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. The experience of making the pasta together creates much anticipation for enjoying this delicious meal, and it tastes like takeout from a family-owned Italian restaurant.
With Italian music playing in the background and glasses of our favorite Pinot Noir in hand, my husband and I begin the process of creating pasta dough. We use this recipe for Food-Processor Pasta Dough from William Sonoma, and once it’s ready we roll the dough into thin strips with an old-fashioned style pasta machine just like the one pictured in the pasta recipe photo. 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. We use a ravioli mold to create our stuffed pasta, but you can also make tortellini without any equipment.
Ingredients for Pasta Filling: 1 large chicken breast, cooked and diced 1 (15 to 16 ounce) container of ricotta cheese ⅓ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper
Other Ingredients: Pasta dough 1 (26 ounce) jar of marinara Parmesan cheese for grating
Place chicken, ricotta and Asiago cheeses, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse, until chicken is finely chopped.
Follow recipe for Food-Processor Pasta Dough and roll the pasta into thin sheets as directed in the recipe, but do not cut pasta. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin.
To make ravioli, place a sheet of pasta dough over a ravioli mold and gently press down to add space for the filling. Use a spoon or small scoop and place an equal amount of filling into each square. Brush the edges of the dough with a small amount of water and top ravioli with another sheet of pasta dough. Gently roll over the top sheet of dough with a rolling pin to cut and seal the ravioli.
To make tortellini, cut the sheets of pasta into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. Place your filling into each square and brush the edges of the dough with water. Fold into triangles and wrap the bottom two corners together to seal tightly in a kerchief shape.
Heat marinara sauce and serve ravioli or tortellini with desired amount of sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
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. At Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant in Wausau, WI they stuff their homemade shells with a similar combination of ingredients. While my take on their recipe is designed for a quick weeknight meal, when I have more time I switch out the store-bought noodles and make some from scratch just like they do at this charming local restaurant in Wisconsin. When preparing the meal with dry noodles, it works equally well with either large shells or manicotti. Pair this pasta well with your favorite red wine, and add some Italian music for a date night experience at home.
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage 1 (10.5 ounce) package large shells or 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 (26 ounce) jar marinara ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray a large rectangular baking dish with cooking spray.
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. Set aside to cool slightly.
Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and let cool.
Place the spinach in a cloth towel and squeeze to remove water. In a large bowl combine Italian chicken sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir until well combined.
If you are using manicotti noodles or shells that are more tubular, place mixture in large zip top bag. Cut a small slit in the corner of the bag. Pipe mixture into pasta and place in the baking dish. If your shells are more open, simply use a spoon to fill them before placing them in the baking dish.
Cover stuffed pasta 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Divide pasta on four plates and cover with equal amounts of sauce. Top with sausage and Parmesan cheese.
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.
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
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.
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.
Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain and serve with tomato and langoustine sauce on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
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.
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
Cook pasta according to package directions.
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.
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.
Serve over spaghetti noodles and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.