Tag Archives: pasta

Olive Garden Pasta E Fagioli

12 Sep

Recipe Source: CopyKat Recipes

As a busy blogger, it sometimes happens that I cook and photograph a dish, only to store it on my computer for a year before blogging it. This happens to be such a recipe, going back to my pre-vegetarian days. I haven’t made it lately, but suspect it would be just as delicious with the ground beef left out, or a meatless substitute.

colorful Pasta e Fagioli

This soup is wonderful and hearty, perfect for a cold day, even a light lunch. I’ve ordered it, along with a salad, many times in an attempt to control my portion size at Olive Garden – the only Italian restaurant in my small hometown.

I like that this soup can serve as a one-dish meal, as it combines vegetables, protein and pasta all-in-one. Throw in a side salad and piece of crusty bread, and it’s very satisfying. This is the first “CopyKat” recipe I’ve made, and it’s pretty spot-on from what I remember ordering in the restaurant. I scaled down the ingredients to make this more manageable for home cooking.

Pasta e FagioliBon Appetit! Or as they’d say on an Italian plate, Buon Appetito!

RECIPE – Olive Garden Pasta E Fagioli

2 teaspoons vegetable Oil
1 pound Ground beef
6 ounces Onion; chopped
7 ounces Carrots; slivered
7 ounces Celery; diced
24 ounces Tomatoes; canned, diced
1 cup cooked Red Kidney beans
1 cup cooked White kidney beans
44 ounces Beef stock
2 teaspoons Oregano
2 teaspoons Pepper
3 teaspoons Parsley; (fresh chopped)
1 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
24 ounces Marina Style Spaghetti sauce
4 ounces dry pasta Shell macaroni; or other pasta

Saute beef in oil in large 10-qt. pot until beef starts to brown. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, and noodles. Add chopped parsley. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes.

Makes about 5 qts, serves 6.

Tip: If you want to freeze this soup, it is best when you don’t add the pasta, cooked pasta doesn’t freeze very well. If you freeze the soup you can always cook up some fresh pasta and stir it in when you are ready to serve your family.


Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts & Tomatoes

29 Dec

Recipe Source: Pioneer Woman

This recipe defines comfort food for me, and is incredibly easy to make. So easy that the Pioneer Woman admitted to embarrassment for posting it on her blog – but I have no such shame! This is what she calls a “pantry recipe,” meaning that you quite likely already have all or most of its ingredients in your pantry.

The combination of creamy and tart flavors is what I think really makes this dish. To start, you will cook a pound of spaghetti in a pot of slightly oiled, salted water according to package directions.

While you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil, melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and saute onion and garlic until they become fragrant, a few minutes. Then add in a can of drained, non-marinated artichoke hearts.

drained artichoke hearts

I like to break them up with my hands a bit to disperse them through the entire dish. Next add in a can of diced tomatoes, with their juice, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

canned tomats

Reduce heat and pour in heavy cream and broth. The original recipe doesn’t call for meat, but if you’d like some chicken, you can add a cooked, diced breast at this point to heat through. In general, I like to use chicken stock when I’m cooking with chicken, and vegetable stock for fully vegetarian, non-meat dishes. I don’t think this is really a “rule” that exists anywhere, but it’s my personal rule as I’ve come to appreciate vegetarian meals more. To season, fresh-grated nutmeg adds a special twist (or dried ground is fine too) in addition to salt and pepper.

parmesan-asiago cheese blend

The last step in this recipe is to douse it with grated parmesan cheese. Surprisingly, on the day I went shopping, a flaky parmesan-and-asiago blend was more affordable, so I used it instead. The blend achieved a gooey-melty-cheesy fabulousness that I don’t remember getting with the grated stuff, so I think I’ll make it a staple in the future. It’s also nice to serve on your side salad.

Just before serving, top with diced chives or another fresh green herb of your choice and enjoy!

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts & Tomatoes

RECIPE – Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts & Tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 14.5 ounce can artichoke hearts (non-marinated), drained
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
1 pound thin spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives or other herbs

Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in nutmeg. Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.

Place drained pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan. Pour sauce over the top. Add chopped chives. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

14 Jun

Recipe source: Pioneer Woman

Besides being pasta (an obvious winning quality) and pasta with a cream sauce no less (no-brainer), I was also drawn to this recipe because it meant trying something new: roasting peppers.

I don’t have a grill, so the first time I made this, I roasted the peppers in a small toaster oven. That took about a year. So this time I tried using my cast-iron grill pan, preheated to smoking before I put the peppers on it. It still was a long process… about half an hour long. While I love Pioneer Woman, this is not the first time I’ve found her cooking times WAY off. The next time I do this I will either broil them in my full oven or put the peppers directly on the burner.

That being said, you may have noticed that I never include prep time in the recipes I post. I find them completely useless, because everyone has a different skill level. And on a lot of recipes, they are still flat-out wrong. I think it’s better to just read through a recipe, know thyself, and get a feel for it beforehand. Okay, /diatribe.

With the addition of some red pepper flakes for kick, this is a pretty yummy recipe. The first step is to char three red bell peppers.

roasted peppers

Once blackened, remove peppers from the flame and place them into a large Ziploc bag to sweat.

sweatin' peppers(Is it bad that this picture makes me think of Laura Palmer?)

Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil for pasta. I used farfalle (aka bowtie), Pioneer Woman used orecchiette. Penne would also be good. Toast pine nuts in a skillet, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from heat when nuts become golden brown and fragrant.

pine nuts(This is probably too dark… I got distracted!)

Then peel the charred skin from peppers and remove seeds. You will note my paper towel… these keep their heat for a while, and despite one cooking teacher’s advice to toughen up my hands to burning (*cough* no names), I am a wimp.

peeling peppers

In a food processor or blender, puree peppers and pine nuts.

food processor

In a medium skillet, heat oil and sautee diced onion and garlic. Puree with peppers and pine nuts, then pour sauce into skillet and add salt and red pepper flakes.


Heat sauce over medium-high flame and add cream. Reduce sauce slightly and keep warm until pasta is fully cooked.


Toss with pasta, top with chopped parsley and Parmesan, and serve.

roasted red pepper pasta

RECIPE – Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

3 whole red bell peppers
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Flat leaf parsley, minced
Fresh Parmesan, shaved or grated
1/2 to 1 pound pasta: Orecchiette, Penne, Fusilli, Etc.

Roast red peppers, and then place in a Ziploc bag to allow to sweat. Peel the charred skins from the peppers, then remove seeds. Set aside.

Lightly toast pine nuts in a skillet. Set aside.

Puree peppers with pine nuts. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a skillet or pot over medium heat, drizzle in olive oil. Add diced onions and garlic and cook until soft. Pour in pepper puree and stir together. Add salt and red pepper flakes. Pour in cream and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Add cooked pasta, and then stir together.

Place pasta into a bowl, top with chopped parsley and plenty of shaved Parmesan.

[green] Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli

14 Apr

Today’s chakra is green and governs the heart. For me, this is one of the most important and challenging areas of life to keep in balance. Relationships, love, forgiveness, compassion, self-control and self-acceptance. I think the color green makes sense here – it has always seemed like a soothing color to me. It’s also my favorite color. Guess Mom was on to something when she said eat your green leafy vegetables!

Today’s chakra: Anahata – Un-struck Sound (Heart)
Color: Green: acceptance, nurturing & unconditional love
Location: Along the spine behind the heart
Associated body organs: Hands & arms, heart, thymus gland
Controlled emotions: Love, self-acceptance, social identity, compassion, peace, kindness and equality

[For an explanation of the chakras, see Sunday’s post.]


Today’s dish is a nourishing, warm comfort food. Easy to eat, not too crunchy, not too spicy, just yummy. [Semi] homemade spinach-mushroom ravioli ala Giada De Laurentiis.

This isn’t necessarily hard to make, but it is a lot of work, so I always double it and freeze whatever portion I’m not going to eat right away. (The proportions below are already doubled from the original recipe. :))

First, sauté button mushrooms and spinach. Drain if necessary, then process in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with parmesan and mascarpone cheese.

spinach mixture

Rather than making pasta from scratch, this recipe uses egg roll wrappers. They’re a bit thinner and lighter than traditional pasta, and very easy to use.

egg roll wrappers

You can make four raviolis with two egg roll wrappers. Brush one sheet with an egg-water mixture, spoon on four portions of filling, and cover with a second sheet. Press to enclose filling, then cut with a fluted ravioli cutter.


Cook in batches of three to prevent ravioli from sticking together in the pot. For the sauce, combine two or three varieties of finely chopped mushrooms with either storebought or homemade marinara sauce and warm. Top raviolis with sauce and more fresh-grated parmesan and serve.

1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting baking sheet)
12 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1 cup finely chopped assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, button, or stemmed shiitake)
5 cups marinara sauce

In a large sauté pan heat 1/4 cup of oil over a medium-high flame. Add the sliced button mushrooms and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté until the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms, about 6 minutes.

Add the spinach and sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a coarse texture forms. Transfer the spinach mixture to a large bowl and stir in 2/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and the mascarpone. Season the filling with more salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly flour a baking sheet. Arrange 6 egg roll wrappers on a cutting board. Brush with the egg and water mixture. Using a tablespoon, spoon 4 mounds of the spinach mixture 1 inch apart on each wrapper, forming 2 mounds on the first row and 2 mounds on the second. Top each with another wrapper and press around the filling to seal the edges. Using a fluted ravioli cutter, cut out the ravioli squares, forming 24 total. Place the ravioli on the prepared baking sheet and cover with a clean towel.

In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chopped assorted mushrooms and sauté until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in the marinara sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the mushroom sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Adding 4 ravioli at a time to the boiling salted water, cook the ravioli until tender, about 3 minutes (working in small batches will prevent the ravioli from crowding in the pot and sticking together). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to 4 plates. Spoon the mushroom sauce over the ravioli, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

If you freeze uncooked ravioli, to make sure they don’t stick together, line a cookie sheet with either wax paper or plastic wrap, arrange a single layer of ravioli on the sheet, freeze for 15 minutes, and then place them into a resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer. When you are ready to serve, toss the frozen ravioli into boiling salted and oiled water and cook for 3 minutes.

Serves 4.

[red] Spaghetti Bolognese, Strawberry Tarts

11 Apr

Hola! Today starts out ROYGBIV Week with red, which awesomely, is an easy color to find in the vegetable family. Red foods include strawberries, tomatoes, apples, red peppers, pomegranates, radishes, rhubarbs, cherries and raspberries, to name several.

I’m hardly an expert on the chakras, but here’s what I’ve come to understand. The theory comes from Samkhya philosophy, which influenced yoga and tantrism. In it, the human body has several hundred spinning chakras (chakra being the Sanskrit word for “wheel”) positioned throughout. These are part of the ethereal, not physical, body, although they have influence over the physical body. The chakras spin in a circular vortex, absorbing and radiating energy from the surrounding environment. Of the hundreds of chakras, seven have been identified as most important. They are stacked from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, and each is associated with a specific color and sound, as well as physical organs and aspects of the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual life. Chakras have been called lotus flowers, and when a chakra is healthy, the lotus is opened. An imbalance in any area of life can weaken the chakra system. One of the ways to nourish the various chakras is to eat foods associated with their color. A plant’s color is representative of the rays of sun energy that gave it life.

For a deeper explanation and test of your own chakra energy levels, check out ChakraEnergy.com.

Today’s chakra: Muladhara – Root of Tree (Root)
Color: Red: vitality, strength & courage
Location: Base of Spine
Associated body organs: Legs & feet, large intestine, adrenal gland, lymph & blood
Controlled emotions: Physical identity and self-preservation


For the first recipe of this week, I decided to go with a classic bolognese sauce. (I don’t think Indians eat beef, but…) I can’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually made one. My end result was a combination of a few different recipes I found online.

My mamma never put red wine in her spaghetti sauce, but when it occurred to me to do it, the choice was a no-brainer.

Two-Buck Chuck!

I also never would have thought to add carrots and celery to this sauce, but since I saw it in a few recipes, I thought what the heck.

Cook the meat and veggies together until the meat is no longer pink. Drain, then add wine, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, herbs and spices, and reduce to desired consistency. Also begin cooking pasta around this step.


1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup white onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
grated parmesan to sprinkle on top

For dessert, I decided to make strawberry tarts, because we went to San Diego Desserts recently and got a tart that was to-die-for. What I ended up making was a modification of Ina Garten’s recipe; modification because I didn’t have time to make the tart shells from scratch, don’t own any kind of tart pan even if I’d had the time, and then couldn’t find frozen tart shells at the store. (Good grief, Charlie Brown!) So I bought frozen puff pastry shells instead. Was still delish. I like puff pastry. 🙂

The recipe for the shell is below. But if you decide to use puff pastry shells, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, then bake them for 20-25 minutes. They will go from looking like this

womp, womp

to this!


Scoop out the “tops” out and let them cool.

For the pastry cream, I didn’t have cognac, so I substituted brandy instead. Unfortunately, step-by-step pictures of this process are conspicuously missing from this blog because I was napping while David did this part. But I can tell you that Ina Garten’s instructions are VERY good. Be sure to look at the link for scalded milk too, because we had no idea what that meant.

The pastry cream is a long process, but really does come out exactly like the Contessa says. The pre-whisking “curdling” part happens extremely fast – the cream went from liquid to chunking in “two seconds,” apparently, so just stick patiently with the stirring. Here’s the end result:


Cover the cream with plastic wrap placed directly on the cream and refrigerate until cold. Then scoop into shell and top with strawberries. Final product:

That's MRS. Tart to you!

Tart Shell
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
1/4 cup ice water
2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup apricot jelly
3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional

TO MAKE TART SHELLS – Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough and fit into four (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides, or one 9-inch tart pan. Don’t stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Pastry Cream
5 extra-large egg yolks, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cognac
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

TO MAKE PASTRY CREAM – In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold. Yield: 2 cups

ASSEMBLE – Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.