Bob Recipe: Penne Pasta with Spinach & Tomatoes

baby spinach


from:  Reggano
Product:  Penne Rigate

Bob Recipe:  Penne Pasta with Spinach & Tomatoes

8 oz Penne Rigate
3 oz chopped Pancetta (Italian-style bacon)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, mined
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/3 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, saute pancetta in olive oil in large skillet until crisp.  Remove pancetta fro pan, leaving oil in pan, and set aside.  Add spinach and garlic to oil in pan, saute until spinach is wilted.  Add vinegar and continue cooking 2 minutes.   Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are softened and hot, abut 2-3 minutes.  Add well-drained cooked penne pasta and pancetta to pan and gently toss to combine pasta and vegetables.  Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese.  Makes 4 servings.

Note:  4 slices bacon may be substituted for pancetta

Sarah’s Holiday Tuna Casserole

This is not just a tuna casserole…the addition of broccoli and beets just elevate this casserole to a more festive meal offering.  You can add canned or frozen peas too.

Sarah’s Holiday Tuna Casserole

1 pkg egg noodles, boiled 7 minutes and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
3/4 to 1 cup whole milk or just fill empty soup can with milk
2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
1/4 bar softened cream cheese
2 cans tuna, packed in water, drained
1 can sliced beets, drained
1 pc green bell pepper, cut in chunks
1/2 lb broccoli, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese  for topping

In a large skillet, heat soups, milk, ranch dressing mix, fish sauce, condensed milk, cream cheese until cream cheese is melted.  Mix in tuna, veggies, and cooked noodles.  Cover with lid.  Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top and serve while hot.  Serves:     6  Great accompaniments:  garlic bread and salad

Book Review: Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals (plus recipes)

The book is simply titled Fresh & Easy, but it is packed with delicious recipes from Soups, Salads, Dips & Sauces, Sides, Brunch & Lunch, Main Dishes, Traditional, and, of course, Desserts in very nicely formatted layout, with uncomplicated directions and tempting…and yes, mouth-watering too…photography.    it is no secret that I only love cooking fast, easy and cheap recipes and this book has lots of them.  I hate to recommend you buying a cookbook that only a handful, less than 10 recipes, is worth trying out.  But my copy of author Leah Schapira’s book has full of bookmarks….

Roasted Garlic & Butternut Squash soup/    Chicken Fajitas Salad/     Chunky Hummus
Sweet Potato Fries/   Avocado Wontons/   Perfect Pizza, Pita and Grilled Flatbread
Teriyaki Sesame Chicken/       Asian Burger/     Beer Beef Stew
Challah Rolls/     Square (yes, indeed) Doughnuts/   Rainbow Cupcakes,
Everything but the Kitchen Sink cookies /     Cheese Buns/    and lots more.

I definitely recommend you check out a  copy of Leah Schapira’s Fresh & Easy cookbook if you love making simple and delicious meals to loved ones and strangers alike.   Available in your favorite bookstores or Amazon.  You may also visit Leah’s culinary website,

Recipes from FRESH & EASY KOSHER COOKING: Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals
By Leah Schapira/November 2011

3 tbsp butter  1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed    juice of one lemon
1 1/4 cups heavy cream   3 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated    1 1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 lb penne pasta, cooked according to package directions   salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over  medium heat.  Add the crushed garlic.  Saute for a few minutes, taking care not to burn it.  Add the lemon juice (add only 2 tablespoons of lemon juice if you don’t like it so lemony) and stir.  Add heavy cream.   Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Season with basil.  Add the pasta and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper.  If pasta is prepared in advance, reserve 3 tablespoons of sauce to add while reheating.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

HONEY-MUSTARD CHICKEN   Yield:  3-4 servings
1 1/2 lb chicken cutlets   1/8 tsp salt    1/8 tsp pepper    3-4 tbsp oil   2 large onions, diced
Vegetables (use any produce that’s in season or sitting in your vegetable drawer – or none at all!)
3 tbsp honey    3 tbsp soy sauce    3 tbsp mustard

Cut chicken cutlets into 2-inch strips.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 10-15 minutes (for that delicious caramelized goodness) or until golden brown.  Add chicken strips and cook for 5 minutes.  Add vegetables, if using.  Add honey, mustard, and soy sauce.  Cook for 10-15 minutes (stirring occasionally), or until sauce reduces.  Serve over orzo or rice.

From Trina Kaye’s Press Release:

A recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious, nor exclusive to certain kitchens. Such is the mantra of Leah Schapira, co-founder of the popular culinary website,, and author of the new book, Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals. Inspiring everyone from traditional kosher cooks to everyday working women and moms, Leah shows how to use simple, fresh ingredients to create time-sensitive, tasty meals for all to enjoy.

Leah extends her recipes to a wide audience of people who don’t have much time to cook. She includes useful tips, minimal ingredients, and easy-to-follow steps. Her seasonal menus encourage home cooks to take advantage of market-fresh, simple ingredients for even easier recipe planning.

Pad Chae: A Leap Day Experiment

Scheduling this food experimentation on this leap day…Happy Leap Day everyone and Happy Birthday to all member of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.  I took a chance on this recipe…sort of taking a leap of faith…am not sure, I don’t know, if combining pad thai and jap chae would work.   Here’s the recipe first….

Jap Chae yam noodles tossed with pad thai sauce…what a fabulous combination of a stir-fry meal, and  it works!

Pad thai sauce:
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup fish sauce (patis)
3 tablespoons tomato catsup
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate (available in Asian aisle)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

8 to 12 oz Korean Dangmyun (sweet potato starch) dried noodles
1 – 2 medium carrots, sliced julienned
2 – 3 cups shredded cabbage
handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (wood ears) or black fungus strips, about 1/4 cup, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 large eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 lb shrimps, peeled and deveined
1 – 2 cups fresh bean sprouts

Garnish:  fried garlic, sliced spring onions, lime wedges

Combine pad thai sauce ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook on medium-low heat until well combined and sugar is dissolved.  Taste and feel free to add more Sriracha or vinegar.  Set aside.

Cook Dangmyun noodles in boiling water until transparent, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to colander to drain, then rinse thoroughly under cold water.  Roughly cut with kitchen scissors.  Toss in 2 tablespoons of the pad thai sauce.  Blanch the sliced carrots and shredded cabbage in the boiling water and drain, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a wok or large skillet,heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and scramble beaten eggs (cut in small pieces with turner).   Remove cooked eggs from wok.  Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add chopped onion and minced garlic, saute until done.  Add prepared shrimps and cook until shrimps turn orange or pink.    Transfer shrimps to a plate and set aside.  Add bean sprouts and rehydrated mushroom strips and stir fry until heated through, then push to sides.  Pour pad thai sauce in center of wok and let it boil.  Add drained noodles and toss well to coat with sauce .  Mix in scrambled eggs and blanched vegetables and thoroughly combine all ingredients.   Transfer to serving plate and garnish with desired toppings.  And yes, serve hot!

My hubby liked it a lot, I loved it, it was better than eating pad thai noodles that got too soft and mushy (always happens when you make big batch of pad thai).   The taste — oh yum, I skipped on sesame oil flavors (from Jap Chae) and the coarsely chopped peanuts (from Pad Thai), so it would be more of a new dish.  Enjoy!

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Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese

Butternut Squash paired with cream cheese is creamy goodness…enjoy this wonderful macaroni and cheese variation this Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.   My sister-in-law Gayle makes the best butternut squash soup, so this one’s my way of thanking her for making me love butternut squash with cream cheese — she makes her yummy butternut squash soup every special occasion.

Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese
You know homemade mac n cheese always tastes better than boxed mac n cheese.  But you’d even enjoy this “nutty” mac n cheese that is creamy, rich and satisfying on a snowy day…Gotta make this!

1 – 2 lb Butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 chicken cubes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 box (8 oz) cream cheese, sliced in cubes
1 package (1 lb) small pasta (shells, elbow, ziti)
2 tablespoons panko
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 can vienna sausage, drained and chopped

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (cooked but still firm to the bite), strain and add oil, tossing well to coat.   Set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, place butternut squash, whole milk, chicken cubes, brown sugar and minced garlic.  Add enough water (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) to cover the butternut squash.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 25 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.    Puree with a handheld immersion (stick) blender.   Add salt, mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cream cheese.  Stir until cream cheese is melted.  Adjust seasoning.  Stir in hot cooked pasta.

Pour into lightly-sprayed or buttered 13 x 9 x 2 Pyrex baking dish.  Top with panko bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and chopped vienna sausage.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.  Uncover, and bake an additional 5 minutes.   Serve while hot!

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Pasta with Basil Walnut Pesto

I know you can use any herbs to make pesto, but I’m sticking to just basil, period.  Nothing can compare to the sweet-smelling basil when turned to paste along with other ingredients.  Here’s my “sweet” pesto recipe with pasta…that little bit of sweetness just reminds me Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  So this for sure is one sweet treat for your loved ones this coming special day….enjoy!

Pesto is a very simple Italian herb sauce and is good on almost anything…top on pizza, spread on toasted baguettes for a pesto bruschetta and toss on cooked pasta.   You can freeze pasta but you would want to briefly blanch first the basil leaves in a salted boiling water and really completely dry in paper towels to retain basil’s bright color and fresh taste.  Spoon into ice-cube trays and freeze.  One rule on pesto though, never heat it, just toss with hot pasta or top on sauteed vegetables.

Basil Walnut Pesto
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed and rinsed in cold water (pat dry if freezing pesto)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon maple-flavored pancake syrup
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a blender or food processor, break toasted walnuts into small bits.  Add the garlic and basil leaves. Pour in half of the olive oil to loosen mixture.  Add rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth and of paste consistency.

1 pound fettuccine (or any pasta), cooked al dente, drained and tossed with 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup ricotta cheese

Sauteed Chicken and Vegetables
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced   roasted chicken chunks
1 cup green peas
1/2 lemon squeezed (1 teaspoon of juice added to pesto)
salt and pepper

Saute to heat and put in a bowl with cooked pasta and ricotta cheese.

Add the pesto sauce and sauteed chicken and vegetables; toss and mix well (may add a bit of pasta cooking liquid).  Cut some tomatoes and add them to the pasta.  Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan cheese.

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Chorizo Fried Rice

Chorizo Fried Rice
Serves 4 as full meal     Serves 6 – 8 as side dish
Prep Time: 20 minutes   Cook Time: 15 minutes

1/2 lb Dos Mamacitas Chorizo Authentico
1/2 c chopped red or yellow onion, small dice
1/2 c chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 c finely chopped or shredded carrots
1 c thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 c thawed frozen peas
3 c cold cooked ginger/lemongrass-infused rice
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c Mirin
2 Tbs soy sauce

1.    Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Wipe hot pan with a small amount of oil.  Add 1/2 lb chorizo and break apart with a spatula and sauté until cooked almost through.
2.    Remove chorizo from pan but reserve oil in pan. (The rendered oil from the chorizo is very desirable, fragrant and infused with spices and flavor. This oil will be used to fry the rice.)
3.    Keep sauté pan hot and add the beaten eggs. Cook eggs until done, chop with spatula and remove from pan and set aside.
4.    Add chopped onion to pan and sauté until soft and translucent.
5.    Add carrots and scallions and sauté until tender.
6.    Add cabbage and sauté until wilted.
7.    Add chorizo back into pan and sauté with vegetables.
8.    Add 3 heaping cups of cold, previously cooked rice.
9.    Continue to sauté all ingredients together until rice is heated through and well incorporated into the vegetables.
10.    Add the thawed peas.
11.    Combine the Mirin and the soy sauce and then pour over rice.
12.    Keep sautéing rice until Mirin is evaporated.
13.    Serve and enjoy.

Ginger/Lemongrass-infused Rice    Makes 4 cups of cooked rice
PrepTime: 5 minutes   Cook Time: 20 minutes

2 c raw brown jasmine or basmati rice (white rice can be used if preferred)
1 tsp salt   3 c cold water
1 full stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and cut into 4 pieces (this should equal about 4 3-inch pieces of lemongrass)      4 slices fresh ginger, about 1-inch thick

1.    Place all ingredients in pot with tight-fitting lid.
2.    Put over high heat and once it comes to a boil, cover with lid and reduce heat to lowest temperature.
3.    Continue simmering while covered until water is evaporated and rice is tender.

Diane, I can have this fried rice anytime of the day….really!

Meatballs and Spaghetti in Red Tomato Sauce

Even grown-ups adore Spaghetti and Meatballs!   When it is this cold and chilly, expect your family (not necessarily just Italian families, we just embrace pasta so much, it is comfort food to the rescue) to scream “Spaghetti”.   Make this spaghetti for the grown-ups in your family, it’s got VODKA!

Refer to the images display on shaping meatballs.  I put on a plastic glove on my left hand and hold a spoon on my right hand.   Scoop some meatball mix, squeeze and force it out into your covered clenched left fist.  When desired size is obtained, cut it with spoon and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet.   I prefer baking the meatballs than pan-frying.   This way I have all the stove-top for making the red tomato sauce and boiling the pasta in salted water until al dente (meaning cooked but still firm to the bite, you just have to test and test, but be careful not to burn your tongue!).

I use sazon seasoning here for flavor (cilantro) and for color (achuete), it it inexpensive, all you need is a packet.    Give the sauce a medley of exploding spices and aromatics — garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, celery, carrots, fresh basil leaves, dried oregano, dried bay leaves, salt and pepper.  I love it sweeter, but then it is all up to your tastes.   Long simmer (to blend all flavors well) is the key to achieving an over-the-top spaghetti sauce.   And you just have to have grated parmesan cheese.

Now, let’s do it.  Here’s the recipe:

Do this in advance and store in fridge.  And when hubby says, “I’m home”, you say, “Dinner’s ready in minutes”.  Sweet indeed!

1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage
4 eggs
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a large bowl combine all meatball ingredients; mix well.  Form into meatballs and place in foil-lined large baking tray.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 packet Sazon cilantro/achuete seasoning
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (Glenn/Tito Joe preferred 1 teaspoon)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1/3 cup vodka
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sugar (or more)
1 can mushroom pieces, drained
1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente in salted boiling water, drained
Parmesan cheese for topping

In a large casserole pot, heat oil and sazon seasoning over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes; saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.   Add tomatoes, vodka,  basil, oregano, bay leaves and sugar; reduce heat to simmer until sauce thickens a bit.  Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning.  If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.  Use handheld immersion blender to puree the sauce.  Add mushroom pieces, meatballs and drained spaghetti noodles; toss.   Top with parmesan cheese.

“Zucchini and Meat” Summer Lasagna

Gotta fix me a summer lasagna…and enjoy layers of noodles, red and white sauce, and medley of cheeses.     But I must make it “summer-friendly”, meaning less preps involved, some parts semi-homemade and not too rich and heavy sauces.   So, not minding the steamy conditions outside and little sweats inside, I was determined to make my summer lasagna.  My strategy:  Saute the vegetables and ground beef filling, jazz up a jar of pasta or spaghetti sauce, whip up a creamy ricotta cheese filling and use Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles.   So here’s the recipe…

Feel free to add any other veggies in your fridge like bell peppers, mushroom, squash, etc.   The fillings will make enough for a)  “dinner tomorrow” 9 x 13 lasagna and b) “can’t wait, I want it now” 8 inch square pan.  Once stored overnight in the fridge, the “dinner tomorrow” lasagna can be easily cut into squares.

Vegetable and Meat Filling:

1/2 lb ground beef, browned and drained
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large zucchini, sliced (use mandoline, if available)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Saute, stirring constantly.  Add flour last, cooking it well.

Tomato Sauce:

1 (24 oz) jar pasta or spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup tomato catsup
freshly-squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
Whisk to combine well.

Ricotta Filling:

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups ricotta cheese (Use Calabro cheese so no need to strain to remove excess moisture)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
Beat all ingredients using electric mixer.

Grated mozzarella cheese (Use Calabro)
Topping:  1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Spray a) 13 x9 x 3 inch and b) 8 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.


1.  Spread thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of prepared pans.

2.  Top with single layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Spread with Ricotta filling, Vegetable and Meat Filling, grated mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.

3.  Repeat layer 2.

4.  Top with another single layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Spread with Ricotta filling, tomato sauce, grated mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with coarsely chopped walnuts.

Cover with foil, and bake for 55 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake an additional 5 minutes.    Let lasagna rest 20 minutes before “diving into” lasagna in small baking pan.

You’ll love this…it’s summer-rific!

My Baked 4-Layer Lasagna

TGIF, and there’s only one word in my mind…EASY…so I just baked my super-easy 4-layer lasagna.  And I can’t wait to enjoy 2 servings (at least, it’s friday yo’, it’s ok to indulge!).

My Baked 4-Layer Lasagna

1 jar store-bought pasta sauce
banana catsup

Ricotta Filling:
1 1/2 lb Calabro ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed well, steamed, strained and chopped
1 large egg, beaten with
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Additional ingredients:
12 pieces No-boil lasagna noodles
Sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and browned in skillet
4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese mix

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Pam-spray a 13 x 9 x 3 baking pan or pyrex.


1.  Spread a thin layer of banana catsup on bottom of baking pan.

2.  Layer 3 uncooked noodles, 1/3 of ricotta filling, 1/3 of browned sausage, 1 cup Mozzarella/Cheddar cheese and 1/4 of jarred pasta sauce plus few shakes of banana catsup.  (Repeat this layering 2 more times.)

3.  Layer 3 uncooked noodles, the remaining sauce plus few shakes of banana catsup and remaining 1 cup Mozzarella/Cheddar cheese.

Bake, covered with foil until bubbly, for an hour.  Uncover and let stand 10 minutes before cutting in serving portions (Serves 12).  May top with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.