Tag Archives: quick pasta dinner


My friend Celine and I live in the same town but somehow never manage to see each other alone, always only able to grab 5 minute conversations here and there in the midst of gatherings with family and/or friends.


Eataly  – NYC

We have tried in vain to make a plan to have lunch together and last Friday was no different. We were set to have lunch by hook or by crook but that ended up being the day I had to go to New York City!; “why don’t I come along”, said Celine “and we can have lunch together in the city??” This was the perfect solution as I also killed two birds with one stone; I managed to have lunch with Celine while also taking her around NYC, something we have been talking about doing for about 10 years!

Flatiron building, NYC

Flatiron building, NYC

She had only been to the city a handful of times and it was time for her to experience the city from a less touristy point of view. In the space of 12 hours she learned how the streets run north/south and the Avenues east/west, how easy and convenient the subway is, how the lower East Side differs from Uptown and at how mind-bending the Flatiron building is when you look straight up its walls! Oh, she also fell in love with the giant Italian Marketplace, Eataly!

One of the Pasta Aisles in Eataly -

One of the Pasta Aisles in Eataly

 It was a simple day where Celine told me to do exactly what I came to do and she would be my shadow. After I had taken care of what I had come to the city to do, we took the subway to Eataly, in Chelsea. This was where we planned to have lunch while also taking in the fabulous Flatiron building and a lengthy peruse through Eataly’s enormous  grocery, restaurants and all things gastronomic in this giant Italian food emporium. Celine was in heaven!

Well – what I made for dinner last night was a combination of flavors from what we had eaten for lunch the day before. We had an amazing sort of starter Pizza called La Stella, which was a pizza crust mounded with fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from Sorrento.

Stella Pizza

La Stella Pizza

This was followed by a wonderfully rich but very simple spaghetti dish, Spaghetti Alla Chitarra, which was spaghetti lovingly laced with cheese from Lazio and a strong-handed grinding of black pepper. This was all washed down with a red wine from Lombardia (Valtellina Superiore “Quadrio” 2010, Nino Negri) which was a perfect foil for the black pepper and peppery arugula – (if I do say so myself! It is affordable if you can find it – under $15 a bottle).

My spaghetti of choice in an ideal world: Rigorosa Spaghetti Pasta

My spaghetti of choice in an ideal world: Rigorosa Spaghetti Pasta

I bought the body of my ingredients from Eataly’s market before leaving with the intention of treating my family to a taste of my lunch for dinner! It was a fantastic take on the flavors and I’m so glad I decided that it was worthy of documented before I donned my apron for the evening.

Spaghetti with Arugula, ham and pepper

Spaghetti with Arugula, ham and pepper

It captured the essence of my experience in Eataly with Celine to a tee. This dish was made in the time it took to boil the water and cook the pasta; the perfect meal when you don’t have lots of time. I mixed arugula, cheese and cooked pork into my garlicky spaghetti. I also added some finely chopped rosemary from my garden to flavor the oil instead of basil, and it was nothing short of bliss with every toothsome mouthful.

The rosemary in my garden is still going strong - I had better remeber to dig it up and take it indoors for the winter. There is a hole in my life if I have to resort to dried herb container!

The rosemary in my garden is still going strong – I had better remember to dig it up and take it indoors for the winter. There is a hole in my life when I have to resort to little bottles of dried herbs !

 I was aware when cooking this that it did not have to have meat. The pepper, cheese and arugula could stand up very well on its own. I did boost the protein for those of us that craved it with a couple of sunny-side-up fried eggs.

The eggs are a great substutide for meat in this dish

The eggs are a great substitute for meat in this dish

 Thank you Celine and Eataly for the inspiration for this wonderful dish. Where to for lunch next?


*For Blood Type A Diet please make the following changes: Omit the meat, add eggs (if desired). Omit the pepper flakes and black pepper, (and cheese if you are very strict). You could substitute with a different cheese that is easier on your digestive system, like feta or mozzarella*

 You will need:

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion – small dice

3 or 4 cloves garlic – finely chopped or minced

1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves – finely chopped

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt flakes – if using a very fine salt, use a 1/2 tsp at a time and taste to add more)

4 oz arugula  – roughly chopped if large. Left whole if leaves are small

8 oz spinach leaves – chopped if large

8 oz  cooked/cured ham – chopped (optional)

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)

several grinds of black pepper (optional)

1 lb good quality spaghetti (I used Rigorosa Brand  – pictured below but Barilla brand is also good)

1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked pasta water (scoop two cups of the cooking water from pasta pot right before draining cooked pasta)


1 – Put a big pot of water on to boil for pasta and cook according to instruction. Important: subtract about 2 minutes from the recommended cooking time and at that point taste the pasta. If it still has a little “give” when you bite it, you can drain it. BEFORE draining, scoop out two cups of the pasta cooking water and set aside.

cook pasta

cook pasta

2 – Put large shallow pan on low/medium heat and when it has warmed add the oil. Add the diced onions and cook for 2 minutes or so before adding the garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped rosemary, salt and pepper flakes (if using) and stir. Turn to low and cover the pan for another 3 minutes to allow the onions to soften.


Cook onions, garlic and add seasoning.

3 – When pasta has cooked, drain (reserving pasta water) and add directly to the pan. Top with the greens, cheese and ham and toss everything to blend. Add 1 cup of the hot pasta water and stir. Add several grinds of black pepper and taste for further addition of salt. Add more pasta water if you want it to feel looser (I added about 1 3/4 cups of water by the time I was satisfied).


Add greens, cheese, pepper and ham. Taste and season further

 Serve immediately, topped with more grated cheese if you like.


Serve immediately and pass more cheese and pepper at the table.

If you are frying eggs instead of using ham, fry eggs right before you serve.


Substitute eggs for the ham

Lots of freedom with this dish!

Change it up and top your pasta with fried eggs!

Change it up and top your pasta with fried eggs!


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!

Late Dinner of Penne with Parslied Olive Oil & Garlic (serves 4)

After we got home from our momentous visit to Pisa and Lucca in the province of Tuscany, it was late, and I was tired. I was also hungry, so dinner had to be made despite my lack of enthusiasm.

The cathedral at Pisa (along with a strange leaning tower in the background?)

As I struggled to figure out what I could make in lightening speed, my man Dave (who had lingering in town to grab a bottle of wine), walked in followed by two buddies, Chris and Shawn. Hmmm….judging by the bags and bottles of wine under their arms I sensed an Aperitivo was imminent.

The earth on each side of this beautiful marble path (which joins the two buildings which house the graves of affluent and important Pisa citizens) contains 5 shiploads of soil from the Holy Land, making this some of the most holy ground in Italy.

For those of you that don’t know; an Aperitivo is a little party before dinner with drinks and appetizers. The drinks traditionally served in Italy are Campari, Aperol, Negroni, and sparkling drinks like prosecco. They are often mixed to make aperitif cocktails (see my post on Aperol Spritz).

The beginning of our impromptu Aperitivo

We made some spritz-y drinks, had a couple of bottles of great red wine (which Chris splurged on!), and an array of cheeses and cured meats.

By the time I got dinner started it was very late indeed. I managed to cook something that can be ready in about 12 minutes (if you are not distracted by friends, chatting, and alcohol). It was the perfect dinner to soak up all of those lovely drinks, and I wouldn’t hesitate doing it all over again.


You will need: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon), 2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, (use 1 tsp if you are shy of heat), 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, 4 eggs (optional), more seal salt, black pepper & hot pepper flakes to taste, 1lb Penne (I used Barilla brand).

1 – Put pot of water on for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook according to instructions. Before draining scoop out a 1/2 cup of pasta water, and reserve.

2 – While pasta is cooking, quickly get the rest of your dish together. (The object is to have this done by the time the pasta is ready). Put a big saute pan on low/ medium heat and add the oil. When it warms, add the oil and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the parsley and cayenne pepper flakes.

Pasta with strong flavors

3 – When pasta is cooked and drained, immediately toss into the oily pan, along with the salt and several grinds of black pepper. Swirl together, and toss in a little of the pasta water to loosen everything up.

* If you want a softly fried egg with this (I did!), fry it in a little olive oil just before the pasta is cooked.

It is great topped with a softly fried egg and some cayenne pepper flakes

Divide between shallow bowls and dress with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some more pepper flakes, black pepper, AND a fried egg.

Fettuccine & Shrimp with Bok Choy in Flavorful Broth (serves 4)

 I had decided to do my grocery shopping in the early evening and knew by the time I got home, and completed the dreaded job of putting everything away, it would be a late start with dinner.

Fettuccine & Shrimp in Flavorful Oil

Never fear; this dish was the answer to the pangs of hunger growling in my house!

This comes together in about 30 minutes, and it is well worth the effort. It smells heavenly as the garlic cooks in the oil, and the tender shrimp clinging to the lemony noodles lend a note of sweetness to the air.

That, along with a lovely perfume-y Riesling I had treated myself to while out shopping (my reward for tramping through aisles of groceries with my big-wheeled metal basket!), was the perfect end to a hectic day.

Thank you food!


You will need: 1 lb shrimp, deveined, remove shell ( 31 – 40 count per lb size), 2 heads baby bok choy, white parts finely diced, green parts chopped, ( you can also substitute with 3 ribs regular bok choy, cutting as directed), 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 2 tbs lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 2 tbs unsalted, cold butter, sea-salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional), 3/4 lb fettuccine pasta (I use Barilla brand)

1 – Prep all ingredients before you begin cooking, as this all happens pretty fast.

2 – Put water on for pasta and time fettuccine to be cooked at the same time the broth is ready (about 15 minutes total). Cook pasta according to instructions, reserving about a 1/2 cup of pasta water (you may need it to loosen the pasta broth)

3 – Put a big saute pan on medium heat and add oil. Add the diced white parts of bok choy and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the chopped greens. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Saute garlic and bok choy in oil

4 – Add the broth (or bouillon & water), and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook at a gently simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes.

5 – Turn heat off and add the butter and lemon juice. Taste for addition of salt and pepper. Toss the cooked, hot pasta into the broth. Add some pasta water if you like a looser sauce.

time to eat

Serve with a nice grating of cheese (if you like).

Simple Spaghetti for Lazy Dinner (serves 4)

This is a fantastic dinner if you are in a pinch for time, or the cupboard is getting bare. I always have pasta, oil and cheese on hand, and it has saved me from running out to the supermarket for supplies many-a-time!

Simple Spaghetti in quick time

I used bok choy in this particular version as that is what was left of my stock of veggies, but spinach, chard or even peas would work just as well.

I also love this if I have a late night food craving. It is ready in 15 minutes from start to finish, and quicker than ordering pizza or Chinese, (not to mention, way less expensive).

There is still another good reason to have this dish in your arsenal. If you have friends over, and spontaneously invite them to dinner (because you’re having too much fun), you can whip this up for a crowd while not missing a beat in the conversation.

Are you convinced?


You will need: 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 2 heads baby bok choy, white parts finely diced, green parts roughly chopped, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup veggie or chicken broth, 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. 3/4 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand). Sea-salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

1  – Put pot of water on for spaghetti and cook according to instructions, reserving about a 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.

* Time the pasta to be ready when the pasta sauce is ready. It will take about 12 to 14 minutes for this step, so keep that in mind as you go*

2 – When pasta water is on, start with the rest of the dish. Put big pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms, add the garlic and cook for about 20 seconds before adding the diced white stems of the bok choy. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the green parts of the bok choy. Cook for another 2 or so minutes.

saute bok choy with garlic

3 – Add the broth and cayenne pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Turn off pan and taste for addition of sea-salt and cracked black pepper. Immediately add drained pasta to pan, along with some pasta water if the spaghetti needs to be loosened up. Stir in the cheese and serve immediately.

this was hard not to slurp from the pan!

Add more cheese if you like. This can also be topped with a soft fried egg or cooked streaky bacon.

Shawn’s Christmas Visit, Penne with Bacon, Peppers, & whole Baby Onions (serves 6)

 This was a very fun and special evening. Our dearest friend Shawn makes a trip to our house every Christmas, and it is much-anticipated. My man Dave and I look forward to the food, and to trying out wines a little more special than the usual nightly offering, and, my kids look forward to sitting with a person who has known them since the day they were born, the man who gives them a sculpture or a drawing for their birthday or Christmas, instead of toys. In short, we love him.

Beautiful bowl filled with Penne, with Bacon, Peppers & Whole Baby Onions

I always want it to be a feast, an event, and this past visit was no different. This recipe was only part of our little feast. We also had appetizers, salmon, chocolate and numerous other delectable treats. 

This pasta dish was amazing on so many levels. I had actually never cooked baby Vidalia onions before, but knew they had to be cooked whole. The entire dish came about to highlight these glorious onions, and I think I did them justice.

Can’t wait for us all to get together again; another excuse for a wonderful dinner.


You will need: 1 lb bacon, 10 to 12 baby Vidalia onions , chop off bulb where the stalk turns green, 3 green Vidalia onion green stalks, thinly sliced, 1 red pepper, cut into thin stripes, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth (or 1 1/2 cups water & bouillon cube), 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, sea-salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste, 2 tbs unsalted butter, Fresh Avocado slices (optional), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, (optional).

1 – Cut bacon into smaller pieces and place in big saute pan on low/medium heat. Cook until starting to get crispy. Drain off most of the fat and add the onion bulbs. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

cook bacon, add onions

2 – Add peppers and chopped Vidalia onion greens. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes (you may have to add some extra-virgin olive oil and/or turn down heat).

add peppers

3 – Add the broth or bouillon cube and water, along with the pepper flakes and rosemary. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 8 minutes.

add pepper flakes and liquid

4 – In the meantime, put the pasta water on and cook penne according to instructions.When draining reserve about 1/2 a cup of pasta water (you may need it to loosen the sauce).

add penne, parsley and butter

5 – Add the drained penne directly into the pan (do not rinse penne with cold water after draining!), along with 2 tbs of butter and the parsley. stir everything together until the butter has melted. Turn off heat. If you think the sauce is too thick, you can loosen it up with the reserved pasta water.

food is ready

I served this in a big warmed bowl and let everyone help themselves. You can also pass some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to anyone who likes it!

I also served this dish with avocado slices, which added a lovely creaminess

Pasta Puttanesca with Fresh Cayenne Peppers (serves 4)

What else could I do with my crop of cayenne peppers besides drying them? I decided to see how they would fair in a spicy puttanesca sauce.

The three stages of color my peppers go through, green , orange-y & bright red

There were four main ingredients in this sauce and I am proud to announce that they came from either my garden (parsley & peppers), Rambler Farm (garlic) or Good Work Farm (tomatoes).

How could I possibly go wrong. I had never made a puttanesca sauce without using San Marzano canned tomatoes, and cayenne pepper flakes, so this was going to be very interesting.

Sublimely simple flavors

I was not particularly sure my kids would go for such a minimal dish either, but I was determined not to think about it, and let my curiosity take over.

I was so impressed with the final result! It was not as hot, but the heat felt fresher, if you can imagine that? The tomatoes were sharp and everything was balanced magically by the earthy-tasting parsley.

My kids couldn’t get enough of this fresh take on a spicy tomato sauce. I will long for this dinner when it is wintertime and there isn’t a tomato or pepper in sight. This meal was all about right-from-the-ground-taste and would be hard to replicate out of season.

What am I saying? Very simple; make this before the bounty disappears!


You will need: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 4 gorgeous red tomatoes, diced, 2 fresh cayenne peppers, thinly sliced, OR, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 4 tbs freshly chopped flat-leafed parsley, 1 tsp coarse sea-salt (I used Maldon salt – type Maldon in my search box for more info.), 3/4 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand),

1 – Put saucepan or pot on low heat and add oil. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute garlic in oil

2 – Add the diced tomatoes, salt, and cayenne pepper slices. Bring to a steady simmer and cook like this for about 15 to 20 minutes.

add fresh tomatoes and cayenne peppers

3 – While tomatoes are cooking put on pot of water for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions. Try to have it ready when sauce is cooked. *Reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water in case you need it for the sauce.

simmer for 20 minutes

4 – Add the chopped parsley and give everything a stir. The moment the pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the sauce. add some pasta water if you want a looser sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Turn off heat.

add parsley

Serve on warmed plates with more parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano. Super good food!

Serve with more fresh parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese