CHEESY TACO PASTA

CHEESY TACO PASTA serves 6-8
1/2 pound large shells pasta
1 pound ground beef
1 package Taco Bell ORIGINAL seasoning packet
3/4 cup water
1 cup jarred salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • Cook the shelled pasta according to the directions on the box and drain WELL.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan and brown well.
  • Drain the fat.
  • Add the taco seasoning and water, stirring and cooking until water is evaporated.
  • Add the pasta, salsa and cheese.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Garnish with chopped green onions, chopped olives and/or peppers.
  • Serve immediately, with crunchy tortilla chips or Fritos.   I also like to use taco shell bowls.

STUFFED SHELLS

STUFFED SHELLS
24 JUMBO pasta shells
2 CUPS shredded Mozzarella cheese

BALSMELLA (Italian Bechamel)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
2 1/4 cups WHOLE milk
1/2-1 teaspoon FRESH grated nutmeg
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste

  • Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in flour cooking 2 minutes until golden.
  • Whisk in milk and nutmeg, bringing to a simmer.
  • Reduce heat and cook, whisking periodically for 10 minutes until thick.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper.

STUFFING
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 SMALL onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup QUALITY DRY sherry

  • Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions, cooking 3-4 minutes until softened.
  • Add garlic, cooking until fragrant.
  • Add ground beef and pork, cooking until browned, breaking up meat pieces into fine.
  • Drain off excess grease.
  • Stir in sherry and cook 5-6 minutes until nearly evaporated.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Let cool completely.
  • Stir in Balsamella sauce.

TOMATO SAUCE
3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 small red onion, chopped
24 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 KNORR beef gel packet
3/4 cup moscato white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced into a paste
3 tablespoons Classico sundried tomato pesto
1 teaspoon fresh ground Himalayan pink salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

  • Heat avocado oil in a large saute’ pan over medium high heat.
  • Add onions and garlic sauteeing until tender.
  • Whisk together the beef gel, wine, pesto and juice from the tomatoes.
  • Add seasonings, blending well.
  • Add tomatoes and gently crush.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.

ASSEMBLY

  • Spread 3 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3 quart baking dish.
  • Spoon meat mixture evenly into shells, arranging shells on top of red sauce in baking dish.
  • Cover with foil and bake 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove foil and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake another 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbling and golden.
  • Let rest 5 minutes.
  • Garnish and serve with remaining tomato sauce.

NOTES:

  • I like to cook the shells the day before, chilling in the refrigerator over night so they are pliable and easy to work with the next day.
  • A potato masher helps to make a finely minced meat.
  • If you have any extra meat mixture I either sprinkle it over the shells or freeze to use later in a lasagna.

PASTA with CREAMY ARTICHOKE RAGU


PASTA with CREAMY ARTICHOKE RAGU serves 4
2 LARGE jars marinated artichoke hearts
2 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoon butter
6 LARGE white mushrooms, sliced thin
1 small shallot, sliced thin or small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons heavy cream
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
12 ounces campagnelle pasta, prepared per package directions and reserving cooking water
1/4 cup FRESH minced parsley
FRESH grated Parmesan cheese
avocado oil

  • Cut leaves from artichoke hearts. Trim and discard any leaves that are stiff or dried out. Cut hearts into quarters. Drain on paper toweling.
  • Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground.
  • Heat butter in skillet until melted.
  • Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until crumbs begin to color.
  • Add 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and cook another couple minutes until golden and toasted. Remove from heat. Pour bread crumbs into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add oil to skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.
  • Add shallots, garlic, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and leaves, cooking 5-7 minutes.
  • Add wine to de-glaze pan.
  • Lower heat to medium and add cream, stirring to blend and coat well, cooking 2-3 minutes.
  • Add drained pasta and Parmesan cheese, blending well.
  • Add pasta water as necessary to desired sauce consistency.
  • Season to taste.
  • Top with bread crumb mixture and parsley.

NOTE: Hubby hates mushrooms so I actually make 2 separate pans for this recipe.  I also often add pieces of shredded roasted chicken as a protein, but it’s just as easy to sear up a couple boneless, skinless chicken thighs to shred into it.

CHICKEN TETRAZZINI ala MEMORIES aka CHICKEN SPAGHETTI made from leftovers

When I was a kid, tetrazinni was a dish made from leftovers. In our house it could be from left over roast chicken, turkey or ham.  The cheese back then was not of my liking either, usually Velveeta or American singles – YUCK!!  Personally I only like it made with chicken and I prefer it with fresh seared chicken not the traditional boiled or stewed. 😀  One of the recipes I found was a much newer version that used “canned” products that I discarded immediately to lean towards the old fashioned version of scratch.

I have seen a bunch of recipes in old recipe files and brand name pamphlets for canned chicken.  I even found one that must have come from a lunch lady’s files as it called for 20 cups of cooked chicken, 24 ounces of spaghetti noodles…  honestly I quit reading at that point since I knew it would never for for the 2 of us and was giving me a headache to try and convert it to serve 2!  I ended up taking the parts I liked from each recipe AND my memories to make my new one!

CHICKEN TETRAZZINI ala MEMORIES serves 4-6
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons butter
1 LARGE stalk celery, sliced thin
1 shallot, diced
1 small (mini) red pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons Wondra flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Cream Sherry
2-3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Mozzarella
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
  • Generously season chicken pieces and sear 3-4 minutes per side in hot oil until cooked through and golden brown.
  • Remove chicken and small dice OR shred. Set Aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray baking dish with non-stick baking spray.
  • Prepare noodles per package directions.
  • Add butter to skillet.
  • When butter is sizzling add celery, shallots and peppers to skillet and saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add flour to skillet, stirring to coat until golden.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and stir in the heavy cream, apple cider vinegar, cream sherry and thyme leaves.   Simmer until starting to thicken and slightly reduced.
  • Stir in cheeses, reserving a small amount for garnishing.
  • Fold in spaghetti noodles and chicken pieces.
  • Season to taste.
  • Transfer to baking dish.
  • Top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake 20 minutes until heated through and all cheese is melted.

NOTE:  I have been known to throw in a can of drained petite peas 😀 to make it an all in one dish.

WHITE MISO CREAM SAUCE PASTA

PASTA with MISO CREAM SAUCE

8 ounces uncooked pasta (see note), prepared per package directions
1 1/2 cups WHOLE milk
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
4 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
FRESH ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 pound Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled small
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
2 teaspoon chopped thyme
4 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves, optional
18-20 mini mozzarella balls, halved or quartered
Torn basil leaves for garnish

  • Place 1/2 cup of milk in deep bowl.
  • Whisk in flour and miso until smooth.

 

  • Add remaining milk and stock to saucepan. Bring to a SLOW boil over medium-high heat.
  • Whisk in flour mixture and reduce heat. Simmer 4-5 minutes until slightly thick.
  • Add pepper.

 

  • Heat oil and butter in skillet over high heat.
  • Add tomatoes, stirring and cooking 2 minutes until beginning to char and pop.
  • Add thyme and garlic, cooking 1 minute more.
  • Add spinach, cooking 2 minutes more until wilted.
  • Remove from heat.

 

  • Add pasta sauce and half the cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.
  • Serve in pasta bowls.
  • Top with remaining cheese pieces and torn basil.

NOTE: Any pasta works with this recipe!

WILTED CHICKEN SPINACH PASTA

This is a luscious Chicken Alfredo with plenty of OOMPH from the wilted spinach and sun dried tomatoes. The bacon adds yet another layer of flavor making it similar to a Carbonara. Shredding the chickens adds plenty of nooks and crannies for the sauce to adhere and provide lots and lots of flavors, though I tend to use tenders and serve them whole.  I adapted from RECIPE TIN EATS

WILTED CHICKEN SPINACH PASTA serves 4

10 ounces fettuccine (see notes)

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for package directions minus 2 minutes.  The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.  Just before draining, scoop out a cup of cooking water. Then drain pasta as directed.

1 tablespoons avocado oil
1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally or chicken tenders
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Melt half the butter in a large skillet over high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until deep golden.
  • Remove chicken onto plate, rest for a few minutes then shred with 2 forks.

SAUCE
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves , minced
1 small red pepper sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/4 cups heavy cream – DO NOT USE LIGHT
3/4 cup FINELY shredded Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
1-2  cups torn baby spinach
3 ounces sun dried tomato strips, DRAINED (see notes)
4 slices bacon, diced and browned
FRESH chopped Parsley, for garnish

  • Reduce the heat of your skillet to medium high.
  • Add remaining butter, sun-dried tomato oil and garlic.
  • Cook garlic for 30 seconds until golden.
  • Add red pepper slices and cook another minute.
  • Add wine, simmering quickly and stirring to scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
  • Once mostly evaporated, add chicken broth, cream, Parmesan and sun dried tomato pieces.
    Simmer on medium for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often, until it reduces and thickens.

ASSEMBLY

  • Add spinach, chicken, bacon pieces and cooked pasta.
  • TOSS – this is a MUST if you are shredding the chicken!
  • Cook sauce for 2 minutes, until sauce thickens and coats the pasta. (see notes)
  • Serve immediately with Parmesan and parsley if desired.


NOTES:

  • Flat wide pastas are best for creamy sauces, but any pasta will work in reality. DO NOT use fresh pastas.
  • When I drain the sun-dried tomatoes, I drain them into my skillet as part of my cooking oil for the sauce.
  • Use the reserved pasta cooking water as needed if the sauce gets too thick.

BACON MAC & CHEESE

BACON MAC & CHEESE
8 ounces elbow macaroni or small pasta shells
8 slices thick bacon, diced
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons WONDRA flour
2 ½ cups WHOLE milk
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese* (see note)

  • Cook pasta per package directions and drain well.
  • Cook bacon in skillet until crisp.
  • Remove bacon to paper toweling to drain.
  • Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.
  • Add shallots and garlic to bacon drippings over medium heat and cook a minute or two until shallots soften.
  • Increase heat to medium high and sprinkle in flour, whisking until golden and smooth.
  • Whisk in milk slowly and bring to a SLOW boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook 4-5 minutes until
  • sauce begins to thicken.
  • Reduce heat to low and gradually stir in cheese(s), stirring until cheese is melted and blended well.
  • Season to taste.
  • Fold in drained pasta and bacon pieces.

NOTE: *For an even creamier texture use a portion of Velvetta cheese to replace some of the cheddar cheese.

BACON RANCH CHICKEN CASSEROLE

BACON RANCH CHICKEN CASSEROLE
8 ounces pasta, prepared per package instructions
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound shredded rotisserie chicken pieces
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
12 ounces evaporated milk
1 Hidden Valley ranch dressing seasoning mix
1/3 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s hot sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  • Preheat oven 350°.
  • Spray 8×8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

  • In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper toweling.
  • Add shallots and garlic, quickly sautéing.
  • Drain of excess grease.
  • Add chicken pieces and cook several minutes until golden and cooked through.
  • Whisk together the milk, ranch dressing mix and hot sauce. Pour over chicken and stir together.
  • Remove from heat and add the pasta, mixing well.
  • Top with 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and most of the bacon, stirring to combine.
  • Pour into prepared baking dish, top with remaining cheese and garnish with remaining bacon.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
  • Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

PEPPER PASTA SALAD

PEPPER PASTA SALAD
PREP & COOK time 20-30 minutes Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1/2 pound pasta shells (DO NOT USE GLUTEN FREE)
10-12 mini peppers (red, orange and yellow combo)
1 shallot, chopped
1 small bunch radishes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons QUALITY Italian dressing
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Frank’s original hot sauce
FRESH ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper

  • Cook pasta per package directions. Drain and rinse WELL with cold water until completely cool.
  • While pasta is draining WELL slice or dice peppers, radishes, shallot and chives.
  • Toss pasta with peppers, radishes, shallots and chives.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, Italian dressing, hot sauce and garlic powder.
  • Pour mayonnaise mixture over pasta, tossing to coat well.
  • Season to taste.
  • Sprinkle with dill.
  • Chill 6-8 hours.

NOTE:

  • Hard boiled eggs are a nice optional addition. When I use these I also add a sprinkle of paprika instead of the dill.
  • You can also shredded rotisserie chicken and turn this into a meal which serves 4 instead.

COWBOY GOULASH

COWBOY GOULASH
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large carrot, small chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon avocado oil
4 cups beef broth
1 can original Rotes tomatoes
1 small can green chiles, drained well
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
sour cream

  • Heat oil over medium high heat.
  • Add beef and brown.
  • Drain off grease.
  • Add carrot, onion, garlic and bell pepper sautéing until soft.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add broth and hot sauce.
  • Cover and bring to a FULL simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes and green chiles.
  • Return to a simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Serve with warm tortillas or corn bread and a dollop of sour cream.  Sometimes we serve it over pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.

 

LEMON SHRIMP FETTUCCINE

LEMON SHRIMP FETTUCCINE

3/4 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 small fennel, cleaned, halved and sliced – save chop fronds and keep separate
12 ounces fettuccine, prepared al dente (save 1/4 cup hot pasta water)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
2 Meyer lemons, Juice of LARGE Meyer Lemon + slices for garnish
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Whisk together the cream, lemon juice and egg yolks.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat avocado oil in skillet over medium heat.
  • Saute shrimp for 90 seconds. Remove shrimp and set aside to keep warm.
  • Add the fennel pieces and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add the snap peas and saute another 3 minutes until peas are tender and fennel is browned.
  • Add cream, 1/4 cup pasta water, prepared fettuccine and shrimp into pan.
  • Turn off heat and stir together until well blended and sauce thickens.
  • Season to taste.
  • Garnish with fennel fronds and lemon slices.
  • Serve immediately.

NOTE: Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than regular lemons so if you can’t find a Meyer lemon, use half of a regular lemon and half of a tangerine.

FRENCH ONION PASTA BAKE

This recipe is for recipe experiment night.  I was looking for a tasty alternative that I could also use as leftovers for my lunches.  I am happy to report that it was a success!
FRENCH ONION PASTA BAKE
6 ounces penne pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
8 ounces button mushrooms, 1/4 inch slices
1 large shallot, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Better than Chicken bouillon
4 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoons Marsala Wine
3-4 FRESH thyme sprigs
3/4 cup seasoned croutons, crushed
4 ounces shredded Mozzarella

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Prepare pasta al dente.
  • Drain pasta WELL and set aside.
  • In a large skillet melt butter and avocado oil.
  • Add mushrooms, onions and garlic. Season with FRESH ground salt and pepper, stirring and cooking 10-12 minutes until caramelized and deep brown.
  • Whisk together the Marsala wine, cream, two-thirds of the thyme, and the bouillon base.  Add to the mushroom mixture stirring and blending together until heated through.
  • Fold in the pasta and then half the cheese.
  • Spread into prepared baking dish.
  • Top with remaining cheese and crushed croutons.
  • Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
  • Top with remaining thyme.

NOTE: Penne pasta works best, but any other similar sized pasta would work well too.