Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce, Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad

by Jennifer

This dinner was yummy, even though the yellow plate doesn’t do it justice eye appeal-wise.  Get the salad started first as it can sit for a bit (and gets better with the sitting).  For parents of young kids, two of my three (the third is pretty selective, but he did eat some) had huge helpings of the pasta and loved it.  Serves 4 adults.

Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce

  • 1 lb orecchiette
  • 3/4 cup fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs – I used about half chives, and half a mix of oregano, sage and thyme
  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil;  cook pasta until al dente according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.

In a large bowl combine ricotta through black pepper.

Stir in pasta and reserved cooking water, mixing well, then serve hot.

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad – from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4”-thick slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into four pieces each
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill for medium to medium-high cooking.  Toss zucchini and peppers with 2 TBS oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill vegetables 3 – 4 minutes per side, until just tender and grill marks appear.  Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Peel peppers and cut into 1” pieces;  slice zucchini into 1” pieces as well.

In a medium bowl whisk together remaining 2 TBS oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add vegetables and basil, mixing well to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Pasta with Garlic, Herbs and Fresh Mozzarella; Braised Bell Peppers

by Jennifer

This dinner was terrific and fairly easy to put together.   Get the peppers started and then go to work on the pasta.  Serves 4.

Pasta with Garlic, Herbs and Fresh Mozzarella – adapted from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 lb. dried twisty pasta, such as gemelli or fusilli
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2.5 oz. package basil, chopped
  • 1 packed cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Maldon sea salt
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup packed small arugula leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente;  before draining reserve 1/4 cup cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the garlic through sea salt in a large serving bowl.

Just before the pasta is finished, add the vinegar and arugula to the bowl and toss well.

Add the hot pasta and 1/4 cup cooking water and toss well.

Braised Bell Peppers – adapted from Eating Well magazine

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large red peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 large yellow peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 large onion, sliced vertically
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh basil
  • 1 TBS red wine vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil on a large skillet over medium heat.

Add peppers through salt and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

Stir in water and tomato paste,

bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Stir in basil, vinegar and pepper, and serve.

Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Herbs

by Jennifer

This was a very child-friendly (or cauliflower-wary) dish;  my kids cleaned their plates.

Serves 4 adults.

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb. whole wheat penne
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

On a large rimmed baking sheet toss together the cauliflower and 2 TBS oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Add the garlic, stir, and bake for another 5 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain, give a quick shake, then pour pasta back into the pot.

Stir in the remaining TBS of oil, the herbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and lemon juice, then stir in the cauliflower and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan for sprinkling on top.

Olive and Red Onion Bread

Olive and Red Onion Bread

by Jennifer

This is an adaptation of a recipe which came from a now long-forgotten cookbook, and is open to interpretation.  Having made this once kneading by hand, and kneading with a standing mixer, the by-hand version is prettier (the mixer really mixed the color of the olives throughout the dough) but both are quite tasty.

  •  2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups oil cured olives, chopped
  • 7 cups bread flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for kneading
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tsp yeast
  • 3 TBS fresh herbs, alone or in combination, such as parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.
  • 2 cups warm water

Saute the onions in the oil over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.

Add the onions, olives and herbs, stirring to combine.

Add the warm water and stir well (by hand or with the paddle attachment on a standing mixer) until combined.  Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.

Place dough in an large oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot (like your oven; preheat just for a minute, and keep the door closed while it’s rising) until doubled, about an hour.

(At this point, if you’d like to make this ahead of time, refrigerate the dough overnight.  The next day, allow extra rising time for the dough to come to room temperature, adding another 30 minutes or so.)  Punch down the dough on a lightly floured surface, and divide in two.  Form two balls of dough, pulling dough from the top to the bottom, so the top surface is smooth and the bottom is bunched.

Place each ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.  While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slash the top of the loaves;

bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow if the bottom is tapped.  (No worries if you have one oven and both won’t fit;  my second loaf waited patiently for its turn to bake.)  Freezes well.

Winter Herb Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Sage

By Jennifer

Winter Herb Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Sage

This delicious pasta recipe is from Gourmet magazine;  the brussels sprouts are adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Serves 4.

Winter Herb Pasta

  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 5 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs, preferably from a baguette (pulse chunks of bread in the food processor until you get coarse bread crumbs;  you can freeze the rest for another dish)
  • 1 lb. bucatini (a thicker, slightly hollow cousin to spaghetti) or spaghetti
  • 2 tsp. chopped sage
  • 2 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • 2 tsp. chopped thyme
  • 1 cup chopped parsley

Winter herbs are chopped

Making breadcrumbs


In a large, heavy skillet heat the butter and 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat;

The garlic is fragrant

when the butter has stopped foaming, add the garlic and stir until the garlic is fragrant.

Adding the breadcrumbs

Add the bread crumbs and cook until they are golden, stirring occasionally.

Garlic breadcrumbs are ready

Transfer them to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water, according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 4 TBS oil in the skillet over medium heat until it shimmers;

Herbs sizzling in the pan

add the herbs and cook, stirring, for a two minutes.

Reserving pasta cooking water

Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.  Drain the pasta and return it back to the pot.

Tossing pasta, herbs and cooking water in the pot

Add the herb mixture and 1/2 cup cooking water;  toss well.  Add more cooking water if the pasta is too dry.  Serve with the garlic bread crumbs sprinkled on top.

Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Sage

  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, thickly sliced
  • 3 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1 TBS chopped sage
  • freshly grated Parmesan

Chopping brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts and apples ready to cook

Melting butter in the pan

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Sprouts and apples in the pan

Add the brussels sprouts, apples and sage, stirring to coat with the butter.  Cover for 8 minutes, checking halfway through to stir.

Sprouts and apples are ready

Sprouts should be crisp tender;  apples should be tender.  Serve dusted with freshly grated Parmesan.

Dinner is served