Posts tagged pasta

Treat Yourself (For Less!)

It’s okay to indulge everyone else in awhile, especially on Wednesdays when you’re feeling like the week may never end. Plus I’m going to justify this one with the fact that it can be made with under 5 main ingredients. Give and take, folks.

This recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis of the Food Network, and it. is. delicious. Cheesy with a hint of tomato, it’s comforting in the best way. It’s super easy too, so although you may have to go grab a few ingredients, the short cook time makes up for it.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb Fusilli pasta (For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, this type works best, but feel free to use penne if you’re not a fan)
  • 1 bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes (the small circular ones)
  • 1 cup grated asiago cheese (when I made this in China and couldn’t find asiago at the grocery store I opted for the Parmesan-Romano mix instead which worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or about a teaspoon of garlic power if that’s easier)
  • Salt and pepper (about half a teaspoon of each)


  1. Cook the pasta, which should take about 8-10 minutes, in which time you can start chopping:
  2. Roughly chop the fresh spinach and slice the cherry tomatoes in halves
  3. While the pasta is still cooking, heat a large pan (all the pasta and everything has to fit in it) with drizzled olive oil over medium heat
  4. Add the minced/chopped garlic and cook for about two minutes
  5. Add the spinach and tomatoes, and cook for another two minutes, or until the spinach wilts
  6. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the existing ingredients
  7. Add the cheeses and salt and pepper and stir it all together so it combines into a gooey sauce
  8. Serve while it’s still warm

Here’s a visual guide:

Begin cooking the pasta and while the water boils, chop the tomatoes

Heat a large pan/skillet over medium heat and while it's warming, chop the spinach

Add minced and chopped garlic to the pan and cook for two minutes

Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook for two more minutes

Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the other ingredients

Add the cheeses and salt and pepper and stir everything together thoroughly. Serve while warm.

The cheese definitely makes the dish heavier (but also tastier!), so if you want to cut back on the calories, skip the cheese and toss the pasta in olive oil. Don’t skip the garlic or tomatoes and spinach- they make the dish!

Here’s the Food Network’s pasta collection

Check out a couple of my pasta recipes

Try some quick and healthy pasta recipes from


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“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” -Federico Fellini

Pasta is without a doubt the most commonly cooked item in a college kitchen.  It’s easy, quick, cheap and tasty.  That being said, it can also be extremely boring; and that is precisely why God created cheese.  Funny how you can throw sauce and cheese over pasta and it magically transforms into a completely different dish.  My cheese of choice?  Definitely mozzarella (as if you faithful readers didn’t know that already).  Baked ziti is the perfect solution to turn that plain old box of pasta into a classic favorite.  Now I know it’s not the healthiest of meals, and it does take a good chunk of time for the pasta to bake.  But in my defense, it’s super easy and you only need a few cheap ingredients… so hey, two out of four objectives isn’t too bad every now and then right?  Trust me, the taste makes up for it.

You’ll need:

  • One box of pasta:we used penne, which is really similar to ziti.
  • About half a jar of your favorite sauce, or if you have a lot of spare time on your hands (yeah, right), make your own sauce. For a great sauce, try any Newman’s Own.  We used Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic.
  • Mozzarella cheese, about half a chunk, or half a bag if you go the shredded route
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Basil (fresh if you can make it to the store, but dried works great too)
  • Crushed red pepper, if you like it on the spicier side
  • A little bit of olive oil (not absolutely vital)


  1. – your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the pasta regularly, until it’s al dente (a little bit firmer). 
  3. Heat your sauce on medium heat while you cook the pasta.  Don’t let it burn!  If it starts bubbling, take it off the heat.
  4. While the pasta’s cooking, slice or shred the mozzarella.  We used thin slices throughout the dish and then topped it with shredded mozzarella (see picture).
  5. Once the pasta is done, drain it and drizzle a little bit of olive oil, then stir it carefully.
  6. In a square dish (or larger if you’re cooking for more people), add the pasta, then a thick layer of sauce, and half of the mozzarella cheese slices (see picture).
  7. Repeat step 5 on top of the first layer, so you have two identical layers.  Then sprinkle the basil, garlic powder and black pepper over everything.
  8. Stir it all together, making sure you reach the corners and the mozzarella and spices are distributed evenly throughout the dish.
  9. Next top it all off with shredded mozzarella (using a grater or cutting up the mozzarella thinly), spreading the cheese evenly over the top.
  10. Stick it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, and it should be golden brown on top with the cheese melted.

And there you have it: a boring old pasta dish turned gourmet.  And it wasn’t even difficult! Buon appetito!

Here’s the visual guide:

cook and drain the pasta:

Prepare the sauce:

In a dish, layer the pasta sauce and mozzarella:

Repeat this step, add the spices, then stir everything together:

Top the whole dish with shredded mozzarella and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees:

When you take it out, the cheese should be melted and the top should be a crispy golden brown:

Looking for some other new pasta dishes to try? Check out these great recipes:

The Food Network’s Pasta collection: 100 mouth-watering recipes

Pasta recipe galore from

The National Pasta Association’s family favorites: Hello, the name says it all

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Perfect pesto, perfect meal

Great news for the pesto lovers out there: it’s good for you!  According to, it’s good for digestion, the immune system, gout, muscle pains, rheumatism, and the respiratory system, plus basil has been proven to be a cancer preventative herb and aid with diabetes.  That being said, it’s also absolutely scrumptious on pasta, pizza, bread, or as a marinade.

Pesto is pretty easy to make, and once it’s done all you have to do it add it to your meal: paired with pasta and chicken is my favorite.  For those of you who are running from class to the library and only have time to boil some pasta and add pesto sauce, there are some great mixes out there that you just have add olive oil to, like Sweet Basil Pesto Mix by Simply Organic, or Tastefully Simple’s Dried Tomato and Garlic Pesto Mix.  You can look for these packaged dried mixed at your grocery store, usually in the pasta or sauce section.  

There are a ton of variations on pesto.  I find that using basil has the best flavor, but others use spinach or cilantro.  If you have the time to, try your hand at making your own pesto.  It’s healthier than buying it packaged, it’s so fresh and delicious, and REALLY easy to make.  Plus besides the fresh basil, and maybe a clove of garlic and pine nuts, you probably have everything else you’ll need.  Here’s the recipe I like to use:

You’ll need:

  • About 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil- probably about 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped up
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts (You can substitute walnuts or almonds here, or you can make it without any nuts if you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I like a little more pepper than salt)
  • A blender


  1. Place everything (seriously, everything listed above) in the blender and pulse a few times then process until the mixture if fairly smooth.
  2. Some people like pesto at room temperature or cold, but I prefer it a little warm, so I put it in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes and stir with a whisk before serving.

And that’s all, folks.  I told you it was a simple recipe!  Like I said, my roommates and I usually enjoy pesto with pasta and chicken.  But for the healthier option, use it as a sauce over grilled chicken breast and serve with vegeatbles or salad.  

The Food Network has a ton of uses for pesto and an extensive collection of recipes.  This one’s my favorite for a spicy twist:

The Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis kicks it up with this spicy pesto

Here are some other great pesto recipes to check out:

A ton of variations on pesto from

The classic pesto from

For a visual aid, and a trick about storing pesto, watch this short video from Good House Keeping:

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