Category Archives: Pasta

Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad

It’s been so dang hot lately that there are times I don’t even want to leave my house.  I know, those who know me are shocked!  I love to be on the go!  But since I have a few half-empty packages of pasta in my pantry, fresh tomatoes from the garden and some leftover baby pearl mozzarella cheese, I figured I could make a better lunch than anything I’d get from a takeout window.

This is one of those recipes that I hate to actually call a recipe, because it’s so easy and thrown together.  But hey, that is how recipes go.  It was delicious, so simple to make and perfect for a VERY hot summer day!

Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
Recipe is a Christen original

2 cups pasta of your choice, cooked and drained
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1-2 tbsp prepared pesto
tomato wedges
fresh pearl mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients, using more pesto if you want it to be more well-coated.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.  Refrigerate and serve cold.

Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I’m in a local MOMS Club that has activities several times a week.  It’s a great way to let my little girl play with other kids and socialize, while still being at at-home parent.  In addition to those activities, we also have a Mom’s Night Out once a month.  Last month we went to a local Italian restaurant and I ordered the spaghetti carbonara.  It was so delicious that I’m embarrassed to say I ate it all.  But it didn’t take long before I was looking up recipes for it.

Tyler Florence (of the Food Network) had great reviews of his recipe and it seemed pretty easy so I went with that one.  I was so happy with how simple this is to make and it’s so filling!  My husband and I both loved it – so much that we’ve already had it twice!  It’s a great thing to cook when you don’t have a lot of ingredients in the house – it calls for very little!    The second time I had to use fettucine noodles (as you’ll see in the picture) but it still came out well.  Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the parsley in it so the second time I opted to use fresh basil.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Recipe slightly adapted from Tyler Florence

1 lb. dry spaghetti
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (since I used bacon and it makes its’ own grease, I didn’t use this)
4 oz. bacon, cut into small pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
4-5 basil leaves, washed and cut into small strips

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking, so the pasta will be nice and hot when you add the eggs to it.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it and add the pasta, cook until done but reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Drain off the rest of the water.

While that’s cooking, brown your bacon in a large nonstick pot.  Add the garlic and cook until turning golden.  Add the hot spaghetti and toss well with the bacon and garlic, cook for two minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together your eggs and 1 cup Parmesan cheese.  Remove the pot of pasta from the heat and stir in the eggs.  Whisk together quickly so the eggs do not scramble (this is why you’re removing it from the heat) but the sauce does thicken.  You can thin out the sauce to your desired consistency with the reserved pasta water.  Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with the basil and extra Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Penne a la Betsy

Yesterday I really did have good intentions to cook a healthy meal.  I started trying to decide what to make and nothing sounded good.  I decided to browse on the Pioneer Woman’s blog which probably wasn’t my smartest decision ever.  All of her recipes are great, but not what you want to cook on a diet! 

I’ve been hearing rave reviews on her Penne a la Betsy so I decided to give it a try.  I mean can you really go wrong with pasta, tomato cream sauce, wine and shrimp?  Nope!  I only had a half pound of shrimp so I made do with that and it as fine, I don’t think a full pound is really necessary unless you just want it.  It really was delicious, very easy to make and was also quick to cook.  All things I like in a good meal!  I was also pleasantly surprised at how much it made.  Hubby and I both went back for seconds and there is enough left over for our dinner tonight – can’t wait!  This is a definite must try!

Penne a la Betsy

Penne a la Betsy
Recipe from:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks

3/4 pound of penne pasta, cooked al dente
1 lb (or half pound) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbsp butter (told you it’s not diet!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce – plain
1 cup heavy cream (told ya)
salt, pepper to taste (I also sprinkled in some Tony’s seasoning)
Fresh basil (I think I put about five large leaves), chopped
Fresh parsley (about a tablespoon worth), chopped


In a large nonstick pan, heat one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of butter together.  Lightly season shrimp and add to the melted mixture.  Cook just until done then remove and set aside on a cutting board.  Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan then add the onions and garlic.  Saute until soft then add the wine.  Let this cook so the alcohol evaporates some, then stir in the tomato sauce and cream, allow to simmer a few minutes. 

While that’s simmering, chop your shrimp into smaller pieces.  Add this to the sauce, stir in well then add the basil and parsley.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.  Add in the pasta and toss well to coat. 

Penne a la Betsy

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Manicotti

I first had Swiss chard a few years ago and ever since then I vow every year that I will plant some in my garden.  And each year comes and goes and I never get around to it.  So I’m very grateful to farmers that allow me to be lazy yet still enjoy this tasty veggie. 

This recipe is a product of that promise that I made to start making some heart healthy recipes.  A few months back I received a complimentary “cookbook” from the American Heart Association.  Seemed like the perfect place to get the first recipe from and when I saw this one I knew that it would be the winner!  I was a little unsure because I’m not the biggest fan of ricotta, I usually sub cottage cheese for it in my lasagna.  But I stuck with the recipe exactly as is, to protect the health facts.  As my husband declared, this is a keeper!  It was very easy, the only thing I’d do differently next time (and there will be a next time) is spread the sauce over the whole top of the manicotti, instead of just down the middle.  The edges got dry and hard.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Manicotti
Recipe from:  American Heart Association Light & Easy Recipes

Cooking spray
8 dried manicotti shells
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 8 ounces)
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 large egg white
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1/4 cup no-salt added tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Cook pasta al-dente’ (omitting salt and oil), drain in a colander but be careful not to tear the shells.  Set aside.

Spray a 13×9 casserole with cooking spray and set aside.

Discard the stems from the chard.  Stack several leaves on top of each other and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Repeat with remaining leaves.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over med-high heat and cook onion and garlic until soft, about three minutes.  Stir in the chard and cook until wilted and liquid has evaporated (about 3 more minutes).  Let cool slightly and stir int he remaining filling ingredients. 

Preheat oven to 375.

In a food processor, process the sauce ingredients together for about 20 seconds or until chunky.  Pour 1 cup of sauce into the baking dish and spread evenly along the bottom.  Gently spoon about 1/4 cup filling into the manicotti (be gentle so you don’t break them!).  Place into the casserole and top with the remaining sauce and the cheese. 

Bake, covered for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10-15 more minutes, or until heated through.

Swiss Chard & Ricotta Manicotti

Calories: 324
Total Fat:  8.5 g
Saturated Fat:  4.0 g
Trans Fat:  0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat:  0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat:  2.5 g
Cholesterol:  28 mg
Sodium:  606 mg
Carbs:  44 g
Fiber:  5 g
Sugars:  11 g
Protein:  19 g
Dietary Exchanges:  1.5 lean meat, 2 starch, 3 veggies

Most awesome meatballs ever!

Spaghetti and meatballs, who doesn’t love them?  I seriously could eat spaghetti every day I think and never get tired of it!  My mom is the same way, so while staying with my parents for a week I decided to cook this to try it out. 

Typical of Cooks Illustrated, it has some pretty strange ingredients, not normal for meatballs.  But I’ve learned that no matter how strange, trust them because their recipes are fabulous!  This makes a TON of spaghetti and meatballs, so unless you’re cooking for a lot of people, I highly suggest cutting the recipe AT LEAST in half.  I wasn’t very impressed with the sauce, I much prefer the flavors of my regular spaghetti sauce, but these meatballs were out of this world!  I will definitely be using the recipe for them and pairing them with my regular sauce (making the sauce meatless, of course) from now on.  Here’s the recipe for the meatballs:

Meatballs for Spaghetti
Recipe slightly adapted from:  Cooks Illustrated, December 2010 Issue

2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1.5 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
6 oz. bacon, chopped fine
3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp powdered gelatin, dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper 

Preheat oven to 450.

Combine the panko bread crumbs and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let it sit for about ten minutes, mushing every now and then with a fork until it is smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing with hands until completely combined.  Form 2-inch meatballs and place on wire racks that have been sprayed with nonstick spray, placed over baking sheets.  You will end up with about 40 meatballs (this is why I said cut the recipe down!!).

Bake about 30 minutes until browned and cooked through.  Once done, add to your favorite sauce and simmer about an hour to let the good meaty flavor enhance your sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tortellini with Creamy Pesto Shrimp

So now that I’ve made my homemade pesto, I have to use it!  It’s a hard life ;)

This meal is one of those “throw it together with whatever ingredients you have on hand” type of things.  And it came out so good, it’s now near the top of the list for favorites!  You could probably easily substitute cooked chicken for the shrimp, or leave out the protein altogether.  The hubby and I stuffed ourselves silly, we were miserably full afterwards!  It comes together really quickly, perfect if you want to get supper on the stove right when you get home in the evening!  We liked it so much, we’ll be having it again VERY soon.

Tortellini with Creamy Pesto Shrimp
A Christen original

1 pkg frozen cheese tortellini
1 lb shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined
4 slices cooked bacon (used that pre-cooked Hormel brand), chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles (more if preferred, I don’t judge you!)
2-3 tbsp pesto
1-2 tbsp butter
Seasonings of choice (I just used Tony’s on the shrimp)


Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add shrimp and sprinkle seasoning.  Toss to coat and cook until pink.  Set aside.

Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain well and return to pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  This is where you have to judge for yourself if it’s too dry, just add more pesto.  Serve immediately with garlic bread. 

Tortellini with Creamy Pesto Shrimp

Homemade Pesto

Mmmm, pesto….it’s about time I pay tribute to one of my favorite things.  If you know me well, you know I am a huge lover of all things garlic.  Who cares if it makes your breath smell!  It’s good stuff!  Pesto is full of garlic and it goes great on just about anything.  Seriously, everything from pasta to bread to scrambled egg sandwiches.  Delicious! 

Since it’s getting to the end of life for my basil plants, I needed to figure out what to do with them because I’m not gonna let that yummy goodness go to waste!  I decided to make some pesto and will probably make more this week.  It’s so easy and everything tastes better when it’s homemade, without all the preservatives.  So if you have a basil plant in your yard, print this out and try it because they’re not gonna survive the winter anyway!

Recipe from Foodies Favorites

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 cloves fresh garlic, toasted
2 c. basil leaves, bruised (see note below)
2 tbsp parsley, bruised
7 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Note:  to bruise leaves of basil and parsley, place in a mortar and pestle and smooosh.  If you don’t have one, just place in a ziploc bag and roll over with a rolling pin some.

Toast pine nuts in a small dry, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Do the same with the garlic afterwards (still in their skin).  Peel the garlic after it’s toasted.

Place toasted nuts, garlic, basil, parsley, oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese.  Keep refrigerated.

Fresh Homemade Basil Pesto

Chicken and Mushrooms with Marsala Wine Sauce

Now that the birthdays are over, I’m really trying to get back on the diet bandwagon.  You will notice that some of the upcoming posts are not very figure friendly.  Those were cooked before I made my return to diet-land.  This recipe, however, is waistline friendly.  Naturally, I got it out of Cooking Light.  This is probably one of my favorite cooking magazines, the recipes are always quite tasty and good for you. 

I decided to try serving it over wheat pasta.  Normally, that tastes like cardboard, I find.  I lucked up though and decided to try Ronzoni Healthy Harvest egg noodles and they were fantastic!  They didn’t taste like cardboard, in fact they tasted like regular noodles.  Delish!  This chicken and sauce was pretty fantastic too.  I only cooked two chicken breasts which worked great for me and the hubby.  And instead of buying all sorts of different (expensive) mushrooms, I just used some regular old fresh whole ones and sliced them.  And the leftover mushroom sauce we had was used in our scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Chicken and Mushrooms with Marsala Wine Sauce
Recipe lightly adapted from:  Cooking Light, September 2010 issue

1 pkg whole mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (you can use four if needed)
4 tsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup dry Marsala Wine
2/3 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
egg noodles, cooked

Place each chicken breast half in a ziploc bag and gently pound with a meat mallet until thin, but not broken up.  Combine 3 tsp flour, 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper in a shallow baking dish.  Dredge chicken in this flour mixture.

Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp oil; swirl to coat.  Add the chicken breasts and cook 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside, covered to keep warm.

Heat remaining oil in the pan and add the onion, red pepper and garlic.  Saute until soft.  Add the mushrooms and oregano, saute 6 minutes or until mushrooms are darkening.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp flour, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the wine and cook another minute.  Add the broth, bring it to a boil then reduce heat and simmer yet one more minute.  Add the chicken and tomatoes, cook until the chicken is heated through and the tomatoes have cooked a little.  Sprinkle with basil and serve over cooked pasta.

A pan full of yummy!

Chicken and Mushrooms with Marsala Wine Sauce

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Peas

No Leftovers.  Really, that’s all you need to know.  I love anything with goat cheese in it….throw in some bacon and you’ve got a party on the plate!  This meal was incredibly quick and easy to throw together.  I was a little worried that it would be too rich with the goat cheese flavor…but I really worried for nothing.  Mmmm, really wish we had some leftovers right about now! 

Definitely going on my “regular” menu!

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Peas
Recipe from:  Elly Says Opa!

1 pkg pasta, (we used bow tie)
4 ounces goat cheese crumbles
4-5 slices bacon
about 1 cup frozen peas (I just poured them  in)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
milk if you forget to save the pasta water like I did
seasonings to taste (I just used Cajun seasoning and a little salt)

Cook pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.  Drain and set aside.  While that’s cooking, fry the bacon until crisp.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.  Once the pasta pot is empty, pour the bacon grease into it (no more than 2 tbsp) and add the garlic.  Cook until fragrant and just browning, then return the pasta to the pot and toss well.  Add the peas and toss, cooking until they are warmed through.  Add the goat cheese and just a little water/milk at a time, stirring until well coated and creamy.  Season as desired.

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Peas

Creamy Taco Mac

This recipe has been circulating around the food blogging world and made me interested.  Sort of a homemade Hamburger Helper.  I love pasta and tacos, so great combo.  I really enjoyed this because I find with HH, sometimes it has like this starchy aftertaste.  Anyone else notice that?  This was perfect, super creamy. 

Two great things:  1.  It’s so easy.  2.  This would be a sure kid pleaser, and the adults like it a lot too :)

Creamy Taco Mac
Recipe from: Delish

8 oz dry pasta
1 lb. ground beef
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup less fat sour cream
1 pkg taco seasoning (if you like things hot, get the hot kind!)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup reserved water from pasta


In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add salt and oil and cook pasta until done to your liking.  Before draining, reserve one cup of water and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, brown your beef in a skillet.  Once browned, add the taco seasoning and the can of tomatoes, mix well and simmer a few minutes.  Once the pasta is drained and returned to the large pot, stir in the meat mixture.  Add the reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream and stir in well.  Serve hot.  If desired, you may top with cheese but we did not.

Calories:  442.2     Total Fat:  25.0 g      Sodium:  394.7

Creamy Taco Mac