oven is preheated, put tomatoes and bacon in oven. I put the tomatoes on top and the bacon on bottom. Check tomatoes at around 20 minutes; most should have burst. Pull out of oven.

Cook bacon up to five more minutes (25 min total). You want it crispy but not burnt.

While the food is roasting, boil the noodles in one pan and make the brown the butter** in another. When butter is brown, distribute evenly between 2 dinner bowls. Wipe out pan and use it to make the tomato sauce.

Combine the (mostly) burst tomatoes with 1/2 of the basil leaves that have been sliced thinly. Add in salt and pepper to taste. I also tossed in a pinch of sugar. Use a kitchen utensil (eg wooden spoon) to burst remaining tomatoes. Simmer till pasta is done (5-10 min).

Drain pasta and put it back in the hot pot to soak up all the liquid. Then toss on top of the brown butter in the dinner bowls. Stir to combine. Β Then Top with tomatoes, remaining fresh basil, and crumbled bacon. You can also toss in some Parmesan cheese. πŸ™‚ I have to admit, we did this after the photo… b/c I only had powdered parm cheese, which, let’s be honest, is not super attractive in photos. Some nice shaved pieces of parm would be lovely in this dish!!
Steve and I both took a bite and said “wow”~ neither of us expected it to be as good as it was. The balance and contrast of flavors was just so darn yummy!! Anyway, on to the real work of the day!


**To make Brown butter:

In a light colored saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. You’ll need to tend to this as it melts. Do not walk away b/c it can burn in an instant. I stood over it the whole time, whisking the mixture as it melted. Keep whisking as the butter starts to foam. The color will start to look yellowish and then tan. When it turns a light brown color~ remove from heat.
There will be some blackish colored sediment that falls to the bottom of the pan. Don’t freak out, this is normal (I thought I burned it!). The butter is done when you smell the nutty, toasty aroma. I chose to leave the specks in, but some choose to strain them out. The mixture will continue to cook in the pan for a minute or so unless you shock the bottom of the pan with color water, OR pour the brown butter into another dish (which is what I did).

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Orzo Greek Pasta Salad

This is one of my absolute favorite pasta salads. I make it at least 4-5 times a summer. Yet for some reason I have never posted the recipe on the blog. Also, I don’t have a mouth watering photo to share. Sorry, you’ll just have to use your imagination πŸ™‚


  • 1 lb orzo pasta (but really anything will do. If you want to make it go further, use a larger noodle!)
  • 2 english cucumbers, diced (or regular cucumbers peeled and seeded)
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in 1/2 (also can just use a blend of heirloom for color)
  • 1 large package of feta cheese (I usually buy the block kind and crumble myself)
  • 2 green onions, finely diced

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Dress with recipe below. This is best on the first day. It’s still definitely good on day 2-4? but the tomatoes start to break down.


  • 1 tbsp dill, fresh is preferable, but I’ve made it with dried too
  • 2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp dijon musstard (I use grey poupon)
  • 1/8 c. low fat mayo
  • 1/4-1/2 c. olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Wisk in olive oil until desired consistency. Some times I double the dressing recipes and save some for salads. If you’re using a larger pasta you’ll probably want to double it as well in order to have enough to cover.

** Yesterday I made this for our small group bible study and I made a few substitutions to my typical dish. First, I pretty much doubled the dish. Then I added more cheese yum. Can’t go wrong with more cheese. I used about 8 oz of block motz and cubed it. I used rotini noodles and acini di pepe noodles in place of the orzo (about a lb of each). I left out the onions b/c I didn’t have any at home. I also added a can of chick peas πŸ™‚ AND since I was still in Columbus finishing up buying a car yesterday when it was time to go, Steve dressed the salad with a bottle of Marzetti’s Champagne Vinaigrette that we had in the fridge! Yay for improvisation πŸ™‚ I guess the dish yesterday ended up being quite a bit different than the original~ but that’s what’s fun about cooking!

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Filed under Pasta, Salads

Brown Butter Pasta Salad

I feel like I’m constantly apologizing for lame food pictures…so here I go again. I’m sorry, this pic is from the iphone, and it does NOT do the meal justice. This pasta salad was AH-MAZING.

I was watching the food network the other day & Giada made this recipe. I usually don’t want to jump off the couch and run to the grocery store when watching her show, but this recipe almost prompted me to do just that!! I was not disappointed, nor were the guests at the 4th of July (on the the 3rd of July) party last night. You should scurry out and get the ingredients for this pronto.

I made a few modifications to the recipe so here it is!

  • 1/2 lb whole wheat penne
  • 1/2 lb regular penne
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow tomato (for color)
  • 1 orange tomato (for color)
  • 1 package pre-washed baby spinach*
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2-3 oz freshly grated romano cheese**
  • 3 Tbsp capers
  • 3/4 stick butter (yes, I upped the butter in the recipe… brown butter is just too darn good!)

Dressing ingredients

  • 1 large lemon, juice & rind
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

The original recipe is made to be served semi warm… I would follow this recommendation. I kind made this in several interesting steps looking to get a cold pasta salad. I think it would have been better if I had just whipped it up last minute. I’m planning to heat the leftovers.

You can see Giada’s original recipe for the details… but basically you are suppose dice the veggies, grate cheese & set aside. Toast pine nuts & set aside (I did this in a fry pan…but WATCH them carefully. They are easy to burn). Whisk all dressing ingredients together, set aside.Β  Boil the noodles, drain. Then toss all of the ingredients (except the butter) together in a large bowl. The idea is for the cheese to melt into the dish and the arugula (or spinach to wilt down).

Then you slowly brown the butter in a fry pan and add that in to the dish. From the way Giada did it…it looked like she served it immediately at semi room temperature (maybe a little warmer.)

I boiled the noodles then tossed with spinach to wilt. I then cooled the noodles before tossing with all of the remaining ingredients so that I wouldn’t melt the cheese. I liked the way the grated cheese (courtesy of my cuisinart food processor) looked in the dish. It was yummy, but I think the brown butter would have been better in the warm dish πŸ™‚ Anyway, lesson learned, stick to what the chef says!! That said, I have NO regrets. This dish was fantastic πŸ™‚


*The store didn’t have arugula. What? Are you serious…no arugula? How could this BE!!! I should have bought some at the farmers market on Saturday #fail. The spinach stood up well in this dish, but the arugula would have added a lot more flavor!

**Romano was HALF the price of Parmesan. Half. That’s double the cheese for the same price people. I went with romano πŸ™‚

Next time I’m thinking it might be nice to toss in some basil?? maybe some smoked gouda?? πŸ™‚

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Not your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole!

Last month I got a bonus 2011 Cookbook from Better Homes & Gardens. I think it came right along with my magazine subscription. Yes, I have a subscription to BHG & I am officially old. Well… in all fairness, I DID get a year FREE after we bought BGH bookshelves from walmart. But since then, I renewed my membership~ so I guess I qualify as being old enough to enjoy a BHG magazine.

Now, I say this not as a bash on BHG, but more as a reflection on the fact that I’ve moved into a totally different age bracket. I can no longer even stomach the teen magazines that I used to adore. I’m pretty sure that Cooking Light is my very favorite! Pretty soon I”ll be reading parenting magazines. Just you wait.

Anyway, back on track. In the Free 2011 cookbook, there was a recipe for a Mediterranean-style tuna casserole. It caught my eye. I made some modifications (to our taste & cupboard) and the result was fantastic!

I decided to call it “Not your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole” b/c this recipe lacks a key ingredient: cream of mushroom or chicken soup! Also, it’s just a little bit to snazzy to be grandmas… at least, it my down home grandma wouldn’t have made this dish!!


  • 1/2 box (or 6oz) of noodles (we used whole wheat rotini noodles)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5-6 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2-5oz cans of tuna (in water), drained
  • 1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes (rehydrated)
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. frozen peas (I tossed them in frozen)
  • 1Β  handful of fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 8 oz low fat sour cream (I am a food snob here & have to use daisy brand)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. water
  • 6 oz guyere cheese, shredded

Boil noodles till al dente.

While noodles are boiling, prepare the rest of the dish. In an oven proof pan, saute onions & garlic in olive oil till tender. Add in the olives, tuna, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, frozen peas, and capers.Β  Stir to combine. Then push the ingredients to the side & toss in the sour cream & butter. Stir to melt. Add in as much water as need to make for a semi saucy consistency. You’re going to bake it for 220-30 min so you don’t want it to get dry!

Add the cooked noodles to the rest of the ingredients. Toss to combine. Top with shredded cheese. Bake @ 350 uncovered for 20 min. Then broil till cheese is brown (approx 2-3 minutes depending on how far away your dish is from the broiler!)

This made the house smell fantastic and it was SUPER easy! Hope y’all like it as well as we did!


Filed under Main Course, Pasta