Tag Archives: easy pasta dinner

Another Great Dinner with Eggs as the Star!(serves 4)

Sometimes I wish I was one of those women I see in the supermarket (sometimes men, but truly not very often) pushing those giant shopping carts overflowing with a week’s worth of groceries. They usually have a big list and a pen and industrially check off whatever it is they tip into the basket as they go. Why can’t I plan ahead like that?

This is not me!

Well I just can’t because it is not me.  And now I know that it is ok and that my spontaneity when it comes to cooking a dish is why it is good. If I did plan a week ahead, would I lose that excitement about cooking? I don’t know for sure, but this particular dish would not have been made if my cupboard was overflowing with ingredients for my set menu plan. And that would be a tragedy because, this delicious feast was born out of happy desperation and was amazing!


My Lovely spontaneous Dinner

The desperation was that I only had protein in the form of eggs and three thin slices of bacon, and cilantro was my green vegetable (actually the only vegetable, besides garlic, which I view more as a condiment so it is always on hand in my kitchen, much like salt). The only other thing I can safely bet on always having in my pantry is pasta of one kind or another. In this case it was spaghetti.

So, if you only have eggs in your fridge and you have to make dinner, try this, and breathe a sign of relief as you whizz by the supermarket on your way home!


If you have Parmesan cheese, that is an added bonus!

You will need:

  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil (5-6 tablespoons)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped(as much as you like really. If you adore garlic, use more!)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro OR Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped (the bundle you get in the supermarket is good but if you have less, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3-4 slices bacon, cut into pieces (optional). If it is very fatty, trim it a little
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional, but amazing addition)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb pasta..so not the entire box (spaghetti works best but penne or any other pasta you have will work)


boiling spaghetti

Put pasta on to cook first (see Instruction 1. below)

1.Put pasta water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions while you continue with the rest of the dish (the pasta should be ready right when everything else is done if you time it right. So take into consideration how long the water takes to boil and how long the pasta will take to cook and use that to gauge when you think you will have completed the rest of the dish. This is ready in 20 mins from start to finish if you are efficient)DSC_0353

2. Put big saute pan on stove top on medium heat and let it warm up for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and after it warms add the and cook until it begins to get a little crispy. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and swirl everything together. Cook for about a  2 minutes before adding the chopped cilantro. Saute until the cilantro wilts into everything. Turn heat down to low and set aside.


3. While the pasta is cooking and the rest of the dish is waiting in the big pan, start frying the eggs sunny side up in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to start (for two eggs) and add more as needed (it should be a generous amount  – look at photo above. My eggs are swimming in lovely oil!)

4. In the meantime, when the pasta is cooked, drain (do not rinse!) and toss directly into the saute pan with the garlic mixture. Toss everything together adding a little more extra-virgin olive oil if you like. Taste at this point for salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and as the eggs are done, place on top of the pasta and serve. If you have fresh Parmesan cheese: Splendid! You may drizzle with more oil or toss some fresh cilantro on top and a sprinkle of finishing salt


Total Yumminess



Bright Lamb Sauce With Exotic Spices & Pasta (serves 6-8)

If you are looking for a rich meaty bolstering dinner, then here it is!

I found some great Australian ground lamb on sale and snapped it up. Some people find lamb too rich, but when you simmer it with complimentary spices and add some good toothsome pasta, the richness feels right.


 A fabulously hearty lamb dinner

If you have a crowd coming over for dinner and don’t want to kill yourself cooking, then this is a pretty great way to go. It is not a bit laborious and you can sit down at the same time to eat as everyone else.

And for dessert, go with something  equally simple: Oranges and Cream!

Refreshing finish to dinner..

Refreshing finish to dinner..

So call up a few friends and make it happen!


3 to 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion – large dice

4 cloves garlic – chopped

1/2 lb mushrooms (what ever you have or like) – sliced

2 lbs ground lamb (you could also try turkey or beef or combination of whatever you have on hand)

1 1/2 cups grated or matchstick carrots

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika (regular paprika will do in a pinch – hot or sweet

1 tsp chili flakes

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt (more to taste)

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 cups chicken stock

1 lb rigatoni or other large pasta like calamarata

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (more for garnish)

1 tbs lemon juice


1 – Put large saute pan or shallow casserole on medium heat (large enough to hold completed dish) and add about 2 tbs olive oil. When it has warmed up, add the onions, mushroom and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 or so minutes.

Saute mushrooms and onions

Saute garlic, mushrooms and onions

2 – Add all the spices (oregano, paprika, cumin, chili flakes, salt, lemon zest) and continue to cooking for another 5 minutes. Turn up the heat a little if you need to.

add spices

Add spices

*Put water on for pasta, adding salt to the water*

3 – Add the lamb and break it up and incorporate into the spice mixture. Turn the heat up to high and cook the meat, stirring often, until it begins to brown all over.

add lamb

Add lamb

*start cooking the pasta. reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining – may need later*

4 – Add the carrots and the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, letting the flavors meld. Add the stock and when it comes to a bubble, turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 12 to 14 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt to your taste. Add the lemon juice.

Add carrots, then tomato paste

Add carrots, then tomato paste

5 – Add the drained cooked pasta directly into the sauce and stir. Stir in the yoghurt and add some of the pasta cooking water if you want a looser sauce.

Add pasta, then yogurt

Add lemon juice, then pasta and stir in Greek yogurt 

Serve family style in a big serving bowl in the middle of the table with a nice crispy salad and more yogurt, and possibly hot sauce for anyone wanting some extra zing.

Serve alone

Serve alone

Or divide between warmed bowls or plates and let everyone add a condiment or garnish according to what they like!

or with a dollop of yoghurt (and a little hot sauce if you feel the urge!)

or with a dollop of yogurt (and a little hot sauce if you feel the urge!)

Rich Sausage Rigatoni – Truly Scrumptious (serves 4)

This dish should not be overlooked!

If you are on the hunt for a dish that packs boatloads of sumptuous flavor with a minimum of ingredients and effort then your search is over. I am transported to a little Osteria in Tuscany by just looking at the picture below! It is so rustic and has that quintessential Italian peasant food feel; robusto!

Truely Scrumptious

truly Scrumptious

This dish is another great example of me butchering a recipe to suit my needs and tastes. It is from Mario Batali who was undoubtedly inspired by some dish or other he tried in some hole-in-the-wall jewel in Italy. My irreverence for his recipe doesn’t spring from the fact that I think I can do it better. I am so grateful for his prodding my imagination when my mind was blank.  I constantly make decisions as I cook, and if I don’t have something, or want to add something, I just go ahead and do it. If you cook as much as I do you learn that most dishes are variations on some sort of standard that can be endlessly changed.

key ingredient in this dish (along with the red wine)

key ingredient in this dish (along with the red wine)

The key elements in this dish was the combination of sausage and heavy-duty tomato paste which clung like a magnet to the pasta. That is something I didn’t mess with. I did however change the quantity of milk, used red instead of white wine, added garlic and thinned out the dish with hot pasta water, oh, and changed the bucatini-style pasta in favor of a textured rigatoni and chopped a little fresh basil as a garnish (just because I had it!); Splendid!

I couldn’t believe how good this tasted and was so relived that I had documented this recipe so I can make it again and again.


You will need:

 2 tbs olive oil

1 tbls unsalted butter

1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage meat – mild or spicy (if they are links, remove from casing)

1 medium sweet onion – small dice

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

6 tbs tomato puree

1/4 cup red wine (whatever you’re drinking!)

1 cup whole milk

1/2 to 1 cup hot pasta water (reserved from draining pasta)

1 lb rigatoni pasta (I use Barilla brand)

Several grinds black pepper

Parmigiano Reggiano  – grated for serving

A handful of chopped fresh basil leaves (if you have it, but not necessary)


*Add the pasta to the boiling water about 12 minutes before you want to add it to your sauce. This would mean adding it right around when you add the milk to your sauce (step 6 below). Reserve a cup of the hot pasta water before draining. Do not rinse pasta with cold water (the pasta will not “cling” to the sauce the way it should if you do!)*

1 – Put pasta water on for rigatoni and put large saute pan (big enough to hold the complete dish) on medium heat. Add the oil and butter.

Add butter and oil

Add butter and oil

2 – When it has melted add the onions and garlic and cook for about 6 or so minutes, stirring frequently.

Add onions and garlic

Add onions and garlic

3 – Add the sausage meat by pulling off with your hands or with a scissors into little chunks. Turn the heat up near high when it begins to release its fat.

Add sausage

Add sausage

4 – Cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until sausage begins to get nice and brown.

Cook until starting to get well-browned

Cook until starting to get well-browned

5 – Add the tomato paste and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes (again stirring frequently), before adding the red wine. Lower heat if necessary. Cook for another 2 minutes or until wine has mostly evaporated.

Add Tomato paste

Add Tomato paste, then wine

6 – Add the milk and stir. Turn heat down to low and cover with a lid for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn heat off if cooked before the pasta.

add milk

add milk

7 – Add the drained pasta directly into the sauce – DO NOT RINSE with cold water. MAKE SURE TO RESERVE 1 CUP OF PASTA WATER!

add pasta and pasta water

Add pasta and pasta water

8 – Stir the pasta into the sauce and add some or all of the pasta water if you want a “looser” sauce.

Serve with a few chopped basil leaves

Serve with a few chopped basil leaves

Serve in warm shallow dishes with fresh basil (optional) and/or freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (also optional).

Or, gild the lily with a grated of Parmiagiano reggiano too!

Or, gild the lily with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano!

Tortellini with Tuscan Kale & Chicken (serves 4-6) If You Want Something Fast That’s Not Fast Food; This Is It!

This is the ultimate delicious solution when it comes to getting a dinner on the table in a hurry or if you are too exhausted (or lazy) to actually cook. I am as proud of myself when I magically making a fabulous dinner in about 12 minutes as I am when I spend time laboriously making something like ossabuco or stuffing and rolling a turkey breast and serving it with gravy and roasted vegetables. In fact after making this dish the other night I wonder why I bother at all for this pleased me just as well!


A Very Fast and Delicious Dinner: tortellini with kale and chicken

That said, it took years me years to learn how to plan for nights like the one just past, a night when the window of opportunity to cook, eat and get ready to go onto the next thing was about 50 minutes. I absolutely hate the feeling of being so on the go that I have to literally shove crap into my mouth and into the mouths of my children before rushing out the door. That is not living and I don’t even want to start on about how that’s what our world has come to, where the last thing you think about is your body and putting some good decent food into it!

Tuscan Kale

Tuscan Kale, also called Lacinato Kale (pretentious and not a word used in Italy for Kale at all!) and Dinosaur Kale (this hardy green keeps for a week in the fridge!)

I have never considered myself a heath nut, paranoid about every last calorie or if the thing is organic or hormone-free. In the grand scheme of things I figure if you eat food that looks like what it is; meats, veggies, grains etc then you are generally going to be on the right track and doing a fair job at feeding you and your family. When you get into buying things that come in boxes with instructions I am only a fan in dire emergencies or if I’m in a situation where the only thing available to me is hot water and a microwave or one fuel burner. It amazes me to see the whole meals you can buy in a carton these days and this new wave of products are being sold in Health Food Stores. Basically they are selling you the promise of a home cooked meal when I say you can probably get something together just as quickly if you are super smart like me (yes, I am of course joking – no really)

The Ultimate Cheese!
The Ultimate Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano (it is expensive but a little packs a ton of flavor)
My idea of fast food is something like this dinner. Here is what I ALWAYS have in my kitchen: olive oil, garlic, frozen or dry pasta, greens that last in the fridge and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. There is a bigger list of course but the other night when I was short on time and didn’t want to order expensive junkie takeout these things came in handy, along with some leftover cooked chicken. The pasta could be cooked from frozen while the kale cooked in a little broth and seasoning and then the chicken tossed in last-minute to reheat. It was divine and was put together so quickly that we all actually had time to sit down and enjoy it!

You will need:

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 5 cups cooked chicken – chopped into big bite-sized pieces (you can take the meat off the bone of a small rotisserie or other kind of cooked chicken, or if you have some 3 or so chicken breasts cooked or any leftover chicken you have)

5 or so cups of chopped Tuscan or other type of kale

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

1 (or more) cups chicken broth (or good quality bouillon cube and water)

2lbs frozen tortellini (any kind you like – plain, with different cheeses, veggie like spinach – I found a great goat cheese stuffed tortellini that worked great with the robusty kale – yes, Robusty!)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups or so of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (you really need to get the good stuff for this)


*prep everything before you start (chop garlic, chicken and kale) and put big pot of water on for the tortellini. The tortellini can be cooked directly from frozen. follow packet instructions OR, when water comes to a boil add the tortellini and cook at a gently boil for about 4 minute. Drain and set aside. Do not rinse.

1 – Put big pan on low/medium heat and add the oil. When it warms add the garlic and chili flakes (if using) and swirl into the oil. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the kale.

Saute garlic

Saute garlic

2 – Cook for about 2 minutes in the oil and then add the broth (about 1 cup). Turn heat up and let everything come to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer for about 8 minutes. You may need or want to add another 1/3 to 1/2 cup of broth as it cooks.

Add kale and a little broth

Add kale and a little broth

3 – Season with some salt and pepper and taste. Add the cooked chicken and tortellini and stir. Let everything warm up. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (more pepper flakes, black pepper and salt)

Add cooked tortillini and cooked chicken

Add cooked tortellini and cooked chicken

Serve in warmed bowls or plates and top with  good grating of Parmigiano cheese!

Something Fantastic Made With Leftover Chicken Stock or Rich Penne with Chicken Sausage (serves 4-6)

ah yes (glad I didn't throw that stock out!)

ah yes (glad I didn’t throw that stock out!)

Have you ever cooked a chicken or some other meat (either roasted or boiled) and after dinner still have a couple of cups of liquid left over? The thing that I hate the most in this world is to waste perfectly good food. People go to the trouble of making dinner and then after dinner something strange happens: the thing that was so enjoyed a few minutes earlier gets relegated to the category of waste or scraps. Why do we regard the part of the dish that has not been eaten as somehow inferior to what we just oohed and aahed over moments earlier? It’s time for you to start saving that cooking liquid and stop buying pricy cans and cartons of broth that is not half as good as the stuff you throw out after dinner!

as unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock for a cooked chicken!

As unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock from a cooked chicken!

What you see in the picture above is what I had leftover after a chicken dinner the other night. I had roasted a chicken with some basic veggies and added liquid to my pan halfway through to get a pan sauce without actually making one. After dinner, the chicken was gone (along with everything else) but this was left in my roasting pan. Most of the time this gets thrown out – admit it! it is so much easier to scrape this into the garbage than it is to put it in a container and store it in the fridge. When you throw something like this away you are throwing out the backbone of so many dishes that can be made in a hurry with delicious results if only you had saved what looks like a congealed mess.

The Ultimate Cheese!

The Ultimate Cheese (If you have a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in your fridge at all times, it can be the savior of many a pasta dinner!)

I made this dinner merely to prove my point, and this is only one use. It can be used in a soup, in simpler pasta dishes, or added to a rice dish as the stock. You can also add water to it and discard the cooked veggies (using a sieve or small colander) and substitute it anywhere broth is called for in a recipe. It will taste far superior to its store-bought counterpart.

the backsteps

The back steps are beginning to look a little more Summery and I can’t wait for my garden to become lush and alive with herbs and flowers.

Of course you can still make this dish with bought stock! I guarantee you that I most definitely do not have stock in my fridge every time I need it and resort to bouillon cubes and water more often than using precious saved chicken juices. I just wanted to let you know that the thing you have been throwing away after some of your dinners could be put to good use!


You will Need:

1 lb sausage (chicken, turkey or pork will work – it can be a seasoned or flavored sausage), removed from casing

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp chili flakes

4 to 6 cups chopped spinach (we love spinach so used 6!)

1 1/2 cups leftover stock (it can have stuff in it like onions, carrots, garlic, celery and herbs) OR 1 1/2 cups chicken broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water

1/2 cup tomato puree

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 lb ridged penne pasta (I used Barilla Brand mini-penne)

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (if you have it)


1 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the chopped garlic and the chili flakes. Swirl around and cook for about 1 minute.

cook garlic and chili flakes

Cook garlic and chili flakes

2 – Add the sausage in bits (I broke it into the pan right out of the casing). Cook until the sausage is browned and nearly cooked through (about 12 minutes). You will need to stir and break sausage up with wooden spoon intermittently as it cooks.

add sausage

Add sausage

*Put the pasta water on (add about 2 tsp coarse salt to the water) and when it boil cook pasta according to instructions. Your aim is to have the pasta cooked by the time you reach step 6. Scoop out about 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. You may need it to thin out your sauce. Do NOT rinse the pasta when it is drained*

3 – Add the leftover stock (or whatever broth you are using) and let it come to a simmer. You may turn heat up slightly while you add the liquids.

add leftover stock or broth

Add leftover stock or broth

4 – Add the tomato puree and stir into the sausage mixture before adding the cream. Add the cream and let the sauce come to a slight boil.

add tomato puree and cream

Add tomato puree and cream

5 – Add the spinach and stir. Cover pan with a lid, turn heat down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes at a low simmer.

Add spinach

Add spinach

6 – Turn off heat and add the cooked penne to your sauce and stir. You may also add a tablespoon of cold unsalted butter at this time if you want more glossy creaminess. If you like a thinner sauce or want to loosen the pasta a little, you may add some of the reserved pasta water until you are satisfied. You may also taste for addition of salt and pepper.

add cooked penne

Add cooked penne

Divide between bowls and pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano and more red pepper flakes if you so desire.