Pasta with Kale, Sausage and Tomato

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted to my little blog, and much has happened to shake things up around here. First, the weather–how ridiculous has that been? I keep expecting a summer snow-nado to come barreling down my street followed by a plague of locusts. It could still happen. In the midst of crazy weather, Ellie and Tom have started softball season, which throws us all into a temporary crazy schedule. But the final, and bigger thing, is that Tom and I are training for a marathon this fall and registered for the Disney Goofy Challenge in January. Because, you know, nothing else is going on. So we need quick, easy dishes that are healthy, locally based and filling.

This dish is a very soul and tummy satisfying meal that we through together with ingredients we had on hand. You could substitute chard or spinach for the kale if you like, depending on what is in season. It freezes well, so it can be ready in a snap on those busy nights!

Pasta with Kale, Sausage and Tomato (6-8 servings)

  • 13 ounces dried tomato penne pasta (or your favorite pasta shape)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb. locally produced Italian sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Soak the tomatoes in hot water according to the directions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Bring a stock pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  3. While water is heating, warm the olive oil in a large skillet to medium.
  4. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until onions are soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring well so garlic does not brown.
  5. Remove the onion and garlic from the pan and reserve.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente.
  7. While pasta is cooking, add the sausage to the pan and cook until browned with no pink remaining.
  8. Add the kale, sun dried tomatoes, onion/garlic mixture and pesto, stirring well to coat everything with pesto.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  10. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss everything well. If pasta is dry, add some of the pasta liquid to the skillet.
  11. Serve topped with grated cheese.
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Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta

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Tom and I are starting our Jeff Galloway half-marathon training program next week and I am busy reading about foods that will help fuel us without weighing us down. I know pasta is considered a “no-no” in many circles, but whole grain pasta just can’t be beat for giving me long lasting carb energy.

This pasta recipe came about from a Pinterest pin by Lauren’s Latest. The original recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo sounded so good, I couldn’t wait to try it. Fortunately, our peppers here are going crazy this fall, so beautiful sweet red peppers are quite affordable at the farmers markets. I increased the amount of red bell pepper and added some fresh shrimp and some local, organic Shitake mushrooms, but otherwise I stuck pretty close to the original recipe.

The result was a light and delicious pasta that had a fresh taste, but also had the rich taste of the goat cheese. We used some basil-black pepper local goat cheese from the Hillsborough Cheese Company, and it was super with the red peppers.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta (makes four servings)

  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti pasta
  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup fat free half and half
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated asiago cheese
  • 6-8 fresh, Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  1. Heat a gas grill to high.
  2. While grill is heating, toss the whole bell peppers with the tablespoon of olive oil. Using tongs, put the peppers on the hot grill. Cover and let cook for about 8 minutes, turning peppers every 3-4 minutes. Peppers are done when the skin is charred all over.
  3. Put the hot peppers in a large bowl and cover the bowl with a lid or a plate. Let steam for about 15 minutes.
  4. Put a stock pot of water on to boil (for pasta).
  5. While peppers are cooling, heat the grapeseed oil in a deep skillet. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft.
  6. While onions are cooking, remove the charred skins, stems and seeds from the roasted peppers. Chop the peppers and add them to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring well.
  7. Add the cup of half and half, asiago and the goat cheese. Stir until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes or so.
  8. Pour the mixture into a blender or CAREFULLY use an immersion blender to puree the pepper/goat cheese mixture (NOTE: my pan was too shallow, making a splattery mess once I cranked up the immersion blender. I ended up pouring the mixture into a large, deep bowl, pureeing it, and returning it to the pan.)
  9. Cook the pasta according to directions.
  10. While pasta cooks, add the shrimp and mushrooms to the blended sauce, and cook until shrimp are pink and opaque–about 6 minutes.
  11. Drain the pasta and add pasta to the pan with the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta well.
  12. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh parsley or more cheese.

Aubergine and Lavender Pasta

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Lavender. In pasta. You heard me! This pasta features some fresh, local vegetables and a locally produced pasta sauce with lavender. Game on, fellow foodies.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Neal “Nello” McTighe, owner of Raleigh-based Nello’s Sauce (a post about Nello’s is coming up later this week!). You know, we don’t purchase much in the way of processed or prepared foods, but I was very interested in talking to the folks at Nello’s about starting a small, local business. And, I like food, right?

During a recent blogy interview, Neal introduced me to Nello’s newest creation, their Provencal Pomodoro Sauce. Yes, Provencal–as in Provence, France–home of lovely fields of lavender! The amazing ingredient in this particular sauce is organic lavender. Now, I’ve had lavender in pound cake and cookies and in Herbes de Provence, but it never occurred to me to use it in a tomato sauce. Nope. Not even once. Shame on me, right?

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Since we have loads and loads of fresh, ripe eggplant at our farmer’s markets right now, I decided to take this sauce out for a spin with a roasted eggplant, chicken and artichoke heart pasta, created on the fly using what I found at the market. I used some locally produced fresh mozzarella, which melted oh so deliciously into the sauce. This recipe is a keeper, for sure. It was definitely on the hearty end of the food spectrum, although it is very modest in calories and super low in fat. You could easily skip the chicken, increase the eggplant and Voila! Meatless Monday!

I should disclose that the sauce was given to me, although without expectation that I would blog about it. Although it was a gift, I would not blog about it if it weren’t exceptional–I have too many pieces to write as it is, so I’m not going to write about something that isn’t good. Ain’t no blogger got time for that.

A note about the sauce. If you have picky eaters and are worried about lavender in the pasta sauce, here is my suggestion–don’t tell them.The lavender in the sauce adds a lovely, floral flavor that doesn’t overwhelm you (you won’t feel like you are eating potpourri), and your family probably won’t be able to place the wonderful flavor. It is really a winning combination!

Nello’s Sauce is available at central NC Whole Foods stores or HERE. Neal is running a contest this week for recipes using his sauce–you can find information on the Nello’s website HERE.

Aubergine and Lavender Pasta (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (raw) cut into small cubes (about 1/2″)
  • 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
  • 3 smallish aubergine eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10-12 frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted (do not use marinaded artichoke hearts)
  • 1 jar Nello’s Provencal Pomodoro Sauce
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves
  • 10 ounces thin spaghetti noodles
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a stock pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  3. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the cubed, raw chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper and the Herbes de Provence. Toss well and add to one rimmed baking sheet. Put in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes.
  5. In another bowl, combine cubed eggplant and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and toss well to coat the eggplant. Add to the second baking sheet and roast eggplant for 30 minutes or until soft (I added the second baking sheet about 10 minutes after the chicken, so they finished at the same time).
  6. In a 12″ skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until they are soft and begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Don’t let them burn. Add the garlic and artichoke hearts and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the pasta sauce and reduce heat to medium low.
  7. Put the pasta in the boiling, salted pasta water and cook according to directions.
  8. While pasta is cooking, add the cooked chicken and eggplant to the sauce. Stir well. Cut up the basil leaves and add to the sauce.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thicken the sauce, if necessary.
  10. Add the drained, cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Turn the heat off, and use tongs to combine the pasta and sauce.
  11. Serve the hot pasta with chunks of fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, if you like (and I do!).
  12. Serve immediately.

Summer Ravioli with Corn and Tomatoes

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Even though it is still in the 90s outside, I needed a change of pace from all the cold salads we have been eating. We had some frozen pimento cheese ravioli from local pasta maker Melina’s Pasta, so I concocted a new recipe using that wonderful ravioli and some fresh corn, sweet onion, garlic and cherry tomatoes that came in our Produce Box. The result? We will definitely make this again! You can use any cheese stuffed ravioli, it doesn’t need to be pimento cheese (although that was pretty terrific). Definitely add the crispy prosciutto if you are not vegetarian–it really brings everything together.

Summer Ravioli with Corn and Tomatoes (serves 2)

8 large stuffed ravioli
2 slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large, sweet onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 fresh ears of corn (preferably organic)
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground, black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Being a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.
While water is coming to a boil, shuck the corn and use a sharp knife or a corn scraper to remove the corn from the Cobb. Set corn aside.
Wash cherry tomatoes and cut each tomato in half. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the prosciutto and cook until crispy and slightly browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and reserve.
Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook according to directions, about 7 minutes.
While ravioli is cooking, add the onion and garlic to the hot sauté pan and cook until soft, but not browned, about 2 minutes.
Add the corn and tomatoes to the pan and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Stir frequently and season to taste.
Add the cooked ravioli to the sauté pan, toss carefully to coat the pasta.
Plate the pasta and vegetables, topping with crumbled prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately.

Fettuccine with Faux-fredo Sauce

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Alfredo sauce is a lovely thing if you aren’t cautious about your fat intake. Heavy on the cream, butter and cheese, it is definitely not health food. So I was thrilled and surprised to see THIS post on cauliflower Alfredo sauce from Heather at Sugar Dish Me. Could it be true???

Well, I’m here to tell you, not only is it true, it’s truly delicious!

We made a delicious pasta with spinach fettuccine from Melina’s Pasta, organic mushrooms and leftover pork from a previous dinner. It was so good–no overt cauliflower flavor–just creamy loveliness that coated the pasta nicely. And unlike a true Alfredo sauce, this is just 30 calories per 1/2 cup serving. I took leftovers for lunch and it was just as good the next day. This sauce would be great in rice dishes as well.

HERE is the link to the original recipe from fellow blogger Pinch of Yum. You have to read her post about this sauce–it is funny and educational! We have nicknamed this sauce Faux-fredo sauce and it is going into the regular rotation!

We mixed this sauce with sautéed mushrooms, onions and leftover grilled pork and served it over some of our local spinach fettuccine from Melina’s Pasta. Great dinner and great leftovers for lunch!

Pasta with Ham and Spring Peas

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Have you enjoyed a fresh, garden pea? Isn’t it a marvel that they taste so completely different from the mushy, canned peas of our childhoods? I’m not even sure how they are the same vegetable. Fresh garden peas are one of the wonderful gifts of spring. Light, fresh and tasty, they pair so well with other foods like mint and ham and parsley. We received our first quart of fresh peas this week and had fun shucking them. I knew right away, I wanted to make this simple, Italian dish pairing smoked pork, spring onions and these peas!

We used locally made spinach fettucine from Melina’s Pasta, smoked pork from Mae Farm and spring onions and peas from our Produce Box! This was a quick and easy dinner that was also delicious! I did use a jar of Alfredo sauce (weak moment in Target), but you could easily make your own or just use olive oil.

Pasta with Ham and Spring Peas (serves 4-6)

12 oz. spinach fettuccine
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 spring onion
2 smoked pork chops or 2 cups of hormone free ham, cubed
1 cup fresh peas
1 jar Alfredo sauce
Parmesan cheese

Bring a stock pot of water to boil over high heat.
While waiting for the water to boil, heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
Dice onion and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
Stir well and add the ham. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir often.
Add salt to the boiling water. Add pasta.
Add peas and Alfredo sauce to the sauté pan. Stir well and heat through.
Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan, along with 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss well to coat the pasta.
Add pasta to serving bowls and top with grated cheese, if desired.

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