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Not Just Take Out » Italian

Archive for Italian

::too easy:: Pasta with Spinach + Beans

There might not be anything better right now than a meal that is fast, cheap, and delicious. I would say healthy for the most part, but I decided to modify the original version of this dish and used butter instead of olive oil.

Moving to the far, far away suburbs means a much longer commute for PTB. It also means that instead of walking home from the train, I am going to pick him up. This has probably hurt our dinners more than I want to admit. Our longer dinners mean we have sometimes pushed eating to past 10pm. That just isn’t going to work. Especially when I am falling asleep by 10:30…

What You Need
Step One
6 oz fusilli pasta
Step Two
8 cups coarsely chopped spinach (approx 4-5oz)
3 Tbsp butter
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup Asiago cheese (approx 2oz)
15oz can white beans, rinsed and drained (any white beans will do, I used Navy Beans)
Step Three
Fresh Ground  Pepper

Really, this recipe could not be any easier. While your pasta is cooking, get together the rest of your ingredients. I tossed them all into one big bowl to have ready.

Since my bowl wasn’t quite big enough, once the pasta is cooked and drained, combine with all step two ingredients in the pot. The leftover heat from the pan will help melt the butter and wilt the spinach as well.

Serve topped with fresh ground pepper.

Serves: 4   Cost: >$2/serving

::summer love:: Red Pepper Pesto for Two


You would think in the Summertime when it is super hot out, the last thing someone would want to be doing is working in the kitchen. I don’t quite get this though.  Summer is one of the best times to be in the kitchen. Think of all the fresh produce! You have to have that oven up pretty high to bake fresh fruit pies!

It’s odd though, I do understand it when it comes to dinner.  I am willing to spend hours in the kitchen for a fresh baked pie.  Slaving away in the heat, sun shining in.  It makes that summer night so much better!  Oh!  Speaking of pies!  Cherries are a one day deal today at Whole Foods for Cherryfest!  $1.99/lb!! I am on my way there right after this is finished!  Yummm!  So yes, I will let my oven sit on for an hour to have a perfect cherry pie…. but dinner time… that’s a different story.  For some reason, by dinner time, the kitchen is the last place I want to be.  This may explain my recent Summer slump.  I need a grill slash a place to live where we can have a grill. Oh! And a nice place to eat dinner outside while we’re at it. 🙂

This meal is perfect for those nights. It only takes as long as the pasta takes to boil, and the rest of the time you are pulling ingredients out of the fridge. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two.

What You Need
Step One
1/2lb pasta (I like using a pasta that will hold the sauce)
Step Two
3 cloves of toasted garlic, minced
2-3 large jarred roasted red peppers, patted dry
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (stems discarded)

This is going to go really fast.  Pay attention.  Start the pasta in salted water.  Blend all step two ingredients in a small food processor until smooth.

Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Stir sauce into pasta, using cooking water to adjust consistency.

Yup.  You are already done.  Homemade sauce, in less time than the pasta took.

::savory supper:: Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomatoes


With my love of pasta, it’s no surprise I have another sauce to add to my list. I stumbled upon this recipe when I was looking for Cooking Light ideas. I have been loving the new Cooking Through the Seasons book I got, but needed some other recipes as well.  And now, I have a package of prosciutto I need to cook my way through.

This meal ended up being the highlight of my week earlier in the month.  Everything kept highjacking my plans and prevented me from making dinner.  I had a menu planned, and kept having to shift everything.  This was the only home-cooked meal the entire week!  It completely through me off and I am just starting to get back on track.  Last week wasn’t much better, but at least I have some restaurant posts to write up because of it.

As (almost) always, a recipe that calls for thighs, I must immediately change to use breasts. Why not?  It is the taste we prefer. If you want to use thighs, use two for each of you.

What You Need:
Step One

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup flour
Step Two
2 tsp Olive oil
Step Three
1/2 cup dry white wine
Step Four
1 cup chopped, seeded & peeled tomato
Step Five
1 tsp lemon juice
2 slices of prosciutto
Step Six
Cheesy Polenta for Two

Pat the chicken dry and coat with sage, salt and pepper.  Dredge (see above) through the flour shaking off excess.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the chicken on each side (~4 min), add the wine, and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Since you have some time, this would e a good point to star the polenta and chop up your tomato and prosciutto.

Remove the chicken from pan once it is cooked through (should register 160F) and add tomato.  Allow to cook for 1 minute and then ad lemon juice and prosciutto.

Spoon sauce over chicken and polenta, and enjoy!

Serves: 2  Cost: $4/serving

::quick dish:: Light Alfredo

There are so many things I could list about why I love working at home.  So many.  One of the big ones though is having total control over my daily meals.  When I was working at the mall, lunch was convenient.  Quite expensive, but convenient.  I ate greasy food almost daily.  Blech.  Then I completely switched environments and worked in an office.  One with a “kitchen” that consisted of a microwave, toaster oven, and a sink.  I’m not crazy about microwaving food.  And I think a toaster oven meal requires a bit of planning.  Something I am not the best at.  Especially when getting up at 6am to get going in the morning.  So, once again, I didn’t have the best eating habits.  When we would have leftovers, I would try to remember to take them, but there were countless mornings I would get halfway through my hour+ commute and realize my poor little lunch was sitting all alone on the counter at home.

Now I am home.  Everyday I have complete control over my food.  It is great!  To resist the temptation, I haven’t bought any Kraft Mac & Cheese yet.  I might eat it everyday otherwise.  Guilty. Pleasure.  I do like to default to pasta dishes though.  They are easy to scale for one, I can use one pot, and there is an endless variety.  This week I have been playing with adding different things to a light alfredo sauce.  Nice and simple and cheesy.  Yum.

What I Used
Step One

~1/4 lb whole wheat linguini pasta
1 tsp salt
Step Two
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp heavy cream
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan
2 sun dried tomatoes, sliced
a bit of fresh chopped basil

In salted water, boil pasta according to package directions.  Reserve about 1/4 cup of your cooking water.  Return pasta to pan and over low heat, toss with step two ingredients.   Use reserve cooking water to adjust sauce consistency.  Enjoy  🙂

::summer love:: Garden Pasta


After a quick glance at my fridge contents, I started coming up with my plan for dinner.  Since it had been a bad day for PTB, I decided to change my original planned meal to something including pasta.  What can I say?  I definitely found my match.  Noodles fix everything.

Unfortunately, the contents of my fridge did not include a couple zucchini as thought.  It included cucumbers!  Oops.  So, I made dinner work with what I had.  The moral of this story is – this sauce is beyond versatile.  Just include whatever vegetables you want.  It’s a good thing I did not go with my original plan since that definitely relied on zucchini.  Oops.

What I Used
Step One

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive Oil
Step Two
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped or grated
small-medium onion, sliced thin
red bell pepper, 1/4″ pieces
Step Three
3 oz tomato paste
5 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Step Four
1 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Step Five
1/2 lb curly pasta such as fusilli
fresh chopped basil
grated parmesan

**Since the sauce takes about 30 minutes total, I started my pasta once the tomatoes were done in step one.  Since the sauce will go straight from the pan to the paste, it is ok if the noodles are done a bit before your sauce.

In a 10″ skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and cook until wilted (~5 min.).  Remove from pan, add a bit more oil and add all step two vegetables.  Cover, stirring occasionally, and cook until they begin to soften.  This should take about 5-7 minutes.

Add tomato paste, and mix in, allowing to cook until it begins to brown.  Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook for another minute.  Lastly, add broth to pan and allow to thicken.  Along with set-aside tomatoes mix about half the sauce into the pasta and top with basil and parmesan.

We had this pasta with some parmesan crusted chicken breasts and topped the pasta and chicken with some of the extra sauce.  It was amazing 🙂  If you want just a vegetarian meal, you could easily just split the pasta between two for a hearty dish.

Serves: 4 (as a side)  Cost: $2/serving