Posts Tagged With: Pasta

Healthy Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese

Update on the surgery (in case you’re curious or missed the memo that this blog is going to get pretty boring for the next two months.  Everything went well on Monday and my foot is supposedly straightened but I can’t confirm that (I NEVER ever look at the surgery site until its completely healed, it really grosses me out).  I’m definitely in pain now that the block wore off, but trying to keep busy by blogging a few posts that I didn’t get to before the operation and working on photo books.  Hopefully these sentences make sense because vicodin and I don’t always play nice together.  Moving on…

This recipe was on the cover of one of my recent issues of Cooking Light that came in the mail.  Branden and I were really curious about this recipe, especially as lovers of homemade mac.  I was really unsure about subbing heavy cream and pounds of cheese with low fat milk and butternut squash.  How could this possibly be delicious (or at least taste like traditional mac and cheese)?  Seriously, Branden came home from work while I was throwing it in the oven and asked if I had high hopes for it…I admitted I still wasn’t sure.

To our suprise, this is actually good.  Like, really good.  For those of you with kids that hate veggies, try this out, they won’t ever suspect there’s a pound of squash hidden in there.  Cooking Light somehow found a way to take a traditionally 900 calorie meal and make it about 400 calories per serving (I think they were so successful because of the cheeses chosen – much stronger cheeses than in most mac and cheese dishes).  That in and of itself is enough to make me add this recipe to my collection.  Is it as good as its full-fat sibling?  Not quite (because let’s be honest, cream and lots of gooey cheese is hard to compete with), but it is pretty darn close.  Branden and I both really enjoyed this recipe and will be making it again for sure.

I did add a couple things to this recipe to make it a little more adult-ish…nutmeg, white pepper, and truffle oil.  These three flavors lended a earthy taste to the dish that I really liked.  Omit them for a more classic taste (and the original recipe).


  • 3 c. cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1-pound squash)
  • 1 1/4 c. fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 TBS truffle oil
  • 2 TBS fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 c. (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 c. (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 lb. uncooked cavatappi
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender (you can also totally use an immersion blender here if you have one – I did because I hate dirtying extra dishes). Add salt, pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, truffle oil, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

 Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Categories: American, Entrees, Pasta, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Baked Ziti & Summer Vegetables

Here’s a super easy weeknight dinner that takes advantage of summer vegetables and fresh ingredients.  This took me about 30 minutes total to make and tasted delicious…my two criteria for weeknight cooking (especially when I don’t get home until 7 p.m. and am STARVING).

Honestly this is really healthy, too as half of the bake is veggies.  Feeding a family?  May I suggest doubling the recipe because if you have any big eaters around, the four servings may not go very far.


  • 4 oz. uncooked ziti
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 c. chopped yellow squash
  • 1 c. chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan.  Add squash, zucchini, and onion; saute 5 minutes.  Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.
  4. Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and egg.  Stir into pasta mixture.  Spoon into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic backing dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.  Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

– Adapted from Cooking Light

Categories: Entrees, Recipes | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Penne with Beef & Arugula

I found this recipe several years ago and absolutely love it.  I don’t make it very often because its not really that healthy, but my oh my its delicious!  I think its the perfect summer time pasta– the fresh greens and balsamic vinegar just scream warm weather and dinner outside!  This is also a great pasta for a picnic or a pot luck because its just as delicious at room temperature (perhaps even better).


Penne with Beef & Arugula

  • 2 New York Strip Steaks, 8 oz. each (I’ve also substituted 1 1/2 pounds flank steak cooked to medium rare without disappointment)
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 c. plus 3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. Penne Pasta
  • 1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 TBS. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 c. chopped arugula
  1. Season steak with salt, pepper, herbs de Provence, and minced garlic.  In a skillet, heat 3 TBS olive oil over medium heat.  Cook the steaks for about 7 minutes per side.  Remove the meat to a cutting board and let rest while cooking pasta.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 c. of cooking water.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar , dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, basil, parsley, and 3/4 cup olive oil.  In a large bowl, toss the pasta with half the salad dressing and reserved pasta water.  Set aside.
  4. Slice the steaks thin and add the pasta with arugula.  Add more dressing and season with salt and pepper as needed.

~Courtesty of Giada DeLaurentis

Categories: Entrees, Italian, Recipes | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Kitchen Experiment: Caprese Pasta

I bet you’re ready for a break from restaurant reviews in San Francisco, especially since you’re most likely not actually there!  Have no fear, I have more reviews coming but I’m breaking them up with some other stuff as to not bore anyone.  And guess what…I’m going to Chicago for the weekend, so I’ll have some fun stuff to share from our foodie adventures there.  Branden is already staking out the best dives for hot dogs and deep dish pizza…I couldn’t care less about the hot dogs, but we’ll let him have his fun.

Above being said, here’s the skinny on today’s post.  If you couldn’t tell by now, I  love caprese salad.  Something about fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes together in harmony just makes me weak at the knees.  So after eating two different versions of caprese salad in the last week (since tomatoes are slowly coming into season), I decided I needed to mix is up a little bit.  The result: Caprese Pasta.  I totally made this recipe up, so I don’t have exact measurements.  It was most likely an anomaly that it turned out so good, but hey, we can always hope for the best in the future!

I purchased a pound of fresh 21-25 shrimp and placed on skewers for easy grilling.  I seasoned them with some sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, italian seasoning (salt free), and a little red pepper for a kick.  Branden grilled them to perfection to later be thrown in the pasta mixture.

For the pasta, I used 1 pound of penne pasta cooked al dente.  For the sauce, in a large saute pan, I heated about 2 TBS olive oil and sautéed one large clove of garlic for about a minute.  I then thew in 4 not-quite-ripe medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks and 1/2 cup white wine.  I seasoned the tomato mixture with a bit of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper and brought the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.  I reduced the mixture a tad before throwing on the cooked pasta.  I then stirred in a generous handful of fresh basil, juilienned, fresh mozzarella pearls, and the grilled shrimp.  The result was utter bliss in a bowl.  Branden and I ate way too much and he asked me to make it again in a few days when we returned from our trip.  Needless to say, I think I created a new hit.

Don’t like shrimp?  Branden and I agreed that this dish would be just as delicious with grilled chicken, which I imagine we’ll be trying in the near future!

Categories: Entrees, Italian, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Lighten Up: Pastitsio

I found this recipe while clicking around the Weight Watchers website looking for healthy recipes in which use some leftover red wine I had.  Branden loves Pastitsio and isn’t home this week, so I figured I’d give this “skinny” version a shot so if it was terrible, I didn’t have to listen to him whine about how “diet” food doesn’t have any flavor.  surprisingly, this recipe wasn’t too bad at all!

So what makes this version healthier?  First of all, the use of 93/7 ground beef helps out a bit in terms of fat compared to the traditional ground lamb.  The other obvious difference between this recipe and its full-fat counterpart is that fact that this recipe only uses 8 oz. of dry pasta instead of a whole pound.  Less pasta, less carbs (which usually translates to less happy in my mind, but there’s enough other stuff going on here that you don’t miss it…unless you’re starving).  Next, this recipe replaces whole milk with fat free evaporated milk and cuts out most of the butter traditionally used.  I know what you’re thinking, that’s the good stuff.  Honestly, I was pretty shocked myself, but this recipe works out pretty well.  While I obviously prefer the full-fat version, this is a pretty decent substitute that I don’t feel guilty eating.  I might actually make it again for Branden…

Before we go on to the recipe, I have a couple comments.  First of all, while this recipe isn’t overly difficult, it does take time.  I think total I spent about 1.5 hours preparing this meal.  Second, I made a couple changes based on preference and stubbornness:

  1. I used more wine then called for mostly because I wanted to get rid of the wine I had left (I didn’t want to have to find another recipe to use red wine in and I certainly wasn’t dumping it).  I probably ended up using closer to 3/4 c. of wine and honestly would probably do it again.
  2. I have to be in the right mood for whole wheat pasta, so I used enriched white pasta instead.  Branden and I really like Ronzoni’s Smart Pasta (in the purple box)- it has all the nutritional values of whole wheat pasta, but looks and tastes just like traditional white pasta.
  3. I added more salt and about 1/4 tsp. white pepper to the white sauce.  Without these additions, I thought it was going to be a bit bland.


  • 1 lb raw lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. canned tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c. red wine, dry
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 oz. uncooked whole-wheat pasta, such as penne
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c. fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 TBS butter or margarine
  • 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350º.  Coat a 9×12 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

To make meat sauce, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook beef and onion, stirring frequently, until meat is brown and onion is tender, about 10 minutes; drain off fat.  Stir in tomato sauce, wine, and cinnamon.  Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  Combine 1 beaten egg, 3/4 c. of evaporated milk and cooked pasta in a large bowl; toss to combine and set aside.

To make cream sauce, melt butter or margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Gradually add 1 1/2 c. of evaporated milk, cook, stirring until thickened and slightly bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.  Very gradually stir in 1 beaten egg and egg whites into hot milk mixture (be careful not to scramble the eggs); set aside.

Layer half of pasta mixture in prepared dish; spread with meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 c of cheese.  Top with remaining pasta mixture, pour cream sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking for about 15 minutes more or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let stand 15 minutes before slicing into 8 pieces.

Categories: Entrees, Greek, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at