Category Archives: Pasta

Easy, Fast, Creamy Mac & Cheese from Scratch


Hunting season is upon us here in Minnesota. The air is crisp; the leaves are falling, and our extra freezer is bare – ready to be filled with a fresh batch of wild game.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on the hunt for a homemade mac and cheese recipe… Continue reading

Roasted Tomato Cashew Pesto

I’ve had pesto on the brain all week. My two lonely basil plants are finally producing enough to make a batch of pesto. One problem, though. The bunnies in our backyard keeping eating my tomatoes. Every. Single. One. …sigh….
Fortunately, Faithful Ground Farms came to my rescue! They set up a farmer’s market stand on Thursday in the building I work in. This isn’t a typically occurence at our building in the ‘burbs, so needless to say, they had lots of customers happily checking out their produce. Home I went (is that grammatically correct???) with my lovely paper bag of Roma tomatoes and an extra bunch of basil…which, by the way, made my desk at work smell heavenly for the rest of the day.
Sometimes I make pesto with the traditional pine nuts combination…but cashews…well…they just seem richer and more decadent. It doesn’t hurt that cashews cost less than pine nuts either.

And now you may be wondering, but what about the tomatoes…they don’t belong in pesto, right??? Wrong. Delicately roasted tomatoes make the PERFECT addition to pesto. They add a creamy, delicious kick to the mix and compliment the basil and garlic very nicely.

Roasted Tomato Cashew Pesto

There’s really no exact recipe for this one, a little of this and that, with several finger dip tastings as you go, works best.

6 tomatoes (I used a mix of Roma and cherry…yes a few tiny cherry tomatoes survived the bunnies…they were well hidden)
2-3 cups basil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
handful of cashews (to your liking)
sea salt
olive oil (I used a mix of EVOO and garlic olive oil)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice tomatoes in half, sprinkle with sea salt, and roast for 15 minutes. When cooled, toss tomatoes in food processor with all other ingredients, except the oil. Pulse a few times to get things moving. Stop and wonder why it’s not working…then realize you put in your dough blade rather than your sharp cutting blade…oops my mistake. Slowly add oil until the pesto is properly processed and is at the consistency you want. I would say I used about a half cup of oil. I like my pesto thick, so that I can pile it on top of crusty french bread or add a few scoops to pasta, thinned with a little more EVOO if necessary. Store remaining pesto in fridge for no more than a few days, or freeze for later.

Garlic Lime Shrimp Fettuccine

Garlic and lime are wonderful, tasty additions to virtually any pasta dish. This delish recipe pairs them with shrimp and fettuccine for a light, yet filling, meal.I created this dish as a lower fat substitute for our favorite shrimp fettuccine alfredo recipe. You still get the texture of the thick fettuccine noodles combined with the delicate shrimp, without the heavy, calorie-laden cream sauce. So, why not go ahead and have dessert, too? Maybe some key lime pie…
Garlic Lime Shrimp Fettuccine

12 oz. cooked tail-on shrimp
3 cloves garlic
1 lime
16 oz. fettuccine
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
sea salt

If frozen, thaw shrimp, and then remove tails. Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is almost finished, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add shrimp to skillet, squeeze in half of the lime, add a dash of sea salt, and cook for 2 -3 minutes. Finely chop garlic cloves, or use a garlic press, and add to the skillet. Cook for an additional minute, and then remove from heat. Add drained noodles to the skillet, along with the parmesan cheese. Squeeze in remaining half of the lime. Toss noodles to mix everything together, and serve.Amy’s Notes: If you have extra time, thaw the shrimp in advance, and marinate in a bit of lime juice and sea salt just before cooking to help infuse the shrimp with extra tangy lime flavor.

Spaetzle Maker Recommendation

Looking for a good spaetzle maker? If you’re serious about spaetzle like I am, you may want to buy a spaetzle maker. They aren’t a common item to find in a typical retail store. You might find one at a fancy cooking store, but it would probably be pretty pricy there. I stumbled across mine years ago in the kitchen section of TJ Maxx. They are pretty inexpensive and can save you a lot of time.

Here’s one for less than $10 on Amazon which is very similar to mine and is well reviewed. It’s the Norpro Spaetzle Maker with the hopper design which makes quick work out of cutting the noodles and dropping them into the steaming pot of water below. Amazon gives this one 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of time and patience…and coordination, you can give the traditional German method a try, which involves laying the spaetzle dough on a cutting board and then chopping small bits of dough with a sharp knife while angling the board over boiling water so the bits drop into the water to cook as they are chopped. While the traditional method takes plenty of practice, many German households even today consider it the only way to make spaetzle. I’ll stick with my spaetzle maker. Whatever method you choose…Guten appetit!

Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

Last night was one of those nights where you wish you could rewind the clock to have just a few more minutes to get dinner on the table. Even an extra 5 minutes to get the table set would have been a blessing! We got home later than normal, everyone was hungry, patience was waning, and there was absolutely no time for a fussy, time-consuming meal. Since the dinnertime meal fairy had not paid us a visit in our absence….wouldn’t that be nice???…I knew I had to come up with something fast.

Fortunately, I had planned ahead, if you can call it that, by taking an extra 30 seconds in the morning to grab a baggie with some frozen Italian sausage out of the freezer and had tossed it in the fridge to thaw during the day. I like to use Italian sausage to spice up drab pasta sauce. When there’s just no time for homemade tomato sauce (as is usually the case), I make my own semi-homemade version by using a jar of sauce and some clever add-ins.

You don’t need to thaw a whole pound of burger to make a tasty, jazzed up pasta sauce. A more economical solution that’s just as hearty is to use 1/4 or 1/2 pound of ground beef, ground turkey, or Italian sausage along with 1/4 to 1/2 pound of veggies. When I use ground beef or turkey, I typically brown a full pound, and then I’ll save half to freeze for later. Then, the next time I make pasta sauce, I simple defrost and dump it in…no precooking necessary. For Italian sausage, it’s even easier. I buy the Jennie-O sausages when they are on sale for buy-one-get-one-free, and then I freeze them in baggies with two sausages per baggie. Two sausages are all you need to add some spice and extra protein without much expense.

For the veggies, I use whatever I have on hand. Mushrooms are my favorite. The Hubs is not a fan of mushrooms in most dishes, but in this one, they are so cloaked in a veil of sauce and their flavor is so overpowered by the spicy sausage, that Hubs doesn’t even mind them. Broccoli works great as well if you chop it small enough to cook through so that it incorporates into the sauce without being too firm. Diced pepper is another nice option.

Pick your favorite noodles to complement the sauce. I prefer bowties, as they work well with the thick sauce. Don’t forget to top with some fresh parmesan cheese!

Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

2 Italian sausages
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 package mushrooms, sliced (about 4 ounces)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Cut slit in sausage casing lengthwise and squeeze sausage out of casing and into the saucepan. Discard casing. Use a fork to break up sausage while cooking. When sausage is almost cooked through, add onions and mushrooms. Then, add garlic cloves with a garlic press. Cook for a few minutes until mushrooms and onions are tender, and then add spaghetti sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few more minutes. Serve over hot noodles.