15-Minute Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp

Pesto makes a great sauce for this quick vegetable “pasta” dish, topped with sautéed fragrant garlic, lean shrimp, nutritious spinach and nutty Parmesan cheese. I love big batches of homemade pesto when I have an abundance of basil in my container garden or CSA share. I freeze 1 tablespoon portions in mini-muffin tins to set and store in freezer safe containers to enjoy year round. Simply toss frozen pesto with warm spaghetti squash strands or pasta and stir as it melts and evenly coats.

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces or 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons pesto
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:

  1. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of a microwavable dish and place squash cut side up. Microwave on high for 12 minutes, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Saute garlic until soft and fragrant, about a minute. Add shrimp and sauté for another minute, just until it they start turning pink. Add spinach, stirring to combine and continuing to cook for a couple of minutes until wilted.
  3. Remove from microwave and when cool enough to touch, use a fork to remove the spaghetti squash strands into the dish. Add pesto and toss to evenly coat. Plate pesto spaghetti squash and top with shrimp and spinach. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Servings: 2

Grilled Pizza with Asparagus, Brie and Caramelized Onions

Nothing says spring like fresh asparagus, and warmer days inspire me to fire up the grill. With sweet caramelized onions, earthy asparagus and creamy brie, this is a unique take on a vegetarian pizza that celebrates the season. Make this meal a quick one to prepare on a busy night by caramelizing the onions and roasting the asparagus the night before. You’ll have a homemade pizza on the table in around 15 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Ingredients:
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon butter
½ teaspoon sugar

Pizza Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 3 inch pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball, about the size of a grapefruit
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces brie, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over asparagus and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness, until slightly tender.
  3. Roll or stretch (I do a combination) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil, spreading evenly. Add mozzarella cheese and top with roasted asparagus, caramelized onions and brie.
  5. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until mozzarella cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Servings: 4 ~ Serving size: 2 slices

Sausage and Eggplant Lasagna Rollups

Lasagna and eggplant parmesan are two of my favorite Italian dishes and this meal is the perfect blend of both. Ready in just a little over 30 minutes, it’s a fast take on lasagna that’s perfect for a busy weeknight meal. It’s excellent made with homemade marinara using farm-fresh tomatoes.

If you’re struggling with recipes that please the carb lovers and low-carb people in your life, this recipe is perfect for both. You can easily prepare whole wheat spaghetti or garlic bread on the side and give your dinner guests options.

Ingredients:
2 large eggplant, trimmed and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups good-quality marinara, divided
1 pound mild ground sausage
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the broiler to high and arrange half of the eggplant in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Brush both sides of eggplant with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned, flipping halfway through cook time. Set aside until cool enough to touch. Repeat process with remaining eggplant. Turn off the broiler and heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cook the sausage in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crumbly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain grease from skillet and return to the stove top. Add 3 cups marinara to the sausage and stir to combine.
  3. Spread 1 cup marinara in the bottom of a large rectangular baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil and nutmeg. Top each eggplant slice with about a tablespoon of ricotta filling and spread it out evenly. Roll up the eggplant, starting with the shorter end and arrange seam side down in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Top eggplant rollups with sausage and marinara mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, until the sauce is warm and bubbly.

Servings: 6 to 8

Pasta with Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce

This velvety, butternut squash sauce is nutritious with a taste of decadence. Enjoy this guilt-free, creamy sauce topped with a little sausage or substitute toasted pecans for a vegetarian meal. Roasting the squash in advance makes this a quick meal to throw together for family or friends. When I have a lot of butternut squash in my CSA share, I like to roast up several batches to freeze for later use. Simply follow step one below and scoop the inside flesh from the squash. Store squash in zip-top bags and freeze until ready for use. Defrost squash in the refrigerator the day before preparing this recipe and you’ll have a homemade meal with farm-fresh ingredients on your table in less than 15 minutes.

Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons butter
8 ounces any short whole grain pasta noodle, cooked according to package directions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup skim or low-fat milk
½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ pound mild ground sausage
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a medium baking sheet, place squash halves flesh side up. Place 1 teaspoon of butter in the hollow of each squash. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to touch. This step can be done several hours earlier or the day before.
  2. Scoop inside flesh of squash from skin and place in a food processor or blender. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute, until fragrant, and combine with squash. Set skillet aside for later use.
  3. Add milk to food processor or blender and puree to create a smooth and creamy consistency. Pour butternut squash sauce into a medium sauce pan and warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally and careful not to boil. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low to keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crumbly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the fat and set aside.
  5. Divide pasta on four plates and cover with equal amounts of sauce. Top with sausage and Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Black Pasta with Tomato Langostino Sauce

Made with squid or cuttlefish ink, black pasta has a slight salty taste that makes it an ideal pair with seafood. This trendy style of pasta has been popping up in restaurants and speciality grocery stores. You can also purchase squid or cuttlefish ink from specialty grocery stores or online retail sites and make homemade black pasta by adding 4 teaspoons of this specialty ink into your favorite fresh-egg pasta recipe.

Langostino has a lightly sweet and rich seafood taste similar to lobster. While often referred to as squat lobster, longostino are actually crustaceans akin to crabs. This affordable seafood comes with an upscale taste and makes a perfect stay-home, date-night meal served with your favorite red wine.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ cup red wine
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
12 ounces cooked and peeled langoustine tails, defrosted if frozen
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ ground black pepper
8 to 10 ounces black spaghetti (made with squid or cuddle fish ink)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add tomatoes and cook until tender, about five minutes.
  2. Add wine, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add langostino. Simmer uncovered for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the pasta. Add more wine if needed.
  3. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain and serve with tomato and langoustine sauce on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Summer Tomato and White Bean Pasta

My Pantry Pasta dish just got a summertime makeover with my new Sumer Tomato and White Bean Pasta recipe. It is still a quick meal for a busy night when you want a delicious homemade meal without spending a lengthy amount of time in the kitchen. Sweet summer tomatoes pair excellently with white beans in this hearty vegetarian pasta. With a puree sauce, it looks like a simple marinara that is sure to please the picky eaters in your life. Cheers to making meals that are both healthy and convenient.

Ingredients:
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about ten minutes.
  3. In a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender, puree bean and tomato mixture to create a creamy sauce. Return to skillet and simmer for five more minutes.
  4. Serve over spaghetti noodles and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Chicken and Cheese Ravioli

Homemade pasta is one of my favorite things to eat, and it is surprisingly simple to make. Many restaurants have gotten away from the art of making dough by hand and our culture has become accustom to the taste of store-bought pasta. I savor the practice of making pasta by hand, and it has become a favorite stay-home, date-night activity for me and my husband.

With Italian music playing in the background and two glasses of our favorite Pinot Noir, we begin the process of creating pasta dough. We use these Ravioli Dough and Making Ravioli recipes from William Sonoma, but we knead the dough with an old-fashioned style pasta machine. One of us turns the dough crank and feeds the ball through the machine, while the other catches the flat sheet of pasta from the other side. Then we stuff, mold and trim the ravioli before cooking. The experience of making the pasta together creates much anticipation for enjoying this delicious meal, and it tastes like it was made in a family-owned Italian restaurant.

Ingredients for Ravioli Filling:
1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Other Ingredients:
Ravioli dough (see recipe above)
Homemade or good quality store-bought marinara
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Place chicken, ricotta and Asiago cheeses, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse, until chicken is finely chopped.
  2. Follow recipes for Ravioli Dough and Making Ravioli.
  3. Heat marinara sauce and serve ravioli with desired amount of sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 40 to 48 ravioli

 

Pantry Pasta

We all have those busy nights when the fridge is sparse and we don’t have time to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner. My Pantry Pasta dish is the perfect meal to make during those moments. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, giving you more time to relax at the end of the day.

For a fresh version of this recipe during summer months, replace the canned tomatoes with vine-ripened tomatoes fresh from the farm or your backyard. Cheers to making meals that are both healthy and convenient.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced and no-salt-added tomatoes
¼ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti noodles

Optional Ingredients for Serving:
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add beans, tomatoes with juices, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes.
3. Toss bean and tomato sauce with spaghetti noodles and toss to coat. Serve with basil and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Servings: 4

Note: For a 100 percent pantry pasta, use dried basil and garlic in place of fresh and omit the cheese.

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Manicotti

This recipe was developed for a quick weeknight meal, but it is adaptable for a homemade upgrade that is perfect for a stay-home, date night dish. For a busy weeknight, this recipe incorporates packaged noodles and jarred marinara. You can make it on the weekend for an even quicker version of a weeknight meal that just requires heating.

This meal was inspired by a dish at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where the noodles are made from scratch daily and you can taste the love and attention that went into creating the pasta from this family-owned establishment. When time allows, I like to switch out the store-bought noodles and marinara for homemade. This meal pairs well with your favorite red wine, and I find that drinking wine while making homemade pasta is half the fun. Try adding some Italian music and making this meal together for a lovely date night.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound or 3 mild Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 (8 ounce) package manicotti noodles
2 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray an 8 by 10 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add Italian chicken sausage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned.
3. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and allow to cool enough to handle.
4. In a large bowl combine Italian chicken sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir until well combined. Place mixture in large zip top bag. Cut a small slit in the corner of the bag. Pipe mixture into manicotti noodles, filling evenly and then placing in the baking dish.
5. Cover stuffed manicotti with marinara and bake for 25 minutes, until edges are brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese. Continue baking for about 2 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Note: You can freeze leftovers for a homemade microwaveable meal or lunch.

Servings: 7 ~ Serving size: 2 stuffed manicotti