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Family-friendly recipes from a frugal gal that likes to eat

Archive for the category “Pasta”

Make Ahead Meal – Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas

I’ve heard other parents talk about how hard mornings are for them. Waking kids up, getting everyone dressed, fed and out the door in time for the school bus certainly sounds like a challenge, but right now, with just me, my husband and our almost-two-year-old, mornings aren’t too bad. Our most challenging time is the minute Addie and I walk through the door at the end of the day. If her dinner isn’t perfectly portioned out on her purple Doc McStuffins plate, ready to be devoured, it’s melt down city!

Luckily, Scott is a super husband and usually has this under control, but sometimes, well sometimes mama needs to go to Happy Hour after work, and even Superdads can’t pick up kids and get dinner on the table simultaneously, so to ease some of my mama guilt and make life easier for all, I whip up a meal the night before and leave Scott with simple pop in the oven and serve directions. Everyone wins! (Especially me… carefree glass(es) of wine FTW!)

This is a simple, crowd-pleasing supper that makes a TON. Yay for lunch leftovers.

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Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Printable Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound farfalle pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2
 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups of shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack, but you can use any cheese you like in your mac and cheese)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed* (see tip below)
1/2 pound finely diced smoked ham

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cook pasta in lightly salted water following package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until well blended; cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1 cup of milk and cook, whisking continuously, until smooth. Whisk in remaining 1 cup milk and continue to cook, whisking until thickened and smooth, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper. Whisk in 2 cups of the cheese until smooth.
  3. In the saucepan, add the pasta, peas and ham to the cheese sauce. Pour into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over the top.
  4. If doing as a make ahead meal, let dish cool on the counter. Cover with aluminum foil and put in fridge until ready to bake.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven; allow to cool 10 minutes.

*An easy way to thaw peas is to pour them into the strainer you will drain the pasta in. When the pasta is ready to be drained, dump it directly on top of the peas and voila! Perfectly thawed peas.

 

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Taco Pasta

TGIF! Who has big weekend plans? I have a busy day tomorrow. My city hosts a clean up day, so my husband and I get to drop off a truckload of crap! I. Cannot. Wait. Our garage is full of random things the previous owner left for us, and it’s finally time to say goodbye!

I’m also spending Saturday afternoon with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law having a soup cooking extravaganza! We’re making chicken chili, steak chili and minestrone. We’re all looking forward to having freezers stocked full of soup for the upcoming winter.

I’m planning to make an Olive Garden copycat minestrone recipe, so I’ll share it with you next week.

This week has been a good one. Kicked it off with tailgating at the Gopher Homecoming game. I didn’t go to the U, but it’s still fun to dress up in Gopher gear and show our support. Plus day drinking is always a blast!

I’ve also just been enjoying the weather. I feel like we often miss out on fall in Minnesota (official seasons are winter and road construction), but this year has been really great. I love this tree in our backyard.

Too bad there’s already 5,897 leaves on the ground and another 6,324 still on the tree. Yay raking.

We also got to dog-sit Amery, Scott’s parent’s dog. It’s so fun for Luke to have a friend in the house.

 

I also spent a lot of time on Pinterest this week, looking for new recipes. This recipe contains two of my favorite words – taco and pasta. Sold!

 

Taco Pasta
From Overworked Supermom

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey)
8-12 ounces medium pasta shells  (I used whole wheat penne)
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional – I didn’t have this, so I didn’t use it, but would’ve been great.)
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the ground meat and onions over medium-high heat until the meat is done. Drain any excess water or grease.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cream cheese, sour cream, cooked pasta and a little of the pasta water. Continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat to reduce the sauce.*
  5. Salt and pepper to taste. If using cilantro, toss right before serving.

*I am unsure if the pasta water is essential to this recipe. You wouldn’t need to simmer to reduce the sauce if you didn’t use it, but it might add flavor. Like I said, I’m unsure! Next time I make this, I’ll skip the pasta water to see what happens.

Mexican Chicken Alfredo

Hey-oh, happy Monday! I hope your weekend was lovely. I traveled to Chicago to visit family. My husband’s parents are both from Chicago, so we were able to see both sides. It was wonderful! We also got to eat some delicious, Chicago-famous food!

Sausage deep dish from Gino’s East

Chicago beef from Russell’s Barbecue

Both were so so so so so so SO good! I told my husband that as soon as he’s ready to move back to Chicago, I’m in! I know Mpls has a great food scene, but in my book, Chicago always wins!

Even though the Mexican Chicken Alfredo dish I made last week didn’t hold a candle to Gino’s or Russell’s, it was still quite good! I wanted to make a big ol’ pan of something that we could eat throughout the week, and this did the trick. This is another great Pinterest find.

Note that I cut this recipe in half and only made one casserole. I used a 9×13 pan, and it worked perfectly.

Mexican Chicken Alfredo
From Taste of Home

Ingredients

1 package (16 ounces) gemelli or spiral pasta
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 jars (15 ounces each) Alfredo sauce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for topping
1 cup medium salsa
1/4 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons taco seasoning

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken, onion, salt and pepper in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in Alfredo sauce; bring to a boil. Stir in the cheese, salsa, milk and taco seasoning.
  3. Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Divide between two greased 8-in. square baking dishes.
  4. Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes.
  5. To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 2 casseroles (4 servings each).

Look at that bubbly cheese! This casserole was great! It was rich, creamy and a bit spicy. Make this!

 

American Macaroni Salad

On the Fourth of July, Scott and I went to a BBQ at his parents’ house, and I wanted to bring something to share. I had my mind stuck on pasta salad for some reason, so I began searching for something yummy and different. Well would you believe that there aren’t that many appetizing looking pasta salads out there? Or maybe I was just striking out or being picky, but nothing jumped out at me (not even on Pinterest – gasp!). I finally found the most simple and boring-sounding recipe of all time – American Macaroni Salad.

Not sure why I even decided to give this recipe a second look, but hey, it had a patriotic title, so I thought, why not? Turns out, this recipe rooooocks! Plus, I added bacon to it, and bacon makes everything better!

American Macaroni Salad
From Food Network

Ingredients

2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley (I didn’t use this)
1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato
1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato.
  2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with cooked bacon. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

This was so delicious! The vinegar made it tangy, and the bacon was the perfect salty, chewy addition to this salad. I will definitely make this again!

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage and Spinach

This recipe has been sitting in my Dinner Ideas Pinterest board for far too long. Now I know that heavy, doughy gnocchi and spicy italian sausage doesn’t exactly scream summer, but this is so good that it doesn’t even matter. Just crank your AC and pretend it’s winter, mmmkay?

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage and Spinach
Slightly adapted from Made in Melissa’s Kitchen

Ingredients

One 17.5 ounce package shelf stable gnocchi
1 lb Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (I didn’t have onion, so I used 1 tsp dried minced onion)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
5 oz. bag of ready-to-use baby spinach
1/2 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing

Directions

  1. Crumble and brown the sausage in a deep skillet over medium heat. When sausage is almost completely browned, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, chicken broth, spinach and seasonings, cover, stir occasionally. While sausage mixture is simmering, cook the gnocchi according to package directions.
  3. When gnocchi is cooked, drain and add to the sausage mixture, add cheese and toss together. Garnish with additional cheese, if desired.

 Mmm so good! This could easily be turned into a hearty soup by adding more broth and carrots. I hope you enjoy!

Creamy Garlic Pasta

Do you remember the first thing you ever cooked on your own? I’m fairly certain mine was Pasta Roni.

Angel Hair with Parmesan Cheese to be exact! I loooooved this pasta. Still do as a matter of fact! This is the perfect hangover comfort food. But, it’s loaded with salt, fat and calories, so imagine my delight when I discovered this recipe for creamy garlic pasta. It’s basically a healthier knock off of my favorite childhood cuisine. It’s just as fast and easy too!

Start by heating olive oil, butter and garlic in a large skillet.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add chicken broth, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Then add angel hair and cook for 3-5 minutes.

When pasta is cooked, mix in cheese and cook until sauce thickens up a bit. Finally, stir in parsley and serve. Sauce will thicken as it stands.

Creamy Garlic Pasta
From Stephanie Cooks

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/2 pound angel hair
1 cup parmesan
1 tsp dried parsley

Directions

  1. Heat the oil, garlic, and butter in a large pot. Stir frequently. After 1-2 minutes add the salt, pepper, chicken broth, and milk.
  2. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the angel hair and allow it to cook according to packaging directions.
  3. Add the cheese and stir well. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley. Serve immediately.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

To go with the mouth-wateringly delicious bolognese sauce I made (excuse me while I pat myself on the back!), my husband made homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli. Neither one of us has ever made pasta before, so we were kinda clueless, and unfortunately it showed. The filling for these ravioli was great. It was savory, soft and sinful, but the pasta, welllll that’s a different story. It came out pretty tough and chewy. We think the error happened when Scott added an extra egg (it really seemed like the dough needed it!) or perhaps it wasn’t rolled out thin enough.

Either way, I’ll still share the recipe with you because the filling definitely made up for the pasta. Don’t feel weird if you just want to eat it with a spoon because it’s that good.

Let’s get started!

To make the ravioli dough, make a crater with the flour on your tabletop. Add the eggs to the center of the flour crater. Partially incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. 

Then knead the flour and eggs together to form dough.

In a mixing bowl, combine chopped spinach, ricotta, egg, milk, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper.

Next, roll out your dough. Think THIN!

Assemble those cuties!

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, add them to boiling water. When the ravioli float, about 2 to 3 minutes, they are finished cooking.

Serve ravioli with your favorite sauce.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli
Slightly adapted From Food Network

Ingredients

Dough:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Filling:
1 pound fresh spinach
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound ricotta
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Pinch black pepper

Directions

  1. To make the ravioli dough, make a crater with the flour on your tabletop. Add the eggs to the center of the flour crater. Partially incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. Then knead the flour and eggs together to form dough. Knead until the dough is thoroughly worked together, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reserve until the ravioli are ready to be assembled.
  2. In a pot of boiling water, cook the spinach with half of the salt until tender. Remove the spinach from the boiling water and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Squeeze out the water from the spinach and chop it up roughly.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine chopped spinach, ricotta, egg, milk, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. To assemble the ravioli, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece to form a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) of dough. Place 1 spoonful of filling onto 1 sheet of dough 1/2 inch from the edge. Continue to place spoonfuls of filling along the dough 1-inch from each other.
  5. Place 1 of the other pieces of rolled out dough on top of the piece with the filling on it. Pinch the dough around the filling to form the ravioli. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut out the ravioli. Pinch the edges of each ravioli with the tines of a fork. Set aside each ravioli on a plate lightly dusted with flour. Do not stack the ravioli, because they will stick together.
  6. When you are ready to cook the ravioli, add them to boiling water. When the ravioli float, about 2 to 3 minutes, they are finished cooking. Serve with homemade bolognese.  

As I said, our ravioli were tough and very dense, so it’s important to roll the dough out to the right thickness. Having a pasta maker would help immensely. Maybe that’s my next kitchen tool to invest in! Either way, we had a fun time making (and eating) this meal!

Spaghetti Bolognese

Last week my husband proclaimed that every Sunday forward shall be known as SPAGHETTI SUNDAY! So, as a pasta lover myself, I obliged and made my way to the store to pick up ingredients for my contribution to the meal, homemade bolognese. He made homemade spinach and cheese ravioli, which I’ll cover in my next post.

I’ve always wanted to make bolognese, so I jumped at the chance. I searched for some recipes on Pinterest, but I wanted this to be really good, and sometimes you never know what you’re gonna get on Pinterest, so I decided on  a Tyler Florence recipe from Food Network.

WARNING: This recipe takes hooouuurrrrrssss, but it’s so worth it!

Begin by heating olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables are very tender but not browned.

In a large pot, brown the pork and beef until the meat is no longer pink.

Add the wine and simmer until the wine has evaporated.

Crush the tomatoes with your hands. This can get messy, so do it over the sink if you can.

Add the tomatoes and stock and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer very slowly for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring once and awhile, until the sauce is very thick.

My sauce didn’t thicken up as much as I wanted it to, so I added the tomato paste. This was not in the original recipe though, so it’s a judgement call.

Now add the milk – the milk will make the meat nice and tender – and simmer again until thickened, another 20 to 30 minutes. Taste again for salt and pepper. Mash the sauce against the side of the pan to really blend it. See how much thicker the sauce is now?

And that’s it! It’s not difficult, just time-consuming. The milk seemed like such a weird ingredient to me, but it took this sauce from good to OMG! I definitely recommend tasting it before and after the milk so you can be amazed like I was!

This is hands down the best sauce I’ve ever made tasted! So so good!

Spaghetti Bolognese
Adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients

2-3 Tbs Olive oil
1 medium onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand
1 quart chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 cup milk
Optional
2-3 ounces of tomato paste (I used half of a small can)

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables are very tender but not browned.
  2. Brown the ground pork and beef until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has evaporated.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stock and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer very slowly for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring now and then, until the sauce is very thick. The sauce didn’t thicken up to my liking, so that’s why I added the tomato paste. It’s your call.
  5. Now add the milk – the milk will make the meat nice and tender – and simmer again until thickened, another 20 to 30 minutes.

Gnocchi Alfredo with Chicken

I’m watching the Golden Globes and started thinking that we needed a fancy dinner to go along with the fanciness that is the GGs. I threw together a rich, no-so-diet-friendly, fatty delicious pasta dish.

Gnocchi Alfredo (adapted from yummly.com)
Serves 4

package pre-made gnocchi
boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into cubes)
5 tbsps butter (divided)
garlic cloves (minced divided)
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
 
 
1. In a medium skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter with italian seasoning. Saute chicken and 2 cloves of garlic until chicken is no longer pink inside.
  
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add gnocchi. Gnocchi will float to the top. Allow gnocchi to float for two minutes. Drain.
  
3. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and yogurt. Whisk and stir until smooth and creamy. Add cheese and stir until smooth. Add chicken and sour cream. Serve over cooked gnocchi. Garnish with black pepper.
 
4. Change into your comfy pants.

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