Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Broccoli and Potato Pesto Fettuccine

When I make pasta for dinner at home, I have a tendency, like many people I think, to make tomato, cream, or tomato-cream pasta sauces. I’m not sure why this is. I guess I just like tomato-based sauces. Marinara sauce, meat sauce, vodka sauce (a tomato-cream sauce), etc. I love cream sauce, but I try not to make them too often, because, well, they’re cream sauces.

I really should experiment with more sauces, and there’s a lot of great non-tomato pasta sauces out there. Pesto, for example, is a classic, non-tomato sauce, and it’s about as easy as it gets. Cook pasta, drain pasta, and pesto, mix, serve. Bam. Even making pasta is really easy. You just throw all the ingredients in a food processor, whiz it up, and you’re done.

I realized recently that I hadn’t made any kind of pasta in pesto sauce in a long time, so when I found a recipe in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks for pasta in pesto sauce with broccoli and potato, I thought I would try it out. Plus potato with pasta sounds interesting, don’t you think? I’ve had pasta with meat sauce and potato before in Japan, but never with pesto.

This is about as easy as it gets. You boil the pasta, broccoli, and potato all together, then drain it and mix it up with the pesto, some chopped fresh basil leaves, and some grated parmesan cheese. Bam. It’s really good too! And the potato goes well with it! This is a great quick dinner. Bam.
How many times do you think I can say that in this post?

I’ll stop now.


Broccoli and Potato Pesto Fettuccine

(serves 4 – 5)

  • 1 medium potato, peeled
  • 1 head broccoli
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. dried fettuccine
  • 1/3 c. green pesto
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  1. Grate the potato into thin shavings with a vegetable peeler. Peel and slice the large stalk of the broccoli, then cut the large florets into smaller ones.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp. salt. Add the fettuccine and sliced broccoli stalk. 2 minutes before the fettuccine is done cooking, add the potato.
  3. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water, and return to the pot. Add the pesto, basil leaves, and parmesan. Toss everything well. If sauce too thick, and a little of the cooking water. Serve.

recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Broccoli and Pesto Tagliatelle


November 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry

I have a confession.

Stir-fries make me a little nervous.

Why you ask?

All that heat!
You have to cook everything very quickly, and at a really really high temperature.
The result?

Spitting oil,

excessive smoke,

smoke detector going off,


At least, that’s pretty much how it goes in my head.

In reality it’s not quite as dramatic. It’s more like I just get really busy flinging everything in the skillet, stirring it around, trying to avoid any spitting oil (okay, that part is true), and not being able to hear anything my husband is saying because the vent for our stove is so ridiculously loud.

So, I honestly don’t make all that many stir-fries. Plus, I have an electric stove, and I think you really need a gas stove and a wok to make really good stir-fries, but that’s just my opinion.

I decided to try out this stir-fry recipe from Jamie Oliver, however, because it sounded interesting yet yummy, is really fast, and quite simple, really.
I wondered if such a simple and fast recipe could be really good or not, so I tried it out.
And it was really good!

It’s called Chicken Goujons with Noodles, but I call it Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry. Whatever you call it, it’s definitely tasty, but not your average stir-fry. If you have a really busy night coming up, give this a try. The five spice powder gives it an intriguing flavor that’s delicious with the chicken. Did I mention it’s fast?

Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry

(serves 2)

  • 8 oz. dried flat egg noodles
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil (or any high heat cooking oil)
  • 2 medium chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried red chili
  • 2 tsp. five spice powder
  • 5 – 6 green onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • large handful of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
  1. Cook noodles according to package instructions (typically these only need to cook for a few minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken, ginger, and chili. Stir around quickly, then add the five spice powder.
  3. Once the chicken is browned, add the green onions, soy sauce, and honey, and mix everything.
  4. Add the drained noodles and cilantro to the skillet. Toss everything together, adjust the seasoning to taste (add more soy sauce, honey, or five spice powder as desired), and serve.

recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Goujons with Noodles

November 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Since moving to Texas [cue crashing lighting and horses neighing alla Frau Blücher] , Hisa and I have discovered a great lunch place: La Madeleine French Cafe. It’s a chain cafe, but has great food. My only complaint is that they’re always so loud, but, I dunno, maybe they’re going for authentic busy French bistro atmosphere? Either way, the food is good.

One of their side dishes, is this pesto pasta salad that’s incredibly good. I decided to try and make my own version of it, and here’s what I came up with. It’s not an exact match, but still a pretty darn good pasta salad if I do say so myself! I added ham to mine, but feel free to leave it out if you want a vegetarian version.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad

(serves 8 – 10 as a side dish)

  • 16 oz. pasta (fusilli or bow-tie)
  • 8 Tbsp. sundried tomato pesto
  • 1/2 c. diced cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. fresh baby spinach, diced
  • 1/2 c. green onions, diced
  • 4 Tbsp. Caesar dressing
  • 1/2 c. cubed ham (optional)

Cook pasta according to packages instructions. Drain and add to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

July 12, 2012 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

Pasta With Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta

I can’t believe it’s already April! Easter has come and gone, and summer will be here before we know it. It’s crazy!

I love the warm weather though. It gives me so much more energy and brightens my mood. Everything has turned green, flowers are blooming everywhere; Ah, I love spring!

Except for the tornados…I could do without those. And allergies. Not a fan of those either.

Spring makes me want to grill things, and have lots of picnics and garden parties! Actually, I’ve never had a garden party…or a tea party. I’m not that cool. They’re kind of the same though I think, except you don’t have to have tea at a garden party. I’m not a big tea drinker, so I would want to have a garden party instead of a tea party I think…
Maybe I should do that. Even if it’s only for just my parents, Hisa, and me. Having a garden party sounds fun. I must think on this…

As some of you know, I’ve taken up cheese making recently. I’ve only made two cheeses so far, but I’m working my way up to hard cheeses (I just need to build that dang cheese press!).

For my first cheese, I wanted to make something simple, so I decided to go with ricotta cheese. Obviously I needed to cook something requiring the use of ricotta cheese, so I decided to try out a recipe from one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks, Jamie’s Dinners. It’s a simple pasta dish with tomato sauce, but it also has baked ricotta cheese added to it for a nice twist. Really any pasta will work with this, but I used rigatoni since it has large holes to hold the chunky bits of cheese and sauce. And because I just like rigatoni. And jumbo pasta shells. I dunno why. Large pasta and chunky sauces make me happy. That’s how I roll.

Like I said, this is a simple pasta to make. Buying jars of marinara sauce is a real waste of money in my opinion, because it really is so easy and cheap to make your own. This sauce consists of a little olive oil, diced onion, minced garlic, a couple cans of whole or crushed tomatoes, a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. A little dried or fresh basil too if you want. Easy.

For the baked ricotta part, simply bake a 1 pound piece of ricotta (I bet you never saw that coming, right?). I made my own ricotta, so it was nice and firm, but if you’re using store bought ricotta that comes in those plastic tubs, you might pour it in a colander lined with cheese cloth, and drain off some of the liquid (i.e. whey) so it’s more firm before you bake it. If you can, try to find a wrapped piece of ricotta cheese rather than the tubs. It’ll be firmer and, thus, better for this recipe.
Either way, pre-heat your oven to 400° F (200° C). Place your ricotta in a baking dish, rub it all over with olive oil, some salt and pepper, a teaspoon of dried oregano, and a little dried red chili flakes. Bake it for 20 – 30 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on top and firm.

Boil your pasta according to the package instructions, drain it, toss it with the tomato sauce, and crumble the baked ricotta over it and mix it all up. You can tear up some fresh basil leaves and throw those in as well if you want.

I had no fresh basil leaves, so I just sprinkled a little dried basil on top. Voilà! (I like saying that…or I guess I should say typing that…….I’m so easily amused.)


Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta

(serves 4)

  • 1 lb. piece ricotta cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans of whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 lb. rigatoni, pappardelle (a wide-ribbon pasta), or whatever pasta you want
  • 1 tsp. dried basil or a handful of fresh basil leaves (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to  400° F (200° C). Rub ricotta all over with olive oil and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with oregano, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Bake 20 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. Set aside.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes until tender. Add tomatoes, and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Break up tomatoes with spoon (if you used whole tomatoes).
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and add it to the pot with the sauce. Toss well. Crumble the baked ricotta cheese into the pot with the pasta. Add the dried or fresh basil if desired. Serve.

recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver

April 12, 2012 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Have you ever had rigatoni pasta?

It’s like penne, but larger, and the ends are cut straight rather than at an angle like penne. Because the whole inside is larger, more chunky sauces can get inside the pasta, which is always a good thing. Good and delicious.

I love trying different pasta shapes. Now that I’m back in the U.S. this is much easier to do. I don’t know why, but if you get pasta in an Italian restaurant (or any restaurant) in Japan, 99% of the time it’s spaghetti. It doesn’t matter what kind of sauce it is, it’s almost always going to be spaghetti. I got so tired of spaghetti in Japan, so I’m having a great time now fixing different types of pasta.

Did you know there are over 500 different types of pasta in the world today? That boggles my mind. But in a good way. I dream of trying them all… Much like I dream of trying every type of cheese in the cheese section at Whole Foods. Mmmm, cheese… That’s my new year’s resolution for this year. That and to exercise a whole lot in order to burn off the calories from all the cheese I plan on eating.

While I don’t know all the 500 different types of pasta out there, I found a site, here,  that introduces quite a few, and describes what kinds of sauces they go well with.

I tried another Jamie Oliver recipe last night. This one is adapted from a recipe in his cookbook Jamie’s Dinners.

It’s a nice, chunky vegetable sauce with tomatoes, eggplant, onion, and garlic in it. You mix in fresh basil leaves and chunks of fresh mozzarella right at the end, so when you serve it, the basil has gone all fragrant and the mozzarella is just turning into melted, stringy delight. All in all, it’s a nice, hearty vegetable pasta dish, with some lovely cheesy goodness as well.

Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

(serves 4 – 5)

  • 1 lb. dried rigatoni pasta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans of tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves shredded, stalks diced
  • 4 Tbsp. cream
  • 7 oz. fresh mozzarella
  1. Heat 4 – 5 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add cubed eggplant and stir to coat eggplant in oil evenly. Cook eggplant for 8 – 10 minutes.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook for 4 – 5 minutes more.
  3. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and diced basil stalks. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving a little of the water (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup).
  5. Season pasta sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and add cream.
  6. Add pasta and reserved water to sauce. Add torn up pieces of mozzarella cheese and shredded basil leaves. Mix everything until pasta is well coated and mozzarella has started to melt. Serve immediately.

January 26, 2012 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

Classic Lasagna

When I made this lasagna recipe earlier this week, I informed my mother that one can use cottage cheese as a low-fat alternative to ricotta cheese in lasagna.

I then informed my mother that although I like cottage cheese very much, I wouldn’t be using it in the lasagna this time around, as I hadn’t tasted ricotta cheese in over three years.

Three… years.

So I used pure, unadulterated ricotta cheese.

And mozzarella cheese.

And Parmesan cheese.

And in the words of the book of Genesis, it was good.


First make a batch of marinara sauce, or you can use your favorite marinara/pizza sauce. In a large bowl, add 3 cups of ricotta cheese (that’s almost all of one 32 oz. container), 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp. dried parsley, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, and one egg, and mix everything up.


Your cheese filling is now done. 🙂


In a large skillet, brown 1 lb. of ground turkey (or beef) or turkey sausage (or Italian sausage if you want to go all out) until browned and crumbly. Drain any fat, and then combine with your marinara sauce.

Meanwhile, boil your lasagna noodles according to the package instructions, drain, and set aside (you don’t want to do this too early before the lasagna assembly or they’ll start sticking together).


Spray a large, 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Lay out one layer of lasagna noodles in the bottom of the dish.


Spread out a layer of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.


Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the ricotta mixture.


Spread a layer of the marinara meat sauce on top of the cheese (not pictured), and then spread another layer of noodles on top of that. Repeat with the ricotta mixture, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, one more layer of noodles, the last of the marinara sauce, and then top everything with some mozzarella cheese.


Pop it into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes (or until bubbly and wonderful), and you’re good to go!




Serve with a lovely tossed salad, so you don’t feel too guilty about eating three different types of cheese in one dish.


(serves 6 – 7)

  • One batch marinara sauce or your favorite jar of pasta/pizza sauce
  • 3 c. ricotta cheese (almost all of one, 32 oz., container)
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. ground meat or sausage (turkey or Italian)
  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 3 – 4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F (190° C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, dried parsley, nutmeg, and the egg. Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground meat until browned and crumbly. Drain off any fat and combine with marinara sauce.
  4. Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  5. Grease a large, 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Lay one layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of dish. Spread half of the ricotta mixture in a layer on top of the noodles. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese on top of that. Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce on top of the cheese.
  6. Lay down another layer of noodles, and repeat with the remaining half of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, 1/3 of the meat sauce, another layer of noodles, the last of the meat sauce, and top it all off with the last of the mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.



January 14, 2012 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

Marinara Sauce

If you’re like me, then you probably love Italian food. Namely pasta.

I love pasta; all the different shapes and sizes, all the things you can mix it with, and of course all the sauces.

Sadly, pasta has gotten a rather bad rep, ever since the no/low carb diet craze hit years ago. I believe, however, that like all things, it’s all about balance.

If you eat a pound of pasta all by yourself every day, then you’re probably not doing your body any favors. But if you eat a pound of pretty much anything every day, it’s not going to be very good for you. Balance and variety are so important.

If you have a modest portion of pasta, eat it with a healthy homemade sauce made with whole ingredients, balance it with other foods such as vegetables and protein, and maintain an active lifestyle (i.e. you exercise on a regular basis), then there’s really nothing wrong with pasta at all.

I always strive for balance (in all things, not just food), so as much as I love pasta, I don’t eat it every day. I don’t hesitate to eat it, or feel guilty for eating it though.

One of my favorite go to pasta sauce recipes is a simple marinara sauce. I love tomato sauces with my pasta, and marinara sauce is about as classic as it gets. It’s also very versatile as you can add so many things with it to change it up.

Capers and olives to make it more Puttanesca like.

Chicken, shrimp, tuna; just about any meat or seafood will work.

Just about any vegetables will work with it.

Add a little vodka and a little cream to make a vodka sauce.

The options are endless.

But if you want a simple marinara sauce for your pasta, or you need it for another recipe like pizza, calzones, eggplant parmesan, or lasagna (like I did the other day), then this is a great, speedy sauce for that as well.

First, add a couple lugs of extra virgin olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add one diced onion, and saute until it becomes tender, about 4 – 5 minutes.


Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 red chili, diced (or 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes), and 1 tsp. dried basil. Saute for another 1 – 2 minutes.


Add 2 (14 oz.) cans of crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done! If you want a smoother sauce, you can whiz it in a blender, but it isn’t necessary.

Marinara Sauce

(serves 2 – 3)

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, diced -or- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add a few Tbsp. of oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, red pepper, and basil, and saute for another 1 – 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomato, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Add balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

January 13, 2012 at 1:16 am Leave a comment

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About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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