Category Archives: Pasta

Simple Marinara Sauce

When I’m in the mood for something quick and easy, pasta is one of my favorite ‘go to’ dishes. It doesn’t have to be complicated with a multi-ingredient Bolognese or with the precision of the perfect cream sauce. Sometimes it is best to follow the KISS principle: keep it simple stupid.

With the right pasta, by that I mean whole wheat pasta, you don’t need a bunch of ingredients to make the pasta palatable. All you need are just a few ingredients, along with a well-stocked spice rack and you’re ready to whip up a classic Italian dish without the fuss.

Back in the day before I quick smoking and made my health a priority, I was just like most people: convinced I just didn’t have the time to cook a proper meal and made do with the “sauce” in a jar. I use the term ‘sauce’ very loosely here because while I’m sure some tomatoes were harmed in the making of that product, it just doesn’t taste the same. At all. I find the stuff in a jar is very salty and acidic, and while I know that tomatoes have a certain degree of acidity to them, I can eat a tomato without getting heartburn…can’t say the same for Ragu or Prego or even the store brand.

mamas marinaraThis isn’t me being a food snob, but rather me giving my body what it needs. My body does not need heartburn, that’s for sure. Besides, if I want to pump crap into my body I’d still rather have a cigarette even after 9 years of being nicotine-free. With bad food your body has a negative reaction, and because of the lack of nutritional value you’ll still be hungry later…and that’s after consuming hundreds of calories worth of “food”.

Honestly I’d rather take an extra 20 minutes and make a proper meal that way my leftover calories & fat can go to something I’ll truly enjoy like a nice glass of wine or Irish Whiskey or even my famous (if in my own head) fudgy walnut brownies.

Maybe it’s my too logical (or illogical if you ask the hubs) way of thinking, but I’d rather put in a little effort so that I can have the things I love rather than suffer through something that is easier, but not as good.

Plus if you really think about it; do you really trust what a huge company says it puts into its sauce? I’m not anti-corporation—well, maybe a little—but I certainly am not going to believe any entity who’s main goal is to make a little bit more money by any means necessary. If you knew your doctor was getting a kickback from a pharmaceutical company, would you really believe you were getting the best medicine available or that he’s trying to secure a golf outing in St. Tropez?

Enough with my diatribe; let’s get back to this super simple marinara sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (in a jar NOT a can)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp. each; basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
  • Whole wheat pasta (enough for 2-4 people)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

simple marinara sauce

Once you have assembled your ingredients you’ll need a large pot for the pasta and a small sauce pot or pan for the sauce. Get the salted water boiling for the pasta and follow cooking instructions.

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat then add anchovies. Most of the time they come in oil so you can always use the oil from the anchovies. You can also skip this step if you want, but it adds an unmistakable earthiness to the sauce you will love.
  2. Once filets are nearly fully dissolved, stir in onions and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook onion about 5 minutes or until translucent and add garlic.
  4. After 2 minutes has elapsed, stir in tomatoes and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
  6. When the water begins to cook out of the tomatoes, add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
  7. Reduce heat to simmer until you have a thick marinara, continue to season to taste.
  8. Plate the pasta and serve marinara on top, or blend it all together and serve.
  9. Add Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano to the top if desired.

Since this is a pasta dish you might want to have wine with it, but I’m of the mind that you can have whatever you want to drink with your meal whether its water or milk, beer or tequila.

Guten apetit!

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Faux Spaghetti & Sauce

In my quest to learn about new things or just to try foods I’ve never eaten, I recently stumbled upon spaghetti squash. I’d heard of it but I really hadn’t seen it up close before. So last week I spotted it at the grocery store and targeted it as my next culinary feat. I went online and did my homework to see what it looked like on the inside (self-explanatory) and how to cook it. Satisfied with my research I had the perfect idea that was both simple and brilliant: spaghetti-less spaghetti!

spaghetti squash cuSince it looked so much light spaghetti and by all accounts has a pretty mild flavor I figured this was an easy way to introduce my taste buds to the natural wonder that is spaghetti squash.

Since it would take some time to cook the spaghetti I decided to skip time with a traditional protein and opted to use chickpeas in my sauce. Years ago when I tried hummus for the first time, I fell in love with chickpeas. Then I had falafels and that love was solidified. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have a really unique and earthy flavor. I love’em so much that sometimes I rinse and dry them, pop them in the oven with some spices and eat them like beer nuts!

So yeah, chickpeas served as our main protein for this meal and I have to say I was more than pleased with the results. Then, there was the entertainment value of serving it to my husband without telling him what it was other than “spaghetti”. His response was classic, “it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, what is it?” Turns out he loved it though so now I just have to find more ways to use it because when autumn comes in Germany it is a veritable feast of squash!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 15 oz. chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Poke holes into shell of squash and slather with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add onion and bell pepper.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until transparent.
  5. Add fennel seeds and garlic, cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in marinara sauce and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  7. Add chickpeas and reduce to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. When spaghetti squash is soft, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes or until it is cook to the touch.
  9. When read you will have to split the squash in half and use a fork to scrape the insides until you release the ‘spaghetti noodles’ from the body. As you scrape it out, place it in a large mixing bowl so you can season with salt, pepper and herbs as you see fit.
  10. You can mix it together with the sauce or serve it underneath as pictured.

faux spaghetti

Mushroom & Guinness Stroganoff

One of my favorite things to do for my husband is to take traditionally meat-based meals and turn them vegetarian for him. Of course it’s for me too, but if left to my own devices I’d probably chop up some filet and make old school beef stroganoff.

One day in the market I passed by some delicious looking egg noodles and immediately I was transported back to my granny and her tasty thick stroganoff gravy. I always enjoyed the gravy with mushrooms and onions, but honestly my granny (both of them) tend to make their beef a little well done, which sucks when you have to reach inside a gravy-filled mouth to pull out meat stuck between your teeth. Even thinking back to the last time I made it with meat, I think I made the meat too tough as well so I was pretty excited to try something new. Continue reading Mushroom & Guinness Stroganoff

Creamy Garlic & Mushroom Alfredo

So I’m back marooned on my island with Brad Pitt in tattered clothes, near nude, and we have exhausted our potato supply. What to do? Get the next best thing, of course, noodles!

Ok so I don’t love noodles as much as I love potatoes but man do I love a good noodle. Whether it’s a buckwheat soba, Asian ramen, whole wheat spaghetti or a simple egg noodle…I will eat it with gusto!

garlic and mushroom alfredo recipe

Despite this recipe today, I’m not one of those pasta lovers who can’t go without sauce. Sure I love Alfredo, Bolognese, ratatouille or plain old tomato sauce, but I love a nice lemon and olive oil as much. In fact I absolutely adore a nice scampi—with or without shrimp but ALWAYS with anchovies. YUM! Continue reading Creamy Garlic & Mushroom Alfredo

Chunky Tomato Shell-sagna

One of things I dislike about traditional lasagna is that all the ingredients sink to the middle when you cut into it, so generally I avoid it. I don’t mind the time it takes to chop and assemble all the ingredients, but I do mind not getting every ingredient in one bite.

So I decided to make lasagna…with a twist. I admit that I was going to brave another attempt until I got to the store and could only find the pre-cooked lasagna noodles. I don’t really care for those flat sheets, which is all they had, so the decision was made for me. But what I did find was whole wheat medium shells that were tri-color. Mmmmmm.

easy pasta recipes

Since I already had ALL the lasagna ingredients in my shopping cart I decided I would make Shell-sagna and keep my fingers crossed that it was slightly more than edible. Continue reading Chunky Tomato Shell-sagna

Roasted Trout & Garlicky Pasta (Or My Night In Italia)

I have recently re-discovered my love of whole fish after a traumatic experience in high school that involved me gutting my own recently caught Blue Northern. But my taste buds reminded me that whole fish is succulent and the flavors are so clean that even frozen fish tastes (almost) as good as the freshly caught variety.

Even though my hubs is a vegetarian and I have severely reduced my meat intake, I just can’t shake the fish. Maybe it’s because it’s so fresh and so delicious that I simply can’t resist but also because I need my brain food to pound away on a keyboard all day long.

homemade pasta sauce
Once you get over the eyeballs, you’ll LOVE the taste!

I’ve been experimenting with different types of seasonings—ginger, mint, limes & blood oranges, nutmeg, jalapenos, shallots and cocktail onions—and this time I thought I’d go with simple Mediterranean flavors. Continue reading Roasted Trout & Garlicky Pasta (Or My Night In Italia)