Tag Archives: pasta

Rigatoni with butternut squash, bacon and caramelized onions

During a recent nap time, I went through all my cookbooks, found all my favorite recipes and those I had not yet tried that sounded good based on their ingredients or the picture. And what did I do with all these recipes? I made a giant, five page alphabetical Word document index. It’s organized like this:

Recipe title (main ingredients), Publication Title page number.

Yes, I am that crazy, anal retentive, type A, overly organized, and all the other adjectives I am sure you can have fun coming up with for me.

I am so happy I did this because I found lots of new recipes and having the main ingredient list next to each recipe allows me to find them based on what is in season.

So this recipe is based on one I found in a book I have had for years that went largely ignored.

Rigatoni with butternut squash, bacon and caramelized onions
Adapted from “Rigatoni with Squash and Caramelized Onions” in Food & Wine Best of the Best Vol. 9 which is a compilation of recipe books and this one is originally from Recipes by Susan Spungen, the founding food editor of Martha Stewart Living

-1/2 lb rigatoni
-1 butternut squash
-2 garlic cloves, pressed
-1 tbsp butter
-1 onion, halved and sliced
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
-dash or two pumpkin pie spice
-2 thick slices bacon, chopped
-1 cup stock (I used vegetable)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook pasta in salted water two minutes less than recommended time on package (it will continue to cook in the oven).

While the pasta is cooking, peel, chop and remove the seeds from your butternut squash.

Brown the bacon. Remove from pan and drain. Set aside. Add the garlic, onions and butter to the pan and brown. Add 1/4 cup water and cook 5 more minutes.

Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.

Add the oil, squash, half the rosemary, salt, and pepper and sauté until tender when pierced with a knife. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer around 8-10 minutes. Add cream, bring to a boil and simmer one minute more. Remove from heat.

Combine with bacon, pasta and all remaining ingredients thoroughly, reserving 1/2 cup cheese. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake 30-35 min until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.


Serve with a salad of mixed greens, apple, pomegranate, green onions and sunflower seeds dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar. You may also want a bit of warm bread at the end to sop up the sauce.

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Best of Both Worlds Lasagne

If you want to be a vegetarian, you kind of have to like vegetables. Like a lot. Obviously.

As many of you know, I have been one off and on over the years. So I definitely like my veggies. When it comes to many dishes, I usually like the version with extra veggies over the meat version.

My husband on the other hand is an, “eater of meat,” as he puts it. Definitely a carnivore. Tends to complain when I make a meal that doesn’t include meat. If he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t go back for seconds or chow down on the leftovers the next day, for sure.

Since I do like meat in addition to my veggies, I sometimes am torn between which version of stuff I should partake in. You know the situation… you’re at an event with lots of people and lots of food and there is a veggie pizza and a meat pizza, veggie/cheese enchiladas and chicken enchiladas, etc. Often I don’t want to choose so I end up eating way too much because I have to have a little of both.

Well, that is where this lasagne recipe comes in. It combines the two so you don’t have to choose! It definitely isn’t really gourmet either because I used preshredded cheese and store-bought sauce as a base. You could fancy it up and make everything from complete scratch if you wanted to though.

Best of Both Worlds Lasagne

-1 jar Pomodoro Rustico sauce from TJs
-2 sweet Italian sausage links
-1 cup bell peppers, chopped
-1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, chopped
-1 cup carrots, chopped
-2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
-1 box lasagne noodles
-1 bag shredded mozarella
-some shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook sausage links over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and chop into small pieces.

Add carrots to pan and cook until softened. Return sausage to the pan and add sauce, artichoke hearts, and bell pepper. Cook until warmed through.

Any Italian will tell you that you have to taste the sauce during the cooking process. It really is just a must. Bean was hanging out with me in the kitchen while I was cooking and in an effort to make her feel involved, I let her taste test the sauce. Doing this with her brought back so many memories as a kid getting to taste test the sauce with my dad.

She’s saying “hot”.


Next you’ll want to layer your ingredients in a big casserole dish.

Sauce on the bottom so that the pasta doesn’t stick…

…uncooked pasta next…

…another layer of sauce and then some of your spinach leaves…

…the cheeses…

…and on and on until you get a full pan like this.

Bake covered for 40 minutes and then uncovered for another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy.

If I ever want to become a serious food/recipe blogger, I’m going to have to get better at plating my food.


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Caprese Chicken Pasta Salad

In case you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been much Gourmet Lisa around here lately. That is because I haven’t been feeling that well (darn morning sickness) and the worst time of day for me is almost always around dinner time. Since I wasn’t cooking, Stephen is not very confident in his cooking skills, he was dang tired after work each night, and he’s also been filling in my gaps in housekeeping duties, we ate out. A lot. Hundreds of dollars were spent. It was quite ridiculous. After looking at where all our money went last month Stephen said, “This has to end. We’re throwing our money away. Either we have way more expensive tastes in food or I need to step it up and be a better leader in this area.”

So yesterday we spent a good portion of our holiday planning our menu for the week and grocery shopping. It was quite the challenge coming up with meals that incorporated the organic produce from our AH box and were very simple to make in case I wasn’t up to cooking.

A couple days ago I made what I was pretty sure was Caprese Salad as a side for our lunches using tomatoes I had recently harvested from our garden. Stephen didn’t believe that what I had made was Caprese Salad because of the episode of The Office where Michael tries to frame Toby and the cops said, “This isn’t weed, it’s Caprese Salad!” What was in that bag did not contain tomatoes or mozzarella. Of course The Office is an authoritative source on all things gourmet and Italian. After lunch I looked up Caprese Salad and found that I had indeed made what I thought I had made.

So what is Caprese Salad? It is a salad of tomatoes, mozarella cheese and basil. It is usually dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. However, there are many variations on the recipe. Sometimes it is served hot via arranging the ingredients on some kind of cooking stone and broiling them and there are variations in the dressing of the salad such as adding Balsamic vinegar or Italian dressing. The salad I made the other day was truthfully not very gourmet at all. I simply cut the 10 cherry sized tomatoes we had in half, sliced a couple sticks of mozzarella string cheese, tossed in some basil and then dressed the whole thing with olive oil, salt and Balsamic vinegar. Despite the humble ingredients (ahem… string cheese?), it was quite tasty!

Using that as inspiration, I brainstormed a meal that is very simple to make and a little more substantial than your traditional Caprese Salad. It was quite the team effort, though my husband did have his doubts going into things about whether you could have pasta without sauce. In the end though, he said it looked very good and upon eating said it was delicious. I will freely admit that this recipe is likely to get me into trouble with those of you that like exact amounts for things, but I hope you can figure it out and enjoy this delicious summer meal.

Caprese Chicken Pasta Salad

-1 large chicken breast
-garlic powder to taste
-salt to taste
-pepper to taste
-olive oil to taste
-Balsamic vinegar to taste
-3 large basil leaves
-2 or 3 tomatoes
-1 1/2 cups dry Farfalle pasta
-shredded mozzarella cheese to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook pasta according to package directions. Ours said it would be ready in 11-12 minutes. I do NOT recommend just going off what the time on the package says. We set our kitchen timer for 10 minutes so as not to forget about it among our other kitchen duties this evening and then began taste testing the pasta every minute or so after that until it reached perfection.

Meanwhile, season the chicken breast with salt, pepper and garlic powder. If you are pregnant like me and the thought of touching raw meat is absolute repulsion, it would be a good idea to get your husband involved in this step lest he hear you screaming from the kitchen, “Ew! Ew! Ew! I just got chicken juice all over me when I opened up the package! Ugh!” Then, have your husband grill the chicken until it is no longer pink and juices run clear.

While pasta and chicken are cooking, cut up tomatoes into 1/8 wedges. Salt to taste.

Chop basil leaves. I learned a really good way to cut up the basil from a cooking show once. Stack the basil leaves and then roll them lengthwise as if you were making a cigarette out of them (maybe this is where the producers of The Office got their idea for the sketch). Make thin slices across the roll and you will wind up with perfectly julienned confetti-like basil for your meal.

Drain pasta and place in large bowl. Cut chicken breast up into bite sized pieces and add to bowl. Add tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese (I used about two handfuls). Drizzle with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste and then toss all ingredients together.

Serves 4 (Yay! Leftovers aka less cooking for us!).


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Pasta Primavera

It’s kind of weird referring to myself as “Gourmet Lisa”. While I have been able to pull off a complicated dish or two, I’m far from being a gourmet chef. My best friend gave me that nickname I think because I actually cook.

I find that cooking is a lot less complex than people make it out to be. It’s fun and creative.

Last night I made a super easy spring dish that anyone could make and the total cook/prep time was something like 20 minutes. It made enough to serve four, but you could easily add more veggies and pasta to serve more people. You could also add cubed chicken, turkey or ham for some protein. Feel free to change out the veggies based on your likes/dislikes or what you happen to have on hand. Hope this helps some of you trying to figure out an easy, tasty meal for dinner.

Pasta Primavera
● 1 snack pack baby carrots
● 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends broken off
● 1/3 cup frozen peas
● about a handful or two of fresh broccoli florets
● 1 1/2 to 2 cups dried pasta of your choice
● 1/4 cup alfredo sauce (I used store bought, but you could certainly make your own)
● 1/4 cup milk
● 1 tsp olive oil
● 1 clove garlic, pressed

Cook pasta according to package directions. I happen to have a big pot with a steamer insert that goes on top so I steamed the broccoli and carrots on top of the cooking pasta. If you don’t have one of these, steam the broccoli and carrots separately. You could even microwave them if you want. The veggies should be just tender and not mushy. My pasta directions said 9 minutes and this was the perfect amount of time for the veggies too.

While pasta and veggies are cooking, brown garlic in olive oil in medium pan. Add peas and asparagus. Cook until asparagus is just tender. Remove from heat

Drain pasta and mix with all of the vegetables. Stir milk and alfredo sauce into the steaming dish. This will create a light alfredo flavor without overwhelming the vegetables. I did it this way because Stephen’s slight lactose intolerance can’t always handle alfredo sauce (and I LOVE alfredo sauce). If you prefer more sauce or a thicker sauce feel free to add more and/or leave out the milk.


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