Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

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Another summer day, another summer pasta salad… with pesto.

Yes, I know that this is another variation on pasta tossed with pesto on this website, but trust me – this is totally different! Promise.

What I like about this pasta salad is that it has wilted spinach in it. Pesto and spinach are a great flavor combo (trust me!), which makes this a yummy summer dinner option (and you get the added benefit of sneaking some good nutrition into your family!).

Grab yourself a tall-sided skillet and set it over medium heat.

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And sauté some shallots in olive oil. If you like some spice in your food, add in some crushed red pepper flakes.

When the shallots are all soft and translucent, dump in some washed baby spinach.

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I love baby spinach in pasta recipes because it wilts down fast and it doesn’t have as strong a flavor as regular spinach (in my opinion). And despite it being “baby” spinach, it’s still a great source of fiber, iron, folate, and vitamin A!

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Sauté the spinach until it just wilts (the hot pasta will completely wilt it). Set the pan aside until the pasta is finished cooking.

Another veggie that tastes great with pesto is peas! I put frozen sweet peas in a colander and pour the pasta over it – peas get defrosted ASAP and everything is ready to be tossed with the spinach.

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Dinner’s in one skillet! One pot meals, man… they’re a lifesaver!

Add in some pesto.

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This is store-bought pesto. It was good, but not as good (or as green) as freshly made pesto…

And I would have fresh pesto on hand if I had any fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant…

And I would have fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant if only a caterpillar wasn’t a stow-away on the planter and munched his way through 60% of the leaves…

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I am devastated.

So no fresh pesto until I figure out how to revive my poor plant (or hit up the farmer’s market this weekend).

Back to the pasta salad.

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I threw in some fresh mozzarella.

Mixed everything together and garnished with some basil leaves that have been cut into ribbons (or chiffonade) and some toasted pine nuts.

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Then we dug in!

Simple, delicious, and easy to whip up on a hot summer night.

 

What are your favorite summer pasta salad dishes (do you love pesto as much as I do)?

Your pesto pasta salad obsessed friend,

C

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized shallots, cut into thin half moons

8oz fresh baby spinach, washed well

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)

1½ cups frozen sweet peas

¼ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade

1lb fresh mozzarella, cubed

12oz dried pasta, ¾ of a 1lb box

2 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

6-8 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

 

Steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt heavily and add in pasta; cook according to the package directions.
  2. In a high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until they become soft and translucent, about 1-2 minutes; add in the red pepper flake (optional). Add spinach to the pan, tossing to coat in the olive oil and shallots – cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place peas in a colander. When pasta is cooked, pour the pasta into the colander with the peas. Shake colander to remove as much water from the pasta and peas as possible.
  4. Pour pasta and peas into the skillet with the spinach. Add in pesto and fresh mozzarella cheese – stir to combine. Sprinkle pine nuts and basil over the pasta for garnish.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

597 calories • 60gm carbohydrates • 6gm fiber • 33gm protein • 25gm fat • 10gm saturated fat • 713mg sodium • 42mg cholesterol • 4mg iron • 637mg calcium

Turkey Bolognese

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It’s E’s big birthday weekend, so I decided to take the train up and help celebrate with her work friends – they are a fun bunch and it was so nice to meet all of them in person! Yesterday, while E was at work, I decided to do a little studying for my RD exam (which I just scheduled… !!!).

It started out great – I had my study guide, blank note cards, my TWO different colored highlighters (because I’m fancy like that), and a boatload of motivation… until 5:00PM when I decided that my mind needed a break and that I really, really wanted to share this awesome turkey bolognese recipe with you.

Hooray for study breaks!

And hooray for easy, one-pot suppers that are on the table in no time and can feed a crowd.

It all starts with two medium-sized onions and five cloves of garlic.

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I believe that all good tomato-based sauce recipes should have a lot of garlic (and this amount isn’t too much), but if you are sensitive to garlic, you can definitely tone it down.

When the onions are soft and translucent, add in one pound of lean ground turkey.

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Break it up with a spoon and allow it to completely brown – be patient… this can take 5-10 minutes! Note: this is a great base for many dishes… if you want, you can let this mixture cool and then freeze it. Then you have endless possibilities for dinner waiting in the freezer (like this awesome chili!).

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Add some crushed red pepper!

And then the big secret ingredient…

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Good jarred marinara sauce! (yes, I’m cheating!)

I doctored up the sauce with some additional salt, pepper, and dried oregano.

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Let the sauce simmer as you prepare your favorite pasta! I decided to use whole wheat spaghetti, but any shape works here.

When the pasta is cooked, taste the sauce a final time and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

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And add in a bunch of freshly chopped basil – if you add it too soon, the basil becomes brown and limp… no one likes brown, limp basil.

Serve the sauce over the pasta and garnish with some grated cheese and more basil.

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Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pasta obsessed, study break needin’ friend,

C

Turkey Bolognese

  • Servings: 5 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1 pound lean ground turkey

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

¾ of a jar of good marinara sauce – if you like your bolognese with more liquid, add the whole jar!

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 pound dried pasta, prepared according to package instructions

Grated cheese and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

 

Steps:

1. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent.

2. Add ground turkey to skillet, breaking the meat apart with a spoon. Cook the turkey until browned and cooked through, approximately 5-10 minutes.

3. When the turkey is cooked, sprinkle over the crushed red pepper flakes. Pour in the sauce and add the salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Stir thoroughly to combine. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until the pasta is ready.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add salt and one pound dried pasta – cook according to the package instructions. When the pasta is al dente, drain pasta and set aside until sauce is finished.

5. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or hot pepper flake. Add in chopped basil and stir to combine.

To serve, you two options:

Option 1: Dish out pasta into bowls and ladle sauce on top. Garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Option 2: Add pasta into the skillet with the sauce and toss to combine. Dish out the pasta and garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

577 calories • 77gm carbohydrates • 7gm fiber • 30gm protein • 16gm fat • 4gm saturated fat • 933mg sodium • 67mg cholesterol • 5mg iron • 90mg calcium

Italian Sausage Meatballs, Peppers, and Onions

My introduction to Italian sausage, peppers, and onions was at the San Gennaro street festival in New York City during a high school field trip. Each stall claimed to have the best sausage, the freshest peppers, and the sweetest onion all piled onto huge barges of bakery bread. I was in food heaven.

These days, my mom makes a more sedate version of this famed sandwich as a pasta dish. It is a delicious one pot dinner and is perfect on a night that you don’t want to spend to long making dinner and want something impressive.

It all starts with good Italian sausage – you can use either hot or sweet Italian sausage. I personally use sweet sausage and then add heat to the sauce, but you can do whatever makes your heart sing!

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To make meatballs out of the sausage, cut the sausage down the middle, remove the casing, and cut them into 2-3-inch pieces.

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Then roll each piece into a meatball.

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Throw the meatballs into a deep-sided skillet with a tiny bit of canola oil.

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Stir the meatballs around so that they all get brown.

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When they are browned (CAUTION – they aren’t cooked through!), pull them out of the skillet and place them to drain on paper towelling. Then drain off the grease and put the skillet back on the heat with a little bit of olive oil.

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Then slice up some red bell pepper and onion.

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And throw them into the skillet.

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Add some salt, pepper, oregano, and hot pepper flake and cook them until they soft and golden.

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When the veggies are all cooked, the meatballs get placed into the skillet too.

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And then pour into some wine. Stop and savor the amazing smells coming from your kitchen (and maybe pour yourself a glass of wine while you’re at it?).

 

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This simple wine broth is a good sauce for this dish, but I like to crack open a jar of marinara sauce and add it to the skillet. The tomato sauce is reminiscent of the traditional sausage, pepper and onion sandwich.

 

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Toss in the pasta (and a little mozzarella cheese if you desire… which I did) and stir… and take a steamy, blurry picture that you have no shame putting on your food blog.

 

Then serve to your family and friends!

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Oh goodness.

It is a less messy version of the traditional sandwich, but just as delicious!

 

Enjoy, everyone!

C

Italian Sausage Meatballs, Peppers, and Onions

  • Servings: 6-8 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 teaspoon of canola oil

8 Italian sausages, hot or sweet

2 teaspoons of olive oil

3 medium-large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

1 large onion, cut into thin strips

3 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flake

½ cup of dry white wine

½ a regular jar of good marinara sauce

1 pound of pasta, cooked to the package directions.

 

Steps:

  1. Heat a high-sided skillet over medium heat with the canola oil. Split the casings of the Italian sausage and remove completely. Cut the sausages into 2-3-inch pieces and roll each piece into a meatball.
  2. Brown the meatballs in the skillet, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the browned meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and drain off the excess grease from the skillet. Return skillet to the heat.
  3. Add the olive oil to the skillet, along with the peppers and onion. Cook the vegetables until the begin to soften and turn golden brown. Add the meatballs, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flake, and cook until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Pour in the wine and cook until the wine reduces slightly. Add in the marinara sauce, stir to combine, and reduce the heat to simmer. Place a lid on the skillet and let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 20 minutes to ensure the sausage meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Serve the meatballs and sauce over pasta, sprinkled with cheese if your heart desires.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

When I was little, like 5 years old, my grandmother sent me a kid’s cookbook. How I loved that thing. The perfect introduction to the world of food and cooking! It was full of kid-friendly recipes, from French toast to egg salad sandwiches to the most amazing spaghetti with meat sauce.

Or as the cookbook called it, Ready Spaghetti. But we called it Wonderful Dinner Option That Is (And Will Be) A Total Family Favorite For Ever And Ever. But Ready Spaghetti works too.

While we still have the cookbook, the only recipe we still use from it (no surprise there!) is Ready Spaghetti… with a little customization.

 

It all starts with some olive oil on the bottom of a high-sided skillet.

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I test the heat of the oil with a piece of bell pepper.

When the oil is hot, toss in some onion and bell pepper.

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And then some garlic.

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Sauté the peppers, onions, and garlic until they are soft and fragrant.

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Then add the ground beef.

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I use 85-15 (85% lean, 15% lean) ground beef in this recipe. I know it’s a little extra fat, but it does add a good flavor to the sauce (and I deal with the extra fat in a bit).

Break up the beef and cook through (no pink, please!).

When the beef is cooked through, drain in a colander.

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So some of that extra fat gets drained off (and your sauce doesn’t get greasy).

Dump the beef-veggie mixture back into the pan…

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Now, here is the hardest part of this recipe.

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Open a jar of your favorite marinara sauce and pour it in.

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Stir to combine and add a little water or chicken broth if it doesn’t seem like there is enough moisture in the pan.

Then add some salt and pepper.

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Some dried oregano.

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And some hot pepper flake (optional!).

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Simmer for 40 minutes and then add in one pound of cooked spaghetti. Toss to combine and dish out to your family and friends.

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The perfect meal for a cool, stormy summer night!

 

Enjoy!

C

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow), diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 lb of ground beef, 85-15

1 jar of good marinara sauce

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon of oregano

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)

1 lb box of spaghetti noodles, cooked to the package instructions

 

Steps:

1. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.

2. Add onion, pepper, and garlic into the skillet and cook until soft and fragrant.

3. Add ground beef to the pan with the onions and peppers and brown thoroughly. Drain beef mixture in a colander to remove excess fat.

4. Pour the beef mixture back into the pan set over medium heat and add the jar of marinara sauce. Stir to combine. Add in water or broth if the mixture looks too thick and/or dry.

5. Add in salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flake.

6. Simmer sauce for 40 minutes.

7. Serve by either spooning over the spaghetti or adding spaghetti directly to the sauce and tossing it together.

 

Caprese Pasta

The idea for this dish popped into my head when I was driving back from the gym with E. All I wanted to eat at that moment was pasta, so I could replenish my carbohydrate stores in my muscles (and soothe my soul).

 

Hmmm… pasta.

Pasta with pesto.

Yeah, pasta with pesto. I really like pesto. But what goes well with pesto?

Tomatoes. And fresh mozzarella cheese!

That’s it!! Caprese Pasta!

 

I described my thoughts to my sister, who decided that grilled chicken would be the best accompaniment to this pasta creation (we needed a protein for this meal). She also decided that sautéed tomatoes would be better than the traditional raw ones, for they would be nice and sweet after they were heated through.

So we got cooking.

Caprese sandwiches are a staple in Italy (and here in America too!), for they highlight three quintessential Italian ingredients:

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Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil.

 

The basil portion is represented by basil pesto. 

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I love this stuff. I put it on pasta, sandwiches, vegetables, potatoes, etc. I’m obsessed. For this recipe, I used my homemade pesto recipe but the jarred stuff is good too (I won’t tell!).

 

Next comes the tomatoes… Caprese sandwiches usually use fresh, raw tomato, but we decided that pasta is best served with impossibly cute grape tomatoes.

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How beautiful are they?

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E placed them in a sauté pan with some olive oil and kosher salt and let them cook until the skins got browned and started to split.

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Yum! 

 

Finally, holding true to the real caprese sandwich, we used fresh mozzarella. 

We had a huge ball of the stuff that E cubed, but I also think some of the little bocconcini (little fresh mozzarella balls) would be good too.

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E placed that fresh mozzarella on the bottom of the serving bowl and we assembled the pasta. 

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Pasta was dumped on top of the mozzarella, with the tomatoes poured on top.

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It’s starting to look delicious!

Then we added some pesto to the bowl.

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It’s starting to look like Caprese Pasta!

E stirred it all together…

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Love the color of the pesto.

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We served it alongside some awesome Greek Grilled Chicken, which completed this perfect summer meal.

 

Happy eating, everyone!

C

 

Caprese Pasta

  • Servings: 4 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

¾ lb of fettuccine pasta (¾ of a box)

1 pint of grape tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese

¼ cup basil pesto

 

Steps:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, heavily salt it, and cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain thoroughly.

2. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in tomatoes and kosher salt. Cook until tomato skins start to brown and split (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat.

3. Cube mozzarella cheese and place into serving bowl.

4. Add hot pasta to the serving bowl holding the mozzarella cheese. Toss in tomatoes and add in the pesto. Toss the pasta.

5. Serve immediately, by itself or on the side of grilled meat or fish.