Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Mac and Cheese

Sad, but true, I’ve never made mac and cheese.  I’ve never had the boxed stuff either.  Just not my cup of tea, or FHE’s.  Rice Kernel has tasted it a few times.  He seems excited by the prospect, but never takes more than a few bites. Recently, there was a PJ party at his school and the only thing left to sign up for – you guessed it, mac and cheese.   I choose Ina Garten’s version – how could you go wrong with butter, pasta, and cheese?  I made it a bit healthier with less butter, but it was still decadent.  The Mom in me wanted to sneak in butternut squash.  My son wouldn’t be the wiser, but I thought of the other kids and I knew better =)



Recipe here.

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The kids have been sick recently – moreso than I’d care to admit. Rice Kernel had an ear infection and pneumonia and Claire had a terrible cold.  Rice Kernel is a pretty easy-going, energy-filled sick patient so he’s the easy part.  But my little one? She doesn’t sleep well when her nose is drippy and her throat coarse, and that makes for many blurry nights and days for the rest of us.  I’d go so far as to say this has been the most difficult stretch of parenthood since Claire’s birth – it was easier with a newborn.  Thankfully, I think we’re slowly getting over it…. and there’s nothing like a comforting meal when appetites return.  A healthier, flavorful meatball baked to perfection with a light coating of Rice Kernel’s favorite Italian-spiced Japanese panko breadcrumbs.  Who says fusion doesn’t work?

Meatball recipe here.



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All this time, I’ve been saying to friends and family (even strangers) that Rice Kernel is his father’s son.  They look alike, they act similarly, share an uncanny sense of humor, and enjoy so many of the foods I don’t!  And then, one day, I discovered Rice Kernel is mine – he is picky with meat.  So picky.  Especially with chicken.

As a child, I disliked most meat, particularly dark meat chicken.  There was a smell and taste I could never get over.  Unless my meat was covered in sauce and baked in a pot pie from a diner or fried to a golden crisp (hello, Roy Rogers chicken sandwich!), chances are I would gag and reluctantly swallow any chicken my poor Mom would lovingly prepare. 

As it turns out, Rice Kernel is the same.  My in-laws insist he is being picky and simply “testing” our limits, but I think this may be genetic.  I mean, the boy doesn’t even like fried chicken, unless it’s made with chicken tenders or breasts.  Fortunately, though, he has found a love of pork – Italian bulk sausage, chicken apple sausage, Chinese roast pork, Momofuku-inspired bo-ssam, apple-spice pork, and this carnitas-style-preparation (sans salsa).  You may doubt the mixture of Italian gnocchi and carmelized roast pork, but it is undeniable fusion.  It is simple and savory perfection for my 4-year-old and the rest of the family.

Carmelized Roast Pork 

This is the basic recipe for the pork Rice Kernel loves.  Once prepared, you can use it in tacos, fried rice, omelets, whatever you wish.  Today, I cooked up gnocchi separately (per package instructions), drained the pasta, and then toasted it lightly in olive oil and 2 tbsp butter.  In the same pan, I then browned the chopped up pork, added in swiss chard, onion and garlic, and cooked until the vegetables were softened.  Combine in the gnocchi and some chicken stock, if necessary, and serve!  You can garnish with some cheese or toasted breadcrumbs.

2 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (remove as much fat as possible)
1 quart beef or chicken broth

  1. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine pork and broth. Add enough water (or use more broth) to completely cover the meat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 3 to 4 hours (or longer) until meat pulls apart easily. Add salt to taste if needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove meat from liquid in pot (discard the liquid) and spread the meat out in a roasting pan. Break the meat into small chunks. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until brown and crispy.

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Claire, like Rice Kernel at the same age, is taking to solid foods slowly.  Even though she moves her mouth and smacks her lips when the family eats, she doesn’t take down much – other than my milk.  The good thing is, she’s always willing to try something new.  After starting out with fruits and other vegetables, I finally got to peas around her 7 1/2 month mark.  She had a few teaspoons, as she normally does with other “solid” foods.  I froze several portions in cubes for her and used the remainder in a recipe for the rest of the family – pasta coated in a vibrant, flavorful roasted garlic pea puree. 

Although this recipe would be a great use-up for fresh peas in the Spring, using frozen peas made the whole process quick and easy.  Not only that, but frozen veggies are picked and packaged at the height of their ripeness, so they retain more nutrients than most fresh produce. 

Pea Puree

1 10-ounce bag frozen peas, preferably organic

  1. Place package of frozen peas in boiling water and simmer 5 minutes, until tender.  Drain. 
  2. Once the peas are all cooked, put them in the food processor or blender and puree.
  3. Puree until they reach the desired consistency.  Mine were a bit thick, so I added a small amount of water. 
  4. Freeze in cubes (for baby) or combine in recipe below (for the rest of the family!)

Roasted Garlic and Pea Puree Pasta, from Epicurious

1 head garlic
two 10-ounce packages frozen peas, thawed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
3/4 pound pasta, such as farfalle
1/2 cup fresh snow-pea or pea shoots


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Cut 1/2 inch off top of garlic head, discarding it, and wrap garlic tightly in foil. Roast garlic in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until very soft, and cool. Squeeze roasted garlic from head into a blender.
  3. In a saucepan boil thawed peas in 2 cups salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes, and in blender purée garlic, peas and cooking liquid, butter, lemon juice, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. In a saucepan keep purée warm, covered.
  4. In a 6-quart kettle bring 5 quarts salted water to a boil and cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and in a bowl toss with sauce, snow-pea or pea shoots, and salt and pepper to taste

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I wouldn’t ordinarily think to combine cinnamon, one of my favorite spices that I liberally sprinkle into my daily bowl of oatmeal, and beef.  But it works.  Really well.  Almost in a moussaka-like way.  Warm and hearty, this is the type of comfort dish that is perfect for Fall weather. 

Kale and Cinnamon Beef Pasta


1 lb pasta
1 pound ground round (ground beef)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 can (14.5 ounce size) diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
1/2 cup raisins (optional – we ommitted)
3-4 carrots, sliced
2-3 cups of baby kale
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Cook beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in spices and tomatoes.
  3. Add carrots and kale and cook until tender.  Serve immediately.

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We are, as expected, full of squash.  With a few yellow squash from a neighbor mixed in with our zucchini, some onions and shredded carrots, this pasta is brimming with veggies – even if the naked eye cannot detect them.  You would think this would be perfect to fool veggie-abhoring children, except Rice Kernel prefers to be vegetarian still so that wasn’t my purpose in delivering this dish. Instead, FHE abhorbs squash.  So what better way to celebrate summer’s bounty than with the help of a box grater!

Shredded Squash Summer Pasta

1 pound pasta, any shape
1 pound meat, optional (we used ground bison today)
1 onion, chopped
4-6 cups tomato sauce (depending how much sauce you like)
3 medium squash, grated
2 carrots, grated
1/2 tsp dry thyme
2 tbsp fresh pasley
2 bay leaves


  1. In a deep, medium-sized pan, saute onions until translucent.  Add meat and cook until thoroughly cooked through (if using).  Add squash and carrots.  Cook 1-2 minutes, then add herbs and tomato sauce.  Simmer for 10 minutes. 
  2. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and pour into sauce to combine.
  3. Serve immediately.

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Parsley Vinaigrette


1 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)

1 pound pasta, whatever shape you prefer
1 large zucchini
3 carrots
1 head cauliflower
Several palmsful of fresh spinach


  1. Blend parsley, vinegar and garlic in processor until parsley is finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl twice. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Chop vegetables in large chunks, roughly the same size.  Place on a cookie sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast at 450 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
  3. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta. Rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in vegetables and vinaigrette to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
  4. Note: Add beans, tofu, or cooked meats as you desire.

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