Eggplant Spaghetti



Recently, I feel like I could literally *drink* red sauce. It could have something to do with the fact that I finally discovered a pizza brand that makes a sauce that I actually like – shout out to Romeo’s in Frisco!

About a year ago, I decided to start making my own spaghetti sauce, and ever since I have been on a mission to perfect the recipe and tweak it to my precise liking. I’m getting close!!

We are trying to work a few meatless meals back into our routine each week, and eggplant is always a filling meat substitute. Oddly enough, I didn’t even miss the beef in this recipe! Maybe, just maybe, I might even like this version…..better?

RECIPE

Prep Time  20 minutes

Cook Time  60  minutes

Serves 6 people 

Ingredients

Pasta
  • 1 (16 oz) package thin spaghetti noodles
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Water for boiling
Sauce
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 onion)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 cup fresh carrot, peeled and diced (about two carrots)
  • 2 cups eggplant, diced (one eggplant)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 4-5 Campari tomatoes, boiled & peeled
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, drained & chopped
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper

**All measurements for seasonings are my best guess. (Sorry!) It’s always better to start with less and add more to taste.**

For Topping
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Freshly chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Start by allowing the eggplant to “sweat”. Add chopped eggplant to a colander, and toss with 1 tbsp salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry before cooking.
  2. Bring a large pot full of water to a boil. Season water with salt and boil pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water for later. Add butter to noodles and toss to coat.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onion and shallot and cook until translucent, about one minute. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add eggplant and carrots to the skillet, and lightly season with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour in vegetable broth, and reduce heat to medium. Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender and most of the broth has evaporated – about 5 minutes.
  5. Next, add in tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Stir to combine.
  6. Hand crush your boiled, peeled tomatoes into the skillet, and add tomato sauce. Sprinkle in sugar, as well as all seasonings (salt, pepper, red chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning). Stir too combine, and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the remaining basil and pasta water. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes, but longer if possible.
  7. Add additional seasoning or sugar to taste.
  8. You can add noodles to the sauce, or you can serve the sauce over the top of plated noodles.

Substitutions

  1. If you don’t want to boil and peel your own tomatoes, you can easily substitute 1 (28 oz) can of whole, peeled tomatoes.

Tips

  1. It’s so important to salt your water as you boil your pasta! It has made a huge difference in the way my pastas taste, and taked the flavor from good to great, every time!
  2. The key to cooking eggplant is to pre-salt and let your eggplant sweat before cooking it. Don’t skip this easy and life-changing step!
  3. Pasta water! Don’t ever let me catch you making pasta and not reserving some of that delicious pasta water for the sauce! This helps the sauce stick to the noodles, the starch content adds a silky richness to your sauce and the salt content contributes to extra flavor.
  4. If you leave off the cheese, and triple check that your noodles don’t contain eggs, this is 100% vegan!

Cajun Chicken Pasta



There is one reason, and one reason only for going to Chili’s: Cajun. Chicken. Pasta.

I’ve been obsessed with this pasta for as long as I can remember, which is far enough back to know that my uncultured mouth couldn’t handle the heat and would ask for the seasoning on the side.

There are certain recipes I try not to recreate, because it makes my dining out experiences less than exciting. This was one I had steered clear of for a while, but I finally decided to go for it. Sorry Chili’s, I won’t be needing you for a while!

RECIPE

Prep Time  15 minutes

Cook Time  40  minutes

Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

Pasta
  • 16 oz Penne Pasta
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 2 Boneless, Skinles Chicken Breasts, tenderized
  • 6 Tbsp Butter (About 3/4 Stick)
  • 1/2 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 4-6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Lemon, Juiced
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
  • 1-2 tbsp flour
Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika (regular is fine, too)
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne (More or less, depending on your spice preference.)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour (for seasoning chicken)
For Serving
  • 2 Roma Tomatos, Diced
  • 1 Stalk Green Onion, Chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well, saving about 1/4 cup pasta water for later.
  2. In a medium small mixing bowl, whisk to gether ingredients for cajun seasoning. Separate seasoning into halves, pouring one half in a Gallon Ziploc bag. In the Ziploc bag, add two tbsp flour to the seasoning mixture. Shake well to combine. Baste tenderized chicken breasts with 1 tbsp Olive Oil, and add to the Ziploc bag with the seasoning. Shake until the chicken is evenly coated.
  3. In a large skillet, heat remaining Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Place each chicken breast in the pan, and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until internal temperature has reached 165 degrees. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Melt your butter in the skillet, scraping up any brown bits. (Pro-Tip: If you have a significant amount of brown bits in the pan after cooking the chicken, add a splash of white wine or lemon juice – the acidity will pull it right off!)
  5. Add diced onion to the pan, and cook until translucent – about 3 minutes.
  6. Next, add in minced garlic and cook until fragrant – about 45 seconds.
  7. Reduce heat to Medium, and gradually whisk in lemon juice and heavy cream. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking slowly until the ingredients are incorporated.
  8. Fold in Parmesan and remaining seasoning and cook for another 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. If the mixture is too thick, add more heavy cream as needed; if too think, add flour one tablespoon at a time until desired thickness is achieved.
  9. Stir in pasta and reserved pasta water and toss to combine.
  10. Serve sliced chicken breast over a bed of pasta, topped with diced tomato, sliced green onion and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.

Tips

  1. All of the seasonings combined are equal to 2 tbsp cajun seasoning.
  2. The best way I have found to tenderize my chicken breasts is to lay them out on a cutting board, cover them with a piece of plastic wrap, and pound until the breasts are thinned out evenly. Tenderizing isn’t absolutely necessary, but since we are frying the breasts in this recipe it will aid in making sure the chicken cooks evenly.
  3. If you don’t already have one, you I highly recommend that you invest in a sauce whisk! They are the best for mixing sauces – so much better than the traditional whisk! I believe mine is from Pampered Chef, but I can’t find it on their website. This one from Williams Sonoma looks like a great alternative, or you can find them on Amazon by searching “sauce whisk” or “spiral whisk”.

White Lasagna with Spinach & Mushrooms


We have been trying to consume less meat around my house, which means we have simultaneously been consuming a lot more pasta. If you have ever been concerned that eating meatless will leave you unsatiated, you were wrong!

If you love creamy pasta bursting with flavor and the tiniest dash of nutritious value, this is the recipe for you!

**If anyone has non-pasta meatless recipes – hook your girl up!!**

Recipe

Prep Time  15 minutes

Cook Time  35 – 40  minutes

Serves 6 people 

Ingredients

  • 16 oz alfredo sauce 
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 16 oz white mushrooms, sliced
  • 24 oz cottage cheese
  • 7 oz Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • Oven ready lasagna noodles
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, saute mushrooms until tender – about 4 minutes. (Pro-tip: If you have non-stick cookware, you don’t really need to use oil since mushrooms release a lot of liquid while they are cooking.)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, about ¾ of the shredded mozzarella and seasoning. Stir to combine.
  3. In a greased baking dish, spread a thin layer of the Alfredo sauce across the bottom. (You can find my recipe for homemade Alfredo sauce here.
  4. Next, lay noodles on top of sauce. Cover noodles in a layer of the cottage cheese and shredded cheese mixture. Top with about half of your sautéed mushrooms, and then cover with a layer of spinach.
  5. Add another layer of noodles, then Alfredo sauce, and repeat step 4. (The size of your dish will determine the number of layers you will end up with. For a 9 X 13 dish I got two layers.)
  6. After you have laid the final layer of spinach, pour the rest of the Alfredo sauce across the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at 375º for 35-40 minutes.

Tips

  1. If you don’t have oven ready noodles, you will need to boil your pasta prior to assembly. If you do this, you will only need to bake for 10-15 minutes.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce



I have always said there should be a rule that when a restaurant discontinues an item, they must release the recipe to the public. I had never felt so strongly about that sentiment until Panera Bread stopped selling their Butternut Squash Ravioli every fall.

I haven’t ventured into the make-my-own-pasta phase of making my life ridiculously overcomplicated yet, so when I came across a bag of pre-made butternut squash ravioli at Sprouts, I knew I needed to attempt a recreation recipe.

If you love flavorful, Fall inspired pastas -yes, I know it’s Spring, there are no rules – then you will fall in love with this butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sauce.

Enjoy!

RECIPE

Prep Time  5 minutes

Cook Time  20  minutes

Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

Butternut Squash Ravioli
  • 1 (20 oz) Package Butternut Squash Ravioli (I used this one from Sprouts, which isn’t technically ‘ravioli’, but any brand will work.)
Brown Butter Sauce
  • 2 Cups Cubed Butternut Squash (Fresh or Frozen – thawed if using frozen.)
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Large Handfuls Fresh Spinach (Best I can do for measurements!)
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • Shelled Sunflower Seeds for Topping
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg*

*Nutmeg is an extremely overpowering spice in my opinion, so I always start with a tiny amount and add more if needed. To each their own.

Instructions

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 400º and prepping your fresh butternut squash. Combine cubed butternut squash, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, fresh thyme and nutmeg. Toss to coat.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see tip #2). Spread seasoned butternut squash in a single layer on baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the squash is roasting, boil your pasta according to package instructions. (Usually about 5-7 minutes, but follow instructions on your bag since each brand/pasta can vary.) Drain and set aside once pasta is cooked.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute diced onion until translucent – about 2 minutes. Add in minced garlic and cook until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and add in butter. Watching carefully, cook for about 3-5 minutes until browned. Do not allow the butter to smoke or burn. You will know it is done browning once the butter is a caramel-y brown.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and whisk to combine.
  7. Add in cooked squash and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Pour half and half into the sauce, and stir to combine.
  9. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, and voila!
  10. Serve topped with shelled sunflower seeds.

Tips

  1. If you can’t find butternut squash ravioli, you can use any other type of ravioli or stuffed pasta. My suggestions would be some version of a 3 cheese ravioli, or spinach and ricotta ravioli.
  2. To keep your parchment paper from curling up on the baking sheet, tear off a piece of the appropriate size to cover your baking sheet, and crumble into a ball. When you unfold it, the wrinkles will prevent it from rolling up on the edges!

Easy Creamy Alfredo Sauce


Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you haven’t noticed, pasta is kind of my thing. Probably too much my thing, honestly. Then again, who doesn’t like pasta?

I always avoided making Fettuccini Alfredo at home because all of the jarred Alfredo sauces were pretty gross, to say the least. So instead I would hop on over to good old Olive Garden anytime I was craving a hefty serving of Seafood Fettuccini Alfredo. Yes, Olive Garden. Sue me.

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

Well, once again we owe a huge shoutout to #lockdown2020 because I finally had the time and desire to try making Alfredo sauce at home. Little did I know, it was pretty basic and consists only of the things I love most – milk, cheese, butter and garlic. You know, all the healthy things we keep around the kitchen.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Recipe

Prep Time  5  minutes

Cook Time  15 minutes

Serves 6 people 

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ Cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt one stick of butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add in garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Sprinkle flour in over butter and garlic, and whisk together to thicken. 
  2. Whisk in milk, cream, cream cheese and parmesan and simmer for 5-7 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add in more cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tips

  1. This sauce tastes great in pasta, but would also be delicious lightly drizzled over steak or veggies.  
  2. Add in some red pepper flakes for a little heat, or grated Romano for a little extra flavor.

Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Growing up, spaghetti was one of my all-time favorite meals. I remember my parents making me and my sisters wear my dad’s old t-shirts over our clothes each time we would eat any kind of pasta with red sauce to prevent stains on our every day clothes. Now that I am grown, I realize that if we ate anything like my nephew, this was a wise decision.

The moment I realized my apartment was not entirely kid friendly.

Making spaghetti sauce from scratch always seemed like such a daunting task, so for years I opted for good old Ragu mixed with about a pound of seasoned, browned ground beef – which is definitely what I grew up eating so I was fine with it. In fact, you can ask almost all of my friends and I think that at least 75% of them could say that tipsy Han has whipped up some Ragu spaghetti for them after a night at the bars.

Almost to the point of being a huge inconvenience, I prefer to cook most things from scratch and eat processed foods minimally at home. Since we all had some free time in 2020, I decided to give homemade spaghetti sauce a whirl! I studied a multitude of different recipes and tested several combinations until I got it right – just like childhood, maybe better – and I haven’t used store-bought sauce in months!

Serve this flavorful sauce with your favorite pasta – spaghetti, penne, lasagna, ravioli, etc. and it’s sure to be a hit!

Be sure to comment and let me know what you think !

Recipe

Prep Time  10 minutes

Cook Time  5 hours

Serves 6 people 

Ingredients

For Sauce
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 anchovies 
  • 1 ½ pounds of ground beef
  • 1 [6 oz] can tomato paste
  • 1 [15 oz] can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup chicken or beef  broth
  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 6-8 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup of half & half
For Serving
  • Pasta of choice, cooked according to package instructions
  • Freshly grated parmesan
  • Freshly chopped parsley flakes

Instructions

  1.  Over the stove on medium-high heat, drizzle a good amount of olive oil in a large saute pan or dutch oven. Add in diced onion and cook until translucent (about 3 minutes). Next, add in minced garlic and saute until fragrant (30-60 seconds). 
  2. Add in anchovy filets and mash until they blend with the onion and garlic.
  3. Add the ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook until meat is brown all the way through and drain grease from pan. (Pro-tip: Always leave about 1 tbsp of grease to prevent the meat from drying out.)
  4. Add seasoning to the cooked beef – salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley flakes, italian seasoning and oregano and stir to combine. 
  5. Thoroughly mix tomato paste with beef, and begin hand crushing your tomatoes. (See tip #3.) Once you have crushed all of the tomatoes, pour in remaining tomato sauce from the can. Add in sugar and stir to combine.
  6. Add in broth and red wine and bring to a boil. Once the sauce is boiling, reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) and add bay leaves and thyme. Cook covered and stirring occasionally for at least 4 hours – more if you like! (See tip # 4.)

Tips

  1. Cook in one pound of ground lamb meat or italian sausage for some added flavor. If you do this, reduce the amount of ground beef to one pound. 
  2. You can also add any vegetables you like – sometimes I add in finely diced carrots or celery while sauteing the onion. 
  3. You can certainly buy a 15 oz can of pre-crushed tomatoes, but I promise crushing them yourself will give you a much better result, especially if you enjoy a chunkier sauce. Plus, it’s way more fun! 
  4. Although this sauce won’t reach it’s full potential without cooking for at least 4 hours, it is okay to cook it for a shorter period of time if you are in a rush. I would aim to allow the sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes to ensure the flavors have melded together. 

3 Cheese Tortellini with Truffle Cream Sauce


Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have been dying to try and recreate this pasta dish since the moment I had it on vacation in Germany. Some may say it’s unreasonable to consider Germany the source for the worlds best pasta, but trust me, this meal was heavenly. I have also never been to Italy, so there’s still a chance this dish can and will be outdone. Pasta is by far my favorite food, and I will try it regardless of if I am visiting it’s country of origin or not.

My friend and I stumbled upon the quaint little restaurant of Il Pescatore in Fussen, Germany after a 3 hour train ride through Bavaria. We arrived in Fussen full of champagne from the train bar, and happy as could be. From the train station, we walked through the quiet, snowy town until we found the highly rated restaurant we had discovered through all of our research of the area.

We both ordered the same thing – Caramelli al tartufo – homemade Tortellacci, filled with ricotta and truffels in truffel cream sauce, with fresh champignons. It was divine. We have since bragged about this pasta to anyone who would listen and even discussed taking a trip to Austria just so we could cross the border into Fussen specifically for another serving of this decadent dish.

Caramelli al tartufo from Il Pescatore in Fussen, Germany.

Here we are, approaching the one year anniversary of discovering the world’s best pasta, and I finally decided to give it a go myself. Because of the uniqueness of this entree, I was unable to use my usual technique of combining multiple existent recipes and adding my own flare. This one I had to create from scratch, using nothing but one year old taste bud memories.

I think I nailed it, and I hope that if you try this recipe at home it leaves a lasting impression on you like it did me!

Recipe

Prep Time  10 minutes

Cook Time  30  minutes

Serves 2-4 people 

Ingredients

Pasta
  • 20 oz pre-packaged 3-cheese tortellini
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
Sauce
  • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine,  + ¼ cup for mushrooms
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar, + 1 tsp 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mushrooms, quartered 
  • One black truffle
  • Salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
For Serving

Instructions

For Pasta
  1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add in pasta and cook until al dente. (Follow instructions on the package for times.)
  2. Drain and set aside. Drizzle olive oil over the pasta and stir to prevent sticking while preparing the sauce. 
For Sauce
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  
  2. Add minced garlic to the pan and stir until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. 
  3. Reduce to medium heat and add in ½ cup of white wine and ½ tbsp of balsamic vinegar.  Cook until liquid has reduced by at least 50% – about 5 minutes.
  4. Add butter to the pan. Once butter is melted, add in heavy cream  and parmesan cheese and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. 
  5. While sauce is simmering, in a separate medium skillet, saute mushrooms in olive oil and remaining white wine for 5-7 minutes. Drain and add to cream sauce along with remaining balsamic vinegar. 
  6. Add in cooked pasta and stir all ingredients together. 
  7. Season with salt & cracked pepper. Grate about ½ of the truffle over the pasta and stir to combine. 
For Serving
  1. Place desired amount of pasta on a plate. Using a back and forth motion, drizzle a small amount of balsamic glaze across pasta. 
  2. Lightly dust a small amount (to taste) of freshly grated truffle over top of pasta. 
  3. Top with fresh arugula, and enjoy!

Tips

  • Any variation of pasta will work with this recipe – ravioli, fettuccine, stuffed shells, etc.
  • This doesn’t have to be a vegetarian recipe! You can opt to add meat to this recipe if you prefer – I would recommend shrimp or mahi mahi.