Basil Pesto Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Basil Pesto Pasta! I’m tired. And I’m hungry. What in the world can I cook for dinner that doesn’t take forever? But I want the taste to make me feel like I’m someone special. First of all, go over to the wine rack and open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour a little into a stemmed glass. Swirl and take a sip. This will put you in the mood. The wonderfully sweet herbal notes of the fresh basil will complement the flavor of the wine. Plus, the olive oil and parmesan cheese in the pesto sauce enhance the richness of fruit in the Cab. Take another sip. Now let’s get started. (Footnote: Obviously if you already have a jar of your favorite Basil Pesto in the kitchen pantry, you’re one step ahead.)

BASIL PESTO PASTA

Ingredients:

10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes

12 large basil leaves

1/3 cup almonds, slightly toasted

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic clove, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend into a fine purée. Scrape the sides and turn the processor on Low setting. Slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture in a continuous stream. The pesto will thicken nicely. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to a bowl. Quickly toss with pesto sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Garnish with basil leaves.

Lentil Rotini Pizza Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Lentil Rotini Pizza Pasta! Going organic, especially with red lentils, doesn’t necessarily mean the meal has to be completely plant-based. Sure, you still get the protein and fiber you need, but think about making it appealing to your family as well. By adding cheese and pepperoni slices, you can turn the rotini spirals into an Italian favorite. Pizza Pasta. Spice things up with red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano. Now you’re talking. Serve in individual baking dishes for extra special treatment. You may even have the kids asking for it again.

LENTIL ROTINI PIZZA PASTA

Ingredients:

12-ounce box of organic red lentil rotini

1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cup pepperoni slices, divided

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Crushed basil for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rotini. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Caution: Watch carefully as the lentils will foam up to overflowing. You may have to reduce heat to a Simmer. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine marinara sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Add rotini; stir to coat. Fold in 3/4 of the pepperoni and half the mozzarella cheese. Divide into individual broiler-proof baking dishes. Top with remaining pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven rack to at least 4” away from broiler coils. Preheat broiler on High setting. Arrange individual casseroles on a baking sheet. Transfer sheet to oven. Cook until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Garnish with crushed basil. Serve with garlic bread.

Ziti Green Bean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Ziti Green Bean Salad! Citrusy and Refreshing, that’s how to describe this incredibly vibrant cold pasta salad. Thin and crunchy green beans are paired with luscious cherry tomatoes wrapped in highly fragrant minced parsley bits. Make-ahead options give you time to spend on leisure activities to maximize the final days of summer. Skip the mayonnaise and revel in the burst of lemon vinaigrette for a seasonal change. Life is good!

ZITI GREEN BEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces whole wheat ziti pasta

8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

3/4 cup Lemon Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans to boiling water during the last two minutes of cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta mixture under cold running water until cool; drain again. Combine pasta mixture, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Cover and chill overnight. Just before serving, gently fold in minced parsley.

LEMON CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 minced shallot

1/2 cup olive oil

1/8 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Combine lemon juice and minced shallot. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add olive oil, fresh parsley, natural honey, and Dijon mustard. Whisk together to blend. Store in refrigerator.

Elbow Macaroni Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Elbow Macaroni Salad! I owe freshness to the farmer’s market. And so should you. After all, they are a great resource for locally grown produce, herbs, eggs, and meats. Without a doubt, they are popping up everywhere. However, it’s okay to ask a few questions when you’re chatting with the growers. An important one might be if there are pesticides used. “Organic” does not always mean pesticide-free. Soil quality may be another concern. GMO seeds, animal treatment, and ideas for food preparation are also topics of discussion. Once I am familiar with a grower, I glean ideas for ways to store and cook the products. Some days I even walk away with recipes. The bottom line is, support your community. We’re all in this together.

ELBOW MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups elbow macaroni, cook according to package directions, then cool

2 tablespoons sweet onion, sliced

1/2 cup baby carrots, julienned

1/2 cup snow peas, sliced horizontally

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup garlic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 envelope Italian salad dressing dry mix

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni and sweet onion slices. Add julienned carrots, sliced snow peas, and radish discs. Gently toss. In a measuring cup, combine garlic vinegar, lemon juice, water, Italian seasoning packet, and olive oil. Whisk together until completely blended. Drizzle dressing over the macaroni salad. Gently toss to coat ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Instant Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Instant Mac ‘n Cheese! Face it. Every once in awhile the craving hits us to settle into a comfy chair with a warm bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese. Most pantries have all the ingredients you need to make it at home in a flash. Pasta, butter, milk, cheese, and seasonings. If you don’t have elbow macaroni, substitute ziti. If you’re low on cheddar cheese, use a couple slices of Velveeta instead. It’s all good. Sprinkle the gooey Mac ‘n Cheese with Cajun seasoning for extra zest. Oh, yeah!

INSTANT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

4 ounces pasta

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Dash of Cajun seasoning

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and sea salt. Stir until smooth. Raise heat to medium. Slowly add milk, stirring occasionally. Cook until bubbly. Add cheese and stir well until melted. Drain pasta. Blend with cheese sauce stirring to coat. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.

Vermicelli Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Vermicelli Pasta Salad! A little advance planning goes a long way whether you choose to make this a side dish or a main course. Plus, you get bonus points if it becomes your Midweek Meatless Meal. It’s easy, it’s versatile, and it’s made with fiber-filled veggies for extra crunch and flavor. Substitute ingredients to match your family’s personal cravings. On the go? Pack it in single serving jars for fuss-free options.

VERMICELLI PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound vermicelli

1 1/2 tablespoons Accent seasoning

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup green pepper, chopped

3/4 cup onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups broccoli/carrot/red cabbage slaw

1 cup black olives, sliced

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli as directed on package. Rinse in cold water. Drain. Place in large bowl. Make a marinade of Accent seasoning, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour over vermicelli; mix well. Cover and marinate for two days, stirring once or twice. Add green pepper, onion, cut-up broccoli/carrot/cabbage slaw, black olives, poppy seeds, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Marinate overnight. Serve chilled.

Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California

Dining Outside the Home: Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California. You may as well throw any semblance of willpower out the window when you cross the threshold into Solunto’s Ristorante in the heart of Little Italy. Especially if you’re hungry. Close your eyes for a moment. Inhale. The aromas alone of handcrafted breads, decadent pastries, napoletana pizzas, flavorful gelatos, and artisan coffees can mean only one thing. You’re going to be here awhile. But that’s okay. Solunto is all about family and friends socializing over a meal. Savor every bite; just leave room for more. The crisp Italian dessert shells, known as Cannolis, are filled with sweet, creamy filling. But don’t take my word for it. The pastry case is a feast for the eyes. Try one of everything. Solunto’s Bakery has “to-go” boxes.

La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.

Lively Calypso Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Lively Calypso Mac ‘n Cheese! When I needed a quick side dish to serve with the Xtreme Sloppy Joes, I turned to my pantry for a flavorful inspiration from Pappardelle’s*. The multicolored shapes alone are conversation starters. Picture this: Lime gnocchi shells, mango-peach sea shells, and red southwestern chile lumache. The natural flavors explode when cooked and mixed with cheese, butter, and milk. It’s macaroni and cheese with a Caribbean twist. Well done!

LIVELY CALYPSO MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

8 ounces Pappardelle’s Calypso Blend pasta

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup butter

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup milk

Crushed croutons for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a 2-quart pan of salted water to a rolling boil on high heat. Add 8 ounces of Pappardelle’s Calypso Blend pasta. Stir for the first 15 seconds. As the water returns to a slow simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain pasta. Melt butter in pan on low heat. Add cheddar cheese and milk. Stir to blend until cheese is melted. Return pasta to pan and stir to coat evenly. Do not burn. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with crushed croutons.

*I receive no recompense for promoting this product.