Follow me for twelve delicious days in December. Tips to streamline your holiday cooking and celebration preparations. So excited to have you along for my Holiday Book Tour!
Macaroni and cheese might just be the best kind of comfort food. And who doesn’t adore comfort food?
This recipe brings back memories of my childhood and, quite possibly yours, as well. If time is a precious commodity, this could be your dish. It’s one of my favorite “from scratch” creations, with little prep time and few ingredients required.
Think about doubling this recipe to use as leftovers, or for prowling around the fridge late at night. I mix everything in my prepared baking dish, which makes for a quick clean up. Enjoy!
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 block (1 ½ pounds) sharp cheddar cheese, grated, divided. If you really love cheese, add ½ cup more (try a blend of equal parts grated mozzarella and sharp cheese for a new twist).
¼ cup bread crumbs (plain or Italian)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cook elbow macaroni in salted water according to directions on the box, then drain. Place hot macaroni in a buttered baking dish. Pour evaporated milk over pasta; fold in salt and pepper. Add two-thirds of desired cheese(s) into macaroni mixture. Blend well. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with a splash of paprika for color. Shake to spread bread crumbs evenly over macaroni. Bake 1 hour.
The formula is simple. One pot + one baking dish = simple comfort food. And one simple comfort food equals lots of smiles and full stomachs. What better fit for holiday food?
This recipe is so incredibly easy, even though your family and guests will think you were tethered to the kitchen for hours. Shrimp is a delightful addition to serve with pasta. Many kinds of pasta will work, but I recommend angel hair, or thin spaghetti. Barilla suggests each should be prepared al dente, and I agree. Typical cooking time for either pasta is six to seven minutes.
The magic ingredient for scampi is Dijon. You want just enough to enhance all the other ingredients, not too much to overwhelm.
Here’s a hint: Have everything on hand and ready to assemble. It comes together fast.
The ingredients you’ll need are:
½ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Juice of a ½ lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 pound shrimp, uncooked
2 Roma tomatoes, washed, diced
Here’s how you bring it all together:
Trim, rinse and pat-dry shrimp. Set aside. Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute’ over medium heat. Add lemon, mustard and parsley. Mix well. Add shrimp and cook until pink. Remove from heat. Add fresh tomatoes right before serving. Serve over cooked pasta.
And if your dinner guests compliment you on how much time this delicious pasta topping must have taken to create, there’s no rule that says you have to tell them how easy it was to fix!
Choices, Choices and More Choices
When it comes to pasta, you have plenty of options. Certainly more choices than my Italian Grandmother had. Gone are the days when a walk down the grocery store aisle would yield only a few choices. Now, the number is almost overwhelming.
Which is good for you and those you feed.
Your options can provide variety and creativity in your weekly or monthly meal planning. When you get acquainted with new pasta shapes you may be in for several surprises – surprised by the shapes, tastes and textures, and surprised by the pleasant reaction your creation produces. The surge in pasta possibilities has an added benefit: Many of them are healthier, including gluten-free options, veggie pastas, white fiber, and whole grain varieties.
Here are a few pasta choices to consider:
FARFALLE: Bow tie or butterflies
MOSTACCIOLI: Little mustaches
RADIATORE: Baby radiators
TORTELLINE: Little cakes and pies
ROTELLE: Wagon wheels
ORZO: Big rice
Include your children or grandchildren in the shopping experience because they’ll likely enjoy choosing among wagon wheels, little mustaches, baby radiators or bow ties. It’s a great way to help them learn that there’s much more to pasta than spaghetti.
And if a plate of “little mustaches” are served at mealtime, don’t be surprised if the kids ask for seconds!
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
This family recipe was given to me by a very dear friend, Elise Pessetto Poulson. This dish was prepared and sold on the streets of Italy, and is a classic favorite. It’s both delicious and very filling
1 pound of bacon, sliced into small pieces
3 – 4 green onions, washed, dried, chopped
2 – 3 eggs, beaten with a fork in separate bowl
1 cup fresh-grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 – 1 1/2 cups cream
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti or desired pasta
2 Tablespoons butter
pinch of kosher salt
In a large pot, start water boiling for pasta, and add a pinch of salt.
In separate frying pan, fry bacon until semi-cooked and then drain grease. Add chopped green onions to bacon and continue cooking until bacon and green onions are golden brown. Set aside. In the mixing bowl with beaten eggs, add half the Parmesan cheese, all of the cream, and pepper. Stir together and set aside.
Add pasta to boiling water. Cook and drain. Return hot pasta to pot, adding butter, and place back on burner (turned off or to very low). Add egg mixture and remaining Parmesan cheese to hot pasta and gently stir. At first sign of eggs cooking, add green onions and bacon — it is done!
Tip: Serve in warmed bowls.
This could also be called, “Learning from my mistakes,” because I’ve made my share of them in the kitchen. I’d like to help you avoid those mistakes by getting back to the basics.
- Use your biggest stock pot when preparing a full pound of pasta. You never want more cooked pasta than pan!
- Salt, not oil, is the preference. Shake a teaspoon or two into your boiling water. That slightly flavors the pasta and keeps it from sticking together.
- Rolling boil is the point where the water typically will not stop by stirring. This is the point you want your pasta in the cooking process. If pasta is in hot, not boiling, water it may start to break down. Our first-grade teachers were right: follow instructions and you rarely go wrong.
- If pasta will be used for a casserole, slightly undercook it. Cooking will complete itself either in your oven or skillet. Just make sure you have the right amount of liquid to accommodate the second cooking step.
- While your pasta is cooking, resist the urge to turn heat down then turn it back up. If an overspill is on the horizon, turn the heat down slightly.
- Pasta typically doubles in size at completion. That’s important to keep in mind.
- You’ll be surprised how quickly pasta can overcook. The result is mushy pasta, not a yummy taste nor appealing texture.
- “Al dente,” or to tooth, means you should feel a slight resistance when you bite or cut into pasta with a fork. Al dente is perfectly cooked pasta for most dishes.
Remember, you’ve got help! Barilla takes the guesswork out of pasta preparation and will give cooking guidance on every box, for every pasta product.
And if you make a mistake, it’s okay. Every one of us has. You’ll be part of the club!
What’s more Italian-American than spaghetti and meatballs? It’s high on the list of kids’ favorite foods. And when the pasta is close to perfect and the meatballs mouth-watering, you’ve got a dish that will bring smiles to the whole family. Even the pickiest eater in my family, our youngest son, always asked for seconds or thirds when spaghetti and meatballs were on the home menu. And if you have any left over, they make a great sandwich for lunch the following day.
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs, plain or Italian
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon dry parsley
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tablespoons olive oil (for frying)
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except olive oil.Form meatballs to desired size, keeping them all shaped about the same.Flatten slightly at the top.Pan fry in olive oil until browned and thoroughly cooked, medium heat.
Tip: Use a big frying pan with glass lid. Turn meatballs just a couple of times in the cooking process. The flattened top helps them cook evenly.
There aren’t many “can’t miss” meals in most families these days, but spaghetti and meatballs definitely qualify. Try this recipe out and you’ll once again realize why this meal always will be called a classic.
DAY 1 ~ The Festive Pasta Salad
The Festive Pasta Salad
Here’s an easy question for you: Are you committed to better health and saving precious time this holiday season?
Of course you are! So think about serving a pasta salad at your next gathering. It’s easy, fast, nutritious – and all the needed ingredients may already be in your pantry or refrigerator.
You decide which pasta, dressing or vinaigrette, and all the add-ins.
I recommend using Rotini pasta. These little spirals let the flavors nestle in. Here are a couple of tips that will help you to create the perfect pasta salad.
Tip 1: A 16-ounce box of Barilla Rotini requires about 2 cups or 16 ounces of your favorite dressing (a little more or a little less per your taste).
Tip 2: Marinate everything except the pasta. Here are some of my favorites to add to the marinade: sliced olives, drained and chopped jarred artichoke hearts, red and green bell pepper, celery, carrots, green onions and peas, to name a few. For meat, consider chopped or cooked chicken; ham cubes; or pepperoni. Cherry tomatoes cut in half, and capers, if you like them.
In a large bowl combine your washed and cut vegetables, cooked meats and dressing or vinaigrette. Then cover and chill in your refrigerator up to six hours.
Just before serving, add your marinated mixture to the cooled Rotini, cooked al dente, which means to slightly undercook. (The cooking process continues as the pasta leaves the boiling water, is drained and cooled. I do not recommend rinsing your pasta.) Al dente pasta should give a slight resistance when you bite into it or cut it with a fork. Plus, it’s a great excuse to sample!
At this point you may need to add a bit more dressing or vinaigrette. I recommend your pasta salad be well-coated but not swimming in it. Garnish with feta, grated or shredded cheese.
Pasta salad is a festive side dish, or a perfect main dish, and also makes a great companion to a hearty soup.
A chilled pasta salad on a cool December night might make for some warm holiday memories. Mangia!
We have a winner! Thank you for all the yummy recipes sent my way for our National Day of Pasta contest. We have a First place winner and an Honorable mention. Congratulations to Connie Garner, Idaho, USA for her Chicken and Crème recipe calling for farfalle/bowtie pasta. She will receive a copy of my cookbook. Also, a hearty congratulations to Andrea Osinchak of Tennessee, USA. Her family recipe: Andrea’s Slovak Huluski using handmade pasta squares sounds fun! She will receive an ebook of Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook. Thank you to Cedar Fort for sponsoring this contest.
Connie Garner’s winning, CHICKEN and CREME, recipe:
4 – 6 Chicken breast halves
2 cups whipping cream (unwhipped)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, crushed
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup shredded carrot
Salt, pepper, flour, oil, butter
Directions: Salt, flour and brown chicken breast halves in desired amounts of oil and butter. Place chicken in 9 x 13 baking dish. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté a few minutes. Top chicken with mushrooms and the carrots. Mix together whipping cream, garlic and 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper. Pour over chicken and vegetables. Bake @ 350 for 1 hour. Serve over cooked bow tie pasta.
National Day of Pasta is October 17th, 2013. Share your favorite original pasta recipe here by clicking on the Oodles of Noodles tab and scrolling to the bottom of the page. Click replies and enter your recipe( be thorough), then click: post comment.. Make sure to state your name and hometown. Submissions are accepted until midnight Oct 12th. Winner receives a Mormon Mama Italian cookbook, with recipe featured on this site. Must be 18 years and older to participate. You cannot be a profession chef, cookbook author or food editor. Recipes must be original or a family traditional favorite. Grazie!