weeknight gourmet

Category : Pasta

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli

IMG_1626This is an easy homemade mac and cheese that will please kids and adults!  Tasty with the added benefit of a bit of broccoli in the dish.

I followed the recipe as written, using a mild cheddar.  The only addition was including a bit of parmesan to the cheddar sprinkled on top.

Charlotte gobbled it up!

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli
Real Simple

  • 3/4 pound medium pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets

Heat broiler. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 ½ cups of the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Add the pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer to a broilerproof 8-inch square or a 1 ½-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Broil until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

photo(1)I’ve made this wonderful and quick Bolognese from the Barefoot Contessa before.  But in an attempt to be lighter on carbs, served it over spaghetti squash on Monday night.

I love pasta and nothing will ever truly be a substitute but this was a pretty delicious meal!  Spaghetti squash is so easy to prepare and pairs wonderfully with a tomato-based sauce.   Will definitely be moving this into our fall / winter meal rotation.


Spaghetti Squash

  • 2 whole spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.Split the squashes in half and scrape out seeds. Line an oven tray with aluminum foil. Season the spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place flesh side down and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.When squash is cool enough to handle, using a large kitchen spoon scrape the strands of squash from the inside of the skin.
Weeknight Bolognese
Copyright, 2010 Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

  • 2 TB good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ¼ cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • ¾ pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells (
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat until the meat is no longer pink and has started to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 TB salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Finish the sauce while the pasta cooks. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining ¼ cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Serves 4-5.

Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts

IMG_0490After making my first disappointing Barefoot Contessa dish on Saturday, I was very happy to make a super tasty dinner tonight!  The recipe is a variation on a carbonara with the delicious addition of Brussels sprouts and lots of Pecorino.

Not many notes on this recipe.  I was able to buy some guanciale (un-smoked Italian bacon usually prepared with pig’s cheeks) at Dickson’s Farmstand, an amazing butcher in Chelsea Market.  I’m sure the recipe would be great with pancetta as well.  I only needed about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.  I aslo added a pinch of kosher salt when I mixed in the Brussels sprouts.

Tim and both cleared our plates (and then some).

Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts
Bon Appetit

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated
  • 12 ounces orecchiette or other fresh or dried small pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl) or pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino plus more
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add Brussels sprout leaves and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to keep pepper from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms. (Taste as you go and switch to hot water once sauce is adequately seasoned.)

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Add Pecorino; toss to combine. Remove from heat; mix in egg yolks. Add reserved Brussels sprout leaves; toss, adding pasta cooking liquid (or hot water) as needed to thin sauce.

Serve pasta topped with more Pecorino.

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe, Sausage, & Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

This recipe was a find on Pinterest, a new source of cooking inspiration for me.

Tim and I both loved this pasta dish!  Great flavors from the sun-dried tomatoes, sausage, and broccoli rabe.  I used bulk Italian sausage from the half pig share we got.  I did not add red pepper flakes (a shocker for me!) because I didn’t want it to be too spicy for Charlotte.  I served it with some freshly grated pecorino romano.

The only warning is that it does require two pots and your food processor so there was a bit of cleanup (thanks, Tim!) for a weeknight meal.

This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe, Sausage, & Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Italian Food Forever

  • 1 Pound Orecchiette Pasta
  • 1 Pound Spicy Italian Sausages, From Casings
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe, Cleaned And Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Dash Of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
  • 1/3 Cup Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Choice Of Cheese To Serve:

  • Freshly Grated Parmesan, Romano, or Salted Ricotta Are Good Choices

Pesto Ingredients:

  • 2 Ounces Sun-dried Tomatoes Packed In Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley

To make the pesto, add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet, add the sausage meat and cook thoroughly.
Cook the orecchiette in salted boiling water, adding the broccoli rabe to the pasta pot during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the pasta and broccoli rabe, retaining a small cup of the pasta water.

Add the drained pasta and broccoli rabe combination to the skillet with the pesto.
Mix well over high heat for a minute or two until piping hot.

If the mixture seems at all dry, add a little of the pasta water to moisten.

Serve offering your choice of cheese.

Kid-Friendly Broccoli Pasta

Here is a super simple kid-friendly pasta dish (Charlotte approved!).  Boil broccoli along with the pasta and then toss with oil and cheese.  Super fast, very flavorful, and most important a meal that Charlotte, Tim, and I all enjoyed together!

Leaving-Home Penne Rigate with Broccoli

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, washed, stems discarded, cut into bite-size florets
1 pound penne rigate
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground pepper

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add a good handful of salt (about 1/4 cup), enough that you can taste it. Set a fine strainer in the sink.

When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli and wait until the water returns to a boil. Add the pasta and set the timer to the number of minutes recommended on the box. When the timer rings, drain the penne and broccoli in the colander, then dump them into a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil and mix well with a wooden spoon so that the pasta is coated and the bits of broccoli are well distributed throughout. Add the cheese and stir well until you have a nice, green-speckled sauce. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese, and add some pepper.

What kind of lettuce is that? KALE!

Charlotte had kale twice this week!  Tim and I both love the leafy green so I was excited she took a liking to it as well.  The first introduction to kale was in a sausage and bean stew I like to make in the fall and winter.  Charlotte picked the kale out of the bowl and asked “what kind of lettuce is this?”.  I was impressed with her food identification, but more thrilled that she liked the superfood.

Later in the week, I used kale to make this delicious pesto.  Charlotte loved it and ate two bowls.  Tim and I devoured ours as well.  I followed the directions below and it turned out very well.  We have some extra for dinner next week!

A sprinkle of extra parmesan on top added a nice touch.  Enjoy!

Kale Pesto
Bon Appetit

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Blanch 4 garlic cloves for 2-3 minutes; remove from water with a slotted spoon. In same water, blanch 1 bunch of stemmed kale for 30 seconds; drain. Purée garlic and kale in a food processor; with motor running, gradually add about 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 cup grated Parmesan, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use pesto to dress cooked pasta of your choice or as a sauce for vegetables or fish.

Rigatoni with Broccoli & Sausage

Sorry for the Weeknight Gourmet hiatus!  I was a bit under the weather and then was on vacation!  We had a great time in Vail, Colorado.  But, after a over a week of dining out, I was very excited to cook a meal at home!

The latest Everyday Food magazine greeted me upon our return and I couldn’t resist the cover recipe, Rigatoni with Sausage and Broccoli.

The recipe is super easy and has great flavor from the sausage and the lemon-anchovy-garlic oil.  I know some people shy away from anchovies but they provide a great salty flavor.

The dish was a hit!  I plan to make it again.

Rigatoni with Broccoli & Sausage
Everyday Food

  • 1 lb rigatoni
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • Grated parmesan

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, adding broccoli the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, anchovies, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cook sausage in a pan over medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through. Add broccoli and pasta plus oil mixture. Toss well, adding enough pasta cooking liquid to make a thin sauce.

Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Pasta with Cilantro Pistachio Pesto

Looking for a delicious and easy vegetarian dinner?  Look no further than this amazing and hearty pasta.   A delicious pesto — made from cilantro and pistachio — pairs well with the roasted cauliflower and carrots tossed in with the pasta.  So much flavor!  The interesting thing about this pesto is that it contains no cheese.  It gets its richness from the nuts.  Though, I must admit I enjoyed my pasta with some parmesan sprinkled on top.

Fine Cooking suggests an alternative recipe with broccoli and red peppers instead of the cauliflower and carrots.  Can’t wait to try that variation!

Cavatappi with Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto
Fine Cooking

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower, cut into small (1/2- to 3/4 -inch) florets (about 6 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and then cut on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick
  • 7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 lb. cavatappi
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large scallions, thinly sliced

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Put the cauliflower and carrots on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp. salt and toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, and continue roasting until tender and golden in spots, about 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, pulse the cilantro, pistachios, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the remaining 5 Tbs. oil and purée until the sauce is very smooth. Add the lemon juice and 3/4 tsp. salt and pulse to mix.

Boil the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well and return the pasta to the pot. Toss the warm pasta with the roasted vegetables and pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

Molto Mario Deliciousness: Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini, and Spinach

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday!  We had a great one at Tim’s brother’s house.  Charlotte loved being with her cousins Kaylin and Sidney.  And, we all ate very well!  They share my love of the Barefoot Contessa and she featured heavily in our holiday meals.

For Christmas, Doug and Julina gave me Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals by Mario Batali.  I have loved Mario Batali since my first visit to Po about ten years ago.  My love of his cooking has only grown as I have visited Babbo, Lupa, Del Posto, B&B Ristorante (in Las Vegas), and Casa Mono.

Despite dining at many of his restaurants, I did not own a Mario Batali cookbook until now.  The book is organized by month which I love since I try to cook seasonally.  Each month features three primi (pastas), one secondi (a meat main course), and four contorni (veggie sides).

I turned to the December chapter for my first recipe from the book.  The photograph of the Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini, and Spinach called to me!  The recipe was out of this world and tasted as if the sauce had been simmering for hours!  I think the porcinis and the liquid from re-hydrating them added some very rich, earthy flavor to the dish.  I actually was a little light on the porcinis and spinach.  I only bought 2 ounces of the mushrooms and 5 ounces of baby spinach.  I am sure the dish would be even more flavorful with the full quantity of each.

Be sure to top the pasta with freshly grated pecorino.  It’s a great complement to the dish!

It can serve 6 as a main and is perfect for entertaining.  I will certainly be making this dish again.

Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini, and Spinach
from Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals by Mario Batali

  • 3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 10 minutes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1½ pounds ground veal shoulder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup basic tomato sauce
  • 1½ pounds farfalle pasta
  • 8 ounces baby spinach, trimmed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and coarsely chop the porcini. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine mesh sieve, and set it aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly toasted. Add the veal and the chopped porcini, and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the meat is well browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the paste turns a rust color, 5 minutes. Then add the wine and 1 cup of the strained porcini soaking liquid, and cook for 5 minutes, until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

Drop the farfalle into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water into the veal mixture. Stir the baby spinach into the veal mixture.

Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the veal mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with the grated pecorino on the side.

Dinner Tonight: Done! Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna

Last week I picked up Real Simple’s Dinner Tonight: Done! on a whim at the grocery store checkout.  I was hungry and the cover photo looked yummy!  When I got home, I couldn’t believe I had picked up yet another cookbook but this one has not been a disappointment.

I have already made two recipes from it and have another two planned for this week.  The recipes do not require a lot of ingredients, are relatively quick, and (so far) have been very flavorful.

I made this lasagna recipe for my book club meeting last week.  Everyone loved it — even one woman who doesn’t normally like cheese!  Tim and Charlotte had leftovers and both gobbled it up.  I didn’t know an 18-month-old could eat so much lasagna!

A few notes – make sure to thaw the broccoli and to squeeze the excess water out of it so that the lasagna is not soggy.  I used Rao’s marinara sauce — it is a bit pricey but so delicious!  I doubled the recipe and we were able to get two dinners out of it.  And, lastly, definitely use fresh mozzarella — it melts beautifully and tastes delicious!

The prep and assembly of the lasagna was super quick; so, as long as you have 40 minutes for it to bake, it is definitely doable on a weeknight!

Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna
Real Simple
•    1 15-ounce container ricotta (about 1 3/4 cups)
•    1 pound frozen broccoli florets—thawed, patted dry, and chopped
•    2 1/4 cups grated mozzarella (9 ounces)
•    1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
•    kosher salt and black pepper
•    1 16-ounce jar marinara sauce
•    1/2 cup heavy cream
•    8 no-boil lasagna noodles
•    2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the foil
•    4 cups mixed greens
•    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 400º F. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, broccoli, 2 cups of the mozzarella, ¼ cup of the Parmesan,½  teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a small bowl, combine the marinara sauce and cream.

Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles, a quarter of the remaining sauce, and a third of the broccoli mixture; repeat twice. Top with the remaining 2 noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan.

Cover tightly with an oiled piece of foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Toss the greens with the olive oil, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with the lasagna.