Summer Pasta Salad

 

Hello all– This weekend we’re happily stacking all the things we need to pack up for early Monday morning, when we fly off for our Laurel & John’s wedding in the woods of Wisconsin!  Party dress,  check. Sunblock, check. Grandma Lo’s wedding cake bride and groom, check.  Surprises for grand-girl Jobay, turning 6 on the wedding date, checkity check.

And meanwhile, around here, we’re cleaning out things lingering in the kitchen before we go.  Had a 1/3 bag of egg noodles, a ready to eat avocado, MORE of Larry’s sweet tomatoes…  Throw them in with some corn, a couple slices of bacon and a little chicken.  Summer Pasta Salad  –just right on a hot summer evening!

SUMMER PASTA SALAD
4 oz. pasta (I used egg noodles)
1 boneless chicken breast
1 tab. olive oil
5 slices bacon
2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 avocados, cut to nice chunks

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. tarragon vinegar*
1 tsp. seedy mustard
1 tab. honey
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain and let it cool.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Cut the chicken breast into 3 flat filets and saute in a skillet until it’s nicely browned and cooked through (3 or4 minutes on each side). Remove to cutting board and cut into nice polite size pieces.

Wipe out the skillet and cook up the bacon.  Crumble it to small bits.

Cook the corn cobs in the microwave 6 or 7 minutes.  Cut the corn from the cobs with a large knife.

To make the dressing put the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it up until it’s completely blended.

When the chicken and pasta have cooled, put them in a large mixing bowl and mix in the bacon, corn, tomatoes, green onion and dressing.  Then gently fold in the avocado.  Put to chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes or more before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

Zucchini & Tomato Pasta

 

Hi all– Still “tomato time” around here.  So many tomatoes!  We are eating them twice a day–lunch and dinner (so far no tomatoes have slipped into our breakfast cereal!)  And this is my favorite use of our “crop” so far.

The little cherry tomatoes burst and shed their juices.  And this mixed with parmesan and garlic makes a lovely rich sauce.  Throw in some pasta and its a pretty perfect summer supper.  I was excited that we had leftovers to enjoy it all over again!

ZUCCHINI & TOMATO PASTA
8 oz. of your favorite pasta
6 oz. pancetta (or 6 slices of bacon), chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped to bits
garlic salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup parmesan romano
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut to shreds

While you are making the tomato topping, put the pasta on to cook.

Cut the pancetta to small bits and cook it in a large nonstick skillet.  When it’s cooked crispy, remove the bacon from the skillet, leaving the fat in the pan.

Put the chopped zucchini in the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt & freshly ground pepper.  Cook 4 or 5 minutes until the zucchini starts to brown, but is still crispy (not soggy!).  Take out the zucchini and set aside.

Then add the tomatoes to the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper and cook on high heat, 7 or 8 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and release their juices.  Add the minced garlic to the skillet the last couple minutes the tomatoes are cooking.  Stir in the parmesan romano, stirring to melt it a bit.

Finally add the zucchini & bacon back to the skillet. Stir in the shredded basil.   Spread the drained pasta on a platter and then top it with the tomato mixture.  Enjoy!

Beef & Eggplant Ragu

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Hello Pasta Loving Friends– We were talking about–“If you had to eat just one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you pick?”  There were Vietnamese fans (those noodles!) and Chinese (so much variety!), but I was torn between Italian (pasta & gelato, of course) and Mexican (just because that’s what we eat in So Cal).

So for you who love pasta as much as I do, here’s a rich, thick, savory sauce to pour over the top of your favorite angel hair or rigatoni.

And thanks to Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen for this recipe — been reading her warm and friendly posts for years…

BEEF & EGGPLANT RAGU
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground sirloin
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 Chinese, eggplant, cut to small pieces
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. finely minced rosemary
16 oz. pasta
garnish: parmesan romano, grated

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and then add in the chopped onion.  When it starts to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Then add in the beef, chopping it in the pan with a wooden spoon, until it is all crumbled.  Cook until it is browned and then add the eggplant.  Cook 4 minutes more.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and rosemary.  Leave it uncovered on a low simmer or 20 to 30 minutes until the flavors are melded.

While that’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta and layer it on a large platter, topped with the ragu.  Sprinkle on the parmesan romano and serve it steaming hot.

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Parmesan Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach

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Hey there– We’ve been eating our share of salads and light summer suppers– but once in a while you get into a mood and only a plate of pasta will do.  This one is delectable– creamy and cheesy and garlicky– with all those mushrooms and spinach.  So satisfying.  ( I won’t admit that I had a little bowl for breakfast the next morning!).  I think you might really like it too– when that pasta craving hits.

PARMESAN PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS & SPINACH

8 oz. pasta*
3 to 4  tab. olive oil
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk (or half & half)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 cups spinach, cut in shreds

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Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, using lightly salted water.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Drop in the cut mushrooms and cook, stirring a bit for 3 or 4 minutes until they are tender.  Salt & pepper them while they cook.  Add in the garlic and cook one 1 minute more.

Then pour in the chicken stock and milk.  Bring to a low simmer and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in the parmesan cheese.  Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water in a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it up until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and stir it into the simmer sauce until it thickens.

Drop in the shreds of spinach and cook 1 minute more until it is wilted and tender.  Then drain the pasta and spread it onto a platter.  Top it with the mushroom-spinach sauce.  Serve it up hot, maybe with another sprinkle of parmesan on top!

*Used my very favorite angel hair pasta, pick your own fave.

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Pasta e Fagioli

IMG_3793Hi friends– here’s a steamy chunky soup that I had for dinner last weekend and leftovers for lunch all week.  That’s a big pot of soup!  With a sturdy loaf of bread and a bright salad slathered with balsamic vinegar, you can pretend you’re eating in an Italian village (or just sitting in the teacher’s lunchroom at school).

PASTA E PAGIOLI
1 cup macaroni*
1 pound milk Italian sausage
2 tab. olive oil
1 onion, cut fine
2 carrots, cut to small bits
3 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 14oz. cans petit cut tomatoes with garlic
1 cup water
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 can cannellini beans (small while beans)
garnish: basil (or marjoram)** and parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Then crumble and cook the Italian sausage til it’s well browned.

Remove the cooked sausage from the pot and drop in the onions and carrots.  Cook 3 minutes, until they soften a bit and add in the garlic.

Next stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, water and basil.  Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add in the white beans, pasta and roasted pepper and cook just a couple minutes more to heat it all through.  Serve it up hot with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and some shredded basil or  marjoram.

*The recipe I worked from called for digitali pasta– but I used the smaller version, macaroni salad pasta because I had it in the cupboard.
**I used marjoram, because it grows like a week in the side yard.

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Simple Tomato Compote on Pasta

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Hi friends–  A couple Saturday’s ago, a bunch of us carpooled down to Roger’s Gardens for a morning cooking class.  We sat in a little amphitheater, surrounded by aisles of luscious plants and flowers.  The chef cooked up a few tomato/pepper dishes and passed around samples.  It was a whole lot of fun!

I picked up a new thyme plant for the side yard and sweet pea seeds to plant just ahead.  And then we all headed over to Lemonade for noisy talkative lunch together.  Thanks Lynn for organizing us all– it was a grand day out!

Here’s one of the things that came out of the cooking class.  The chef served it to us on toast as bruschetta, but here at home, we just poured it over pasta.  So quick and easy!!

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SIMPLE TOMATO COMPOTE ON PASTA
16 oz. of your favorite pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, cut fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 points cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
salt & freshly ground pepper

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Cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the box.

This is fast, so you can do most of it while the pasta is cooking!  Heat 2 tab. of the olive oil in a skillet.  Drop in the red onion and cook just until it is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Then add in the cut tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and cook it on medium for about 8 minutes until the tomatoes “wilt” and release their juices.

Finish it off in the skillet with the rest of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the rosemary and thyme.

Drain the pasta and spread it on a pretty platter.  Then scrape all the tomatoes, onion and oil onto the pasta.  Garnish with another sprig of rosemary if you have it on hand.  Enjoy!

And the flowers at Roger’s Gardens were a photo-takers paradise–  They just made yu want to go home and muck about in the garden.  Here’s a few:

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And we wound our way down to lunch at Lemonade, a new style cafeteria of little plates– every kind of veggie, grainy, fruity salad you can think of.  Plus sandwiches and hot dishes and several flavors of lemonade!

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Lunch at Lemonade– a few of the friends set to lunch away and  my fig topped flatbread & berry iced tea.

Chicken & Noodle Meatball Soup

IMG_3291Hello friends– I like this bowl of polka dot soup– rolly little meatballs, round slices of carrot and circular little pasta bits.  It’s just cute– as well as warming, savory and delicious.  Just a nice light meal to slip in to the middle of all your holiday eating…

CHICKEN & NOODLE MEATBALL SOUP
8 oz. ground chicken*
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese -plus more for garnish
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tab. olive oil
1 leek, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced**
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup ditalini (or other small pasta)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin into rounds
1 cup baby spinach, cut to shreds
green onion, chopped and grated parmesan for garnish

In a mixing bowl thoroughly combine the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, salt and pepper.  Form the mixture into tiny 1/2″ meatballs (makes about 30), rolling them with your hands.  And set them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop them into the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile as the meatballs are cooking.  heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Drop in the slices of leek and cook them about 3 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook a minute more.  Then pour in the chicken broth –plus 3 cups of water.  Bring it all to a boil.

When the both is boiling, add in the carrots and pasta and cook 7 or 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente.  Then drop in the meatballs and the spinach and cook 3 minutes more until the spinach is wilted.

Spoon it hot, hot into bowls and top with grated parmesan and sliced green onion.  And serve it up with a chunk of sturdy bread.

*This week at the market, ground turkey was on sale– so I made it with turkey instead of chicken.  Either would be just fine.
**The recipe I worked from asked from 2 cloves of garlic, but I used 4– because, well, I just love garlic!  You might like less.

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