Yes, we know, we post a lot of pesto recipes, but we just can't help ourselves. When one member of the family rejects most vegetables but embraces this green, iron rich sauce, you do what you have to do. This pesto gets a change up with the addition of the sunflower seeds which surprisingly give the pesto a nuttier flavor. And, the lemon zest adds a citrus punch that pairs well with the herbal flavor of the spinach. You will be thrilled when everyone asks for thirds!
Spinach Pesto with Sunflower Seeds
Makes about 2 cups
1 package or bag of baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic
5-6 ounces of Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1-cup olive oil
½ tsp. of salt
Place garlic and sunflower seeds in food processor and pulse until combined. Add cheese and pulse until almost smooth, there will be some chunks. Add spinach and pulse 5 times, or so, until spinach begins to break down. Drizzle in olive oil while running and process until smooth. Add lemon zest and salt and pulse twice.
Serve with pasta or pizza or on toast!
We are a pesto loving family. Growing up, Mom never really made a classic tomato sauce as she hates the flavor of cooked tomatoes, so pesto was our go to pasta sauce. We have kept the tradition alive with the new generation, and the kids will all eat heaping servings of pesto whenever served. The irony is that the smallest child hates all vegetables (cucumbers and avocado aside), but will gleefully dive into this without even hesitating. Little does he know on most occasions he is eating kale or chard or spinach!!! This combo was conceived out of a need for a nut-free pesto the kids could take to their nut-free schools. The pepitas are a nice change from the usual pine nut or almond and still offer a fair amount of protein. Try it!
Baby Kale and Basil Pesto with Pepitas
Makes about 2 cups
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh Basil
2 cups baby Kale
½ cup raw Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ tsp. of salt
¾ cup Olive Oil (plus a little more to cover)
Place garlic and pepitas in food processor and pulse until combined. Add cheese and pulse. Then, add basil and kale. Pulse until it all resembles a thick paste. Add salt and stream in olive oil while processor is going. Let mixture blend until smooth.
*To store in refrigerator, place in container with a thin layer of olive oil on top.
Serve with pasta or smeared on a bagel.
We are very excited to share this spring recipe with you! We are doing an instagram collaboration with Annie Garcia of @whatannieseating, www.whatannieseating.com and a host of other wonderful chefs to celebrate the PEA! Spring has sprung and it is time to start coming out of hibernation. The colors are brightening, the food gets a little sweeter and a little lighter. This recipe is one of my mom's specialties. She is a brave cook who tosses caution to the wind and often embarks on bigger cooking projects than I do in the day to day. This homemade ravioli with sugar snap pea puree is a wonderful recipe that celebrates all we love about spring. The filling has just a hint of sweetness and the simple garlic sauce lets the peas shine. If you don't have time to make the ravioli, simply do the sauce with store bought, no harm no foul!
Sugar Snap Pea Puree Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce
5-dozen or so Ravioli
1 ½ cups of fresh sugar snap peas, shelled
¼ cup chives, minced
1/3 cup of vegetable broth
½ teaspoon of salt
3 oz. fresh mozzarella
For ravioli dough:
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons of milk
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 stick of butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup shelled peas
1/2 tsp salt
For dough, place flour, eggs and milk into stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix until dough forms. Remove from mixer and knead on counter until smooth. You can also do this in a food processor.
Let rest for half an hour.
For filling, steam peas until crisp tender, then puree in blender with vegetable broth and salt. Add mozzarella and briefly blend. Fold in Chives and set aside.
Divide dough into quarters and run through pasta machine. Start at 1, run through then fold into thirds. Rotate so seams face the machine then repeat 2 more times. Then, continue process until you reach 6 on the machine.
Lie out sheets of pasta and place 1 teaspoon of filling every inch, inch and a half. Dab egg yolk along edges and in between filling then cover with another sheet of pasta. Run over edges with your fingers and cut with a ravioli cutter or knife into a square. Place finished ravioli on a floured board. You can also use cookie cutters
In a sauté pan, place butter, and garlic. Slowly melt butter and when it is foamy, turn heat to low and add peas and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Bring water to a boil and drop in ravioli, don’t crowd the pot. When ravioli floats to the surface, they are done, about 2-3 minutes. Toss with sauce and serve immediately.
*for garnish, you can steam a few whole sugar snap peas and toss with pasta and sauce.
*Uncooked ravioli can be easily frozen. Place on a sheet tray and freeze individually, then once frozen combine into a Ziploc for future use.
*if making pasta is too time consuming, serve sauce with pre-made cheese ravioli
Be sure the check out these wonderful instagram accounts, blogs, and the hashtag, #easypeasyforspring to see what recipes they came up with to celebrate spring and the pea!
Here are their instragram names:
@Bondandtaylor, @Amandaskrip, @Thegirlfromthe3rdfloor, @Pricklyfresh , @Mindyscookingobsession, @Cocoaandsalt, @theGoodcooker, @Blackthornpublishing, @Days_of_food, @Marypardoux, @Smartinthekitchen, @Cooksandkid, @My.recipe.addiction, @Thewholeelchilada, @Gobblethecook,
@Weelicious , @Pamelasalzman, @Feedtheswimmers
@Gingeredwhisk, @Its_a_vegworld_afterall, @Blossomtostem,
@whatannieseating, @holajalapeno @somethingnewfordinner
And, here are their blogs:
We are always experimenting with different pastas that do not have a tomato base, as Mom hates cooked tomatoes. This pasta came together on a rainy night with what we had in the crisper. The little ones have been enthusiastic about eating Zucchini, so perhaps we over bought, hoping to strike while the new taste affection was hot. This was a way to use up the last lonely one! By using fresh pasta, the only thing that you are really waiting on is the zucchini to soften and brown, whereby making this a twenty minute supper. The combo of lemon, Parmesan, and garlic is classic and adding a hint of vinegar adds a layer of flavor to this quick cooking sauce. Enjoy!
*This pasta is great also with no pasta at all! Use a spiralizer or a mandoline to cut the Zucchini into noodles or ribbons. Use 3 large Zucchini if omitting the pasta. Follow recipe for sauce just omitting the Zucchini from the sauce. Blanch them in the boiling water until al dente and finish the same way.
Zucchini, Spinach, Garlic and Lemon Linguini
1 package fresh linguini
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 large zucchini, diced
½ tsp. salt plus ½ tsp. salt
½ pound baby Spinach, rinsed
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar or rice vinegar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Begin boiling water for linguini.
In a large sauté pan add butter and Olive oil on medium high heat. When butter begins to foam, add garlic and zucchini. Add first ½ tsp salt. When the veggies begin to brown add your pasta to the water to cook.
Add spinach, lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar along with the rest of the sale to the zucchini and stir until spinach wilts. Add two ladles of pasta water and stir until water thicken slightly.
When pasta is cooked, add to vegetables and mix, adding in the cheese. If you need a little more pasta water, add now.
Serve with extra cheese.
This gives everyone a little of what they want. The kids get their cheese and pasta fix, the adults get a little lighter version of a lasagna, and any gluten free eaters have a hearty main dish. When the kids were little this actually could pass as noodles, wink wink, but they have gotten more savvy over the years. Substituting the squash for the pasta lightens up the dish and also provides a nice sweetness.
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
3 spaghetti squashes, cut in half with the seeds removed
2-3 cups tomato sauce or Bolognese sauce depending on preference
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons more for tossing
Preheat oven to 400. Using 2 tablespoons olive oil, rub cut side of squash and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake until squash are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Let cool and then using a fork, scrape flesh from skin. When all the squash resembles noodles, toss with remaining olive oil and set aside.
Drop oven temperature to 350. In a small bowl mix ricotta, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In your casserole, place a few ladles of sauce, then scatter about half of the squash. On top of squash, spread most of the ricotta leaving a few tablespoons to drop on the top, and half of the remaining sauce. Scatter half of the mozzarella then the remaining squash. Add the remaining sauce, mozzarella, and scatter over the top the parmesan, basil, and the rest of the ricotta.
Place in oven and cook until cheese and sauce is bubbly, about 30 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely place tin foil over the top and continue cooking. When cooked, remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes one 11 x 13inch casserole
My mother has never been a fan of cooked tomatoes, so marinara was never our go to sauce. While she always made meatballs to satisfy my Dad, she was and is always looking for new ways to get what she likes on the table, even if it means making two kinds of pasta for a family supper. This mushroom pasta is easy and decadent. The rich, earthy, and creamy notes eat well with a glass of chilled white wine. (Maybe just what she needs after having to satisfy such diverse and demanding palates.)
Wild Mushroom Pasta
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Butter
½ Onion, diced
3 cups of assorted Mushrooms, cleaned with a paper towel and sliced (Chanterelles, Cremini, Oyster, White)
2 tsp Salt
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Oregano, minced
½ cup Heavy Cream or Half and Half
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ladle of pasta water
1 tablespoon flat leaf Parsley, minced
In a large sauté pan place the olive oil and the butter. Add the diced onions and sauté on medium high heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the salt. Saute on high heat, shaking the pan. When the mushroom release their water and begin to soften, add the garlic and oregano.
Add cream and on low heat, let reduce until the cream thickens a bit
Cook one package of pasta (Penne, Garganelli, Gemelli or Fettucini) and reserve one ladle of pasta water.
Toss the pasta, the mushrooms, the pasta water, and 3/4 of the Parmesan. Mix until the pasta is well coated then place in serving bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and the parsley.
In our family, we are always looking for ways to tweak the basic pasta sauces we always make. Everyone loves meat sauce, and this version gets a nice herby kick from the Italian sausage and dried herbs. If you are cooking for adults only, or your kids like a little bang in their bite, substitute the sweet Italian sausage with a spicy one.
Italian Sausage and Turkey Bolognese
1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage meat (uncooked)
1 pound ground Turkey meat (light or dark, your preference)
3 carrots, peeled
½ yellow onion
1 red pepper
3 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 cup red wine
1 small can tomato paste
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
¼ cup fresh basil, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 packages of your favorite pasta
In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then add your meats. Season the meats with 1 teaspoon of salt and the dried spices. Brown meats then remove into a bowl and set aside.
Place carrots, onion, red pepper, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until pureed. In the same pan you browned the meat, add the pureed vegetables, and if pan looks a bit dry add another tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee vegetables with remaining salt until their liquid begins to evaporate, then add the meat back into the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, then deglaze with wine. After 2 more minutes add your tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Stir on high heat until the mixture begins to bubble, add balsamic vinegar and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for at least and hour or up to two hours. Serve with your favorite pasta and a hearty helping of Parmesan cheese.
*This recipe makes two dinners for a family of 4 using one package of pasta per meal, if serving more people this will make one dinner.
Inspired by the bounty of peas in the garden, this simple pasta dish is a great thirty minute meal. You could easily use frozen peas, just follow the same recipe. The peas give the dish a slight sweetness which is a nice counterpoint to the cheese. The bread crumbs give the dish a toasty crunch. The kids gobbled it up!
Rigatoni with Fresh Peas and Parmesean
1 cup fresh, shelled peas
½ cup panko bread crumbs
2 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil plus 3 tablespoons
½ cup grated parmesean
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup basil leaves, torn
1 box rigatoni
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. When boiling, add peas and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove peas and chill in ice bath until ready. Add pasta and cook until al dente, reserving ½ cup pasta water.
In sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil. Add garlic and bread crumbs. Saute until light brown and toasty. Place in small bowl and set aside. In same pan add cream, and heat on medium until bubbling and beginning to reduce. Add peas and season with salt and pepper. Keep on low heat, stirring occasionally. You want the cream to thicken slightly. Add reserved pasta water and cheese.
Toss pasta with peas and cheese sauce and the bread crumbs. Add remaining Olive oil, basil, and lemon zest.
We have been making these meatballs for as long as we have been cooking. They are based on a Marcela Hazan recipe that has been tweaked over time. My mother prefers to cook them in a pan as the recipe below states, and I prefer to cook them in the oven as I'm usually chasing children around and not always up for babysitting the stove! Either way they turn our tender and tasty. We always make double and freeze half. Again, my mother freezes with sauce, and I freeze after baking before making sauce. A tip on freezing without sauce, place them on a sheet tray and freeze, then stack in a ziploc bag.
Meatballs and Tomatoes
A slice of good quality white bread
1/3 cup milk
1 pound ground beef, preferably chuck (can sub dark meat turkey)
1 tablespoon onion chopped very fine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground fresh
Panko bread crumbs
1 Cup fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped up, with their juices.
Put the milk and bread in a small saucepan, and turn on the heat to low. When the bread has soaked up all the milk, mash it to a pulp with a fork. Remove from heat and cool. Put into a bowl the chopped meat, onions, parsley, basil, egg, garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the grated parmesan, nutmeg, the bread and milk mush, salt, black pepper. Gently knead the mixture with your hands without squeezing it. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape it gently and without squeezing into balls about 1 ½ inch in diameter. You can use an ice cream scooper.
Place breadcrumbs on plate, enough to cover the plate. Roll the balls lightly in the breadcrumbs. Choose a sauté pant that can subsequently accommodate all the meatballs in a single layer. You may need to do in batches. Pour in enough vegetable oil to accommodate ¼ inch up the sides. Turn on heat to medium high, and when the oil is hot, slip in the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning them carefully so they won’t break.
Remove the pan from the heat, tip the pan slightly and with a spoon, remove as much of the fat as possible. Return the pan to the burner over medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, a pinch of salt, and turn the meatballs over once or twice to coat them well. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to cook steady simmer for about 20-25 minutes,. Taste, correct for salt and serve alone or with spaghetti.
Alternative cooking method: Preheat oven to 350 F- place meatballs on cookie sheet with lip after rolling breadcrumbs and bake until cooked through about 20-30 minutes. Then, add both meatballs and tomatoes to sauté pan and heat until sauce is bubbling.
The Littlest member of our family helped put this one together as a welcome home for a Dad coming home from a business trip. Kids love getting their hands dirty. Once you have everything organized its super easy for them to help layer. Whatever veggies you have in the fridge like zucchini or mushrooms can be sautéed simply then added as a layer.
3-4 cups of tomato sauce or Bolognese
1 package of no cook lasagna noodles
16 ounces whole milk ricotta
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup julienned fresh basil
1 ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup finely grated parmasean cheese
1 bunch of Russian kale or swiss chard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and then lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Set aside. Boil a small pot of water with 1 teaspoon salt. Rip kale or chard from stems and blanch in boiling water for one minute. Strain and pat dry, then roughly chop and set aside. In a small bowl add ricotta, egg, nutmeg, garlic powder, the rest of the salt, pepper and basil. Mix well and set aside.
In baking dish, ladle enough sauce to coat the bottom and cover with uncooked noodles. Spread about one third of the ricotta mixture on top of noodles, then sauce to cover lightly. Sprinkle ½ cup mozzarella then cover with another layer of noodles. Repeat with another third of the ricotta, then add the chopped kale or chard. Top with sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Repeat with noodles, ricotta, sauce and cheese until you run out of noodles, you should get about 3-4 layers. On top layer of noodle, pour on whatever sauce is left, make sure the lasagna is on the saucier side as you need the extra sauce to keep the noodles from drying out. Top with parmesean cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for about 40 minutes until noodles are soft and sauce is bubbling. Remove foil and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
To use for pizza, pasta, or lasagna
1 large brown onion
4 cloves garlic
6-8 medium carrots, peeled
3-4 stalks celery
1 large bulb of fennel
8-10 leaves of fresh basil, torn
2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, diced fine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 boxes diced tomatoes
2 box pureed tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
Warm olive oil in saute pan. In food processor, blend onions and garlic. Add to saute pan with oil and cook on medium heat. While onions are cooking, add carrots, celery and fennel to food processor and blend. Once onions are translucent, add other vegetable and continue sautéing. Sprinkle with salt. Add basil, oregano, fennel seeds, and thyme to vegetables. Once everything is tender, add capers, anchovy paste and pepper. Stir. Add in tomatoes and vinegar and simmer on medium low heat for about one hour. Adjust seasoning.
We make pesto at least once a week as all the littles eat it with gusto. As the note on the bottom says, any leafy green will do from kale to chard to arugula. Experiment with nuts and seeds. A great combo is kale with pumpkin seeds which is made often as the kids go to a nut free school and we always send them to school with leftovers!
Basil Pesto Pasta
3 cloves garlic
1-cup pine nuts
4 ounces Parmesan reggiano cheese
4 ounces basil leaves removed from stems
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Process all but olive oil in blender until a paste forms, stream in olive oil until blended. Pesto should be smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste
Toss with your favorite pasta and one ladle of pasta water.
Variations- Basil can be replaced by any leafy green vegetable like kale, Swiss chard or spinach. If using kale or chard, blanch leaves in boiling water for a minute first, then plunge into cold water. Squeeze excess water from leaves before adding. Nuts can also be replaced. Kale works well with almonds. If you need to make a nut-free variation, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) a good replacement.
We came up with this recipe during a fridge clean up and it wound up being a hit. The saltiness of the bacon with the sweetness of the roasted eggplant and onions creates an ideal balance. The blended eggplant gives the sauce creaminess without adding any cream. It is also an easy, quick weeknight meal as most work is done by the oven and very kid friendly. It would be good also used in lasagna.
Bacon and Eggplant Pasta
½ pound of bacon
3 medium eggplants, diced into half inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 box pureed tomatoes
1 bag/box of dried Fettuccine or Rigatoni pasta, cooked to al dente
½ cup olive oil
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay bacon on baking sheet and roast until bacon is cooked through and almost crispy. Toss eggplant, onions and herbs with olive oil and lay on baking sheet. Roast until cooked through and beginning to brown. Place bacon in food processor and blend until almost a paste. Remove and reserve. Next blend the roasted vegetables until smooth. Add both the bacon paste and the vegetable to a sauce pan and stir. Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat until bubbly. Adjust seasoning and toss with cooked pasta with one ladle of pasta water.
Top with fresh Parmesan cheese
A square meal is satisfying, nourishing, complete.
A round table includes all.