Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant & Bread Crumbs)

Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant & Bread Crumbs)

This is a delicious eggplant and pasta dish. This recipe makes a big batch and freezes well.

Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant and Bread Crumbs)

2 medium Italian eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1 ” cubes (Japanese eggplants can also be used, you’ll need about 4) – you don’t have to peel them
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 pound rigatoni
2 cups of your favorite marinara or tomato pasta sauce
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
Parmesan cheese, grated

Toast the fresh bread crumbs in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In a clean skillet, heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil over medium-high.  Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes (sometimes I have to add a bit more olive oil to the pan if the eggplant is sticking to the bottom).  Season with salt to taste. Add marinara (or pasta sauce) to the eggplant and bring to temp. Lower temperature and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni according to package directions. When just tender, drain well. Add to the warm eggplant and tomato sauce mixture. Add the toasted bread crumbs and mozzarella and mix well. Serve with grated Parmesan.

This recipe is adapted from:  Italian Classics:  Fourteen Favorite Recipes from the Pages of Saveur Magazine (World Publications, 2003).

Minestrone Soup with Ravioletti

Minestrone Soup with Ravioletti

This is a riff on my Minestrone recipe. I bought some ravioletti (mini ravioli) on clearance at Aldi for 74¢ and thought it would be a nice, hearty substitution for pasta. I adore it. I have also made this soup using tortellini.


If you want a brothier soup, feel free to add some additional vegetable broth or water.

Minestrone Soup with Ravioletti

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
8 cups vegetable stock
1 can (15.5 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 – 3 tsp. dried basil
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes and their juices
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 package ravioletti (mini ravioli), your choice of filling
salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they start to soften 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook until tender, another 4 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic, sauté for a minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook yet another minute. Add veggie stock, kidney beans, basil, and diced tomatoes. Raise heat and bring the soup to a boil. Add the zucchini and ravioletti; return the soup to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until the zucchini and ravioletti are tender. Stir in the spinach and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and serve.

Zoodles with Peanut Sauce

I bought a spiralizer at a school fundraiser yard sale for $1 and now that it is summer and zucchini is pleniful, it’s a perfect time to use it to make zoodles (zucchini noodles).

I haven’t had much luck with growing zucchini in my garden. This year, I planted some zucchini in a bucket on my deck and so far have only gotten 2 zucchini from it. They were kind of funky-looking, but tasted great as zoodles.

I have worked on perfecting my Peanut Sauce for years and I think I have finally nailed it. This stuff is great on all kinds of noodles (rice noodles, spaghetti, zoodles, etc…) and as a sauce for grilled chicken (think Satay) and Summer Rolls.

The Peanut Sauce recipe includes a paste made from a clove of garlic. This is an excellent tutorial on how to make garlic paste with a knife. This is how I do it:

Zoodles with Peanut Sauce

Special tool needed:  spiralizer

1 tablespoon (or less) of mild-tasting oil (I used canola)
4 medium-sized zucchini, ends trimmed, spiralized
1 carrot, peeled and grated
prepared Peanut Sauce (recipe below)

fresh cilantro
crushed peanuts

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spiralized zucchini and shredded carrots and cook, tossing often with tongs, until tender (but not mushy). Turn off the heat and add the peanut sauce to the zoodles. Toss to coat. Serve topped with fresh cilantro and crushed peanuts. Can be eaten warm or cold.

Peanut Sauce

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced and made into a paste with the side of the knife’s blade (see tutorial video above)
1 – 2 teaspoons sriracha
juice of 1/2 lime
warm water (about 1/2 cup)

Combine the peanut butter, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic past, sriracha, and lime juice. Add water, a little at a time, until you reach a somewhat thick, but pourable consistency. You want it just so that it coasts the noodles but isn’t too thick or too thin. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.

Spaghetti with Summer Vegetables

Spaghetti with Summer Vegetables 2 (640x480)

I love this recipe. Not only is this dish beautiful to look at, it is delicious and healthy, as well. This dish is perfect for summer because it’s not too heavy and it is bursting with fresh flavors, but it is also good anytime of the year.  Frozen corn works perfectly well when fresh is not available.  If you are gluten free you can use the corn spaghetti (which I get at the health food store) instead of regular spaghetti. I like crumbled goat cheese over the top, but parmesan or feta is good also.

Spaghetti with Summer Vegetables (640x480)

Spaghetti with Summer Vegetables

8 ounces spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
2 tablespoons corn oil or butter
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 cups corn kernels, from 3 ears of corn
1 bell pepper, any color, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 ounces queso fresco, feta, goat cheese, or parmesan

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the scallions, corn, bell pepper, and chile. Saute over high heat for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, most of the cilantro, and a ladle of the pasta water. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little pepper and turn the heat to low. Drain the pasta, shaking off the excess water. Add it to the vegetables and toss well. Divide among pasta plates, crumble the cheese over the top, and add the remaining cilantro.

Cavatappi with Rapini

I bought a beautiful bunch of rapini (also known as broccoli rabe). I thought it would go really well with pasta for a quick meal suitable for my low iodine diet. I thought this dish turned out better than expected. It’s so simple and not too heavy. Once off LID, I would probably add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Cavatappi with Rapini

Cavatappi with Rapini

1 large bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe), washed, stem ends trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound (1/2 a box) cavatappi or other pasta (like penne, fusilli, rotini, etc…) (I used Ronzoni brand cavatappi)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 Roma tomato, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add about 1/2 a teaspoon of Kosher salt and the rapini. Cook until the rapini becomes bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

In a large pot, cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed red pepper flakes. Next, add the cooked and drained rapini, white wine, and chopped tomato. Bring to a boil and then add the drained pasta. Stir to combine and let cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Veggie Pasta Salad

This is an easy pasta salad that is open to interpretation. It is great for parties.  Play around with the pasta shapes and the types of veggies added.  If I don’t have Salad Supreme, I’ll add a few shakes of Mrs. Dash instead. My mother-in-law makes this pasta salad using spaghetti. It’s the best thing she makes.

Veggie Pasta Salad

1 16 oz. pkg. small shell (or fusilli or rotini) pasta – cooked, rinsed and drained
8 oz. Wishbone Italian dressing (or your favorite italian dressing)
4 T. McCormick’s Salad Supreme (this has cheese in it…so you could leave it out or use something else)
5 cups of assorted raw vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces
some veggies you can use:
cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
broccoli florets
carrots, peeled and sliced
grape tomatoes, halved
red onion , chopped
bell peppers (any color), chopped
black olives, sliced

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Anthony Bourdain’s Baked Macaroni

I have never made/baked macaroni this way. I usually make a bechemel type sauce, add shredded cheddar cheese to make a creamy cheese sauce to mix with cooked macaroni (I usually also toss in steamed broccoli or cauliflower too). I almost never bake my macaroni.  Anyway, I wanted to try this method.  I cut this recipe out of some magazine years ago and saved it because I enjoy Anthony Bourdain’s shows (A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations) and books.  The recipe was easy to put together, but I thought it turned out kinda greasy, dry, and lacking flavor.  I didn’t really care for the crunchiness of the mac either.  It just wasn’t what I am used to.  So, I will stick to my version of macaroni and cheese which always turns out creamy and excellent.

Anthony Bourdain’s Baked Macaroni

1 lb macaroni, such as elbow or penne
3/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
16 ounces (about 4 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 T. butter
1 quart (4 cups of whole milk

Cook pasta in boiling water 3 to 5 minutes less than package directs.  Drain well.

Meanwhile heat oven 400 degrees and grease a 13 X 9-inch baking dish.

Spread about 1/3 of the pasta in the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, some pepper, and 1/3 of the cheese.  Dot with 1/2 T. butter.  Repeat layers twice, dotting the top layer with 1 T. butter.  Don’t tamp down the pasta; it will make the dish too dense.  Pour milk over top.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how crisp you like the top.

Quick Spaghetti Sauce

This is another recipe I developed for my kids’ cooking class.  It’s a scaled down version of a sauce I have been making for years.  I just love this sauce.  The whole can of tomato paste really gives it a concentrated flavor, as if the sauce had been simmering for hours.  Sometimes I add anItalian herb blend from Penzey’s to the sauce.  This sauce freezes really well.

Quick Spaghetti Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions (about 1 small onion)
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (diced if you like a chunky sauce)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
pinch black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and the remaining ingredients.  Cook, stirring
occasionally, for about 5 more minutes, or until sauce is heated through.

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Feta Cheese

From March 6, 2006:  I made this quick and easy pasta dish for dinner tonight. I loved the sunflower seeds in it! I did things a little bit different than the recipe states. As soon as the spinach wilted a bit, I added the cooked penne and the feta cheese to the mixture and tossed it all together in the pan. I used the Barilla Penne Plus which is a great tasting multi-grain pasta, which contains more fiber and protein than regular pasta, and even has omega-3 fatty acids. The next time I make this recipe, I will use chopped fresh rosemary instead of the dried. Tonight, without thinking, I measured out the dried rosemary and dumped it into the pan without first picking out the woody stems and crushing it a bit in the palm of my hand. I want to thank PT, list mom of The Feral Vegetarian for sharing this recipe.

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Feta Cheese

1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sea salt ~ or to taste
1/2 bunch spinach, washed and chopped
1 pound penne pasta
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Saute seeds and garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add herbs and spices, and stir. Add spinach and tomatoes, cooking until the greens wilt down a bit, about 2 minutes. Serve over penne pasta, cooked al dente. Crumble feta cheese over top before serving.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta & Chickpea Soup)

From July 31, 2008:  We got back from our trip to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland today and wanted something quick and healthy for dinner.  I remembered this super simple soup from Rome.  Last year I was teaching  topical cooking classes at my school.  When we studied Rome, I taught the kids to make some modern dishes from that region of Italy.  The kids loved this soup!  The children apparently went home and raved about the soup because I had a couple of moms come ask me for the recipe.  It is quite good…simple and inexpensive. ..the Roman way!  Tonight, this soup paired with a tossed salad made the perfect homecoming meal.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta & Chickpea Soup)

4 cups vegetable broth
1 16 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (with juices)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, to taste
4 oz. short pasta (or break spaghetti into fourths)

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy soup pot and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender.