creamy roasted tomato basil pasta

I apologize for not posting for a while, but I have a legitimate excuse this time, so please hear me out.  See I have this medical condition…

It’s called spring fever.

Let me elaborate.  It’s something between a head cold and a rash.  Just like a head cold, I feel lazy as ever.  Book report? Heck no.  Clean my desk? Yeah right. Like a rash, I can’t stop itching.  Itching to go outside.

In the winter time, I have nothing better to do than make fifty blueberry muffins and photograph them from different angles.   Now that it’s 80-degrees, with sunbeams and clear skies, it’s been a real struggle to get my butt in the kitchen.  (Let alone whip out my DSLR).  It’s nothing personal, I swear, my history book feels neglected as well, my elliptical machine could use some love, and my hair could really use some deep conditioning.

Alas, all I want to do is slip on my shorts, run out the door with nothing but my house key, and go exploring.  That being said, at this time of year there’s nothing less appealing than slaving over the stove for hours preparing dinner.  I’ve officially kissed all of my roux, stews, and marinades good-bye until the October boredom sets in. 

Lately, I’ve been coming home late, opening the windows, turning on some breezy music, and whipping up some sinfully easy (and delicious dinners).  The goal is for me to be in and out of the kitchen before the sun sets.  There’s really nothing quite like flopping over in the sun after eating a gigantic bowl of cheesy pasta.

This pasta is on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Using roasted tomatoes adds an extra smoky touch (that just gets me even more psyched for BBQ season).  Cheese. Ease. A gentle summer breeze… Talk about instant gratification.  Who said a girl can’t have it all.

This is classic, good, old comfort food, that doesn’t require arugula.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup basil, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 ounces fusilli pasta (or any good pasta shape for holding this rich sauce)
Directions
  1. Bring large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, start the sauce.
  3. In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
  5. Add flour to onion mixture and stir to combine. Let cook another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Slowly add half and half and then the milk, stirring continuously.
  7. Add tomatoes then cook another 7-10, stirring often, to let sauce thicken.
  8. While the sauce cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions.
  9. With
    an immersion blender, puree sauce until your desired consistency. I
    left a few chunks, but wanted my sauce pretty smooth.
  10. Add basil and Parmesan and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to your liking
  11. If sauce is too thick, add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water to thin it out, if you feel that is needed.
  12. Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine.
  13. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Greens N’ Chocolate

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recipe showdown: baked mac and cheese

Most of the trees in my neighborhood have lost their leaves.  I have to wear a coat to school everyday.  I’ve swapped my iced chai teas with pumpkin spice lattes.
What does this all mean?  It’s time to whip out comfort food recipes!
Nothing hugs the soul on a chilly day like buttery, cheesy goodness.

I can’t think of anything more “comforting” than a bowl of buttery noodles, swaddled in gooey cheese and topped with toasty bread crumbs.
I have a bunch of comfort recipes up my sleeve (mainly because they all look oh-so enticing when they pop up on my Pinterest board).  However, mac-and-cheese is the ULTIMATE comfort food, so I had to get this recipe out to you before Thanksgiving rolls around!

I tried recipes from some of my favorite blogs: The Cooking Actress, Martha Stewart, Brown Eyed Baker, and A Cup of Jo.
The winner of this Showdown was the Cooking Actress’ Brown Butter Mac and Cheese. It won me over with that lovely, nutty aroma of brown butter.  I got nervous when my dad said that it was “interesting” (he is quite the traditionalist, and “interesting” isn’t always great); however, he said that it was diffrerent in a good way.  The only change that I made to the Cooking Actress’ recipe was I used Honey Wheat Ritz crackers as opposed to regular Ritz.  The Honey Wheat crackers added a nice sweetness to the dish, which complemented the sharp cheddar and parmesan.

If you’ve got a family full of kids (or adults), this will be much appreciated at your Thanksgiving table.  As always, feel free to challenge my recipe!
What is your favorite comfort food?
With love,
Erica

oh-so cheesy


Description
It bakes up thick, cheesy and bubbly with a Ritz cracker crust. Completely irresistible, I tell you.
A baked mac and cheese with a Panko bread crumb crust.  (I omitted the pancetta for consistency)
Famously comforting with real bread crumbs and a dash of nutmeg.
Traditional, baked macaroni and cheese with nutty brown butter and a Ritz cracker crust.
Tasters’ notes
Too much pepper!

Funny taste
Good
Crunchy
Too many bread crumbs
Enjoyable
More traditional
Love the nutmeg!
Cheesy crust
Less cheese
Interesting
Different
Brown butter = yum!
Love that you used honey wheat Ritz, it adds sweetness!
Rating (best = 1)
4
3
2
1
I'm ready for my close-up
Ingredients:
  • 12 oz. pasta (I used a combination of elbow macaroni and egg noodles)
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • heaping 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • heaping 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttery crackers, crushed (I used Honey Wheat Ritz)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain.
In a medium saucepan, melt 6 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Whisk constantly as it foams and then small brown flecks form. Immediately whisk in flour.
Add milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until smooth and thickened.
Whisk in cheeses until smooth and not clumpy.
Turn off heat. Pour cheese over cooked macaroni.
Prepare a large casserole/baking dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Pour macaroni and cheese in.
Stir 2 tbsp. butter with the crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the mac'n'cheese.
Bake on middle rack of your oven on broil for 5-8 minutes (watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn!).
From the Cooking Actress

erica’s lemon herb pasta

This recipe is so simple, yet so perfect in every way. All you need to prepare this heavenly dish is a box of pasta, some lemons, and a few handfuls of fresh herbs. The butter melts onto the noodles perfectly, and the lemon and fresh herbs give it that extra special zing. You can use any type of long pasta noodle to make this dish — I decided to make it extra lemon-y with Trader Joe’s lemon pepper infused pappardelle pasta, but any variety will do. It’s easy to make a meal out of this dish with a nice piece of grilled fish (I love the succulent combination of fish and citrus), or some sauteed mushrooms and onions to add a little bit of earthy meatiness. This pasta is a sure crowd-pleaser, perfect for kids and grown-ups alike. My dad even deemed this his favorite pasta dish ever. Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.
With love,
Erica

Trader Joe’s lemon pepper pappardelle makes this even more lemon-y!

Succulent lemons and fresh herbs on my cutting board.

Ingredients

  • 1 package pappardelle pasta (I used Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use Balade light butter)
  • ground sea salt 
  • ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Chop up the herbs.
  3. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss in the herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and butter. 
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.