Spring Avocado Basil Pesto with Pasta

I really love pesto of any sort: basil, kale, swiss chard, you name it, I’ll eat it. So, I decided to try a new recipe out that had been in my head for awhile and, lo and behold, it was delicious! Even G. loved it (he had two helpings of pasta). This dish just screams spring!

  • 1 avocado, seeded and halved
  • 1.5oz pkg of basil, washed
  • couple glugs of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • cooked pasta of your choice

Cook your pasta, whatever shape you decide, (I used gemeli, about 2 cups uncooked), set aside in a large bowl. Add avocado halves, basil, olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth. Use your best judgment with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bam, you’re done. Add pesto by spoonfuls to the cooked pasta (you don’t want to over-saturate it), and serve. I added a bit of grated Pecorino to our servings and halved grape tomatoes to mine. This goes well with red or white wine too.

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” Bake

It’s 61 degrees today in Brooklyn. In January. Ummm, oookaaaay. My apartment is a tad bit warm from roasting the spaghetti squash and then baking the “pasta” dish. But, hey, my dinner is done and I just need to reheat it later on this evening. I love it when a plan comes together. Also, I realized that there is a better way to cook spaghetti squash. My friend, Molly and I were just talking yesterday about struggling to cut the squash in half and how comical it was. Newsflash: pierce squash all over with a fork and cook in the microwave for 12-15 minutes, or, in a baking dish in the oven at 400 degrees for 60 minutes. SO. Much. Easier this way! Also, I used my favorite jarred Muir Glen pasta sauce because it’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little lazy.

  • 1 cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 the jar of pasta sauce
  • 1/2C panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2C (or more) of grated pecorino
  • Italian herb blend
  • Crushed red pepper

Let the cooked squash cool (or be a doofus and burn your hand like I did earlier), then use a spoon to scoop out the innards and seeds, discard those. Then, use a fork to scrape out the squash, add it to a large mixing bowl. Add the sauce and stir until combined. Add mixture to an 8×8 baking dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs, sprinkle on top of the spaghetti squash mixture. I added a bit more pecorino romanao cheese too Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or, until the topping is browned and bit crispy.

Farro Asparagus Pesto Salad

Cold Farro Salad

I had meant to post this recipe in 2014 and didn’t notice it was hanging out in my drafts folder until just now. (Whoops). This salad can be eaten either hot or cold. It kind of reminds me of spring or summer, which is when it was originally supposed to be published. You can either make your own pesto, or use your preferred jarred brand.

  • 1C. cooked farro
  • 1/2C. cooked/roasted corn kernals
  • 1/2 bunch of steamed asparagus, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • pesto (recipe below)

For the Pesto

  • 1 bunch (or 2, if small) of basil, cleaned, patted dry
  • Handful of toasted almonds
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C. extra virgin olive oil (or more if necessary)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor until well blended. I omitted cheese, but, you can certainly add some grated pecorino.

Cook farro according to directions. Add sliced asparagus and corn to a large bowl, then, add cooked farro (this will steam the asparagus a bit, or, you can steam in a dish with a bit of water in the microwave until crisp tender. I like my asparagus a little crunchy, so, I just steam it with the farro). Add the amount of pesto you desire, grate some pecorino on top and serve, or, let sit and eat cold. This salad is really good the following day.

My Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I think one weakness of mine is my mom’s baked macaroni and cheese…all gooey with a crispy breadcrumb topping, sprinkled with some paprkia. Yum. When I was a kid, however, I didn’t give it enough respect because I liked that florescent orange stuff from a box (Sorry, Mom). It took a few years for me to appreciate my mom’s version, and well, nothing comes close to it. The version of my own below is a pretty good substitute because she and my dad live a few hours away in another state and they’re not here right now. I think the next time I go home I will request that she make macaroni and cheese. See, mom? It’s a win-win. We get to see each other AND enjoy a nice dinner!

  • 1 lb. of gemeli or small shells (or, macaroni/small-sized pasta), cooked
  • 2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded (I used low-fat white Cheddar and NY State Sharp Cheddar)
  • 1/2 C. grated pecorino-romano
  • 1 3/4 C. milk at room temperature (not cold)
  • 1/4 C. half and half
  • 5 TB unsalted butter
  • 5 TB flour
  • 1-2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika (or, hot if you like)
  • dash of onion powder (or, garlic if you prefer it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs for topping, toasted

Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook your pasta, drain, put in a large bowl and set aside.
Make the roux: In a medium-sized saucepan over low to medium heat, melt the butter, then add the (carefully measured) flour. Whisk this until it’s smooth and there are no lumps of flour.

Make the cheese sauce: Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking all the while. (You don’t want cold-from the fridge milk because I think it’s too much of a shock for the roux.) Continue to whisk for a couple minutes or, until the mixture starts to get thicker. (Don’t let it go until it gets to a paste consistency!). Add the cheeses and keep whisking until the cheese is melted and you have a nice and creamy sauce. Add the spices and mix well. UPDATE 2.16.16: I realized that sautéing the breadcrumbs in a few tablespoons of butter first and then sprinkling them on top of the pasta and cheese worked out better (that way the mac and cheese isn’t in the oven too long and won’t dry out b/c you’re waiting for the crumbs to brown on top.

Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Put pasta in the baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs and a little bit extra grated pecorino Romano cheese. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees until it’s bubbly and crispy–about 15-20 minutes. Now you have dinner for the week, or, you can invite a few friends over for dinner. Enjoy!

Before baking.

Before baking.

Mmmm, fresh from the oven. Dinner's on!

Mmmm, fresh from the oven. Dinner’s on!

Some other variations: I think this would be really good with some dried jalapenos added to the cheese sauce, or, add some crushed red pepper for a kick. If you wanted to be more healthy, you could probably add some steamed broccoli florets or some steamed kale or spinach.

Spicy Golden Zucchini and Snap Pea Pasta

Sometimes you have bright yellow zucchini in your fridge and don’t want to make grilled corn and yellow squash tacos AGAIN. A colorful, crisp pasta with some kick sounds like a really good alternative, even if you do sweat to death in your kitchen because there’s no cross-breeze. But, hey, that’s summer in Brooklyn. This is a simple past dish that pairs well with a crisp rosé and a side salad of fresh diced tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil. I am always amazed at the vibrant colors (and flavors) of summer vegetables. It’s dishes like these that I miss in, say, January…

  • 1 small/medium golden zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1/2lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 jalapeño minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2TB olive oil
  • Dash of crushed red pepper
  • 2C pasta, cooked, drained
  • grated pecorino romano

Cook your pasta (I used campanelle) and set aside in a large bowl. (You can add a small drizzle of olive oil so it doesn’t stick). Heat skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and wait for a few seconds until it’s warm. Then add minced garlic and jalapeño. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, or until it’s sizzling and fragrant. Add your sliced squash and snap peas. I saut&eactue;d them for about 5 minutes until the squash has softened, but the snap peas were still crisp. Add vegetables to pasta and toss with a little grated Pecorino Romano.

Veggies sauteing.

Sautéing the vegetables.

Dinner's on!

Dinner’s on! Add some Pecorino Romano too.