Tag Archives: pasta shells

Chicken with Pasta Shells and Caper Broth – This Was GOOD & FAST! (serves 6)

This is what I cooked for dinner last night and it was completely addictive. It could have served 6 people but the four of us couldn’t stop eating it until it was gone!

Chicken with Pasta Shells and Caper Broth

Chicken with Pasta Shells and Caper Broth

We are in the middle of a disgusting heat wave and I really did not want to spend too much time in the kitchen. We still needed to eat so I came up with something that was fresh tasting and very fast.

oregano, sage adn basil freshly snagged from my garden!

Oregano, sage and basil freshly snagged from my garden!

I spotted a jar of capers lurking in the pantry and figured I wouldn’t need to add much more if I wanted big flavors without much effort. I decided not to rinse them to give the broth a nice briny feel and it worked perfectly. That, along with choice herbs from my garden helped make this a very tasty meal which we enjoyed in front of the air conditioner!


* This is a good Blood Type A Diet recipe but you can either omit the capers or rinse them very well. It will taste dynamite either way!*

You will need:

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, sliced

1 medium/lrg sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tbs capers, drained but not rinsed

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

4 basil leaves, chopped

1 to 2 tbs fresh oregano leaves, chopped

4 cups baby kale OR 4 cups chopped regular kale

2 cups chicken or veggie broth OR 2 cups water and good quality bouillon cube

1 lb (box) medium pasta shells (I used Barilla Medium Shells)


1 – Place a tall saute pan or wide metal casserole or dutch oven on medium heat and add the oil. Wait for a minute to let the oil warm before adding the onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs.

*Put pot of water on for pasta and add some salt. When it comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions. Do Not Rinse drained pasta with cold water.Try to time this to coincide with the rest of the dish being done (Put the water on after you add the chicken to the pan)*

Saute onions and garlic

Saute onions and garlic

2 – Turn the heat up to medium/high and add more oil if necessary. Add the chopped chicken and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the capers and stir.

add chicken and capers

Add chicken and capers

3 – Add the broth (or water and bouillon) and bring to a simmer. Add the kale and stir. It will wilt pretty quickly.

Add broth and kale

Add broth and kale

4 – Turn heat down and cover and simmer gently for between 5 to 7 minutes. Turn heat off. Taste broth for addition of extra seasoning (salt and/or black pepper)



5 – When pasta is drained add it directly to the broth and chicken.

Add pasta shells

Add pasta shells

Serve in shallow bowls and pass some Parmigiano Reggiano if you like. I added the cheese to my dish and it complimented the capers wonderfully!

Serve (with a grating of Parmiagiana Reggiana if you like!)

Serve (with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano if you like!)


A Yummy Sausage and Pasta Dinner – Quick! (serves 6)

Have you every had one of those crazy spontaneous moments and asked people over to dinner that evening and it is already 5 o’ clock! Of course you have done this, and then arrived home to find yourself in a panic over what you can pull together quickly while screaming out loud, “what was I thinking inviting people over tonight!!!!”” That’s when you zoom to the supermarket (or do this before you go home to avoid this panic attack) and buy the few things you need to make this gorgeous, crowd-pleasing dinner! It is also a super inexpensive main course for six.

Quick and easy dinner for six!

Quick and easy dinner for six!

I also think when you see how easy this is, you might also decide to make a batch of brownies while everyone is sitting around after dinner: yes, it’s what I did and I wasn’t taxed a bit! (Recipe for Brownies below)


You will need:

2 tbs olive oil

1 lb seasoned sausage (I used an Apple & Onion, but feel free to grab whatever is available: mild Italian, garlic, wine & herbs, etc – * If I were on the East coast of Ireland I would use Lavistown Sausages*)

ALSO: you can use chicken or turkey sausage

1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, small dice

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

4 sprigs fresh thyme (if you don’t have it, don’t worry)

4 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 tsp curry powder (any favorite variety)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 1/2 bouillon cube & water)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (if you have it on hand)

*This can easily be a Blood Type A Diet recipe by using a poultry sausage (chicken or turkey) Also, substitute the cream with more stock (veggie or whole bouillon cube) and, if you are really strict, omitting the curry powder and chili flakes*


*Put large pot of water on for pasta, add about 2 tsp coarse salt to water. Cook according to instructions and reserve about 3/4 cup pasta water before draining. do not rinse pasta with cold water. It will take the pot of water about 5 or so minutes to come to a boil and the shells will take anywhere from 9 to 11 minutes (check package for cooking time). This adds up to about 16 to 20 minutes, so time the pasta to be ready at the same time as it is required in the dish*

first: dice onion, chop garlic

First: dice onion, chop garlic

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and a the oil. When it has warmed add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire lenght of the sausge adn sliding it off. then it is easy to cut or break the sasge into your pan

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire length of the sausage and sliding it off. Then it is easy to cut or break the meat into your pan

2 – While onions are cooking remove the sausage from casing (instructions above)


Add Sausage and thyme

3 – Add the sausage to pan be cutting it into pieces as you go, or breaking it off into pieces with your hands. Add the thyme and celery. Turn pan up slightly and cook the sausage for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until starting to brown on all sides.

Add curry powder

Add curry powder

4 – Add the curry powder (and bouillon cube if using) and stir into sausage mixture until everything looks golden.

Add the liquids, then the spinach

Add the liquids, then the spinach

5 – Add the broth (or water) and let it come to a simmer. Add the cream and wait until it is also simmering before adding the chopped spinach. Cover and lower heat until everything is at a very gently simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and taste sauce and add salt and pepper if needed (purely personal). Add the just-drained shells and stir. If you like a looser sauce, add some of the reserved pasta water (and a little cream if you like) until desired consistency is reached.



Serve in warmed shallow bowls with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano.

lovely brownies

If you want to make brownies quickly, click HERE for recipe!

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells (serves 6) And a Word on Economy!

Here is a great pasta dish that feeds a crowd without spending a ton of money! Even if you are very well off and budgeting for food is not high on your list, I think there is always room for economy. When it comes to food, I am mindful of every scrap I decide to put into my shopping basket. Someone, somewhere in the world is hungry so buying food is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone, regardless of their income.

Chicken Ragu with Shells

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells

With a little bit of though, the most lowly ingredients can be made to taste delicious, and this recipe is a prime example of Deliciousness and Economy.

When I sit around with my family over dinner we sometimes play the game of “how much did this dinner cost?” I really think it is important for my kids to have an understanding of how money plays a part in their lives but that it is certainly not the thing that defines their ultimate happiness. And this is not a big philosophical commentary on how money can’t buy you love etc etc. It is a very practical matter to me when it comes to equating quality food with money: I just don’t. 

My CSA Crop share this week!

Fresh Veggies from a local Farmer

My two children love that something can be made from so little and it excites them to think that as a very general rule, most people can afford to choose something good to eat over something mediocre.  How many times have we gone to restaurants and my kids leave saying that they could have had something better at home and not wasted money. To me, buying a nice bottle of wine and eating at home is far more satisfying than eating out.

That’s not to say that when the opportunity arises to eat some place fantastic that we don’t jump at the chance. What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between eating crap (whether bought ready-made crap, or from a crappy restaurant) or making it a rule to eat at home prepared with decent ingredients and eating out when you have chosen some place wonderful (this could be a crab shack on a beach or a fancy place in a city somewhere).

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

There are so many places to find good ingredients for very little. Besides shopping for bargains in the supermarket, there are all sorts of people in the summer and autumn selling produce from their own gardens: vegetables, fresh eggs, even meat. I have the puny-est garden myself but I grow as much as I can in the summer (especially herbs) to add to my meals. I’m not even that good at it but I get no end of pleasure out of whatever appears, however sad it may look!

The savior of last night's dinner (oregano & parsley)

Oregano from my garden (and a modest bit of parsley)

So maybe you might consider cooking a couple of times this week and be smug over how good it tastes and how much you saved!

This dinner cost (not including the fuel cost)

Meat – $4.99

Veggies – (garlic, carrot, onion., spinach – $2.25

Pasta – $0.99

Tomato puree  – $0.75

Broth (I used a bouillon cube & Water) $0.50

Milk – $0.44

Total $9.92 (that’s $1.65 per person)

Rosemary bush in the back garden

My mother’s rosemary Bush in Ireland


You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1lb Chicken sausage, removed from casing (I found a sausage seasoned with apple and onion, but there are lots of other ones out there, like a take on an Italian sausage or one with garlic & herbs)

1 med/lrg sweet onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery, including leaves

1 tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (use whatever you have on hand)

OR 1 tsp dried herbs (again whatever you have on hand)

1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp sea-salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 cups chopped spinach or baby spinach leaves

1lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)


1 – Put big saute pan or saucepan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat up slightly and add the sausage and as it cook, break it up into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Cook veggies, add meat

Cook veggies, add meat

2 – Add the tomato puree, broth, herbs, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and carrots to the pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 25 minutes (the sauce should always have a slight bubble to it while it is cooking). Stir occasionally.

*In the meantime put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. time the shells to be ready at the same time the sauce is cooked. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining and do not rinse shells in cold water.

add liquids

Add liquids

3 – Add the spinach and cover with lid. Cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cook sauce, then add spinach

Cook sauce, then add spinach

4 – When pasta is ready pour the drained pasta directly into the cooked sauce, adding the pasta water if you want a looser consistency.



Divide between 6 warmed plates or bowls and pass some Parmigiano Reggiano to anyone who wants it!

Really Great Turkey & Bacon Ragu (serves 6)

 This was a great mid-week dinner. Wednesday is the day my kids are a little tired of the school week but in the evening are beginning to look forward to the weekend (I know that’s wishing their young lives away, but this is a hard lesson to teach little people who think they will live forever!).

This was a great mid-week treat

This was a great mid-week treat

I put this sauce together the moment I got in the door and that left me free to do all of those other things that needed to be taken care of (science project panic!). I wanted to use a lighter meat for the ragu and I had some turkey that I though would work. It was not ground, but that didn’t bother me (Ragu is made with ground meat but f you don’t have it, don’t worry about it).

I was a little concerned with the meat not having as much flavor as say lamb or pork, so I added some bacon. I think bacon is the secret ingredient that waylays lots of disasters!

It was really lovely and made the hum-drum feeling that Wednesdays can bring fade away.


* This ragu sauce can be made the day before (or in the morning) and reheated slowly on the stove-top while the pasta is cooking*

You will need:

1 tbs olive oil

8 strips bacon (streaky), sliced into 1 inch pieces (approx.)

1 lb turkey cutlets, cut into bite-sized pieces (thin sliced turkey breast – if you can only find whole fillets, slice it yourself)

1 medium onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic,

1 carrot

2 or 3 tender inner celery ribs, including leaves

1 28 oz can tomato puree (894 grams)

2 tbs tomato paste ( sun-dried or smoky varieties are fine to use)

2 cups water

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

6 cups freshly chopped spinach

1 1/4  lbs rigatoni pasta, or another hearty pasta like bucatini, ribbed penne or shells (I use Barilla brand)

1 1/2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated (optional)


1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and chopped bacon. Cook until bacon starts to get crispy (anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes).

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Season the turkey with the salt and several grinds of black pepper and add to the pan. You will have to turn up the heat slightly. Cook turkey until it takes on a white color (about 5 to 8 minutes). Stir occasionally.

add turkey

Add turkey

3 – While meat is cooking, prep the veggies: slice carrot, onion and celery into chunks and add to a food processor with the garlic cloves. Pulse until it resembles large rubbly bits.

chop veggies in food processor

Chop veggies in food processor

4 – Add the veggies to the pan and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes (adjusting the heat down slightly).

add veggies

Add veggies

6 – Add the tomato paste, tomato puree, water, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil. When it boils, turn it down, cover and simmer at a bare bubble for about 2 hours. Check every 1/2 hour (or less) and give it a stir. If it gets very thick, add a 1/2 cup of water at a time to adjust consistency. However, it should be very thick.

add liquids adn spices

Add liquids and spices

7 – Add the chopped spinach and stir. (*at this point put the pasta on and cook according to instructions – do not rinse pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining to add to sauce if necessary*)

add chopped spinach

Add chopped spinach

8 – Cover and cook for a further 12 or so minutes, stirring once during this time. Turn off heat. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary (salt, and/or pepper). If it is thicker than you would like, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir butter (if using) into sauce.

cook a little more adn adjust seasonings

Cook a little more and adjust seasonings

Divide pasta between warmed shallow bowls or plates and top each with a helping of Ragu. Pass some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper flakes at the table.

Turkey & Bacon Ragu

Turkey & Bacon Ragu with lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Baked Shells with Chicken, Scapes, Chard & Sugar Peas (serves 6)

WE GOT SCAPES! This is the fleeting moment in the growing season when I get to cook with one of my favorite things; garlic scapes. These are the shoots that emerge from the center of a garlic plant before the underground head of the garlic sizes up. They are a beautiful shade of green and are long and stubbornly curly in nature.


They were the prize veggie in my CSA share box from Good Work Farm this week (look to the top right of my blog for info. on what a CSA is). Good Work Farm have partnered with another local farm who specialize in garlic, and I will get to enjoy their crop for the rest of the year – Thank you Rambler Farm!

Of course I got other fantastic things in my veggie box (like chard, white turnips, snow peas, beets, kale, lettuces etc) but the scapes got me thinking about all sorts of dinner possibilities. They have a mild garlic taste and are tender when cooked, and can be tossed into anything where you might use garlic. I wanted to be minimal and saute them in olive oil and toss them with spaghetti and some Maldon sea salt flakes, but, my family would have eaten it, complimented me on the first course, and then wondered when the meat or fish course was coming?

I came up with something to satisfy everyone!

A few days earlier I had gotten some big pasta shells and decided to experiment with those and make a baked pasta with the scapes, held together with a variation on a bechamel sauce, by adding the broth used to cook some chicken breasts, in addition to the milk.

When in NYC this past week I stopped into a fantastic spice shop on 1st ave (close to 1st st.) and bought a Vindaloo curry powder, which had a crazy variety of ingredients, such as cardamom, cayenne, cumin, cloves, mango & lemon powders, ginger, the lists goes on. The shop owner said it was “hot” and after one whiff I couldn’t resist taking my chances and buying a modest amount. I added 1 teaspoon of the sweetly pungent powder to my sauce and couldn’t have been happier with the results. It was just enough to color the sauce and give a mildly exotic flavor to the overall dish.  I also opted against adding cheese to lighten the whole dish up, and it was not missed one bit!

I threw in some red chard and the last of some sugar ann peas (from my CSA share last week) to give everything a green hue. The snap from the peas along with the mild flavor of the scapes was an amazing combination with the light clinging sauce.

You have to try this!

Dinner last night was a big hit with everyone. I was sorry I hadn’t invited anyone over to show off, but, now we have leftovers for lunch. I still have enough scapes to invent some more great things this week, and I am certainly putting them in my scrambled eggs this morning!


Preheat oven 375* at Step 5

You will Need: 3 large boneless chicken breasts, 1 cup chicken broth, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium sweet onion, diced, 5 scapes, chopped, 1 bunch red chard, thick center vein removed and leaves roughly chopped, 1 cup sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways, 1/2 cup white wine, 3 tbs unsalted butter, 3 tbs unbleached white flour, 2 cups milk (any % will do), 1 tsp curry powder (optional, but recommended), coarse sea salt and several grinds of black pepper, 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs, 1 lb pasta shells (I used a large shell by Barilla)

Sear chicken..

1 – Put pan (big enough to cook chicken breasts) on high heat and add 2 tbs of oil. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and add to pan when oil gets hot. Cook for 2 minutes, turn and cook for 2 minutes more. Turn heat down to low and wait a few minutes before adding 1 cup of chicken broth (if you don’t wait, the liquid will be too explosive when it hits the pan!). Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Turn off pan, remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil. When cool enough to handle, slice the chicken and set aside. Reserve the broth (you will need it for your sauce)

*Put water on for pasta and when it boil, cook shells according to instructions.(the big shells I used took 14 minutes). Drain and rinse throughly under cold water and leave to drain until ready to assemble dish.

add onions & scapes, then peas..

2 – Put large saute pan on low/medium heat and add last 2 tbs of oil. When pan heats up add the onions & scapes and cook for 8 or so minutes. Add peas and cook for another 6 minutes.

add wine..

3 – Add wine, 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper, cover and cook gently for 5 minutes more.

add chard..

4 – Add chard, cover and continue to cook until chard had wilted and softened (about 4 minutes). Using a spatula, scrape the vegetables into a bowl or big plate and reserve.

Make sauce..

5 – In the pan you just used to cook the vegetables add the butter (on low heat). When it has melted stir in the curry powder (if not using, add the flour). Cook and stir powder for 1 minute. Add the flour and stir until you have a paste.

Smooth sauce..

6 – Immediately add the broth and stir with a whisk until it had become smooth. Add 1 cup of milk at a time stirring all the while. Add 1 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper and continue to cook for 5 or 6 minutes until the sauce thickens (it will not be very thick). Turn off heat.


7 – Assemble dish: In baking dish (with about 2″ in depth) add a half cup of sauce and coat bottom. Add half of the shells, followed by all the chicken and then all of the vegetables. Spread in an even layer.

top with breadcrumbs and optional butter.

Top with half of the remainder of the sauce and then top with rest of shells and the rest of the sauce, making sure to scrap all of the sauce from the pan using a spatula. Top with the breadcrumbs and dot with butter (butter being optional).

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top had just become lightly crispy. Wait for 5 minutes before serving

Time to eat!

Bacon with Baby White Turnips & Kale tossed with Pasta Shells (serves 6)

This dinner was crazy good (I can say that ?)! I was obsessing about what I could cook with the fabulous white turnips I got from my CSA Box on Wednesday (see top right of blog about CSA). I cannot explain how good turnips right out of the ground, grown with loving care a few miles away actually tasted. They retained a lovely bite after they were cooked, were mildly sweet, earthy and light all at the same time. Beg, borrow or still baby white turnips ASAP!

The jewel of tonight's dinner!

It probably was a little unusual to cook them with pasta but they worked like a dream with the saucy bacon flavors and the rich iron-y taste of the kale. Also, adding the rosemary was a stroke of culinary genius (sorry – just excited about turnips!).

Our Dinner full of seasonal freshness..

Everybody mmmmm-ed their way through dinner and I am now praying for more turnips to come my way.


You Will Need: 1 lb bacon, sliced into 1/2″ pieces, 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 1 sweet onion, 6 baby white turnips, quartered, 1 bunch kale (about 8-10 leaves), roughly chopped, 1 small sprig rosemary, cut into about 3 pieces, 1/2 cup white wine, 1 1/4 cups water, 2 tbs heavy cream, up to 1 cup cooked pasta water (will have that after cooking pasta), 1 lb pasta shells (I used Barilla brand), 1 tsp sea-salt, several grinds black pepper.

fry bacon until starting to get crispy..

1 – In saute pan big enough to hold the whole dinner add the bacon and turn heat to low/medium. Fry the bacon until the fat begins to get slightly crispy, stirring occasionally ( 15 minutes approx.).

2 – Prep rest of ingredients while the bacon is cooking and put pasta water on to boil.

add turnips and continue to saute..

3 – Add onions and garlic and continue to cook for another 10 minutes allowing the onions to get soft. Next add the turnip quarters and rosemary and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes.

4 – Add the wine and water and bring to a gently simmer. Add the cream and stir and then add kale and cover. Simmer on low until kale is cooked (another 10 minutes).

Add Kale..

5 – While kale is cooking add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to instructions. When pasta has cooked, scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining and set aside.Toss into pan and add the reserved pasta water and stir. Take off heat and sprinkle with a few grinds of pepper.

Serve in shallow bowl and top with Parmigiano Reggiano if you have it..