summery chicken pasta

summer chk pasta

I AM BACK! Well, I’ve been back, but have still been recovering from vacation. You know how vacation just makes you more tired than you were before you went on vacation? Not only that, but it also sucked all the joy out of my regular life, as I don’t want to do anything except keep being on vacation.

Where you get to hang out on boats…

enjoy scenic views…

and hike through colorful canyons…

Anyway, since it is summer, and I had to be in a bikini, I decided to take a break from the sweeter things in life for a day and post this [ relative-to-what-i-usually-post ] healthful pasta recipe instead. Just a simple pasta filled with fresh veggies, lean chicken, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.  ;)

I do variations of this pasta all the time with different veggies … no real measurements. But this should serve as a good “jumping off point” for you. It’s actually one of BF’s favorite dinners, depending on what I throw in, of course. A splash of cream and a bit of butter never hurt anyone, though you may want to skip those depending on how far away your bikini date is.

Summery Chicken Pasta

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1 (1-lb) box pasta, whole wheat if you want to feel a little better about it
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (thin cut will cook faster)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup (1 cup if you skip the wine), low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bag baby spinach (~ 6 oz)
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, I like to halve some and leave some whole
  • ½ cup loosely-packed basil, torn, plus more for garnish (if desired)
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional, but recommended)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Italian cheese – Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago, whatever you’ve got.

Cook pasta in salted water per package directions. Drain and set aside.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Bash your garlic cloves with your hand or a knife, you want them to be “broken” but not chopped or separated.

Preheat pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle oil to coat the bottom and add chicken, cooking in batches if necessary. Cook until done and transfer to a plate; tent with foil while you cook the veggies.

Add another drizzle of oil if necessary. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. DO NOT let the garlic burn. Once the garlic is lightly browned remove the cloves of garlic and add your onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sauté until translucent, then add your wine and cook until almost evaporated, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your broth and bring to a boil. (Sometimes I throw my garlic cloves back in, just remember to fish them out again before you serve it).

Chop chicken to desired size pieces and return chicken, with any accumulated juices, to the pan.

Reduce heat to low and add spinach, basil, tomatoes, and cooked pasta to the skillet. Add a healthy dose of grated parmesan to the pasta. Throw in a tablespoon of butter and a dash of cream if you’re feeling saucy, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss until the spinach is wilted to your liking.

Serve sprinkled with extra parmesan and basil.

TIPS

  • You can also sauté bell peppers with your onion for an extra ‘punch’ of flavor
  • I like to drop a few strands of saffron into the broth while it boils as well
  • I also like to add half of my tomatoes while the broth is boiling so they burst and flavor the sauce, then the other half at the end so they are more “fresh”.

thursday things

wonton ravioli main

It’s Thursday!

Not quite Friday, but so close I can taste it.

We’ve had a lot going on at work, this is the time of year that we get super busy, so work like crazy all day long, go home, and crash super hard. It makes it hard to do things like, I don’t know, import all those food photos I’ve taken and type up a post. So hard.

As my time becomes more limited I turn to easier recipes, shorter posts, and less pictures. I made these surprisingly good raviolis with wonton wrappers of all things. I had just enough time for BF to snap a pic with his iPad before we devoured them for dinner… I know, I’m pitiful. I wasn’t really even planning on liking/posting the recipe so, whatever. Don’t judge.

Now, they aren’t like regular ravioli. The wonton wrapper is much thinner and more delicate than typical ravioli dough, but I actually enjoyed that. It was like a much lighter pasta that allowed the flavor of the filling to really shine through. I dunno, I liked them. A lot more than I expected to. Especially since I’m not a huge ravioli fan. Boyfriend enjoyed them too, and he is a fan of ravioli, so there must be something good going on there…

Oh, and Thursday’s Serious Eats Sweets lineup also featured my croissants – woot! A picture, by the way, that wasn’t good enough for stupid Tastespotting’s 100×100 pixels. If you have a lot of free time this weekend, you should probably make them. And by probably, I mean definitely. Definitely make them. So good.

Don’t they just look scrumptious?

I’m also dreaming about this cake recipe I saw on Food & Wine, but BFF told me I should probably give the chocolate cakes a rest and make something light and fruity… which I was totally considering until I saw that cake… I mean, it’s just so bizarre… a crunchy almond filling (that when I read, I realized was awful close to a macaron recipe) PLUS peanut butter PLUS rice krispies… I think I have to make it. At this point, I don’t think it’s even my choice anymore. It just has to be done. This is F&W’s picture, not mine. (Obviously, since I haven’t made it yet).

Without further ado, here is a quick ravioli recipe to make while your croissant dough is resting…. I filled mine with a plethora of cheese, only because I went on a recent cheese binge at Trader Joes and we have enough cheese to feed a small country for several weeks… feel free to fill yours with whatever you like. Boyfriend even recommended I fill them with my bolognese sauce or meatballs, but by then they were already closed up and ready to go so maybe next time, love.

My recipe only uses half the wonton wrappers, partly because I wanted to experiment with the rest, and partly because I got tired of making them. Feel free to double the recipe (but stick with one egg) if you want more ravioli. These are estimates, just shove whatever you want in there, it’ll be fine :)

Wonton Raviolis

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1/2 package wonton wrappers
  • 1/2 lb ricotta (use full fat, it has SO MUCH MORE flavor)
  • 1/4 cup each parmesan, pecorino, fontina… whatever else you like.
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • generous sprinkle of salt
  • any other additions you want to add (cooked italian sausage, prosciutto, whatever)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten + additional egg for egg wash

1. Mix together ricotta, cheeses, herbs, salt, 1 egg, and any other fillings you may want to add.

2. Lay out wonton wrappers and place about 1 teaspoon of filling in each.

3. Make egg wash by beating your additional egg with one tablespoon of water. Rub egg wash around the outside of each wonton wrapper, folding each wrapper in half as you go. Make sure you press around the filling first, and then press the edges together. Get as much air out of the filling as possible to ensure your ravioli don’t burst while cooking.

4. Store in refrigerator up to one day or freeze** until you feel like having ravioli.

5. When ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and reduce heat so that the water isn’t at a violent rolling boil, but more of a gentle simmer-y boil. Drop ravioli in a few at a time and cook for about 3 minutes each, until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon into a separate pan with your warmed sauce as they finish, adding more as necessary until they are all cooked. Remember to be gentle, since the “shells” for these ravioli are so thin that they will tear or burst more easily than regular ravioli. 

I boiled my ravioli, transferred them to a wide bottomed pan with warm sauce and spooned the sauce over them, then drizzled them with a tiny bit of oil, and garnished with fresh basil. It was delicious. 

**To freeze ravioli, line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment and place sealed ravioli in a single layer. Freeze until firm and then transfer frozen ravioli into a freezer safe bag. To cook, bring water to a gently boil cook ravioli until they float to the surface.

stuffed pasta shells

stuffed shells

What’s more comforting than a big tray of pasta on a cool winter night? Answer: Not much. Then again, it’s been in the high 70s here so what do I know about winter? The biggest chill I get is coming out of the air conditioning vents in my car as I drive home from work…

Hey, don’t judge.

I made these stuffed shells for my momma when she came over to celebrate “Second Christmas” with us. She missed out on first Christmas due to circumstances beyond our control, so last weekend I had her come over, open presents, and enjoy a good home-cooked meal.

Half of these were left vegetarian (just for fun), but since I had some extra prosciutto lying around that I didn’t want to waste, the other half had prosciutto added to them. Both were delicious, and show just how customizable this recipe really is. :)

As an added bonus, you can make these in advance to bake the next day, or even freeze them for a future dinner! Play around with the flavors, do what you like, but definitely add these to your dinner rotation.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 16 – 20 jumbo pasta shells (you’ll want extra in case when some break)
  • Shredded italian cheese
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

For the filling:

  • 15 oz ricotta (I prefer Trader Joe’s, but do what you will)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large tomato, finely diced
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh basil, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 7 oz prosciutto, diced (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour a layer of sauce on the bottom.
If you’re baking these right away, might as well get that oven heated to 350F

1. Bring salted pasta water to a boil, and cook shells according to package directions. When done, spread out on a baking sheet to cool. Try to gently separate any that have fused together.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the filling ingredients adding salt and pepper to taste. Realizing you probably don’t want to “taste” the filling on its own, probably about a ½ teaspoon or so of salt and a few grinds of pepper should do?

3. Once the shells have cooled, fill them with the ricotta mixture and arrange in the baking dish. Top off with more pasta sauce, shredded cheese, and grated parmesan. You can, at this time, either refrigerate the shells (covered) for tomorrow, or throw them in the oven.

4. When ready to cook, bake shells for 30 – 40 minutes, until the cheese is nice and bubbly and shells are heated through.

*If you’re going to freeze them, fill them and place them on a freezer-safe dish. Freeze about 20 minutes until firm, then place in a freezer-safe bag and store in your freezer until ready to use. When ready to bake, cover the bottom of a baking sheet with sauce, place the shells on top, cover with more sauce and cheese, then bake COVERED for 30 minutes, uncover and continue to bake for another 15 -20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

lasagna for two

lasagna

I’ve been working longer days the past few weeks. This means I get out of work late, much later than BF would like, because it means I don’t have quite as much time to make dinner before he’s ready to chew his own leg off. In order to keep all of BF’s limbs attached, I’ve made an effort to pre-make at least one meal a week. Sometimes he’s even lucky enough for me to make one of his favorite things : Lasagna.

Who doesn’t love lasagna? The best part is, I can make it all the day before. I just refrigerate it overnight, and then BF pops it in the oven towards the end of my shift. Voila – dinner is ready by the time I get home. As an added bonus – BF gets to feel like he made dinner that night. :)

I almost didn’t post the recipe, since it uses a jar sauce, so I kinda feel like it isn’t REALLY a “recipe”. Then I figured, who doesn’t have days where they get home from work too exhausted or too late to make dinner? And who doesn’t resort to jarred sauces once in awhile? Especially if you can find one you like (for me – that’s Trader Joe’s Bolognese).

Since we’re a small family of two (sometimes three) people, I make mine in  a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, and it’s still enough to feed us for a couple of meals. If you want to make more, just use a larger pan, or if you want to make some for later, just make an additional batch in one of those foil loaf pans and store it in the freezer until the mood strikes. (Or, in my case, to feed the boy if I have to leave town for work).

Just try to mangle yours slightly less when it’s time for your photo-op :)

Lasagna for TwoMakes one 9 x 5-inch loaf of lasagna

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • ½ (1.25 lb) package Italian turkey sausage (sweet or hot)
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 package whole milk ricotta (trust me on this, please don’t use skim. If you’re going to use skim, just skip the ricotta altogether)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a couple sprinkles each of basil and oregano)
  • Shredded Italian cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Remove sausage from casings and cook with ground beef in a sauté pan over medium-high until brown. Add onion and continue cooking until soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in your jar of sauce and lower heat to simmer.
  2. While sauce is simmering, mix Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper into the ricotta. (If you have milk or cream on hand, you can add a splash or two to thin the ricotta just a little bit). Set aside.
  3. Assemble the lasagna: Put just enough sauce to coat the bottom of the loaf pan, and place a lasagna noodle on top. Scoop meat sauce mixture into a layer over top.Spread ricotta mixture onto one side of another lasagna noodle, place ricotta side down into pan. Top with more meat sauce, and repeat until you’re out of room.Once you’ve reached your last noodle, add your remaining meat sauce and sprinkle with Italian cheese. Feel free to grate some parmesan over top, maybe sprinkle some Italian seasoning.
  4. Now you can either – bake in a 375 degree oven until cheese is hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes) OR cool, cover, and refrigerate.

To bake from refrigerated, take out of the fridge while the oven preheats to 375. Once the oven is preheated, bake the lasagna, covered with foil, 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake additional 15 minutes or so until cheese is hot and bubbly

TIPS

- Grease your pan or, if you’re extra lazy like me, just line it with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.

- Adding fresh parmesan on top will encourage browning. If you think it’s ready but it just won’t get brown enough, feel free to pop the broiler on for a minute or so.

- Another trick – Keep a baguette in your freezer. Let the baguette sit, wrapped in foil, at room temperature while the lasagna bakes, then throw it into the oven for the last 15-20 minutes or so of baking and it will be just as good as new.  

rigatoni with chipotle cream sauce

bigrig main

Apologies for the long delay in posting – those of you who follow me on facebook I had to take a work trip to Mesa Verde National Park. For those of you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a national park located just outside of Mancos, Colorado… more on that to come later. For now, I will reward your patience with a delicious pasta recipe :)

Around here, we have a restaurant called Oregano’s, and at Oregano’s they have something called “the big rig pasta.” The big rig pasta consists of rigatoni in a spicy tomato-chipotle cream sauce. Crazy, right? Initially I was conflicted, what on earth is chipotle doing with pasta? But I love chipotle… So the shock faded away and was replaced with my undying love of all things chipotle.

Once I tasted the “big rig” pasta, I was hooked. When the craving struck, I was thinking about it for days. Seriously, days. Oregano’s isn’t a restaurant we can really go to very often because it’s always crowded. Even at “old person” dinner time, which is when BF and I like to eat, there is usually an unreasonably long wait. As much as I love Oregano’s, I do not love it enough to sit in the hot Arizona sun for an hour while we wait for a table to open up. The only way for me to satisfy this craving was to (attempt to) recreate the dish at home.

I used just a basic tomato cream sauce, and added a chipotle pepper (or two) to it. How much you add really just depends on how spicy you want it. If you add too much, the cream will help to mellow it out a bit, but not completely (it’s always easier to add more than to take it away). When I served it initially for dinner, it actually was a little bit shy of the amount of cream the sauce really needed. I adjusted the cream for round two and it had a much more rounded, well-balanced (less fiery) flavor. All-in-all, I consider this a win. It’ll get me through those tough times when I just need a “big rig” fix, but don’t want to have to wait around for it.

Chipotle-Tomato Cream Sauce

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small celery ribs, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 chipotle peppers, minced
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup (more or less) heavy cream
  • Fresh basil
  • Pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used rigatoni)
  1. Warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again to coat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes and crush with a spoon. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender. Stir and add chipotles & 4 basil leafs for last 15 minutes of cooking, simmering with lid slightly ajar.
  3. Remove basil and puree the sauce using an immersion blender (you can use a regular blender or food processor, but you will have to do it in batches and there will be lots of transferring of hot liquids and the like).
  4. Once pureed, stir in ¼ cup cream and place back over medium/medium-low heat, and bring the sauce just to a simmer.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, with salt and pepper, add more cream if desired. Add extra basil on top before serving.

* Sauce may be stored as is in refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  If freezing, leave out the cream until you reheat the sauce, adding in the last 10 minutes of simmering before serving.